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Sleeping Masks vs. Night Creams: Which One is Right for You?

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The innovation we’ve seen in skincare over the past decade is extremely impressive, and we owe a lot of it to Korean skincare trends. But as effective as our new K-beauty skincare routines can be, understanding every new skincare product now on the market can be confusing. From serums to face oils to essences and toners, the variation in skincare products means more opportunity for personalization (which is great!), but it also requires more beauty education. 

Luckily, we're here to do just that. Today’s lesson: Sleeping masks (AKA overnight masks) versus night creams. Are they the same? (Spoiler: no!) When is the right time to use each product? We answer these questions and more in our complete guide to the difference between sleeping masks and night creams, and even share a few of our (and Ipsters') favorite products.

An image of SOROCI Lycomato Super Restorative Sleeping Masks on top of marble surface

What Exactly is a Sleeping Mask?

A sleeping mask works similarly to a normal face mask, except that you leave it on overnight (so you might also see them called "overnight masks"). Unlike the thick, creamy face masks you’re probably used to, most sleep masks are easily absorbed into your skin via a gel or lightweight cream formula.

Sleep masks are packed with active ingredients that can target specific skincare concerns like anti-aging, brightening, moisturizing, or fighting breakouts. Like normal face masks or sheet masks, these are potent formulas that should only be used when you feel like your skin could use a little something extra. Overusing sleep masks could result in irritation.

The prolonged wear time allows these masks to deeply penetrate your skin, but there's also another reason sleep masks work so well at night. When we sleep, our bodies have a chance to reset and recover. It’s also when beauty products have the potential to be the most effective. The phrase “beauty sleep” makes a lot more sense now, huh?

What About Night Cream?

Night creams are typically thick, creamy moisturizers designed to slowly soak into the skin overnight. These creams are not as potent as sleeping masks and are designed to be used daily. They sometimes contain ingredients not recommended for daytime use, like retinoids. Night creams are also primarily focused on moisturizing and soothing irritated skin.

So, Which Should You Use?

A night cream is something you can use every night, especially during the winter months. Sleep masks, on the other hand, should be used occasionally–about once or twice a week. Think of sleep masks as night creams intensified: they’re more powerful and can help treat a wider range of skincare issues. For example, if you feel like your skin could use a brightening boost, skip your evening night cream for a day (or in this case, night) and slather on a sleeping mask for some extra-powerful brightening action.

 

The Best Sleeping Masks 

Now that you know the difference, it’s time to pick a product that will work while you snooze. Below are a few of our favorite sleeping masks, some of which are tried-and-true Ipster favorites from past Glam Bags.

SOROCI Lycomato Super Restorative Sleeping Mask

SOROCI Lycomato Super Restorative Sleeping Mask

This moisturizing sleeping mask is one of the more lightweight formulas of the bunch, making it a great option for any sleeping mask newbies. It hydrates your skin with shea butter and lycopene, an antioxidant that protects, nourishes, and rejuvenates your skin. As one Ipster wrote, “I love a mask I don’t have to stay awake with. It put it on before bed. It's not greasy and my skin was smooth in the morning.”

BRTC Vitalizer Sleeping Mask & Pore Tightening Sleeping Mask Set

BRTC Vitalizer Sleeping Mask & Pore Tightening Sleeping Mask Set

This sleeping mask set offers the chance to try out two different formulas: one for moisturizing + brightening and another for firming and tightening your skin and pores. Ipster @tclme wrote that this overnight mask “made a big difference in my fine lines. I was really impressed.”

GLOW RECIPE Watermelon Glow Sleeping Mask

GLOW RECIPE Watermelon Glow Sleeping Mask

This gentle sleeping mask smells sweet, and the results are even sweeter. It’s made with watermelon extract, which is rich in vitamin C and skin-boosting amino acids. Add in moisturizing superstar hyaluronic acid, and you've got yourself an overnight mask that's gentle enough for any skin type, especially dry skin. “Great formula,” wrote one Ipster. “I've been using it a lot more now that it's colder outside and my skin is drying out. It definitely delivers that fresh, dewy glow in the morning.” Another Ipster wrote in a five-star review, "This mask is AMAZING!! I loved the smell and I loved the texture. It left my skin feeling incredibly hydrated."

JUJU:EN Aloe Gel Sleeping Mask

JUJU:EN Aloe Gel Sleeping Mask

This cool-feeling gel formula is packed with aloe leaf extract to help hydrate and soothe tired skin. The formula is also infused with mineral-rich water, which contains magnesium, zinc, iron, and potassium to strengthen and nourish your skin. After trying this mask, one Ipster wrote, “It was very soothing and calming. I  liked that I was sleeping in it. It was like my skin was getting an extended facial.”

BELIF Aqua Bomb Sleeping Mask

BELIF Aqua Bomb Sleeping Mask

Step outside of the box with this jelly formula that uses lesser-known ingredients like Scottish Heather and Lady's Mantle. The former is an herb famous for its anti-inflammatory properties and the latter is also an herb that’s been used for centuries to moisturize and revitalizes skin’s complexion. Slather it on at night, and wake up to smooth, hydrated skin in the morning.

LANEIGE Water Sleeping Mask

LANEIGE Water Sleeping Mask

This luxurious gel mask is an Ipster favorite for a reason. Made with protective ceramides and highly concentrated ionized mineral water, this moisturizing face mask ihydrates and purifies your skin while you sleep. Brightening apricot and chestnut extracts wake up dull skin, while the Aromatic Sleepscent™ technology delivers a dose of aromatherapy–so you can sleep as well as your skin looks. As Ipster @Happy_Samm wrote, “I love this mask.” Ipster @Brooke_how shared a similar sentiment, writing “I love love love this mask OMG I had to buy the full size.”

 

The Best Night Creams 

Remember, night creams can be used every night to round out your skincare routine. Of our favorite night creams below, one has already received an Ipster seal of approval as a Glam Bag favorite. 

P.S. Want to see even more of our night cream faves? Check out our complete list of the best night creams for dry skin.

CLARK’S BOTANICALS Retinol Rescue Overnight Cream

CLARK’S BOTANICALS Retinol Rescue Overnight Cream

Here’s a prime example of a formula that thrives at night. This cream is made with time-release retinol, an ingredient that can make the skin sensitive if it’s combined with sun exposure (so be sure to slather on the SPF in the morning) but offers powerful anti-aging benefits. The ingredient works to reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles throughout the night while you sleep. One Ipster couldn’t get enough. “I ran out of it so fast,” she says. “It made my skin so dewy for the morning.”

FIRST AID BEAUTY Ultra-Repair Hydra-Firm Sleeping Cream

FIRST AID BEAUTY Ultra-Repair Hydra-Firm Sleeping Cream

FIRST AID BEAUTY is an ideal skincare brand for sensitive skin types and just about anyone in need of some serious skin hydration. By using a combination of ingredients like niacinamide, colloidal oatmeal, and peptides, this formula really hits all the skincare high notes. It moisturizes, clears blemishes, and tightens your skin so your skin feels clean, fresh, and energized in the morning.

FARMACY Sleep Tight Night Balm

FARMACY Sleep Tight Night Balm

As you work this solid balm with your hands and slather it onto the face, it transforms into a luxurious oil-gel texture. This night cream’s primary focus to firm and hydrate. It does just that using plant-based retinoid alternatives, which boosts collagen production, reduces the appearance of fine lines, wrinkles, and corrects dark spots.

SKYN ICELAND Oxygen Infusion Night Cream

SKYN ICELAND Oxygen Infusion Night Cream

Tend to wake up with puffy-looking, dull skin? If so, this innovative night cream could be just the right fix. While you’re sleeping, anti-aging rice peptides destroy the enzymes that break down collagen and elasticity in the skin. While that's happening, an array of other extracts get to work to help stressed skin do a full nightly reset.

NO B.S. Day + Night Hyaluronic Cream

NO B.S. Day + Night Hyaluronic Cream

This night cream starts its graveyard shift by hitting your skin with a heavy dose of the hydrating superstar hyaluronic acid. Next, jojoba oil and apricot oil work together to provide continual moisture throughout the night. When you wake up from your beauty sleep, the skin feels hydrated and ready to take on the day ahead.


 

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About the author
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Cortney Clift
Cortney is a New York-based freelance writer who has written about beauty and wellness for more than six years. She was previously the senior writer and special projects editor at Brit + Co where she covered a wide range of news and lifestyle topics.
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Article Last Updated January 29, 2020 12:00 AM