Toners are like the animated team mascots of the skin-care world: they’re not really necessary, but the whole team (or your routine, in this case) just vibes better when they're there. The Dr. Jart+ Ceramidin Skin Barrier Serum Toner ($39) will hype up your hydration levels with panthenol, energize your overall appearance with naturally derived oils, and plump up the skin with ceramides.
Dr. Jart+ Ceramidin Skin
Barrier Serum Toner
Unsure about a powder exfoliator?
The Kiehl’s Rare Earth Deep Pore-Minimizing & Polishing Powder Cleanser ($38) will have you drinking the Kool-Aid in no time. All you need
is a splash of water, and the AHA-powered clay powder will suds up nicely, exfoliate gently, rinse off
easily, and leave your skin just
feeling better overall.
Kiehl’s Rare Earth Deep Pore-Minimizing
& Polishing Powder-Cleanser
Eadem Dew Dream Cleansing Balm
Best Cleansing Balm
Cleansing balms sound great in theory, but they often feel like you’re rubbing Crisco all over your face and leave your eyes a little cloudy. That’s not the case with the Eadem Dew Dream Cleansing Balm ($30). This bouncy jelly-to-oil-to-milk balm removed every trace of makeup without tugging and kept skin feeling baby soft and nicely hydrated (but never oily).
We never thought we’d see a micellar water in jelly form, but then we tried the Garnier Micellar Cleansing Jelly Water With Charcoal ($8), and now we don’t think we’ll ever go back. The thicker, gel-like texture felt cooling on contact, dissolved all dirt and grime, and clung to skin just long enough to help lessen the look of some nose and chin blackheads.
Garnier Micellar Cleansing Jelly
Water With Charcoal
Best Micellar Water
There’s nothing less satisfying than a face wash that doesn’t lather, and thanks to the Glow Recipe Avocado Ceramide Moisture Barrier Cleanser ($28), you can get all the suds without stripping your skin’s moisture barrier. The lotion-to-foam formula uses avocado oil to gently break down makeup, and a blend of ceramides and postbiotics hydrates long after you’ve rinsed.
Glow Recipe Avocado Ceramide
Moisture Barrier Cleanser
Best Face Wash
CeraVe Comforting Eye Makeup Remover
Best Makeup Remover
Tough on mascara and eyeshadow, easy on the sensitive skin around your eyes: the CeraVe Comforting Eye Makeup Remover ($11) strikes that tricky balance of gentle yet effective. The milky biphase liquid dissolved all traces of makeup in
just a few swipes with a cotton round and didn’t leave any greasy residue behind.
It’s hard to find an effective,
no-bullsh*t vitamin C at a great price, unless you know about the L’Oréal Paris Revitalift Derm-Grade 12% Vitamin C + E + Salicylic Acid Serum ($33). The high concentration of L-ascorbic acid
(a dermatologist-grade vitamin C) is paired with salicylic acid and vitamin E to deliver the skin-smoothing and tone-evening effect we expect to see from pricey antioxidant serums.
L’Oréal Paris Revitalift Derm-Grade 12% Vitamin C + E + Salicylic Acid Serum
Best Vitamin C Treatment
Ursa Major Mountain Glow Golden Serum ($84) — more like liquid gold. The formula has a silky near-oil consistency and is jam-packed with actives like adaptogens, vitamins (including A, C, and E), and phytosterols to tackle everything
from dullness, loss of elasticity, and dry and dehydrated skin to redness and uneven skin tone. This jack-of-all-trades left us glowier than God.
Ursa Major Mountain Glow Golden Serum
Barneys New York Beauty Glocela
The Barneys New York Beauty Glocela Water Essence ($108) is luxury in a bottle, and it has the fancy skin benefits to match. The gel-like liquid sinks right in and immediately feels soothing and hydrating, and we love that the antioxidant-rich cloudberry
seed will protect your visage
from free-radical damage.
Talk about a sleeper hit — literally. Throughout our awards testing, we found ourselves coming back to the Estée Lauder Nutritious Melting Soft Creme/Mask ($48) time and again. Applied at bedtime, this skin-quenching pillowy formula left skin looking calmer and renewed when we tissued off the excess in the morning.
Estée Lauder Nutritious Melting
Best Overnight Mask
In a world where radiant skin
reigns supreme, we declare the BeautyStat Universal Microbiome Purifying Radiance Mask ($65) a kingmaker. The natural exfoliating beads, medical-grade silver, and proprietary blend of clays and charcoal will leave your skin with a healthy, even-toned glow — without the drying effects you sometimes get from other clay masks.
BeautyStat Universal Microbiome
Purifying Radiance Mask
Best Face Mask
Shani Darden Triple Acid Signature Peel
We should warn you: the Shani Darden Triple Acid Signature Peel ($125) is no joke — and we would expect nothing less from the celebrity aesthetician to stars like Jessica Alba and Chrissy Teigen. Her two-step at-home peel definitely stings a little (the “spicy tingle,” as Darden calls it, is normal), but after rinsing off the soothing clay mask, your skin will feel noticeably brighter.
The Cocokind Resurrection Polypeptide Cream ($27) had us at first smear, thanks to its taffy-like consistency
that’s somehow lightweight but not at
all sticky. Not only does it infuse your skin with loads of hydration up front (it’s powered by resurrection-plant extract), but squalane and polypeptides also work to prevent future moisture loss and keep skin plump.
Cocokind Resurrection Polypeptide Cream
A hydrating retinol treatment? No, that’s not a typo — the Hero Cosmetics Rescue Retinol Nighttime Renewing Cream ($23) is just the paradox your skin has been waiting for. It’s formulated with encapsulated retinol suspended in moisturizing shea butter and squalane, so you get a more potent dose of the cell-boosting vitamin A derivative without any drying effects.
Hero Cosmetics Rescue Retinol
Nighttime Renewing Cream
SkinMedica Even & Correct
Dark Spot Cream
Best Hyperpigmentation Treatment
Other dark-spot treatments talk the talk, but the SkinMedica Even & Correct Dark Spot Cream ($88) walks the walk — and we have the brighter, more even-toned skin to prove it after just a month of testing. The brand credits the cream's efficacy to the proprietary LTN Complex, a blend of ultraconcentrated lotus sprout, tranexamic acid, and niacinamide that works together to brighten, big time.
The Chanel Le Lift Pro Concentré Contours ($210) is formulated with a breakthrough tensing biopolymer that made our skin look noticeably more taut in an instant (yes, you read that right), while the honey left it feeling hydrated through the night. We also love that it’s not scented, so even our strongest noses had no problem using this nightly.
Chanel Le Lift Pro Concentré Contours
Best Antiaging Treatment
“Damn, this stuff really works” is a real-life quote from one of our editors who used the I Dew Care Fix My Zit Salicylic Acid Acne Gel Treatment ($23) when a big underground zit — you know, the kind that is about to ruin your next few days because it’ll be painful, hard to cover, and impossible to treat — was brewing. After three days of morning and night use, the nonsticky gel stopped the blemish in its tracks.
I Dew Care Fix My Zit Salicylic
Acid Acne Gel
Best Acne Treatment
Ole Henriksen HydraBarrier
Nourishing Face Oil
Best Face Oil
Maybe a face oil is a face oil is a face oil . . . unless it’s the Ole Henriksen HydraBarrier Nourishing Face Oil ($58), which features a handful of Nordic oils (cloudberry, lingonberry, and elderberry, specifically) and firming peptides to give you that glazed-doughnut glow without the greasy feel. Press it over skin as the last step in your skin-care routine for otherworldly results.
There is not a single person on the beauty team who does not have at least one tube of the Rhode Peptide Lip Treatment ($16) on them at all times. That’s because the formula, packed with shea butter and peptides, leaves lips next-level soft and with the kind of glazed shine you only thought was possible at Krispy Kreme or on Hailey Bieber’s Instagram feed. Don’t worry, the hydration lasts long after the gloss fades.
Rhode Peptide Lip Treatment
Best Lip Treatment
Our biggest qualm about neck creams is how they cling and transfer to our crew necks while we sleep, but the M-61 PowerGlow Pro+ Niacinamide+
Neuropeptide Neck Cream ($92) absorbed in seconds, despite its rich, luxurious texture. That way, the niacinamide, peptides, and a blend of glycolic, salicylic, and lactic acids could get to work smoothing our décolletage — not our PJs.
M-61 PowerGlow Pro+ Niacinamide+Neuropeptide Neck Cream
Best Neck Cream
Dr. Naomi Catfish Blurring Eye Cream
Best Eye Cream
Somebody call MTV’s Nev Schulman, because the Dr. Naomi Catfish Blurring Eye Cream ($85) is about to leave a lot of people fooled. One swipe of this stuff diffused all traces of crow’s-feet and dark circles quicker than the Paris filter on Instagram, making it perfect for no-makeup days.
A costume for your next sci-fi convention, this is not: the Dr. Dennis Gross DRx SpectraLite Eyecare Max Pro ($199) is just the skin-care tool of the future. The innovative eye mask uses FDA-cleared LED light to stimulate your skin’s natural collagen production, which helps reduce the look of fine lines and wrinkles over time.
Dr. Dennis Gross Skincare DRx
SpectraLite EyeCare Max Pro
Best Skin-Care Tool
The best sunscreen is the one you’ll actually use, and the Shiseido Urban Environment Vita-Clear Sunscreen SPF 42 ($38) is so lightweight, invisible, and easy to blend, you’ll enjoy applying it every morning. It protects your skin from UV rays, blue light, and environmental stressors (thanks to the addition of vitamin C), but our favorite part? It never feels greasy or pills under makeup.
Shiseido Urban Environment Vita-Clear Sunscreen SPF 42
Best Chemical Sunscreen
Supergoop! Daily Dose Bioretinol
+ Mineral SPF 40
Best Physical Sunscreen
Like olive oil and ice cream, you
might think retinol and sunscreen aren’t compatible, but for some
reason, they totally work, at least in the Supergoop! Daily Dose Bioretinol + Mineral SPF 40 ($46). The bioretinol and bakuchiol help reduce the appearance of fine lines, and the universal sheer tint subtly blurs imperfections. Plus, its super-silky
and lightweight texture blends out really easily.