What's in Your Night Cream?

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The outer layer of your skin does all sorts of cool repair work while you snooze, and the right P.M. product helps it along. Here's what you should know about your night cream.

The Basic Formula

Many night creams contain humectants (common ones are glycerin and hyaluronic acid) to draw moisture to the skin's surface, and occlusives (petrolatum and dimethicone) to seal all that hydration in. Night creams tend to have both of these in higher concentrations than you get in day creams — that's why they typically feel thicker and richer.

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Pro Tip: The skin nourishers in some night creams become less potent when exposed to sunlight, so they really are for bedtime.

The Deal With Retinol

Yes, this gold standard wrinkle fighter (other forms are retinyl palmitate or retinaldehyde) is typically used at night, and can help treat a bunch of issues (lines, spots, you name it). But you'll want to layer another night cream over your retinol product, since it can be drying. This ingredient may also be too harsh for skin and cause irritation. If that happens, go for a night cream geared to your primary concern, below:

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For Wrinkles: Pick peptides, a chain of amino acids that make up collagen and elastin — the building blocks of firm skin. Some skin-care companies develop their own versions, but palmitoyl tripeptide is commonly used.

For Spots: Go with a cream that contains hydroquinone, kojic acid, licorice extract, or arbutin, all of which thwart the production of new dark pigment or help to fade the patches you already have.

For Dullness: Chemical exfoliants called alpha hydroxy acids (glycolic or lactic) dissolve dry, dead skin cells. Then voilà! A smoother, more radiant complexion comes through.

Pro Tip: Don't neglect your neck. It's also vulnerable to sun damage and dryness, so smooth your night cream below the chin.

This story originally appeared in the November 2016 issue of Dr. Oz The Good Life.

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