When you take skincare as seriously as we do, you’re always on the hunt for the next generation of game-changing skincare products. You know the ones—those holy-grail, often best-selling products that not only cut down on time getting ready but also restore your skin to its most glowy, angelic state (you know, what dreams are made of). But there’s probably no market as saturated as skincare, making it a tricky one to navigate. With endless options, how do you know what’s worth the splurge and what’s…not? Well, you read editors’ picks like this one—and of course pay to attention to Marie Claire‘s annual Prix Awards—so you’re already ahead of the curve. Then, you weigh your options and spend accordingly, because good skincare is an investment.
It should be noted: This list of skincare gems includes both splurge-worthy and cost-efficient products, and the choice is yours. It’s all about whatever works for your skin type, which is unlike anyone else’s. It sounds like a tall order, but I promise you that these revolutionary products really, truly measure up. It also should be noted that as you read through, you’ll see some recurring ingredients that we’re particularly fond of. Hyaluronic acid, for instance, is always a good idea (and pops up in many of our faves). The same goes for niacinamides, salicylic acid, AHAs, and retinols. Whether you’re looking for the best skincare for oily skin, dry skin, or sensitive skin, we’ve got you covered. From cleansers and balms to concentrates and masks, get ready for a lifetime of five-star reviews of your complexion.
This Exfoliating Cleanser
Tata Harper Regenerating Cleanser
This all-natural exfoliating cleanser is one of the best of the best, not only in the green community, but in the cleanser community in general. The reason? It has the ability to gently dissolve dead skin cells and gunk, while also clearing pores with a mix of water-soluble oils and enzymes, all of which work together to stave off breakouts. Oh, and did we mention it smells like an ethereal garden of happiness? Yeah, that too.
This Foaming Oil
Skinfix Barrier+ Foaming Oil Hydrating Cleanser
The barrier of the skin is a vital organ, so it’s important to make sure a gentle cleanser is used, especially if you have sensitive skin. Skinfix knows how sensitive skin can be, which they keep in mind for this foaming cleanser that won’t strip skin, instead hydrating dryness while cleansing gently.
This Gentle Cleanser
iS Clinical Cleansing Complex
As an oily gal I tend to double cleanse at night to get all the first and grime of the day off, however, this cleanser has enough power to wash deep without stripping my skin of the good oils. A true gentle cleanser, this wash gets to the point with nourishing ingredients infused for a more universal, but efficient, cleanse.
This Exfoliating Cleanser
Plantkos Phyto Exfoliating Cleanser
Once a week, exchange your regular cleanser for this exfoliating one that contains willow bark, centella asiatica, turmeric, and bilberry to cleanse skin while keeping inflammation down. pH balancing, this cleanser is a vital first step in any skin routine to rid the face of bacteria, while keeping the good oils in.
This Luxurious Balm Cleanser
Emma Hardie Moringa Cleansing Balm
Treating your skin to an old-fashioned rub down with an oil-based makeup remover is sometimes all you need. Emma Hardie’s moringa-based balm has the works, like vitamins wild sea fennels, to shrink the size of pores, melt away makeup, and hug your skin with hydration for hours on end. It even comes with a muslin cleansing cloth to gently exfoliate and nourish the skin without stripping it of essential oils.
This Micellar Water
Bioderma Sensibio H2O Soothing Micellar Cleansing Water
The gentle-as-water makeup remover that was once only found in European pharmacies is now available at drugstores everywhere. And that’s a good thing, because its mild formula manages to calm even the most irritated of skin, without drying it out.
This All-Natural Balm
Clinique Take the Day Off Cleansing Balm
As winter approaches, a cleansing balm is just the ticket for skin that gets sandpaper-dry in the colder months. And that means you can skip your makeup remover—the oil-based wax readily dissolves eye makeup, lipstick and even tenacious primers and foundations. Massage onto dry skin with your fingertips, then rinse away with warm water for clean, hydrated skin.
The One for Eye Makeup
Danessa Myricks Essential Eye & Lip Makeup Remover
Scrubbing your face is one thing—though you should still be gentle with face makeup removal as well—but, vitally, your eye and lip makeup should be removed extra carefully. Take the time to rid your eyes of any waterproof or caked-on product with a designated remover, and none remove budged makeup quote like this formulation.
This Line-Smoothing Essence
SK-II Facial Treatment Essence
This pricey toner may seem like it’s just nice-smelling water, but the magic is in its main ingredient, Pitera—a yeast derivative rich in vitamins, minerals, amino acid. Researchers at SK-II discovered Pitera after noticing that the hands of sake makers at a brewery in Japan looked startlingly youthful and smooth. Imagine what this essence can do to your face with daily use.
This Dry Skin Lover
Innisfree Intensive Hydrating Toner with Green Tea Seed
If you’re prone to dryness, this is the toner for you. Rid your brain of the idea that toners dry skin out, because that is not the case here. The hero ingredient Jeju Green Tea is what gives this liquid it’s hydration powers while panthenol works to improve the epidermis—skin’s top layer. Whether the dryness is a year-long thing, or wintertime causes extra flakiness, this toner will be a gentle step after cleansing.
This Acidic Toner
ROSE INC Skin Resolution Clean Exfoliating Acid Toner
A couple of swipes of this exfoliating toner across your face after a cleansing session will help unclog pores and target any blemishes before they arise. An AHA acid, make sure to skip an extra exfoliant step to keep irritation at bay. If you’re scared to enter the world of chemical exfoliants, this is a gentle option for diluted toning.
This Skin-Smoothing Treatment
Sunday Riley Good Genes Treatment
Yes, this is expensive, and yes, you’re going to have some doubts about shelling out the money, but after approximately one week, your crazy-smooth, soft, and clear skin will have made up for the price a billion times over. This cult-favorite night treatment is 5 percent lactic acid, an AHA that gently exfoliates skin on a cellular level to clear clogged pores, plump fine lines, and fade dark spots and acne scars.
This Beauty Sleep Miracle Worker
Allies of Skin Promise Keeper Overnight Facial
Yes, this little tube of serum is hella expensive, but when it has the ability to clear up acne in under 48 hours (like it did for one of our editors), the price becomes easier to stomach. The formula is filled with gentle pore-clearing and bump-smoothing acids, along with a major dose of hyaluronic acid and caffeine to hydrate, plump fine lines, and reduce puffiness, all at once. Apply a thin layer to clean, dry skin overnight, then wake up with amazing skin in the morning.
This At-Home Facial in a Bottle
Renee Rouleau Triple Berry Smoothing Peel
Many times, they tell us quick skin fixes don’t happen overnight. This miracle worker completely changed my outlook on that, though, because it definitely delivers baby-soft glowing skin in minutes. This at-home exfoliant is made of pure, antioxidant-packed berries that will literally eradicate dullness and bring on a major glow. It’s a perfect pre-event treatment to give yourself an at-home facial when you want a renewed radiance that’ll last.
This Banana Based Peel
Kadaly’s Exfoliating Peel
Starting at once a week, this exfoliating mask can be used in two ways—as a regular wash, and also a 10-minute mask. Whether using it as a wash or as a mask, the effects are still visible as skin is rid of impurities and radiates renewed.
This Next-Level Sleeping Mask
Sisley Paris Velvet Sleeping Mask
I know, I know: this price tag is a pretty penny. However, I’ve waxed poetic about how much this mask is worth it, and I’ll say it again. Sleeping masks are tricky. You don’t want a slippery formula that will smear all over your pillows, but it also can’t be too tacky, sticky and dry in five seconds. This special texture treads the line while being super hydrating and absorbent at the same time. Using natural ingredients, like saffron flowers, thyme honey and shea butter, I wake up with the most supple soft skin with the mask. And everyone deserves to wake up like that.
This Healing Mask
Fresh Black Tea Instant Perfecting Mask
Not only does this creamy, kombucha-infused mask smell like warm tea, but it’s also fortified with sake and lychee-seed extract to brighten and soften skin with continual use.
This Clarifying Mask
Herbivore Blue Tansy Resurfacing Clarity Mask
An Instagrammable mask that also puts in work? We’ll take it. Blue tansy is a powerful floral loaded with azulene, an excellent soothing anti-inflammatory. Here, it’s balanced with a cocktail of naturally occuring AHAs and BHAs from white willow bark, papaya and pineapple. Snap a pic and settle in for a deeply satisfying masking experience.
The Sheet Mask for All
TONYMOLY I’m Real Aloe Mask Sheet
When it comes to sheet masks TONYMOLY has a whole arsenal of options with spotlight ingredients that target specific skin concerns. Their aloe vera mask not only hydrates but leaves behind a skin glow you’ll want to take selfies of. I mean, who doesn’t love a good sheet mask selfie too!
The Smoothing Serum
Mutha Body Contour Serum
The brand’s best-selling body butter has a new sister, and we love to lather it on post-shower. The formula exfoliates, hydrates, and tightens to create smoother, more glowy skin.
The Icelandic Export
Blue Lagoon Skincare The Serum
If your wanderlust is a bad as ours, you’ve probably come across those gorgeous photos of Iceland’s blue lagoon on Instagram. But its mineral-rich waters do more than create the perfect view—they help perfect your complexion, too. The brand’s proprietary serum complex contains ingredients from the the bioactive water—microalgae and silica—that help strengthen your skin barrier and promote collagen production.
This Rejuvenating Serum
Lancôme Advanced Génifique Youth Activating Serum
What’s cool about this pricey serum is the combination of three known skin saviors: For starters, 10 percent bifidus, a prebiotic proven to enhance the skin’s moisture barrier. It also contains hyaluronic acid and a hefty dose of vitamin C to brighten and scrounge up any degrading antioxidants.
The Skin-Saving Serum
Dermalogica AGE Bright Clearing Serum
Two types of complexion candidates benefit from this product. The first: someone who’s experiencing pandemic stress breakouts…heyo! The salicylic acid will work to clear out pores and prevent them from clogging up and inflaming, without drying out your entire face. The second: those eager to ward off signs of aging. Niacinamide works to dull dark spots, neutralize redness, and soothe inflammation.
This Heroic Serum
La Mer The Concentrate
Not many serums can stand a chance against this skin savior. It’s one of those top-shelf items you cherish until the very last drop because it truly works like a magic trick to reduce redness, calm inflammation, and hydrate the skin. This is a bestseller because it can’t be put into a box—it just works. Whether you want to use it as a spot-treatment to erase a pimple overnight or as an all-over hydrator, the choice is yours.
The CBD Eye Cream
BeautyStat Universal C Eye Perfector
If your eye area needs a lift, this right here will firm the skin right up in no time. It has two star ingredients worth noting: vitamin C, the end-all-be-all for bright and awake under-eyes and CBD (which you don’t often find in eye creams) to act as an anti-inflammatory agent to soothe the sensitive skin around the eye area. Together, those two do everything you’d want in an eye cream, which is to brighten, smooth and soothe.
This Lifting Eye Serum
La Prairie Skin Caviar Eye Lift Serum
You’d be fibbing if you didn’t admit how appealing a non-surgical eye lift sounds when puffy, saggy, and tired-looking eyes are your normal. However, they don’t have to be. This dual-phased eye serum features a ton of actives, caviar beads, and a gel-to-cream emulsion to literally lift the eye contour area and give you bright and bushy-tailed eyes—even when you’re running on zero hours of sleep, and I’m proof because I tried it.
This Brightening Eye Cream
Olay Eyes Brightening Eye Cream for Dark Circles
Ever noticed how eye creams are one of the most expensive skincare products on the market? Today’s your lucky day because thanks to this $20 steal, you won’t have to hand over triple digits for a formula that works. This eye cream brightens dark circles, smoothes wrinkles, fine lines and puffiness. The vitamin c, b3 and caffeine acts as a tall glass of water to wake up your tired eyes with hydration.
This Magnificent Moisturizer
Estée Lauder Daywear Anti-Oxidant 24H-Moisture Crème
Words can’t express how much beauty editors and dermatologists alike live for day creams with potent anti-aging ingredients and sunscreen. Here, broad-spectrum—meaning it protects against UVA and UVB rays—SPF 15 is paired with a plush blend of antioxidant hydrators (barley, rosemary, wheat, lemon and caffeine). Skin is left protected and quenched.
This Extra-Hyped Moisturizer
Augustinus Bader The Rich Cream
Skin enthusiasts everywhere have spoken: this moisturizer’s hype is real. Its magical powers come with a triple digit price tag for a reason: the formulation was mastered by 30-year skin cell research expert professor Augustinus Bader, who created a trigger factor complex to speed up your skin’s cells. The result is an especially rich, whipped texture ideal for reversing dry skin, visibly reducing fine lines and wrinkles, strengthening the skin’s moisture barrier, and more.
Ole Henriksen C-Rush Vitamin C Gel Moisturizer
Mark my words, you’re guaranteed to have a good morning if you lather this cream all over your face. If you’re tired of applying moisturizer multiple times per day because your skin can’t escape dryness, this long-lasting hydrator will be your new holy grail. It has a creamy gel consistency full of vitamin C for a luminous, far-from-dull effect. It gives your skin this inescapable glow. Not to mention its light citrus scent will remind you of the tropics.
This Rich and Gentle Moisturizer
Avene Tolerance Extreme Cream
Ask me what my favorite beauty product is, and I’ll launch into a Shakespearean sonnet about this cream before you can finish the question. But it’s not hyperbole—the formula is simple (only seven gentle, non-irritating ingredients that won’t break you out) and incredibly moisturizing, making it a holy-grail product for dry, sensitive skin types.
This Cream for Darker Tones
Dr. Barbara Sturm Darker Skin Tones Face Cream
Meet the moisturizer of my wildest dreams. As a woman of color who is heavily concerned with dark spots and post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation, I take claims to fade dark spots very seriously. This luxury line, complete with skincare products made specifically for darker skin tones, is endorsed by Angela Bassett and Jada Pinkett Smith—both of whom have ageless, unicorn skin. This light-weight consistency has African botanical ingredients and lumicol to stop excess sebum flow, amp up radiance, and even out the complexion.
The Midday Magician
PAYOT Brume Éclat Anti-Pollution Mist
Now that some of us are back to the office, a desk mist is a must for staying fresh throughout the day. This adds an extra kick of radiance to your complexion, and it fights pollution too.
The Mascne Saver
Tower 28 Beauty SOS Save.Our.Skin Daily Rescue Facial Spray
This mist has three ingredients: Water, Sodium Chloride, and Hypochlorous Acid. Combined they serve as a face refresher and help reduce redness, basically, it’ll be your best friend especially if you have irritation caused by mascne.
The Glowy Mist
PEACH & LILY Glass Skin Veil Mist
My friends and I can’t get enough of this mister, what we call a good “Misty-boi”, and it earns that caricature name for its effectiveness in every step of our skincare/makeup routine. Glass skin here means your skin at its healthiest, but an added glow doesn’t hurt. If you’re into a dewy makeup finish lightly spritz this over your face for a soft glow, that doesn’t look wet drenched.
Caudalie Grape Water Moisturizing Face Mist
Stay with me now, yes this is technically a can full of grape water, however, it feels like so much more than that. Maybe you’re at a festival and need to cool down, or your skin needs added hydration a few hours after your morning skincare routine, the 100% Grape Water harvested from France is a cult classic for a reason.
This One-of-a-Kind Shea Butter
hanahana beauty Vanilla Lavender Shea Body Butter
You’ve used shea butter before, but you’ve never used Hanahana Beauty’s shea butter. This body butter imparts ingredients from sustainable direct sourcing in Tamale, Ghana. Made in small batches with care, each jar encompasses cocoa butter, mango butter, grapeseed oil, avocado oil and more in a fluffy, whipped texture that melts right onto your skin in seconds for long-lasting hydration. This vanilla and lavender medley of a scent is unbelievable.
This Luxurious Body Scrub
Acqua di Parma Body Scrub
Unlike other body scrubs that will scratch and irritate the skin, this one uses gentle grains of brown sugar, jojoba seeds and orange peel for a soothing skin exfoliation. And of course, it carries the Acqua Di Parma legacy of an amazing scent using notes that will give you a sweet whiff of the Mediterranean sea to transform you shower into a full-out spa session.
The Coffee Scrub
Drunk Elephant Sugared Koffie Almond Milk Body Scrub
Believe it or not, this body scrub is fragrance-free but has the natural ingredients of coffee seed oil, almond milk, and sucrose to thank for its powerful latte scent. While the sugar and coffee mix gently exfoliate the skin, the nourishing almond milk penetrates to offset any irritation. Perfect for a pre-step for any at-home tanning oil fans.
The On the Go Glow
frank body Glide “n” Go Body Oil Stick
You know and love frank body for their coffee scrub, but another hero product lies in their body oil stick. If you’re prone to dry skin or you just can’t be bothered to put lotion on, this highly hydrating option is full of natural oils and nutrients for soft skin.
This Star Sunscreen
Supergoop! Unseen Sunscreen SPF 40
Meet the MVP of sunscreens (yeah, I said it). Supergoop! makes applying sunscreen cool again, thanks to its incredibly innovative formula that puts all other thick, gloopy sunscreens to shame. It’s a truly universal formula that’s completely invisible on all skin tones. The velvety-soft texture sinks into your skin, bringing frankincense, red algae and meadowfoam seed along for smooth, sun-protected skin.
This Dermatologist-Approved Sunscreen
La Roche-Posay Anthelios 50 Ultra-Light Tinted Mineral Sunscreen SPF 50
With all of the FDA’s regulations and changes to safe sunscreen, it’s smart to lean on tried-and-true protectants that are boasted as the very best. This is where La Roche-Posay’s Anthelios 50 Mineral Sunscreen comes in. This quick-absorbing, water-resistant, oil-free sunscreen leaves behind an universal tint fit for all skin tones and uses a cell-ox shield technology to protect skin from overexposure to the sun.
This Redness-Reducing Moisturizer
Dr. Jart+ Cicapair Tiger Grass Color Correcting Treatment SPF 30
The struggle is real when you have perpetually red, reactive skin, so Dr.Jart+ created a color-correcting treatment that makes your green concealer obsolete. Its main ingredient is tiger grass, an inflammation-soother that restores moisture levels in dry, irritated skin.
The Ultimate No-Cast
Black Girl Sunscreen Moisturizing Sunscreen Lotion SPF 30
This sunscreen really is all that, with an SPF of 30 the ingredient not only protect against the sun but also moisturizes skin with the help of Jojoba and Avocado. On top of that, this formula is reef-friendly and won’t leave a cast.