The Best Night Creams For Acne-Prone Skin, According To A Derm

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Regardless of your skin type, a good night cream is a skin care staple — even (and sometimes especially) if you’re prone to frequent breakouts. That said, it’s important that you don’t just use any old moisturizer, since the wrong (or right) ingredients can make all the difference. According to board-certified dermatologist Dr. Geeta Yadav, who spoke with Elite Daily for this article, the best night creams for acne-prone skin contain active ingredients like salicylic acid, benzoyl peroxide, or retinol, which can help clear out your pores, absorb excess oil, and exfoliate your skin as you sleep. “Nighttime is a great time to add actives,” Dr. Yadav explains. “At night, skin isn’t exposed to UV rays, and being able to apply actives during this time allows ingredients to work to their full potential.”

Dr. Yadav says that even if you’re using a cleanser that’s designed to treat acne, like a face wash with salicylic acid or benzoyl peroxide, you should be okay to use a night cream that contains those or other actives. If, however, you begin to notice irritation, she advises alternating the days you use each product. For severe irritation, “You might want to consider cutting actives from either your day or nighttime routine, or looking for products with lower percentages included in the formulation,” Dr. Yadav says. And of course, you can (and should) always consult with your dermatologist if you have any questions.

To shop the best night creams for acne, keep reading.

1. The Overall Best Night Cream For Acne-Prone Skin

TULA’s oil-free Breakout Star Acne Moisturizer contains the BHA salicylic acid, which is one of the most common over-the-counter ingredients dermatologists recommend for acne-prone skin. Another key ingredient in the formula is azelaic acid, a gentle antibacterial that’s often used to treat rosacea and acne in its prescription form. Balancing out these key actives are gentle additions like niacinamide, aloe, and probiotics (TULA’s signature addition to all their products), as well as the emollient glycerin for lightweight, non-greasy hydration. This is also great because it comes in a pump-top tube, instead of a jar, so you won’t contaminate the cream with your fingers and the active-rich formula will stay fresh.

2. Best Budget Night Cream For Acne-Prone Skin

Is there anything retinol can’t do? It’s suggested for people with acne-prone skin because it provides exfoliating benefits, so not only does it help keep your pores clear, but it’s also great for evening out unwanted hyperpigmentation that may linger long after a pimple clears up. This retinol cream from Neutrogena is a fan-favorite overnight moisturizer (it’s been awarded over 15,000 five-star ratings on Amazon), and like the product above, it comes in a pump-top bottle to keep the formula stable and free of bacteria. In addition to retinol, this also contains hyaluronic acid for hydration and a glucose complex to promote a stronger skin barrier. Overall, an amazing product for less than $20.

3. Best Splurge

This moisturizer from derm-founded brand Dr. Dennis Gross contains a whopping seven acids (including salicylic, lactic, and glycolic) to help you maintain smooth, clear skin. But while it provides exfoliating, resurfacing, and pore-clearing benefits, it also helps keep your skin hydrated and balanced using a blend of superstar ingredients like ceramides, squalane, aloe, and urea. It’s a splurge to be sure, but this silky cream basically targets all of your skin care bases at once.

4. Best Night Cream To Use Alongside Prescription Acne Treatments

Though Dr. Yadav likes to use nighttime as an opportunity to apply active ingredients, if you’re already using other active-rich products, like prescription acne treatments, you’d probably be better off with a gentle, strengthening moisturizer to soothe and hydrate your skin (since prescription acne products and retinol serums can cause dryness and irritation). If you fall into that category, try EltaMD’s PM Therapy Face Moisturizer. It’s fragrance-free (a plus in Dr. Yadav’s book), oil-free, and rich in nourishing ingredients to keep your skin barrier healthy, like ceramides, niacinamide, hyaluronic acid, antioxidants, and peptides — all essential to counteracting the side effects that can occur with harsh acne treatments. Bonus points for the airtight, pump-top packaging.

5. Best Acne Treatment/Night Cream Duo

Differin Gel is one of the best-known over-the-counter acne treatments — and one of the most effective. It’s made with adapalene, a retinol that once required a prescription, so it’s basically as close to a prescription-strength treatment you could get without visiting a derm. Adapalene helps treat and prevent acne by supporting skin cell turnover and preventing your pores from becoming clogged, but like any type of retinol, it can cause dryness and flaking. To help prevent that, use the brand’s Restorative Night Moisturizer, which was specifically designed to counteract the side effects of adapalene. The lotion is fragrance-free and made with hyaluronic acid, ceramides, and allantoin to soothe, moisturize, and strengthen your skin. With this set, you get both products — Differin Gel and Differin’s night cream — for just over $20, so it’s an amazing value.


Dr. Geeta Yadav, M.D., board-certified dermatologist and founder, Skin Science Dermatology