“Squalane — which is the vegan version of squalene — has wonderful hydrating properties and maintains our skin’s own moisture barrier,” triple board-certified dermatologist and Terasana Clinical‘s Skintellectual Dr. Mamina Turegano shares with InStyle. “Our skin naturally produces squalene (with an “e”), but production decreases as we age.“
Fortunately, squalane (with an “a”) absorbs well into the skin and helps to replenish lipids with no side effects. Plus, it’s non-comedogenic and has been shown to have anti-inflammatory and microbiome-nourishing properties, according to Dr. Turegano.
What Are the Main Benefits of Hyaluronic Acid?
Ever been out all day in the summer, on a blazing hot day, then come back home and thanked God you stored a few water bottles in the fridge the night before so you can feel alive again? Think of hyaluronic acid as that same type of water storage — but for your skin.
“Hyaluronic acid is important for moisturizing and maintaining elasticity in the skin,” explains Dr. Turegano. “Our skin also naturally has hyaluronic acid. It serves as a humectant, meaning that it pulls in water or moisture in skin cells, which allows the skin to feel more hydrated and ‘plump.’ This not only gives your skin moisture and glow, but it can also diminish fine lines in the skin.”
Why Should I Pair These Two Ingredients Together?
Simple: the two work together as a team to help draw in moisture, then lock it in.
“While hyaluronic acid pulls in water to hydrate the cells, the squalane serves more to build the moisture barrier and keep the hydration in the skin, as opposed to evaporating,” Dr. Turegano shares. “I recommend using a hyaluronic acid serum, then layering the squalane on top of that.”
What Type of Skin Ailments Can Hyaluronic Acid and Squalane Relieve?
Pretty much anything that has to do with, or stems from, dryness. Dr. Turegano adds that squalane itself can help to soothe sunburns, treat acne (because of its anti-inflammatory properties), and can even be used for dry cuticles and nails. Hyaluronic acid, on the other hand, can help with wound healing.
Both ingredients can also be used to hydrate dry hair.
Which Skin Types Are These Ingredients Most Beneficial For?
Any and everyone who can get their hands on them, pretty much.
“Even acne-prone, oily, or sensitive skin would benefit from squalane and hyaluronic acid,” the derm shares, adding that it’s also helpful for anti-aging. “There are serums that make higher concentrations of hyaluronic acid that would be more helpful with advancing age to help replenish the natural hyaluronic acid that we naturally lose with age and to help diminish the appearance of fine.”
Is There a Catch?
Nope! It’s really not too good to be true — unless you’re just not a fan of oils in the case of squalane. But luckily, you’ll still have options.
“There are still plenty of creams, lotions, or gel-based moisturizers that incorporate squalene into the product,” says Dr. Turegano. “But not all squalane is also created equal. I would look for squalane derived from sugar cane — as opposed to olives or sharks — since it is more consistent in quality and is more sustainable. With hyaluronic acid, I do recommend adding a separate occlusive moisturizer layer over the hyaluronic acid product, which allows it to keep the moisture in place. This is more important for those with dry skin.”
Another plus? Both of these ingredients are non-irritating, even if you have sensitive skin.
Among the many skin-care ingredients on the shelves, few have attained the hero status of retinoids. That’s the umbrella term for all forms of vitamin A, which include prescription-strength tretinoin along with over-the-counter derivatives. The very word retinol stirs a certain reverence, given its proven efficacy in minimizing wrinkles, speeding cell turnover, and clearing up acne—and that’s despite a well-known drawback. “Retinoids are very irritating to the skin,” says New Jersey dermatologist Naana Boayke, MD. It’s a testament to retinol’s abilities that many users have the patience to tolerate the mild discomfort, which often appears as redness, dryness, and occasional flaky skin.
But for some, retinol is simply too harsh. Plus, the ingredient can pose a challenge in the summer, given that it increases sun sensitivity, thereby making skin particularly prone to redness and burns. (SPF is a must.) That’s where retinol alternatives can be advantageous. These new, up-and-coming actives tout results comparable to retinol, but without the telltale side effects.
“Mineral-, marine-, and plant-derived ingredients have been found to have retinol-like biological pathways,” says Marisa Plescia, a research scientist at clean retailer NakedPoppy. Those shared effects range from stimulated cellular renewal to collagen synthesis, she points out.
Chief among these gentler substitutes is bakuchiol, which is derived from the babchi seed. “It’s a ‘functional analog’ to retinol, meaning it has similar chemical, physical, biochemical, or pharmacological properties,” Plescia says, noting a study in the International Journal of Cosmetic Science. Another promising ingredient is rambutan, which, she says, supports natural collagen synthesis through a mechanism similar to retinol and bakuchiol. “We are seeing this with other botanical sources, such as moth bean extract and certain algaes,” she adds.
They’ve proven so appealing that some products even pair actual retinol with retinol alternatives, such as Dr. Dennis Gross’s Advanced Retinol + Ferulic Intense Wrinkle Cream, which offers a skin-renewing trio of rambutan, bakuchiol, and retinol. While the evidence behind retinol alternatives is still growing, there’s enough promise to make such a product worth incorporating into your routine.
Dermalogica Neck Fit Contour Serum
As the delicate neck and décolletage areas are particularly vulnerable to the effects of sunlight, this formula takes a strategic approach. Not only does it combine peptides and rambutan to smooth lines (a sign of the aptly named tech neck) and address discoloration, but it also features a dedicated Flex Lift Contour technology, which creates a mesh-like network on skin to lift and tighten.
Herbivore Botanicals Moon Fruit Serum
Herbivore isn’t new to the world of retinol alternatives, but this addition to its portfolio is a welcome one. The formula pairs bakuchiol with plant-based peptides that help to further firm skin, and simultaneously hydrates to give skin a touch of radiance. Its fruity scent has proven polarizing, but early reviews suggest that it’s worth it.
The Outset Restorative Niacinamide Night Cream
One of the mainstays of Scarlett Johansson’s new, minimalist-minded skin-care line, this velvety night cream pairs bakuchiol with a proprietary Hyaluroset complex—a plant-based alternative to hyaluronic acid that deeply hydrates skin—giving it the power of a serum and moisturizer in one.
Elemis Pro-Collagen Renewal Serum
As Plescia mentioned, marine ingredients can often replicate the effects of retinol—as is the case with this serum, which is anchored in red algae, alfalfa, and stevia extracts. It’s designed to target signs of sun damage in particular, such as uneven tone and fine lines.
Tula Skincare Wrinkle Treatment Drops Retinol Alternative Serum
Delivered in an appealing dry-oil texture, which leaves behind no greasy or slick feel, this serum combines bakuchiol, alfalfa sprouts, and stevia to spur cellular turnover. Meanwhile, probiotic and prebiotic extracts (a hallmark of the brand) bring balance to the skin barrier.
Biossance Squalane + Phyto-Retinol Serum
Powered by bakuchiol, this elegant serum is ideal for more sensitive types: The blend of sugarcane-derived squalane and niacinamide work in equal measure to soothe skin, keeping it calm and comfortable.
Ole Henriksen Wrinkle Blur Bakuchiol Eye Gel Crème
One of the first brands to debut bakuchiol in skin care, Ole Henriksen has come to showcase the ingredient across its offerings. In this lightweight eye cream in particular, it works alongside orchid-derived stem cells to firm and brighten around the eyes, minimizing both crows’ feet and dark circles at once.
True Botanicals Phyto-Retinol Vitamin A Booster Serum
Encased in vegan capsules to guarantee freshness (and therefore efficacy), this serum offers a blend of vitamin A–rich botanical extracts, such as buriti and carrot root oils, which skin then converts into retinoic acid upon application. In other words, the formula works in concert with the skin’s natural processes.
Keys Soulcare Skin Transformation Cream
Formulated with guidance from a dermatologist rooted in clean beauty, this staple in singer Alicia Keys’s skin-care line delivers radiant skin with a blend of bakuchiol and ceramides. In keeping with the brand’s ritual-minded ethos, it also contains malachite, a stone that signifies transformation.
It’s been a pleasant phenomenon over the past few years to see celebrities champion cleaner beauty products. The evidence on endocrine-disrupting chemicals like parabens, phthalates, and PFAS is there, thanks to research over the last two decades — so to see figures like Jennifer Garner, Brooke Shields, and Scarlett Johansson discuss their favorite clean products is wonderful. The downside: Many cost a significant chunk of change. But drugstore brands like Cocokind and Acure offer smart, safe products for less money, as does OG player Burt’s Bees. And according to shoppers, the latter sells a rosehip Facial Oil that leaves wrinkles “almost completely gone.”
The minimalist vial of golden oil calls in a mix of ingredients to help skin look its best, with rose seed extract at top billing. Jojoba oil, borage oil, and vitamin E make up a supporting cast of smoothing moisturizers, and bakuchiol lends an anti-aging angle. Board-certified dermatologist Dr. Melanie Palm, MD, previously told InStyle that bakuchiol helps improve the appearance of skin texture, photo-aging, and wrinkles, and rejuvenates the expression of collagen in the skin — essentially handing you many of the end goals of retinol without the irritation.
With just a single drop of the oil nightly, one Amazon reviewer saw the frown line on their forehead smooth out, and their laugh lines turn less pronounced — plus, the moisturized look “lasts for days” rather than dissipating as you blink. A 44-year-old said two weeks of use likewise left their wrinkles smoother and face clearer, and a third person recognized a difference immediately. “The small wrinkles around my eyes were almost completely gone,” they wrote. “People cannot believe my age.”
Per the same thrilled reviewer, the under-$20 face oil rivals “very expensive” products’ effect on crow’s feet. Fans report its brightening power is just as excellent: A 36-year-old who “smoked for many years” wrote that the oil has “changed [their] life” — it toned down their persistent dark circles to such a degree, they said they’d give it 10 stars if they could.
A final 69-year-old commented that there’s “simply no comparison” for soft, supple, pliable skin. Between the results, ingredients, and price, it seems like Burt’s Bees Facial Oil is a velvet hammer that does no wrong. Get it for $19 at Amazon or Ulta Beauty.
If grabbing a cotton pad to wipe off every bit of makeup is part of your nightly routine, we need to let you in on a secret. You could be saving money, reducing waste, and having an easier time of it too — with one simple product switch.
The sizable multi-pack isn’t just a one-type-fits-all. The set includes ten bamboo terry scrub pads, ten soft cotton pads, and ten bamboo charcoal pads. Each provides a unique texture and feel for different types of makeup removal and spot exfoliating. Like any cotton pad, you can lightly wet these to use them to remove makeup, or add some toner or cleanser to the surface for an added benefit.
The pads are made from eco-friendly bamboo and cotton, and rather than tossing them in the garbage as you would a traditional one, you can continually wash them in your normal laundry and use them again and again. In fact, one pad can be used 1,000 times or more, according to the brand. So not only will you be preventing a ton of waste, but you also save money on all those bags of disposable pads you’ll never need to buy again.
The set also comes with a small mesh bag, perfect for filling with dirty pads and then tossing in the wash when it’s full. They’re even dryer safe, and won’t shrink up if you dry them normally.
Amazon shoppers are fully on board with this budget-friendly, planet-friendly swap, with 4,300 leaving five-star ratings. One reviewer praised the product as “life-changing” and another remarked they’re “absolutely obsessed” with these pads.
Another reviewer highlighted the variety of styles, noting, “after using them, I realized the different textures were amazing. I use the black ones for makeup removal with micellar water. Then I use the other ones with my AHA/BHA toner for exfoliating.”
A third converted reviewer attested they’re “never going back to cotton pads.”
Cleansing your skin is the most pivotal part of your skincare routine since it creates a clean slate for your serums and creams. However, removing your makeup is not exactly the most exciting part of your routine — especially if you’re wearing waterproof mascara or long wear lipstick. Rubbing and scrubbing your skin with a makeup wipe or washcloth eventually gets off every trace of product, but there are better options out there that don’t cause redness and irritation, and dare I say, make you look forward to washing your face at night.
Enter: Cleansing balms.
Made with high amounts of hydrating ingredients like butters and oils, these cleansers effectively and effortlessly break up and melt off makeup, dirt, and sunscreen while simultaneously moisturizing your skin. “They typically come in a tub and you only need a little bit,” says Shari Sperling M.D. a New Jersey-based board-certified dermatologist and founder of Sperling Dermatology. “A cleansing balm can be used in a double cleansing regimen with the balm being the first step to cleanse your skin from makeup or sunscreen.” After using a cleansing balm, it’s recommended to follow up with a water-based cleanser to further clean pores and ensure all of that makeup and gunk gets rinsed away. Elemis Pro-Collagen Cleansing Balm topped our list thanks to its gentle yet effective formula.
Below, we’ve rounded up the best cleansing balms for every skin type and budget.
What We Love: This three-in-one balm nourishes skin, removes makeup, and cleanses skin at the same time.
What We Don’t Love: The scent can be a bit strong for some.
With an extensive list of nutrient-rich oils (like elderberry, starflower, and lavender, to name a few), this cleansing balm offers skin-firming and collagen-boosting benefits on top of being really good at removing makeup. “I can confirm that the Elemis Pro-Collagen Cleansing Balm will get every speck of glitter and waterproof mascara off,” says Shannon M. Bauer, Senior Commerce Beauty Editor at InStyle. “Although most cleansing balms do this, there’s something special about the way it transforms from balm to oil to milky wash — it happens in distinct phases.“
While you can use the Elemis cleanser daily as the first part of your double cleansing routine, it also makes for a great weekly hydrating mask. Thanks to padina pavonica, an algae native to the Mediterranean, the formula supports a hydrated skin barrier by drawing moisture into the skin and making sure it doesn’t escape again. Regardless of the way you use it, be sure to rinse it off when you’re finished to avoid potentially clogging your pores.
One thing to note: Bauer found the balm’s scent a little strong. But because it smells like eucalyptus, lavender and chamomile, she said she was able to look past it.
What We Love: The solid balmy cleanser melts into a luxurious oil to melt away makeup without stripping the skin of moisture.
What We Don’t Love: It can leave an oily residue on the skin post-cleanse.
The nourishing cocktail of vitamin E and jojoba, avocado, eucalyptus, and clove leaf oils deliver a heaping dose of hydration in this budget-friendly pick. Designed to glide onto skin and lift stubborn makeup — even longwearing, matte lipstick — with ease, this cleansing balm is the perfect alternative for someone who swears by single-use cleansing wipes. Whether for skincare or sustainability reasons, there’s no doubt this balm, which is housed in a 50% post-consumer recycled plastic tub, will replace your existing cleansing method.
Like other cleansing balms, it transitions from a balm to an oil when in contact with water, so don’t be surprised if your skin feels slightly oily after application. Just be sure to follow up with a foaming or gel cleanser afterwards to remove any remnants of the balm from your skin.
Ingredients: Vitamin E, Jojoba oil, Avocado oil, Eucalyptus oil | Size: 2.3 fl. oz. | Scent: Eucalyptus
Best for Waterproof Makeup: Farmacy Green Clean Meltaway Cleansing Balm
What We Love: This fan-favorite cleansing balm removes waterproof makeup gently and effectively with the help of botanical oils, turmeric and moringa extracts, and papaya enzymes.
What We Don’t Love: Some say their eyes burned a bit after using it.
If I had to pick my desert island product, it would be this cleansing balm. Between the gentle ingredients, sorbet-like texture and barely-there scent, I find myself re-purchasing this product every time I hit empty. Formulated with sunflower and ginger root oils, it breaks down makeup, sunscreen, and other pore-clogging gunk and grime that accumulates on my skin throughout the day without stripping my skin of moisture. After using it, my skin feels soft (not tight) and there’s never any makeup residue on the towel when I pat my skin dry. The texture itself is noteworthy; it doesn’t feel oily or thick, but rather lightweight and milky, which is perfect for someone that has oilier skin like me. And as for the fragrance, the balm smells subtly fruity, but nothing too overpowering.
Several shoppers shared that while the balm took their makeup off painlessly, they experienced a slight burning sensation in and around their eyes. According to Diane Hilal-Campo, M.D., a board-certified ophthalmologist based in New Jersey and founder of twenty/twenty beauty, this is common with cleansing balms. To avoid irritation in your delicate eye area, she recommends removing the makeup on your eyes separately. “Try saturating a cotton pad or microfiber cloth with an oil, such as poppy seed oil, or an eye-specific makeup remover,” she says. “Press it against your closed lid to help break down the makeup. Then, gently swipe it away and repeat until your lids and lashes are fully clean.”
Best for Dry Skin: Holifrog Kissimmee Vitamin F Therapy Balmy Wash
What We Love: The squeezable tube keeps the balm from getting contaminated by dirty fingers.
What We Don’t Love: Formulated with thick oils, this balm might not be best for those with acne-prone skin.
In a perfect world, you would use a spatula to scoop out your cleansing balm from the jar. In reality, you’re probably using your grubby fingers. It might not seem like a big deal, but your face is vulnerable to bacteria buildup (read: acne and skin infections), so keeping contamination to a minimum is key. That’s where Holifrog’s balm comes in. The squeezable tube prevents the balm from getting tainted and makes it easier to distribute the exact amount of product you need for your cleansing session.
The non-foaming makeup remover is infused with a mix of nourishing antioxidant oils and fatty acids, making it a great choice for dry skin types. However, because thick oils can sometimes clog pores, those with acne-prone skin might want to skip it and opt for a more lightweight option instead.
Best for Oily Skin: Glow Recipe Papaya Sorbet Enzyme Cleansing Balm
What We Love: This balm contains enzymes to exfoliate as it removes makeup.
What We Don’t Love: Some shoppers found their skin was irritated after using the balm in conjunction with other exfoliating products.
Glow Recipe is known for their absolutely addicting yet incredibly effective skincare products — and this fruity cocktail of a cleansing balm does not disappoint. Like other similar products, it starts out as a balm and softens into a milky oil that dissolves makeup. And although balms are often synonymous with hydration, this one actually exfoliates, too. Thanks to the namesake papaya enzymes, the formula gently breaks down dead skin cells to help skin feel smoother and look more radiant.
It’s worth noting that since the balm contains a gentle exfoliant, it’s important to perform a patch test to avoid irritation. Corey L. Hartman, M.D., a board-certified dermatologist based in Birmingham, Alabama, previously told us that it’s best to apply a small amount of a new product to the underside of your wrist. “The skin is thin in that area and also sensitive, so it reacts similarly to skin on the face,” he says. If you have no reaction, the product should be fine to use on your face without issue. It’s also pertinent to know that you should be careful when using this product alongside other exfoliants like alpha- and beta-hydroxy acids to avoid over-exfoliating your face.
Ingredients: Papaya enzymes, Papaya extract, Blueberry extract | Size: 100 mL | Scent: Tropical fruit
Best for Acne-Prone Skin: Youth to the People Superberry Dream Cleansing Balm
What We Love: The lightweight ingredients clear away pore-clogging debris without irritating active breakouts.
What We Don’t Love: The formula can get clumpy towards the bottom of the jar.
Very aptly named, this superfood-infused balm from Youth to the People is a dream come true for those with acne-prone skin. The fast-melting cleansing balm works to dissolve every last trace of long-wearing makeup, water-resistant sunscreen, and excess oil before they get a chance to wreak havoc on your skin. Best of all, it rinses clean and leaves skin soft, hydrated and never coated in an extra layer of grease. With ingredients like hyaluronic acid and moringa seed oil, you can rest assured that using this balm won’t contribute to acne breakouts, but rather help prevent dirt and grime-induced ones from forming in the first place.
After getting to the bottom third of the jar, I noticed that the formula began to get clumpy. It’s nothing to worry about, since it still works just fine, but just know that you might need to smooth the product out a bit in your hands to eliminate the clumps before massaging it into your skin.
Best for Sensitive Skin: Paula’s Choice Omega+ Complex Cleansing Balm
What We Love: This velvety-smooth balm is chock full of simple, nourishing ingredients, including omegas 3, 6 and 9.
What We Don’t Love: We wish it came in a smaller size so it could be brought in a carry-on.
If you have super sensitive skin, chances are you’re afraid to put anything new on your skin. Trust us when we say that this fragrance-free formula — which contains a barrier-repairing complex of coconut-derived fatty acids —keeps calm and cleans skin. It contains omega-rich jojoba oil and meadowfoam seed oil to give the balm its soothing texture that cleanses without friction or tugging. It melts on contact with the skin and leaves your complexion skin feeling smooth, hydrated and fresh. Our one complaint is that it doesn’t come in a mini size that can be tossed in a carry-on and used on a plane.
Most cleansing balms are oil-based, which binds to the makeup or junk on your face to lift it away. Oils listed high up on the ingredient list are at a higher percentage in the formula, and therefore more effective. While you’re looking, be sure the cleansing balm you pick is alcohol-free. According to Geeta Yadav, M.D., a board-certified dermatologist, alcohol should be avoided. “The whole point of using a cleansing balm or oil is to keep your skin balanced and nourished,” she says. “Alcohol strips the skin and negates the hydrating effects.” In order to get the most bang for your buck, Dr. Yadav recommends seeking formulas that offer additional benefits. “Consider ingredients like oatmeal to soothe, fruit enzymes to gently exfoliate, or hyaluronic acid to pull extra hydration into the skin,” she explains.
It might not be top of mind at first, but the packaging that houses each cleansing balm matters. Most jarred cleansing balms come with mini spatulas, but, admittedly, it’s a lot easier to just stick your finger in and scoop some out. As you might expect, it’s not exactly the most hygienic, especially since it’s something you repeatedly do. If you don’t think you’ll use the spatula each time, consider a cleansing balm that comes in a tube. This way, you can squeeze out the perfect amount every time and never have to worry about contaminating the rest.
As with all skincare, your skin type is important. The type of skin you have (and the concerns you want to address) determine which products and ingredients will work best. Dr. Yadav says that for those with acne-prone skin, non-comedogenic products are key. “There are plenty of balms out there that can effectively cleanse the skin without triggering breakouts or congesting pores,” she says. “I especially like products formulated with jojoba oil as it is very similar to your skin’s natural sebum; whereas coconut oil can be too heavy for those prone to breakouts.“
“Our philosophy is making one of everything really good.” That’s what Hailey Bieber told PEOPLE about Rhode, the skincare brand she’s been teasing for months (and has been promoting very fashionably now that it’s available to buy). “What sets Rhode apart is we’re putting out a very curated, edited line of essentials.”
Ahead of its June 15 launch, five PEOPLE writers tried out the model’s new line, incorporating its debut trio of products, which come bundled in The Rhode Kit, into their daily routines for an average of 10 days.
The Rhode lineup consists of three products: the Peptide Glazing Fluid, the Barrier Restore Cream, and the Peptide Lip Treatment. Key ingredients in the collection include peptides, which the brand says “visibly plump and reduce the look of fine lines“; niacinamide, which “nourishes, brightens, and improves skin’s overall texture“; and hyaluronic acid, which “locks in hydration.” You’ll also find moisturizing shea butter, softening marula oil, and supportive squalane.
The team definitely agreed on one thing: It looks very cool. “Clean and fresh, very Gen-Z in a cool way,” said Jenn Chan, commerce writer. “The packaging compels me to reach for it more than others because it does look so unique.” And speaking to Bieber’s intention to make her products “accessible and attainable for everyone,” commerce writer Claire Harmeyer noted, “The fonts are sophisticated and subtle and they don’t feel too fancy or inaccessible.”
Added Michelle Lee, style and beauty editorial assistant, “Aesthetically, I loved the matte gray packaging and the pastel colors when it came to differentiating the scented products. It felt very on brand for Hailey.“
And speaking of scents, “the Barrier Restore Cream and Peptide Glazing Fluid don’t have scents,” senior commerce writer and strategist Alex Warner confirmed. “The cream is a richer white color, and the glazing fluid is more of a translucent white color. Both turn completely transparent within seconds of smoothing onto your skin.”
“The scented Peptide Lip Treatments, obviously, have a smell, but I liked them,” said commerce writer Madison Yauger. “I didn’t notice the scents when I was wearing the products. The lip treatment comes out like a clear gel, kind of thick, but is easily spreadable across the lips.”
As for the line’s user-friendliness, “the directions are very straightforward and make it easy to figure out how to add the products to your regular routine,” said Warner.
Keep reading for more details on each product, and stick around for their final thoughts on Rhode at the very end.
Alex: “The Peptide Glazing Fluid is lightweight and smooth. I expected the peptide product to be more of a liquid-y serum, not a cream. It feels slightly tacky after first patting into the skin, but that goes away once it’s all dried. It comes in a small container with a pump and pull-off cap. The cap is definitely secure and was sometimes hard to pull off, but that was good for traveling so that product didn’t accidentally leak out anywhere. I enjoy that it dispenses a pea-sized amount, controlling how much you’re using.“
Madison: “The peptide serum feels more like a liquid-based cream because it’s so thin and can easily be dispersed between two fingers. My skin took on an immediate dewy glow and stayed hydrated throughout the day.”
Michelle: “This glided on nicely and was easy to layer with my other products (after an essence and before my sunscreen). It left my skin feeling smooth, and the lightweight formula was great for my oily skin — I tend to gravitate toward gel-like and lighter consistencies. My skin absorbed this one quicker. I didn’t have any problem applying my makeup on top of this either.“
“But I didn’t like how clunky the packaging was compared to the lightness of the product. While the pump dispersed the right amount of moisturizer, the cap was hard to twist on and off.”
Claire: “I was hoping to visually see that ‘dewy glow’ Hailey always plugs, and I can confirm my skin does look dewier after less than two weeks of use! I really think this gives my skin a supple glow immediately. I notice extra dewiness and glow every morning after I use it the night before. I really enjoy lathering it onto my face after cleansing, because it makes my skin feel super hydrated and look dewy.“
“One note: The cap was not extremely easy to get off. The first time I removed it, some of the product spilled out and was lost. You have to pump pretty hard to get enough product out of the nozzle. However, I like the unique shape of the bottle and slanted top.”
Madison: “The Barrier Restore Cream feels like a thicker cream, but it’s still pretty light. It applies easily and dries fast. But when I used it with the Peptide Glazing Fluid, my oily/combination skin tended to have that oily shine toward the end of the day. Toward the end of the trial period, I started just doing the Glazing Fluid in the morning, and then both the fluid and the barrier cream at night.”
Alex: “This has a thick texture, but it blends out smoothly when I massaged it into my skin. It comes in a squeeze tube that’s easy to open and close, but it can be tricky since you could dispense too much product. It can be wasteful this way.“
“But I’m definitely going to keep using it! I’ve been looking for a good, thick moisturizing cream that I can use in my a.m. and p.m. routine, and this one has been great for hydration. I love that it doesn’t leave my face feeling sticky.”
Michelle: “The cream is heavier than the Peptide Glazing Fluid, but still easy to blend into the skin. While both left my skin feeling smooth on initial application and I noticed a slight evening of skin tone and brightness after, over time, I developed irritation that made my skin texture uneven (i.e. I had some small small breakouts), and my skin felt slightly dehydrated and tight after using the Barrier Restore Cream overnight.“
Claire: “The cream isn’t as moisturizing as I had hoped — it absorbs very quickly and leaves me feeling like I need a bit more to really lock in moisture… I needed to use more than the ‘1/2 finger length’ suggested in order for my entire face to feel hydrated. But I like that it advises to layer with the Peptide Glazing Fluid because it feels like a nice combination.“
“I don’t notice as much of a visual effect from this product, but my skin does feel extremely soft after using this.“
Jenn: “I think the standout here is the Peptide Lip Treatment. I loved the consistency, the scent — the shiny, dewy effect is so pretty and unlike any of my other lip balms or treatments. The watermelon one is my favorite.“
Madison: “The Peptide Lip Treatment felt like a much thinner version of Aquaphor. It comes out like a clear gel, kind of thick, but is easily spreadable across the lips. It created the same glossy barrier on my lips, but it looked like a lip gloss and kept my lips hydrated for several hours after application.”
Alex: “The Peptide Lip Treatments come in long, little squeeze tubes with an edge that makes applying it on lips seamless. They apply like a gloss and feel slightly sticky, but not in an uncomfortable way. It made my lips feel very smooth when I rubbed them together. I absolutely love the taste and smell of the watermelon — it reminds me of lip balms I used as a kid. I plan to apply it over some other pigmented lip colors for a glossy, hydrating finish.”
Michelle: “These had a heavy feel similar to a gloss that lasted after hours of application, which I didn’t mind because it felt more hydrating. After applying, my lips felt moisturized, and I didn’t feel the need to reapply numerous times. I’d say the best packaging goes to the Peptide Lip Treatments: I loved how compact they were (great for on the go), and the applicator allows the product to go on smoothly.“
“I loved that even the scented lip treatments didn’t have an artificial, overpowering fragrance. As someone with sensitive skin, I always try to shop fragrance-free products, so that element was great for me. I would use the lip treatments again because I loved the application, scents, and shine, which I feel would make a great lip gloss alternative — glossy and moisturizing at the same time!.”
Claire: “These bottles are a nice size for keeping in your purse or on a bedside table. The squeezing applicator makes these lip balms easy to apply without getting your fingers messy.“
“This doesn’t feel too sticky on my lips, but instead is lightly moisturizing and feels high-end. It absorbs pretty slowly, which is nice because I don’t feel the need to reapply shortly after. My lips definitely look softer and juicier after using this! The lip treatments are nice overnight, because they do feel a tad bit sticky for about 20 minutes after applying.”
Their Final Thoughts on Rhode
“This is a line for someone on the go who doesn’t have a ton of time to fuss with a super fancy regimen,” Chan deduced. “Really nice formulas, not too thick or gloppy. They apply easily and absorb right into the skin effortlessly. The products feel simple and straightforward.” She also noted that her skin felt “noticeably fresh and radiant — I did a double take one morning.”
“My skin has a slightly more radiant glow a few hours after applying, but isn’t overly dewy or greasy-looking, which is ideal, in my opinion,” added Warner. “I can definitely tell my skin feels smoother after applying immediately, but I haven’t noticed any really big improvements to my skin’s overall hydration after just two weeks.“
“Overall, I really liked these products,” said Yauger. “Even after a week, my skin feels smoother and generally more hydrated, which is promising (especially during summer!). I plan to continue using them to see what results look like in a month, and I’m excited to see what else Rhode releases in the future.“
Over the past few years, hyaluronic acid and retinol have become such skin-care staples that coming across a product without one or the other is rare. “In skin care, they’re the holy grail,” says Ranella Hirsch, M.D., a dermatologist in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
Sure, every few months a new wunderkind skin-care ingredient is discovered in some remote locale, and pretty soon it’s everywhere—in your masks, serums, foot creams, insert-step-in-your-beauty-routine-here. But at the end of the day, there are only a handful of ingredients that have stood the test of time and truly become essential.
Hyaluronic acid and retinol do deliver results—but what exactly those results are might still be confusing. (Understandably.)
Retinol: For Softening Wrinkles and Fighting Acne
If there’s one ingredient lauded more than any other for its wrinkle-fighting, complexion-perfecting abilities, it’s this derivative of vitamin A. “Here’s the deal with retinol,” explains Hirsch. “We were talking about it in 1975, and we’re still talking about it now because it works.” In study after study, retinol has been shown to build collagen, decrease fine lines, improve skin texture, and fight acne.
When it comes to incorporating a retinol into your skin-care routine, it’s better sooner than later. “Retinol works best as prevention, so don’t wait until wrinkles and dark spots occur to start using it,” says Corey L. Hartman, M.D., the founder of Skin Wellness Dermatology in Birmingham, Alabama. “Another misconception about retinols is that they ‘thin the skin.’ This could not be further from the truth. It actually thickens your skin by increasing production of glycosaminoglycans to keep the skin firm, taut, and smooth.”
The prescription version (which goes by retinoic acid, or Retin-A) acts fastest, but it’s pricey—and it can be drying. Over-the-counter retinol, however, take 8 to 10 weeks to show results compared with 6 weeks with an Rx, but is normally paired with anti-inflammatories to calm the redness, peeling, or dryness. It can also cost less than a prescription—which, depending on your insurance coverage, can generally start around $100.
Whichever type you use, you’ll want to ease into your retinol use slowly. “I start patients on the mildest version, one night a week at the onset,” says New York City dermatologist Amy Wechsler, M.D. As your skin begins to tolerate a pea-size amount, you can eventually go up to two nights a week. But stay off harsh physical scrubs and peels while you’re using retinol; remember to moisturize, moisturize, moisturize; and use extra sunscreen for the first six months.
Hyaluronic Acid: For Serious Moisture
Despite its name, hyaluronic acid actually doesn’t exfoliate your skin (if you’re looking for one that does, try glycolic acid instead). This tiny molecule helps lubricate joints and keep skin plump, and is one of the world’s finest humectants, or molecules that attract and retain water. Since these molecules so effectively replenish skin with water, they’re beloved for their hydrating abilities.
In addition to being a terrific hydrator, Wechsler says, HA pairs well with other active skin-care ingredients (so you can layer it with retinol, for example, and use it daily). Not only that, but it also goes above and beyond its duties as a humectant. “Along with hydrating the skin and preventing dehydration, hyaluronic acid provides an environment that keeps wrinkles away,” says Hartman.
Bottom line: “The beauty of hyaluronic acid is that it doesn’t have any fine print,” says Hirsch. “It benefits any skin type, at any age. And the truth is that everyone looks great with hydrated skin.”
What Are the Potential Side Effects?
As with any ingredient, no matter how ah-mazing they are, there are potential side effects that should be kept in mind when using. “When patients start a retinol, the hyper-exfoliation can oftentimes cause redness, peeling, and dryness during the first couple of weeks of use,” says New York City dermatologist Rita Linkner, M.D., founder of RVL Skincare.
If your skin tends to be more on the dry side, it’s worth considering how you can add that extra boost before and after applying your retinol to minimize excessive peeling as much as possible. (Newbies can also try the buffering trick to take down the sting.)
As for our hydrating superhero? “Hyaluronic acid is known to increase the permeability of the skin, making it more sieve-like—which is why it should be combined with a moisturizer to draw more water to itself,” she says.
What Are the Benefits of Combining the Two?
Good news: Retinol and hyaluronic acid actually have a synergistic effect. “They can be combined so that the benefits of retinol can be achieved more easily with concomitant use of hyaluronic acid, which helps to prevent retinol irritation,” says Hartman.
As for what that ultimately means when you look in the mirror: “Overall texture should improve when using the two actives, as well as fine lines,” says Linkner.
How to Get the Best Results
To max out your benefits, “I often recommend that patients use a hydrating serum like hyaluronic acid before they apply their retinol cream,” says Hartman. “Hyaluronic acid plays well with most ingredients, while caution must be taken when using retinol in combination with alpha hydroxy and beta hydroxy acids, benzoyl peroxide, and some types of vitamin C.”
Linkner echoes the tip about avoiding vitamin C. “I also wouldn’t advise using a vitamin C after hyaluronic acid, as it can increase the irritation effects of the ascorbic acid.” (Ascorbic acid, the chemical name for vitamin C, is still an acid, after all.)
If you’re new to this combo, it’s worth doing a patch test to see how your skin reacts to the amped-up duo. Because hyaluronic acid can increase the potency of the secondary product, Linkner says, it could potentially draw out the acclimation period when you first start using a retinol.
That said, retinol and hyaluronic acid are a match made in heaven. And if you’re looking to level-up your skin-care routine with even more effective products, here are some fan favourites.
La Roche-Posay Retinol B3 Pure Retinol Serum
Thanks to vitamin B3, which can help soothe inflammation, and the gradual-release formula, this retinol serum is gentle enough even for sensitive skin types. (As with most retinols, though, you’ll still want to do a patch test and start by applying at night.) During the day, don’t forget to layer on SPF to get the most anti-wrinkle benefits.
The Ordinary Hyaluronic Acid 2% + B5
“Hyaluronic acid is a sugar that your body makes inherently. It provides a plumping effect in the skin by drawing water to itself like a sponge,” says Linkner. This O.G. hyaluronic acid serum from The Ordinary delivers maximum hydration (thanks to the added B5) and comes in under $10.
Peter Thomas Roth Peptide 21 Wrinkle Resist Moisturizer
While you’ll want to be cautious about mixing hyaluronic acid with peptides, the payoff is pretty incredible if the combination is suitable for your skin. “Think of peptides as Legos—they’re protein building blocks,” says Hirsch of the skin strengtheners. Studies show certain peptides can boost collagen production and speed wound healing; or they can mimic the effect of Botox when applied topically. That means you’ll likely want to introduce peptides in your 30s, when you notice your skin doesn’t feel quite as firm or bouncy as it did in your 20s.
“Hydrating serums are useful because they bring hydration into the skin,” stresses New York City dermatologist Rachel Nazarian, M.D., of Schweiger Dermatology Group. Because healing dry skin calls for both humectants and emollients (that draw in moisture and lock in moisture respectively), a good humectant like hyaluronic acid, which holds 1,000 times its weight in water, will draw hydration to the skin to bouncier, glowier effect.
“When the atmosphere is more arid, such as in wintertime, the dry air draws moisture out of our skin… so these barrier products prevent loss of moisture,” explains Nazarian. “Over time, as we age, our skin is less capable of drawing in and locking in moisture—so these skin habits are useful in the short-term seasonally and long-term because as we age, our skin weakens.” Below, some of the best serums for dry skin to help you lock in moisture all season long.
Drunk Elephant B-Hydra Intensive Hydration Serum
Drunk Elephant’s B-Hydra Intensive Hydration serum is an ultra-nourishing cocktail comprised of vitamin B5 and fruit ceramides to brighten and heal moisture-depleted skin.
Dr. Barbara Sturm Hyaluronic Ampoules
To instantly jolt a weary complexion back to life, Dr. Barbara Sturm’s highly-concentrated, single dose ampoules team long- and short-chain hyaluronic molecules with her signature anti-inflammatory ingredient purslane.
SkinCeuticals Hydrating B5 Gel
SkinCeuticals’s sinks-right-in gel serum is a favorite for all skin types with its juicy concentration of hyaluronic acid and a heavy dose of hydrating b5 gel, which plumps the skin for a smoother, dewier complexion.
Kate Somerville Quench Hydrating Face Serum
To target signs of aging, Kate Somerville’s Quench Hydrating serum is laced with regenerating retinol, firming wheat germ, and skin barrier function-bolstering lipids for a plumper, more luminous skin.
Tatcha The Dewy Serum Resurfacing and Plumping Treatment
The Japanese beauty-inspired brand’s buzzed-about elixir is a milky serum that lifts impurities with lactic acid and quenches skin’s thirst with hyaluronic acid and sugarcane-derived squalane.
TruSkin Hyaluronic Acid
This hyaluronic acid formula has raked in thousands of Amazon review raves not only for its wallet-friendly price tag, but the radiant results it produces with help from antioxidant-rich vitamin c, protective vitamin e, and soothing aloe vera.
Moon Juice Plump Jelly
Moon Juice’s lightweight jelly hydrator teams hyaluronic acid with unique natural ingredients such as free radical-fighting reishi and healing tremella mushroom.
Chanel Hydra Beauty Intense Smoothing Eye Gel
Given that dark circles become that much more notorious during the winter months—a 2011 study found that 82 percent of women believe they have dark circles in the winter versus 38 percent in summer—you can brighten and de-puff the under-eye area with a serum like Chanel’s smoothing Hydra Beauty Intense eye gel, which sinks right in thanks to its patented micro-droplet technology.
La Mer The Hydrating Infused Emulsion
An instant, fast-absorbing dose of hydration, La Mer’s lightweight serum-lotion is spiked with its famed sea kelp-based Miracle Broth to heal and replenish, while fatty acid-packed soy and antioxidant-rich lime tea concentrate work their magic.
innisfree Green Tea Hydrating Hyaluronic Acid Serum
Innisfree’s best-selling hydrating serum got a fresh update. The newly minted formulation includes different types of hyaluronic acid and a special green tea probiotic complex that hydrates and helps support the skin microbiome.
When it comes to skincare heavy hitters, retinol is often the first and last thing out of savvy shoppers’ mouths. In a world where marketing lingo runs rampant and the majority of products are hit or miss, it’s reassuring to know that retinol, at least, has reversed signs of aging for decades. From there, the decision comes to which over-the-counter retinol cream is best, and French brand Avène’s found the sweet spot.
As a successor to the brand’s beloved RetrinAL 0.1 Intensive Cream, Avène one-upped itself with the RetrinAL Advanced Wrinkle Corrector. The former excels as an anti-aging moisturizer that smoothes skin with added vitamin E and peptides, while the latter is a targeted treatment you dab anywhere you’d like skin to look significantly more plump and firm.
According to dozens of elated reviews, abracadabra, the Corrector grants that wish. Two weeks sees fine lines start to disappear, shoppers’ “deep nasolabial folds” receding in a “face altering” feat. “I saw results right away! I used this on certain parts of my face and put another retinol on the other parts to test its effectiveness, and by far this blew my other retinol out of the water,” a reviewer writes of the Corrector’s effects.
Others say the formula’s diminished deep wrinkles around their mouth and forehead so much they’re now looking for other places to put the cream, an accomplishment if we’ve ever heard one. Even 54-year-olds with “deep lines between [their] eyebrows” say a couple nights of the treatment has made an enormous difference — so, to get the science behind exactly how the Corrector puts other treatments to shame, InStyle asked Sheila Farhang, board-certified dermatologist and YouTube creator, for her thoughts on the ingredients.
“Retinoids are vitamin A derivatives, and are considered one of the ‘gold standard’ ingredients for anti-aging,” Farhang says. “They increase cell turnover, thereby increasing collagen stimulation to help with fine lines and discoloration. Retinoids also ‘de-plug’ clogged pores, which is why it’s commonly used for acne as well.” Speaking to the Avène formula specifically, she notes that it uses retinaldehyde, which is the most potent over-the-counter retinoid — so if you’ve tried other retinol creams and haven’t seen a big difference, it would be your best next step.
The stronger the retinoid, the higher the risk for redness, flaking, and irritation, so Farhang says you should always take it slow if it’s your first dance with the ingredient. Thankfully, Avène anticipated the potential sensitivity and added hyaluronic acid and thermal spring water, which she notes calm skin for “a win-win situation.”
Fellow dermatologist and YouTube creator Dr. Alexis Stephens agrees with Farhang, writing that the addition of algae-derived collactintm also helps skin look younger and more radiant. “The beauty of this formulation is that the powerful retinaldehyde is alongside Avene’s thermal spring water, which is clinically proven to smooth, soften and calm the skin,” Stephens says of the safe-for-sensitive-skin treatment. “I recommend this product so often, I carry it at my private practice for my patients.”
All of the above makes for a trauma-free experience, even for 49-year-old shoppers with “hyper-sensitive” skin. “Almost EVERYTHING gives me a bad reaction and/or breaks me out. Two and a half weeks in, and [I’m] seeing reduced neck wrinkles and pores shrunk to almost unnoticeable. I’m impressed.” As the French would say, voilà; in American English, whoomp!
The brand went fully plant-based for the moisturizer, which can be appreciated, especially because many similarly occlusive favorites rely on fossil fuel derivatives. In 2022, we have more regenerative options. Here, cupuaçu butter seals in the moisture that glycerin draws into skin, and vitamin E-rich babassu oil and linoleic acid reinforce skin’s own defenses. Post-biotic ferment adds a microbiome-friendly component, according to Glossier, and green microalgae extract lends vitamins and minerals.
Texture-wise, the cruelty-free cream is a dead ringer for Nivea Creme, down to the color. Glossier’s smells like unscented cold cream, and a little goes a long way: One finger-swipe’s worth is enough to coat the whole face in a wash of delicious hydration. Glossier’s balm doesn’t disturb even the most sensitive skin — the National Eczema Association knew what they were talking about.
Is it a long-term fix for, say, seborrheic dermatitis? No — damn this poorly understood fungus-immune system ailment to hell — but After Baume is profoundly calming. And other shoppers note that it comes with added benefits: One commenter on Glossier’s website said it diminished their forehead wrinkles, another wrote that it got rid of their flaky skin, and a third said they use it to slug without greasy ointments.
“My skin felt hydrated and supple,” wrote another fan after they “woke up feeling dewy and luminous.” I can confirm: If you’re looking for a gentle moisturizer to smooth dry skin, plump wrinkles, and minimize flakes, After Baume is your girl.