There’s something really special about a product that can make you feel alive. When Guerlain launched its Midnight Secret Recovery Cream ($30), it rose to cult-fave status, thanks to the instant gratification it offered to tired (and, okay—hungover) skin. Its formulation—made with Ginkgo Biloba extract to boost microcirculation, glycoproteins to increase cellular activity, and a hydronoctine complex to reduce signs of fatigue—was lauded for its ability to immediately refresh skin, and help people fake the appearance of extra ZZZs. Now, there’s a new class of moisturizers that not only give skin that same sort of instant a.m. boost but also help it transition to handle the day ahead. Keep reading for what you need to know about the best morning moisturizer to wake up your skin.
What happens to your skin while you’re sleeping
When you’re asleep, your body and mind may be at rest, but your skin kicks into high gear. Your circadian rhythm tells your skin cells when it’s time to take a break from protecting against the day’s environmental stressors and switch over into renewal mode—which means skin cells regenerate more quickly overnight. “Your face didn’t go to sleep when you went to sleep—in fact, while you were sleeping, your skin was on overdrive repairing everything while you were getting rest,” says Rachel Nazarian, MD, a board-certified dermatologist based in New York City.
On nights when you don’t get enough sleep, moisture is pulled from the skin’s surface, and you’re more prone to inflammation, which can lead to acne. Even when you’re logging a full eight hours, you may wake up looking red, puffy, blotchy, dehydrated, or oily. And, well, #beenthere.
Why you want to “wake up” your skin every morning
While your skin is perfectly capable of transitioning into daytime mode on its own, there are certain ingredients that can help to supplement the shift. “There two ways to look at this idea of ‘waking up’ your skin,” says Dr. Nazarian. “First, there are short term ingredients, like caffeine, which has the immediate effect of making skin look brighter, tighter, and less red. It’s not going to give you any long term benefit, but it’s certainly going to give your skin the feeling of looking better in the morning.”
Then, there are the ingredients that both prep your skin to tackle the day ahead and offer more significant long-term benefits to your complexion. “In the same way you drink coffee in the morning to make you feel like you’re revved up and ready to handle whatever the day gives you, your skin needs that same type of energy in the form of something that will neutralize the free radical damage and oxidative stress that happens throughout the day,” says Dr. Nazarian. “You have to give it its weapons, and those are always going to come in the form of antioxidants like vitamins C and E—think of it as if you’re putting on armor for the day.”
Shea Amiruddin, director of education at Heyday Facial Bar, also suggests looking for hydrating and regeneration-boosting ingredients, like rosehip oil, resveratrol, and red algae extract. “They’re really going to give you the look of hydrated, healthy skin, while also bringing down inflammation and increasing circulation, which is going to give you a natural glow,” she says. “All of these ingredients have the benefit of helping to fight skin aging, and they’re all going to be really regenerative, nourishing, and hydrating as well.”
To give your skin an all-day boost of energy and protection, you’ll want to look for a moisturizer that’s got both instant, all-day, and long-term benefits. Shop our picks, below.
The best moisturizers to help wake up your complexion
This morning moisturizer hits on all of the notes that skin pros recommend for waking up your skin. It’s got caffeine-rich yaupon tea, which soothes redness and reduces puffiness; bakuchiol, which stimulates cellular regeneration; hyaluronic acid to hydrate and plump skin; and witch hazel, which is packed with antioxidants to protect your skin from environmental stressors.
Shop now: Volition Yaupon Tea Glow-Awakening Moisturizer, $39
The hydrating powers of baobab come together with the antioxidant properties of ginseng and the brightening abilities of tamanu oil in a lightweight formula that will act as a big gulp of moisture for your skin.
Shop now: Nyakio Baobab Youth-Infused Daily Defense Creme, $35
For a triple-threat of caffeine, antioxidants, and hydration, look no further than this gel-textured cream. It’s made with caffeine, ginseng, and moisture-locking technology, giving your skin everything it needs to start the day off right. Plus, it’s scented with a blend of grapefruit, lemon, and spearmint essential oils that will give your senses the same sort of energizing boost as your skin.
Shop now: Origins GinZing Oil-Free Energy Boosting Gel Moisturizer, $31
Thanks to the gentle fruit enzymes that papaya brings along, this moisturizer awakens your skin by exfoliating away dead skin cells. Moringa water and moringa seed extract are a part of the party, too, helping to refresh skin and do away with environmental impurities.
Curious about what a dermatologist uses in her own morning routine? Check out the video below.