What Is The Difference Between Day Cream & Night Cream?

What is the difference between day cream and night cream?

The difference between a day cream and a night cream is that a night cream is fatter in texture than a day cream which is lighter.

A night cream works to restore and repair the skin during the night, while a day cream – which has a lighter consistency – works to protect the skin during the stresses of the day.

A day cream usually contains sun protection, which a night cream does not.

There are many different face creams to choose from today and we also have separate day and night creams. With so many choices, it’s easy to get a little confused.

When I was younger it was just called face cream and I used it both during the day and at night. Today, as I said, there are both day and night creams, but what exactly is the difference? Isn’t that the same thing?

The 2 biggest differences between day cream and night cream

Below, I thought I would first go through the two biggest differences between a day cream and a night cream.

1. Night cream is moisturizing

A night cream is much fatter than a day cream, which means that the night cream moisturizes the skin better than the day cream.

It is a big reason to choose the night cream at night because it repairs and restores the skin, especially if it is dry.

2. Day cream contains sun protection (spf)

A day cream usually contains sun protection, which the night cream does not. It is simply to protect your skin from the sun during the day.

Since the night cream is to be used in the evening and when you sleep, no sunscreen is needed in the night cream.

Can you use day cream at night?

Yes you can. You will be hydrated but not as hydrated as you would be from a night cream. A day cream also does not penetrate as deeply into the skin layer as a night cream does.

The external stresses that we get from the environment we live in are less during the night and that is when our skin repairs itself while we sleep.

Many night creams contain active substances that help with the cell renewal that takes place at night. A day cream does not contain the substances that a night cream does.

Combined day and night cream

There are face creams that work for both day and night but they do not contain any spf (sun protection) which you want to wear during the day but not at night when it is not needed.

It is also not as moisturizing and does not have as many active substances as a night cream.

I recommend having one of each, one cream for the day and one for the night. Then you get the best of two different creams that will really help your skin in the best way.

But if you don’t want a lot of creams in the bathroom cabinet and want to keep it simple, a face cream that is suitable for both day and night is best.

The skin works differently during the day and during the night

Our skin works completely differently depending on whether it is daytime or nighttime. At night, it is much easier for our skin to absorb the nutritious and active substances found in face creams intended for the night.

During the day, our skin needs to be protected against the external stresses we encounter during the day when we are usually in environments with exhaust gases, air pollution, dust and sunlight.

The skin therefore has a harder time absorbing the active substances found in night creams during the day. In addition, they are often far too fat to wear during the day when we are active.

Can you wear spf (sun protection) at night?

Yes you can, but you don’t need spf (sun protection) at night and it’s completely unnecessary. A sunscreen is there to protect us from the sun’s rays and at night you don’t need to protect your skin from the sun.

I wouldn’t recommend wearing spf during the night, but it’s nothing dangerous. Instead, use a night cream or a face cream without spf when you go to sleep.

Need night cream?

Yes, it is needed if you want to give your skin the best and want to help it on the way to not aging prematurely, a night cream also repairs damaged skin during the night, which a day cream does not.

In addition to the fact that a night cream contains more nutritious substances that increase cell renewal in the skin, it is fatter in texture.

A night cream helps with skin elasticity and firmness as the active substances stimulate the collagen.

What does night cream contain?

A night cream contains several active substances that help the skin recover and repair itself during the night:

  • Acids – Some night creams may contain some type of acid. There are several different acids, including AHA (Alpha Hydroxy Acid) which you find in lactic acid and glycolic acid, BHA (Beta Hydroxy Acids) which are found in salicylic acid, PHA (Poly Hydroxy Acids) which you find in gluconolactone and lactobionic. What these acids do is that it evens out the skin. ATTENTION! If you use acids in your skin care, be sure to use sunscreen during the day as acids thin the skin and make it extra sensitive.
  • Retinol (Vitamin-A) – Retinol stimulates the production of collagen which makes the skin smoother and gives fewer wrinkles. Retinol is especially good in night cream because it is destroyed by sunlight and has no effect.
  • Glycerin – Glycerin is found in most face creams and helps strengthen the skin.
  • Vitamin C – High concentration Vitamin C can reduce wrinkles and it also helps against pigmentation.
  • Vitamin E – Is good for dry skin, sun damage and relieves eczema. Vitamin E is also good against wounds and skin conditions that come from inflammation.

When should I apply night cream?

You apply the night cream very last in your skin care routine. After face wash, toners, essences and serums. Depending on what your routine looks like, of course.

Why should I use day cream?

A day cream is there to protect your skin during the day and is light in texture. Having an oily night cream on your face is not as pleasant when you get hot or sweaty. It will feel more sticky and it can instead give you a worse complexion – rather than a better one.

Day cream contains no acids

A day cream usually does not contain acids or retinol like a night cream can.

If you have those substances in your night cream, it is super important that you use sun protection (spf) during the day and really wash your face in the morning.

Day cream contains spf (sun protection)

Most day creams available today already contain spf, otherwise you apply it after the day cream. Why it is so important to have spf in your day cream is above all to protect us from the harmful rays of the sun.

But your skin is also extra sensitive if you use active substances at night such as retinol, vitamin C or acids that are usually found in night creams.

Acids make the skin thin and extra sensitive to sunlight. If you use a night cream during the day that contains vitamin c or retinol, you can get pigment spots from the sun, so in that case it has the opposite effect to what you want.

What does day cream contain?

A day cream contains similar ingredients to a night cream, but some things make them different. Some substances a day cream can contain are:

  • Glycerin – Protects your skin from the stresses found in the environment we live in, moisturizes and strengthens the skin.
  • Sun protection (Spf) – Many day creams today also contain spf so that you don’t have to add another layer of cream to your day cream. Spf protects you from the sun. The sun damages our skin in several different ways by giving us pigmentation, wrinkles and sun damage/burns.
  • Niacidamide (Vitamin B3) – Reduces sebum production, effective against pigmentation and reduces skin water loss.
  • Vitamin E – Helps damaged skin and is good for dry skin.

When should I apply day cream?

Apply the day cream last in your skin care routine if it contains sun protection. Otherwise, apply it before the sunscreen.

  1. Face wash
  2. tones
  3. essences
  4. serum
  5. day cream
  6. sunscreen


The big difference between day and night cream is that day cream is for protecting the skin while night cream is for repairing and restoring the skin during the night. The day cream has a lighter texture, while the night cream is fatter.

The reason why we should use two different creams is because they contain different substances that are better during the day or at night. Our skin also works differently depending on the time of day.

The skin is more susceptible during the night as it does not have to withstand environmental stress as during the day, therefore there are more active substances in a night cream.

A day cream usually contains sun protection, which a night cream does not.


JR Fernández. (2019). SIG‐1273 protects skin against urban air pollution and when formulated in AgeIQ™ Night Cream anti‐aging benefits clinically demonstrated


This article has been reviewed by our editorial board and has been approved for publication in accordance with our editorial policies.

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