Beauty Night: Evening Skincare Routines for Fall

This year the transition from summer to fall has been hard on our skin. For many of us, spending time outside has been more important than ever, and we’ve got the sun damage to prove it. For those of us on the West Coast, fire season has meant spending September inside with doors and windows shut, producing either a super-humid, stuffy environment, or subjecting us to more than the ordinary amount of air-conditioned dryness. A few smart changes to our nighttime skincare routines can help us weather this stormiest of perfect storms.

Should my nighttime skincare really be different from daytime?

Let’s get one thing out of the way: there is no magic switch that flips when your head hits the pillow that causes your skin to do more repairing at night. While many body processes do slow down while we sleep– like our heart rates and digestion– there is nothing in particular that happens to our skin while we’re sleeping that indicates the use of different skincare products at night. However, since we’re not wearing makeup to sleep in (right?) or worrying about shininess while we’re asleep, we can experiment with heavier moisturizing products. And because we’re not wearing makeup or sunscreen, there are fewer things getting in the way of our skincare doing its job overnight.

What does a good nighttime skincare routine look like?

Regardless of our skin type or skincare goals, at night, we want to seal nutrients and moisture onto clean skin. That means using an appropriate cleanser, toner, serum and moisturizer (plus any treatments or other products indicated for your skin type). Check out my picks for oily/combination and dry/normal skin below.

The information in this post is drawn from my own research and understanding of proper skincare. I’m not a dermatologist and I don’t know your skin. For personalized skincare advice and recommendations about skincare products, treatments and application, consult a board-certified dermatologist.


Fall nighttime skincare routine for oily and combination skin

As humidity decreases in the transition from summer to fall, those with oily skin should be looking for ways to hydrate our skin without congesting our pores.

Cleansing step

To start off fresh, I recommend using a mousse or lightly foaming cleanser to thoroughly but gently remove oil and debris from the day. Korean brand belif offers a pump-bottle Pore Foam Cleanser ($20) formulated without harsh surfactants. (It also touts a few antioxidants, but they likely won’t stay on your skin long enough to have an effect.) Lancome‘s Mousse Radiance self-foaming cleanser ($32) skips the antioxidants but includes a light dose of chemical exfoliants that may have a minor effect on skin clarity. And my personal favorite, the fragrance-free Kadi Cleanser from Holy Snails ($26), produces an incredibly rich foam and leaves skin feeling clean and hydrated.

Toning step

Now it’s time to tone! A lot of people skip the toner step, and toners seem to have only became widely available from U.S. brands in the last few years as manufacturers have looked to Korean and other Asian skincare brands for inspiration. But toners are great for infusing skin with hydration and good-for-skin ingredients. In fact, layers of watery moisture are a great way for those of us with oilier skin to fight dryness without added oil. This Equalizing Toner from Skinceuticals ($34) includes a blend of chemical exfoliants that can help even skintone if your dermatologist approves. Estee Lauder offers this refining toning lotion ($27) for gentler exfoliation with hydration. And this TeatreatmentTM toner ($30) from Dr. Jart+ combines tea tree extracts with soothing and brightening botanicals to help even our skintone after a summer in the sun.

Serum step

The serum step in skincare provides more intensive nutrition to the skin, along with increased moisture. To infuse moisture while brightening, choose Belle Evolve‘s Niacinamide Serum ($21). This Amino Acid + B5 serum from The Ordinary ($7) promises to moisturize from deep within the skin to hydrate and rebalance. And the luxury Josie Maran Argan Smoothing Skin Resurfacing Serum ($70) blends natural moisturizing factor esters into argan oil for improved moisture retention.

Moisturizing step

Finally, it’s time to moisturize. An emulsion- or lotion-style moisturizer is a great fall pick for oily and combination skin. The Skinfix Barrier+ Triple Lipid-Peptide Face Lotion packs a ton of skin-repairing and -moisturizing ingredients into a light formulation ($38). If you’re looking for herbal ingredients with royal vibes, try The History of Whoo Gongjinhyang Essential Nourishing Emulsion ($53). And for a no-nonsense formula that soothes inflamed, acneic skin, check out the COSRX Oil-Free Ultra Moisturizing Lotion with Birch Sap ($22).

Special treat: Facial oils

For nights when our skin feels particularly dry, or if our moisturizer feels like it’s not quite getting the job done, we can add facial oils into the mix. Mix a drop or two of oil into moisturizer (in your palm, not the lotion bottle), or spread a few drops onto your face and neck as a final step. The Farmacy Honey Grail facial oil blend ($48) is noncomedogenic and features buckwheat honey. Colourpop’s Fourth Ray Beauty offers a stand-alone Rose Hip Oil ($10) to help even complexion. And Garden of Wisdom‘s Evening Primrose Oil ($7) is naturally astringent to help decrease skin oiliness.

Fall nighttime skincare routine for normal and dry skin

With less moisture in the air and more time spent inside, dry skin can get drier and normal skin can get finicky. Layers of intense moisture can help get our skin back in shape.

Cleansing step

Normal to dry skin can benefit from a creamier cleanser as we transition to fall. This Gentle Cleansing Milk from Caudalie ($28) has sweet almond oil and oat extracts to soothe and moisturize. The KORA Organics Cream Cleanser for Dry Skin ($30) includes aloe and a blend of skincare oils to moisturize and soften. Finally, the Peter Thomas Roth Cloud Cream Cleanser ($30) includes plenty of plant extracts and hyaluronic acid to soothe and moisturize as it cleanses.

Toning step

Hydrating toners that deliver other skincare benefits have an important role in a nighttime routine for normal to dry skin. The First Snow Essence ($39) from Holy Snails features herbal extracts and hydrolyzed oats in a convenient misting bottle. First Aid Beauty‘s Ultra Repair Wild Oat Hydrating Toner blends oat extracts, honey and hyaluronic acid to hydrate and balance. Reach for IOPE Bio Intensive Essence Skin Conditioning ($60) to hydrate and tone with a blend of fermented, brightening and skin-identical ingredients.

Serum step

The serum step is the chance for those of us with dry skin to pour on the nutrients and hydrating hyaluronic acid. Makeup Artist’s Choice offers this Peptide Serum with Botanicals ($44) for a potent combination of hydration, peptides, antioxidants and ferments that will plump, hydrate and firm normal to dry skin. The INKEY List‘s Hyaluronic Acid Hydrating Serum ($8) offers a some of the same peptides in a simpler formula. And the POWER Recharging Night Pressed Serum from Algenist ($95) melts into skin on application to deliver nutrition from algae and antioxidant plant extracts.

Moisturizing step

Moisturizer is essential after serums, especially those with hyaluronic acid, which absorbs water the way a fire eats oxygen– if you don’t feed it water from above, it will look for water from below, in your skin. Seal in moisture with the Lotus Anti-Aging Night Moisturizer from Fresh ($48), featuring antioxidants from plant extracts in a light cream formula. The Paula’s Choice RESIST Intensive Repair Cream ($33) offers a low-strength retinol boost in a rich cream formulation. And Drunk Elephant packs a bevy of peptides and amino acids into its Polypeptide Moisturizer ($68).

Special treat: Overnight mask

Overnight masks, or sleeping masks, are truly just another moisturizer. But they include a heavy dose of occlusive ingredients that can provide an additional seal over your skincare when the air is dry or you feel your skin is working extra hard to retain moisture. Irritated skin could benefit from the Laneige Cica Sleeping Mask ($34), with its blend of shea butter and fermented yeast-boosted madecassic acid. The Algenist Replenishing Sleeping Pack ($48) blends algae and plant extracts into a pleasant-to-use water burst formula. Peptides, hyaluronic acid and tea extracts in the Fresh Black Tea Firming Overnight Mask ($92) promise to soothe, improve elasticity and draw moisture to the skin.

What’s your nighttime skincare routine?

Do you switch up your skincare when the seasons change? Do you see any of the products I shared fitting into your skincare routine this fall? Let’s talk about it!