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Yes, skincare shopping is fun—but it can also be incredibly daunting. It seems like every day, heck, every hour, there’s a new product out there claiming to be an absolute must-have that you can’t live without. The point being, there’s certainly no shortage of products to pick from, and it’s enough to make even the most seasoned beauty aficionado’s head spin. So to make things (much) easier for you, we set out to find the best of the best skincare available—the creams of the crop, as it were.
In general, pay attention to the active ingredients and concentration of each to find a product that best meets your skincare needs and desired results. Above all, you'll want to pick a formula made with moisturizing ingredients, because everybody could use a little more hydration.
Whether you’re a minimalist or you're looking to create an extensive regimen, we tapped top dermatologists to weigh in on their faves, plus added a few of our personal must-haves to compile this ultimate list.
Read on for the best skincare products for both face and body.
Best Daily Moisturizer: L'Oréal Paris Hydra Genius Daily Liquid Care Normal/Oily Skin
Anyone and everyone needs a moisturizer in their daily routine, and this one fits the bill as the perfect simple and straightforward option. It delivers lightweight hydration for up to 72 hours (thanks to aloe and hyaluronic acid), and comes in both this version, which is great for normal to oily skin, as well as a slightly more moisturizing one for normal to dry skin.
Active Ingredients: Hyaluronic acid, aloe water | Skin Type: Balanced, oily, dry | Size: 3.04 fluid ounces | SPF: SPF | Cruelty-Free: No | Byrdie Clean: No
Best Sunscreen: ISDIN Eryfotona Actinica Ultralight Emulsion SPF 50+
Provides antioxidant protection
Can leave a white cast
Like moisturizer, sunscreen is another non-negotiable, no matter how simple or extensive of a skincare routine you’re curating. This is a go-to for dermatologist Jordan Carqueville, founder of The Derm Institute of Chicago. She says the mineral-based formula applies and blends in seamlessly, and also offers the added benefit of containing protective antioxidants to act as a second layer of defense against free radical damage.
Type: Mineral | Active Ingredients: Zinc oxide, DNA repairsomes, vitamin E | SPF: 50+ | Size: 3.4 fluid ounces | Free of: Oxybenzone, octinoxate | Water-Resistant: Up to 40 minutes | Cruelty-Free: No | Byrdie Clean: No
Best Gentle Cleanser: CeraVe Foaming Facial Cleanser
Can be drying
When it comes to choosing a cleanser, the simplest is usually best. All you need is a formula that will remove dirt and makeup but is gentle enough that it won’t strip or dry out your skin—just like this pick. Three types of ceramides, hyaluronic acid, and niacinamide keep it nice and hydrating, yet, unlike many other gentle cleansers, it still delivers a pleasantly rich lather.
Active Ingredients: Ceramides, hyaluronic acid, niacinamide | Skin Type: Balanced, oily | Benefits: Cleanses, removes oil, hydrates | Size: 12 fluid ounces | Cruelty-Free: No | Byrdie Clean: No
Best Tinted Sunscreen: Alastin Skincare HydraTint Pro Mineral Broad Spectrum Sunscreen SPF 36
Provides antioxidant protection
True story: If we were forced to only use one skincare product for the rest of our lives (horrors), this would be it. Yes, you get your daily dose of SPF, but the multi-tasking formula also offers the perfect amount of hydration and a subtle tint that delivers just enough coverage to make your complexion look even and glowing.
Type: Mineral | Active Ingredients: Titanium dioxide, zinc oxide, phytoene, phytofluene, thermus thermophilus ferment, asteriscus graveolens extract, hydroxymethoxyphenyl decanone, ectoin | SPF: 36 | Size: 2.6 ounces | Free of: Parabens, gluten, oxybenzone, octinoxate | Water-Resistant: Up to 40 minutes | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: No
Best Moisturizer with SPF: La Roche-Posay Toleriane Double Repair Face Moisturizer
Contains chemical UV filters
If you’re one of those people who has trouble remembering to apply sunscreen daily, opting for a moisturizer with built-in SPF is your best bet. Try this one, a favorite of board-certified dermatologist Dr. Ife J. Rodney, founding director of Eternal Dermatology in Fulton, MD. “It contains ceramides, niacinamide, and glycerin to keep the skin hydrated for up to 48 hours, and is non-comedogenic, so it won’t clog your pores,” she says. Plus, while many moisturizers cap the SPF at 15, this has SPF 30, the level recommended for daily use by the American Academy of Dermatology.
Active Ingredients: Avobenzone, homosalate, octisalate, octocrylene, ceramide-3, niacinamide, glycerin, silica, dimethicone, La Roche Posay Prebiotic Thermal Water | Skin Type: Sensitive, balanced, combination, dry | Size: 2.5 ounces | SPF: 30 | Cruelty-Free: No | Byrdie Clean: No
Best Exfoliator: Renée Rouleau Triple Berry Smoothing Peel
Provides antioxidant protection
Can use on face, hands, chest, and arms
Use this peel weekly and prepare to watch your skin transform before your eyes. A blend of alpha-hydroxy acids and fruit enzymes leaves your complexion smoother, more even, clearer, and generally glowier, and it’s also packed with antioxidants, always a good thing. Try using it on your hands, chest, or even to address KP on the backs of your arms, too. The delicious smell (it honestly could be mistaken for raspberry jam) is just an added bonus.
Type: Peel off | Active Ingredients: Mandelic acid, lactic acid, salicylic acid, tartaric acid, malic acid, blueberry extract, raspberry fruit, raspberry seed oil, pomegranate extract, bromelain, strawberry fruit | Size: 1.7 fluid ounces | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: Yes
Best Mask: Klur Supreme Seed Delicate Purification Mask
If your skin is in need of a reset, look no further than this purifying mask from Klur. Formulated with potent antioxidants and bio-dynamic plant extracts, it helps to decongest the skin of daily environmental debris while soothing it with a blend of calming panthenol, calendula, and cacao. The result? Skin that’s smoother, brighter, and oh so glowy.
Benefits: Decongests, calms redness, provides antioxidant protection, boosts radiance | Active Ingredients: Cacao, vitamin B5 | Skin Type: Balanced, sensitive, dry | Size: 2 fluid ounces | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: Yes
Best Anti-Aging Cream: LilyAna Naturals Face Cream Moisturizer
Some may prefer a little more hydration
Broadly speaking, anti-aging products can cost you a pretty penny, making wallet-friendly alternatives (that actually work) all the more noteworthy. Case in point: This affordable option that’s packed with natural ingredients like vitamins A, C, and E, meadowfoam seed oil, and more. It’s ideal for targeting a wide array of concerns, from spots to wrinkles, and works well on a variety of skin types, too.
Active Ingredients: Vitamin C ester, rose petals, organic cranberry extract, meadowfoam seed oil | Skin Type: All | Size: 1.7 ounces | SPF: None | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: Yes
Best Luxury Anti-Aging Cream: Augustinus Bader The Cream
Restores skin barrier
Streamlines your routine
The cream that both Hollywood celebs and Byrdie editors alike swear by really is worth every penny. Bader (a German physician, scientist, professor, and researcher) developed a proprietary complex known as TFC8, which the brand claims will help the skin renew itself naturally—and the results continuously have us coming back for more. It’s also meant to take the place of all of your other serums, toners, and moisturizers, which makes the price tag more reasonable.
Active Ingredients: TFC8, vitamin A (retinyl palmitate), vitamin C (absorbic acid), vitamin B5 (panthenol), hydrolyzed rice protein, aloe vera leaf juice | Skin Type: Oily, combination, acne-prone | Size: 0.5 fluid ounces, 1 fluid ounce, 1.7 fluid ounces | SPF: None | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: Yes
What Our Testers Say
"Despite trying out many moisturizers, this was the first time I was actually noticeably shocked at the immediate difference in my skin." — Joline Buscemi, Product Tester
Best Eye Cream: Youth To The People Dream Eye Cream
Results aren't drastic
The skin around your eyes is the thinnest and most delicate on your body, so it’s super important to make a dedicated eye cream a part of your regimen. This is one of our absolute favorites. It's rich and creamy but not greasy, loaded with hydrating ingredients as well as vitamin C and goji berry extract. It’s also super gentle and is less likely to irritate sensitive skin.
Active Ingredients: Prickly pear, goji stem cell, squalane, moringa, hyaluronic acid, vitamin C (THD ascorbate) | Benefits: Reduces fine lines and wrinkles, firms, hydrates | Size: 0.5 ounces | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: Yes
What Our Testers Say
"Youth To The People's Dream Eye Cream is the product that finally changed my stance on eye creams. It has truly improved the look of my under-eye area, leaving it brighter, slightly firmer, and more hydrated." — Emily Algar, Product Tester
Best Retinol: Differin Adapalene Gel 0.1% Acne Treatment
Evens out complexion
Can be drying
Rodney says retinol is one of the best ingredients you can look for in a night cream—it's highly effective at stimulating cell turnover and collagen production, leaving your complexion smoother and more even. While this may be called an acne relieving formula—and indeed, it may be great for that—you can also use it as an effective anti-ager to reap all of those said benefits.
Active Ingredients: Adapalene | Retinol Concentration: 0.1% | Dosage: A thin layer | Size: 1.6 ounces | Cruelty-Free: No | Byrdie Clean: No
Use it only at night, and apply no more than a pea-size drop for your entire face.
Best Retinol Alternative: OLEHENRIKSEN Goodnight Glow Retin-ALT Sleeping Crème
Yes, retinol is great, but not everyone can tolerate the potent ingredient. Enter this alternative, which uses bakuchiol, a plant-based ingredient that’s been shown to offer similar effects as retinol without causing any irritation. It’s a favorite night cream of Rodney’s, who says it’s ideal for sensitive skin and lauds it for also containing hydrating shea butter.
Active Ingredients: Bakuchiol, edelweiss stem cell, glycolic acid, lactic acid, shea butter, lemon extract, sugarcane extract, sandalwood extract, licorice root extract, chamomile extract | Skin Type: Balanced, oily, combination, dry | Size: 1.7 ounces | SPF: None | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: No
Best With Vitamin C: BeautyStat Universal C Skin Refiner
When it comes to powerful vitamin C products, BeautyStat’s Universal C Skin Refiner doesn’t mess around. Formulated with 20% of L-ascorbic acid—the highest percentage of pure vitamin C allowed for use in skin-care products—as well as other skincare greats like squalane, EGCG, and tartaric acid. This serum claims to refine skin texture, brighten the complexion, and reduce the appearance of pores, fine lines, wrinkles, dark spots, and redness. It’s no wonder it sold out in less than 24 hours when it first launched.
Benefits: Fades hyperpigmentation, boosts radiance, boosts collagen production, firms skin, reduces fine lines and wrinkles, minimizes pores, exfoliates, provides antioxidant protection | Skin Type: All | Size: 1 fluid ounce, 1.7 fluid ounces | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: No
Best Acne Treatment: Dr. Dennis Gross Skincare DRx Blemish Solutions Acne Eliminating Gel
A little goes a long way
Evens out complexion
Faint medical smell
In our experience, using this gel for only a few days knocks out even the most stubborn of blemishes, as close to a miraculous complexion clearer as you can get. It contains ingredients to help dissolve excess oil and unclog pores, but is unique in its use of monk’s pepper, an ingredient that claims to address oil production and ensures the oil produced isn’t as thick (and therefore is less likely to clog pores).
Type: Gel | Active Ingredients: Salicylic acid, niacinamide, monk's pepper | Size: 0.5 ounces, 1 ounce | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: Yes
What Our Testers Say
“So, while the Dr. Dennis Gross Acne Eliminating Gel won’t completely get rid of your pimple overnight, it may help it from growing worse, and in turn boost your skin’s rebound and recovery; it’s helping mine rebound in under a month.” — Adam Hurly, Product Tester
Best Drugstore Acne Treatment: Stridex Medicated Acne Pads
Easy to use
Can be drying
This is one of Carqueville’s favorite for acne relief. Thanks to its two-percent concentration of salicylic acid, she says a quick daily swipe of these pads on any breakout-prone spots helps both treat existing breakouts and ward off new ones.
Type: Pads | Active Ingredients: Salicylic acid | Size: 90 pads | Cruelty-Free: No | Byrdie Clean: No
Best for Acne Scars: Topicals Faded Brightening & Clearing Serum
Evens out complexion
Acne scars are no match for this powerhouse brightening and clearing gel from Topicals. It’s chock full of skin-care superstars like centella asiatica leaf extract, kojic acid, azelaic acid, and tranexamic acid, according to the brand. Not only will this formula help fade your most stubborn marks and scars, but it’s also great for smoothing out rough texture and reviving tired-looking skin. Just be warned: This stuff is pretty potent, so you won’t want to use it with AHAs, BHAs, or retinol.
Type: Gel | Active Ingredients: Centella asiatica leaf extract, kojic acid, melatonin, azelaic acid, niacinamide, tranexamic acid, licorice root | Size: 1.7 fluid ounces | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: Yes
Best Antioxidant Serum: Skinceuticals C E Ferulic
There are plenty of antioxidant serums on the market, and many of them really are incredible. But this OG is unparalleled; its carefully studied combination of vitamin C, vitamin E, and ferulic acid are formulated in a perfect ratio to work synergistically, according to the brand. It smells a little funky, but that’s a minor drawback compared to the outstanding brightening and anti-aging results it delivers.
Benefits: Provides antioxidant protection, reduces fine lines and wrinkles, firms, boosts radiance | Skin Type: Dry, balanced, combination, sensitive | Dosage: 4 to 5 drops | Size: 1 fluid ounce | Cruelty-Free: No | Byrdie Clean: No
Best Hydrating Serum: PCA Skin Hyaluronic Acid Boosting Serum
Works well under makeup
Dealing with super dry skin? Carqueville recommends layering a hyaluronic acid-based serum (this one is her favorite) underneath your moisturizer to help keep skin hydrated longer. The hyaluronic acid in the formula hydrates, creating the perfect base for makeup, too. Have an oily complexion? Use it solo in lieu of moisturizer.
Benefits: Hydrates, reduces fine lines and wrinkles, calms redness | Skin Type: All | Size: 1 fluid ounce | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: Yes
Best K-Beauty Serum: Seoul Ceuticals Day Glow Serum
Not truly K-beauty; American-owned
Korean beauty products—and skincare K-beauty products, in particular—are really on a whole other level. This particular serum is one of the most beloved ones out there, packed with a 20% concentration of antioxidant-rich, line-smoothing vitamin C.
Benefits: Reduces fine lines and wrinkles, provides antioxidant protection, reverses sun damage | Dosage: 2 to 3 drops | Size: 1 fluid ounce | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: Yes
Best Body Wash: Dove Deep Moisture Nourishing Body Wash
Won't strip skin
If you’re anything like us and often, erm, "forget," to apply lotion after you shower, using a moisturizing body wash is the next best thing. This budget-friendly one is the most hydrating option we’ve found, loaded with a moisturizing complex that leaves skin feeling next-level silky after even just one wash. Plus, it’s also pH-balanced and super gentle.
Active Ingredients: Dove's Moisture Renew Blend | Skin Type: Mature, balanced, dry, combination | Benefits: Hydrates, softens, cleanses | Size: 12 ounces, 22 ounces, 34 ounces | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: No
Best Body Wash for Breakouts: Curology Acne Body Wash
Subscription purchasing only
Banish blemishes on your back, chest, booty, or anywhere else on your body with this sudser. It contains salicylic acid, a derm-favorite ingredient for unclogging pores and combating excess oil, in a two-percent concentration that’s enough to be effective without over-drying or irritating your skin. Plus, it foams up nicely and rinses off cleanly, both important criteria for any type of body wash.
Active Ingredients: Salicylic acid | Skin Type: All | Benefits: Cleanses, prevents acne | Size: 6.8 fluid ounces | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: Yes
Best Body Scrub: Nécessaire The Body Exfoliator
Comes in various scent options
Scented options are strong
Don’t forget that the skin below your chin can benefit from regular sloughing sessions, too. We always have this scrub stashed in our shower; it relies on a combo of physical (bamboo charcoal) and chemical (glycolic and salicylic acids) exfoliants. Bonus points for the chic packaging and scents, though there’s also a fragrance-free version that’s great for those with sensitive skin.
Type: Scrub | Active Ingredients: Bamboo charcoal, pumice, glycolic acid, lactic acid, salicylic acid | Size: 6.1 fluid ounces | Cruelty-Free: No | Byrdie Clean: Yes
Best Stretch Mark Cream: Botanic Tree Anti Stretch Mark, Scars and Prevention Cream
Safe to use during pregnancy
Okay, so TBH, there’s no topical cream that will completely fade stretch marks, but many can certainly help—like this one. Hydrating cocoa and shea butters are paired with centella asiatica (AKA tiger grass), to help minimize the look of both stretch marks and scars.
Active Ingredients: Cocoa butter, shea butter, avocado, vitamin b5, moringa, olive oil | Application Area: Whole body | Free of: SLS | Size: 4 fluid ounces | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: Yes
Best Body Lotion: Nivea Fresh Fusion Body Lotion
For those who don’t love having to wait around for a body lotion to soak in, this newbie is a great choice. The unique formula relies on microgels that make its consistency much less thick and much more absorbent than any other lotion we’ve ever tried, so much so that it literally seems to disappear into skin in mere seconds. But don’t worry, it somehow still imparts tons of hydration.
Active Ingredients: Shea butter, vitamin E, vitamin C | Skin Type: Balanced, dry | Size: 13.5 fluid ounces | SPF: None | Cruelty-Free: No | Byrdie Clean: No
What to Look For in a Skincare Product
Consider what you’re trying to get out of the product, then make sure it contains active ingredients that can meet your needs. For example, salicylic acid and benzoyl peroxide are great ingredients to look for if you want to get rid of acne. However, if your goal is to fade spots or fine lines, try looking for a retinol product.
Concentration of Active Ingredients
While the percentage of some ingredients (retinol, certain acids) is often disclosed on product labels, your best bet is to see where said active ingredients are listed on the ingredient label. The further up they are, the higher the concentration.
The backbone of every great skincare product—and skincare routine—is hydration. From cleansers to serums to moisturizers to masks, you don't want your products to leave your skin feeling dry and tight. Look for products that have moisturizing ingredients like hyaluronic acid to help maintain your skin barrier.
What are the must-have skincare products?
For skincare newbies and those without a set routine, start with the basics. A cleanser, moisturizer, and sunscreen (or moisturizer with SPF for a 2-in-1) are staple products and necessities you should use every day. Serums and eye creams typically come next on the priority list and vary by skin concern, like aging, acne, or dryness.
What kind of cleanser is good for acne?
Firstly, especially if your skin is sensitive, look for a gentle cleanser that won't over-dry or strip your skin. Pick products that contain known acne fighters like salicylic acid to keep pores clear. And if you're new to acne treatments, start with a product containing a lower concentration of salicylic acid to reduce irritation.
Which cream treats stretch marks?
While stretch marks are a normal part of life, some people seek to minimize their appearance. Creams that contain tretinoin may help reduce the appearance of stretch marks., especially on new stretch marks. Simply moisturizing with a rich, nourishing cream can help boost skin elasticity and potentially minimize their appearance by giving skin an overall smoother look.
According to our Diversity Pledge, 15% of products in our newly-published market roundups will feature Black-owned and/or Black-founded brands. At the time of publishing, we were not able to find enough skincare products from a Black-owned and/or Black-founded business to meet this percentage. If you know of one we should consider, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org and we will evaluate the product ASAP.
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Arif T. Salicylic Acid as a Peeling Agent: A Comprehensive Review. Clin Cosmet Investig Dermatol. 2015;8:455-461. doi:10.2147/CCID.S84765
Lokhande AJ, Mysore V. Striae Distensae Treatment Review and Update. Indian Dermatol Online J. 2019;10(4):380-395. doi:10.4103/idoj.IDOJ_336_18
Korgavkar K, Wang F. Stretch marks during pregnancy: a review of topical prevention. Br J Dermatol. 2015 Mar;172(3):606-15. doi: 10.1111/bjd.13426.