The world of beauty can be overwhelming, as much for our cabinets as our wallets. But rest assured: a high-powered cosmetics arsenal need not break the bank. Take it from the stars of Vogue’s Beauty Secrets, who have revealed that some of their most prized products are in fact some of the best priced.
See La Roche-Posay’s $14 Serozinc Toner, a mattifying mist that has earned Naomi Campbell’s seal of approval. What’s more? The Kendall Jenner–beloved Mario Badescu Facial Spray—laced with soothing green tea, cucumber, and aloe—rings in at just $12; spritz it on before applying a layer of Sydney Sweeney’s go-to $16 Embryolisse Lait-Creme Concentre or a $19 hyaluronic-acid-infused primer that’s a mainstay in Jessica Alba’s Dopp kit. Gigi Hadid, meanwhile, swears by Maybelline’s Lifter Gloss. Delivering an ultra-moisturizing, ultra-shiny finish for only $7, it’s one makeup must-have that will leave you anything but high and dry.
Below, shop the best beauty products under $20 on Amazon, as chosen by Vogue’s Beauty Secrets stars Gigi Hadid, Emma Chamberlain, and more.
Have you heard about slugging? As slimy as it might sound, it’s a Korean beauty skincare trend made popular a few years ago that has recently had a renaissance thanks to TikTok, on which it’s going viral. Check Reddit and you’ll also see a number of threads enthusing about it. “Slugging is a trend that centres around putting a thick layer of Vaseline or petroleum jelly on your face as the final step in your skincare routine,” explains Maree Kinder, founder of Beauty & Seoul.“The idea behind it is to act as a seal or barrier to prevent moisture loss from skin.”
Taking the concept of fortifying the skin barrier to new – and somewhat greasy – heights, to many (those for whom a moisturiser is more than enough, thank you very much) the thought of slapping on some Vaseline onto skin is a no-no. But those who do it swear it helps to leave skin hydrated, plump and glowing. The trend emerged after, Kinder says, a Korean actress claimed it was her secret to “chok chok” skin, which is that dewy finish that has also become popular in the UK.
But does it work? While some skin types can take this hefty way to retain moisture, most dermatologists are wary of the trend: “I worry that excessive amounts of petroleum jelly will clog pores, especially if you already suffer from acne-prone skin,” says Dr Ewoma Ukeleghe, founder of SKNDOCTOR. “Vaseline is occlusive, meaning it forms a barrier – pure occlusion can trigger breakouts in acne-prone skin types.”
Kinder, who hails from Korea and grew up in the UK, also admits that few of her South Korean friends actually partake in the trend, but does point out that the method can work for dry skin types. Dr Ukeleghe agrees, explaining that slugging on “small, dry patches, shouldn’t be too problematic for the skin as petroleum jelly can be soothing and moisturising” but she advises avoiding applying it in a blanket manner. It’s comedogenic so there’s a high chance you’ll break out in spots.
What both experts agree is that there are products that promise that same dewy, plump skin without the risk factor. Ingredients like ceramides and niacinamide work to help bolster the skin’s barrier, leading to better retention of moisture in the skin, and subsequently a healthier appearance. “Hyaluronic acid is the ultimate hydrating molecule,” adds Dr Ukeleghe. “It’s a natural component in our skin but, applied topically, helps bind and retain moisture.” She recommends following with a nourishing moisturiser to keep everything locked in.
Meanwhile, good quality facial oils may also be excellently deployed as the last step in your skincare regime to lock hydration in and leave skin luminous. Finally, Dr Ukeleghe recommends making use of overnight masks in lieu of Vaseline. Sticky situation averted.
In the over-the-counter battle against breakouts, there are a few key players you should know about, and salicylic acid is at the top of that list. Simply speaking, salicylic acid is one of acne’s biggest enemies. You reach for a product within the second you see a zit invading your face. You slather it on a pimple overnight and oftentimes, you wake up in the morning with a pimple that is dried up and much less noticeable. But, what exactly does salicylic acid do, and what are the best ways to reap its benefits?
What is salicylic acid?
First off, let’s establish what salicylic acid is. It’s a little complicated, but the exact structure of salicylic acid is important in explaining why (and how) it works so well. When it comes to skin-care products, there are two classes of acids you’ll see often: beta hydroxy acids (BHAs) and alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs).
“Salicylic acid is a beta hydroxy acid,” says cosmetic chemist Randy Schueller. “[This] means the hydroxy part of the molecule is separated from the acid part by two carbon atoms, as opposed to an alpha hydroxy acid where they’re separated by one carbon atom.”
Furthermore, salicylic acid is actually derived from willow bark, says cosmetic chemist Ron Robinson, and it belongs to a class of ingredients called salicylates. Are you still with me? Good, because this is where it gets fun. “This structure is important because it makes salicylic acid more oil-soluble so it can penetrate into the pores of the skin,” Schueller says.
Both alpha and beta hydroxy acids exfoliate the skin, but AHAs are water-soluble, while BHAs are oil-soluble, explains New York City-based board-certified dermatologist Sejal Shah. Examples of AHAs, for reference, include glycolic and lactic acids.
“Generally, oil-soluble ingredients penetrate through the lipid layers between the skin cells more readily,” Shah explains. In other words, oil-soluble ingredients can penetrate the skin at a deeper level than their water-soluble counterparts.
Robinson sums up their differences succinctly. “AHAs work well on the skin’s surface to loosen old, dead skin and reveal fresh newer skin,” he says. “Salicylic acid works deeper [and is] able to penetrate into the pores to unclog them.”
What does salicylic acid do for the skin?
What all of this means is that salicylic acid can get deep into your skin to do its job. This quality is precisely what makes salicylic acid such a potent ingredient for targeting acne — especially for blackheads and whiteheads.
Once it penetrates the skin, salicylic acid “dissolves skin debris that clogs pores, [acts] as an anti-inflammatory and also helps red inflamed pimples and pustules go away faster,” explains Naissan O. Wesley, a board-certified dermatologist in Los Angeles.
The ingredient can penetrate so deeply into skin that actually breaks down the connections between skin cells, according to Schueller and Wesley. “Once it has penetrated the skin, the acid part of the molecule can dissolve some of the intracellular ‘glue’ that holds skin cells together,” says Schueller.
Salicylic acid is also an exfoliant.
This breaking down of skin cells also promotes exfoliation. Salicylic acid is considered a keratolytic medication, which means that it’s perfect for supreme exfoliation. “Keratolytic medications cause softening and sloughing of the top layer of skin cells,” says Rachel Nazarian, a board-certified dermatologist in New York City.
Salicylic acid also loosens and breaks apart desmosomes (attachments between cells in the outer layer of skin). “This ‘desmolytic’ action encourages exfoliation of skin and unclogging of pores,” says Sue Ann Wee, a dermatologist in New York City.
“One thought etiology of acne is that the skin cells do not behave normally, and rather than sloughing off through a healthy skin cell cycle, they stick together and clog the pores, creating cysts and blackheads,” says Nazarian. “Salicylic acid aids in removing and loosening these skin cells and helps to dissolve the blackheads.”
Salicylic acid works best on blackheads and whiteheads.
Schueller says there are three factors that contribute to acne: an abnormal sloughing off of skin cells, excessive oiliness, and the action of P. acnes bacteria. “Salicylic acid helps with the first cause by dissolving the type of skin debris that clogs pores and causes acne,” he says.
Therefore, the best acne to treat with salicylic acid are blackheads and whiteheads. “Salicylic acid can directly dissolve the keratin plugs and regulate the skin cells,” says Nazarian. “It does have some effectiveness against cystic acne due to its antibacterial activity, but less so than the classic blackheads and whiteheads.”
Who should avoid using salicylic acid?
You can actually use too much salicylic acid, which can become a problem. “The primary negative side effect of salicylic acid is its ability to irritate and dry skin in those that are very sensitive or those who overuse it,” says Nazarian.
“Depending on the concentration and the number of applications, some people may experience dryness, peeling, redness, and some skin irritation,” says Schueller. For this reason, those with skin that’s already severely dry or sensitive should consider avoiding SA altogether. It’s also not the best choice if you are pregnant or taking certain medications, including blood thinners.
What’s more serious: “Applying salicylic acid or any salicylate to very large portions of your body can lead to salicylate poisoning.” So just don’t apply a layer of it all over — stick to only acne-prone areas.
What are the best salicylic acid-containing skincare products to use for acne?
As with many things in life, the answer to this question depends largely on the individual. “Depending on the severity of their acne, I may recommend an [SA-containing] acne wash, such as SkinCeuticals LHA Cleanser, which contains a blend of salicylic acids,” says Wesley. “For mild acne that just occurs every so often, an acne spot treatment can be helpful, especially when applied early.”
As far as concentrations go, the Food and Drug Administration allows manufacturers to make acne-fighting claims for salicylic acid-containing products if they use it at levels between 0.5 percent and 2 percent, so that is the full range you’ll find in over the counter skin-care products. For chemical peels performed at the dermatologist’s office, the concentration may be as high as 20 to 30 percent, Wesley says.
Salicylic acid isn’t just for blackheads, according to experts. “At lower levels, salicylic acid can speed up the desquamation process and aid in conditions such as dandruff and seborrheic dermatitis, which are caused by a slowing down of skin cells sloughing off,” says Schueller. Pretty cool.
Snail mucin. Bee venom. Glass skin. These are just some of the beauty trends to emerge from South Korea in the past five years. Whether you’ve dabbled in a bit of donkey milk (good for rejuvenating the skin with protein and fatty acids) or you’ve played it safe with a weekly face mask, K-beauty is everywhere. In fact, Allied Market Research says that by 2026, the K-beauty market will be worth an estimated $21 billion. According to Jenni Middleton, director of beauty at trend forecasting company WGSN, “During the coronavirus pandemic, consumers searched more for K-beauty, looking for innovative products to add to their lockdown beauty regimes.”
Like most cultural phenomena, K-beauty is ever-changing—what was big last year may not be as popular this year. As Middleton observes, we’re seeing the traditional 10-step routine give way to a more minimalist approach as conscious consumers react against fast fashion and excessive packaging. Elsewhere, playful gimmicks such as color-changing effects or jellylike substances are being passed over in favor of science-backed formulas.
1. Hanbang ingredients
Hanbang ingredients are traditional herbal ingredients used in Korean medicines and they’ve long been a staple in Korean life. For example, ginseng root, houttuynia cordata, sacred lotus, and rehmannia boast antiaging, anti-inflammation, and regenerative properties.
2. Acid layering
K-beauty has been incorporating more acid into its products, but with a gentle approach that focuses on striking the balance: Too much can irritate and aggravate your skin, too little will yield no results, so products with an optimal amount is key. Use the right balance of AHAs and BHAs (plant and animal-derived acids) to gently exfoliate dead skin cells and smooth skin texture.
3. Carrot seed oil
Carrot seed oil is an unsung hero at the moment, although it has been used in K-beauty for more than 10 years. It contains vitamin A and is a great antioxidant. It’s antiaging, antifungal, antibacterial, and anti-inflammatory—so it’s ideal for anyone looking to brighten up their skin.
4. Gentle retinol
K-beauty’s ‘skin first’ approach will continue through 2021, especially given that self-care and skin care are so important right now. There’s no denying retinol’s powerful antiaging properties, but the K-beauty approach uses a lower percentage, so the skin stays healthier and less irritated. Retinol is highly efficacious without causing unnecessary damage.
5. Centella asiatica
[The year] 2021 is less about what’s ‘buzzy’ and more about what’s tried-and-true, with a focus on calming the skin. Centella asiatica [an herb grown in Asia, known for being anti-inflammatory]—or ‘cica’—is huge right now. With everyone dealing with the prolonged stress of the pandemic and dreaded ‘maskne,’ soothing irritated, angry skin seems to be at the forefront of people’s minds. Cica is the ingredient that everyone wants to add to their routine.
6. Clean beauty
More brands are developing products free of chemical additives, artificial ingredients, and fragrance. Products will be even more gentle with effective plant-based ingredients, and many brands are becoming vegan as well. Consumers are more aware of what they put on their skin.
7. Pre-, pro-, and postbiotics
This year, inner and outer wellness brands and products will gain more popularity. For example, brands that focus on pre-, pro-, and postbiotics; microbiome-friendly skin care; and consumable supplements, which benefit both the skin and the gut.
“K-beauty will shift more towards a holistic approach, linking skin care and internal health. I take probiotic supplements for my bouts of eczema and I love using K-beauty products with fermented ingredients. I regularly use 107—it uses aged [seven- and 10-year-old] vinegar [that promotes good gut health]. Their vinegar tastes delicious with honey!”
8. Flexible minimalism
A few years back, we were oversaturated with the ‘10-step Korean skin-care routine.’ The ‘skin-care diet’ [using fewer products and steps] that followed was a pushback against that, but it was too restrictive for those who wanted more results than could be attained with just the basics.
Flexible minimalism is a focus on clean and simple product lines, which makes customizing your routine easier. There will also be a push towards pared-back lists of ingredients. Single and minimal ingredients are appealing because of their simplicity and high concentration of the hero component.
9. At-home indulgences
Skin care has a functional element—it has to work and deliver results—but I expect products that provide meditative, soothing, and spa-like moments to take off in a big way. They can transport you mentally and emotionally to another headspace.
10. Hyphenate and hybrid skin care
We’ve started seeing ‘skipcare’ as a K-beauty trend, where the focus is on a pared-down, simple, and minimalist routine. We will be seeing more efficient and effective multitasking and versatile products—what we like to call ‘hyphenates’ or ‘hybrid’ skin care.
11. Skin detoxifying and barrier strengthening
“The belief that ‘skin is a reflection of your mental state’ comes from Korea, and growing up, my mother emphasized this to me many times. We’ll see more barrier-strengthening ingredients that boost immunity, such as mushrooms, plus detoxifying herbs including mugwort and ginger. Ceramides [which form a protective layer to help prevent moisture loss and visible skin damage] will make a comeback too.”
12. A boost in body care
In Korea, many body-care rituals originate from the bathhouse culture, where milk treatments are slathered on the face and body, and baths are steeped with skin-beneficial ingredients, such as green tea and probiotics. During a difficult year, personal self-care has taken on new importance for many, so we expect to see the definition to include all of the skin, from head to toe.
If you add one thing to your skincare routine this season, make it a high-quality oil.
It wasn’t so long ago that “oil” was a dirty word in skincare. The only time you’d see it on a label was when paired with the phrases “-free” or “-reducing.” Thankfully, conventional wisdom has reversed course to be inclusive of the millennia-old practice of treating skin ailments with nourishing oils.
With the season change upon us, there’s no better time than the present to supercharge your routine with a hydrating, oil-balancing, or anti-aging oil. Dermatologists tested countless oils and rounded up the best options for every concern and skin type, from brands like Sunday Riley, Tata Harper, Vintner’s Daughter, and more.
Keep scrolling to find out why each of these oils made best in class.
Best for Glowing Skin: Sunday Riley C.E.O Glow Vitamin C + Turmeric Face Oil
The secret to glowing skin is actually quite simple: It’s vitamin C. The powerful antioxidant fades pigmentation and lends an overall brightness to your complexion. This lightweight oil by Sunday Riley is chock-full of the stuff, in the form of THD ascorbate, a shelf-stable variety. Turmeric extract also imparts a warm radiance to the skin.
Best for Wrinkles: Tata Harper Retinoic Nutrient Face Oil
This luxurious, all-natural facial oil by Tata Harper is formulated with rosehip oil-derived retinol, one of the best-researched, most-proven anti-aging ingredients. This oil’s keystone ingredient, plus a cocktail of other antioxidants, will reduce the appearance of wrinkles and plump out fine lines while fighting free radicals and slowing signs of premature aging.
This non-greasy oil is a great choice for those with congested skin or clogged pores. A rich blend of carrier plant oils contains benzyl salicylate, a form of salicylic acid, an oil-soluble exfoliant that breaks down acne-causing bacteria. Those sensitive to smells should be forewarned: Effective though this product may be, it’s on the pungent side.
Best for Extremely Dry Skin: Vintner’s Daughter Active Botanical Serum
Whether you naturally suffer from dry skin or you’re gearing up for a long season of moisture-sapping winter air, this rich cult-loved oil from Vintner’s Daughter is the bottle you need on your vanity. A plush blend of 22 active ingredients found in natural oils like grapeseed, hazelnut, and bergamot peel work together to relieve tight, cracked, and thirsty skin.
Best for Dehydrated Skin: Indie Lee Squalane Facial Oil
Dehydrated skin is first and foremost in need of hydration, then moisture. Prep your skin barrier with a watery toner like Indie Lee’s restorative CoQ-10 Toner, and then follow up with a non-irritating squalane oil from the same brand.
Best for Oily Skin: Biossance Squalane + Tea Tree Balancing Oil
Though using an oil to manage oil production may seem counterintuitive, sometimes it’s exactly what sebaceous skin types need the most. This elegant blend by Biossance puts squalane — a lightweight, fast-drying olive-derived oil — at the core of its formula, which will help manage shine. The oil also includes tea tree oil, an astringent and anti-inflammatory agent.
Best for Combination Skin: Supernal Cosmic Glow Oil
A newcomer to the scene, this emergent face oil by a former creative director is destined to be one of the most beautiful items on your shelf. But more than just a pretty face, Cosmic Glow Oil achieves the unachievable with a formula that is at once moisturizing and oil-balancing. The luxurious, pleasantly fragrant blend penetrates quickly, making it a great option for combination skin and daytime use.
Best With Makeup: Costa Brazil Kaya Anti-Aging Face Oil
Skincare freshman Costa Brazil isn’t playing around when it comes to moisture. With ingredients sustainably sourced from the Amazon Rainforest like Tucuma, Brazil Nut and Pataua extracts, the brand’s signature product, Kaya, takes on the aging process as naturally as it does powerfully. Better yet, this satin oil pairs excellently with makeup, and can even be mixed directly in with your foundation.
Best Drugstore: Milani Prep+Soothe Camellia Face Oil
If you’re in between bottles, need a substitute while traveling, or just prefer to buy cosmetics while stocking up on other vanity essentials, this oil by Milani is a great, affordable drugstore choice. A blend of grapeseed, camellia seed, moringa seed, and six other oils, plus anti-aging ingredients like tocopherol, add up to make this weightless blend with a satin finish. The quick-drying formula makes this product appropriate to wear comfortably beneath makeup.
Best for Sensitive Skin: Drunk Elephant Virgin Marula Antioxidant Face Oil
A general rule of thumb for sensitive skin is to use products with as few ingredients as possible — that way, you’re eliminating the number of triggers that may disagree with your skin. This best-selling oil from Drunk Elephant uses just one ingredient: high-quality virgin marula oil. This single-origin oil delivers omegas 6 and 9, and is absorbed quickly.
If you’ve heard of Bio-Oil before, it was likely in a Kardashian kontext — Kim, Khloé, and Kourtney have all at one point or another extolled the virtues of this vaguely medicinal-looking bottle of skin oil. Anecdotally, reviewers tend to agree with the assessment of this product as a valid mechanism for fading scars.
Best for Firming: Herbivore Botanicals Orchid Facial Oil
This elegant blend from Herbivore calls upon floral oils to fight signs of aging. Orchid extract hydrates skin, while camellia flower oil and jasmine sambac oil increase elasticity. The blend’s bouquet of botanical garden-worthy ingredients makes for an oil that’s as naturally fragrant as it is skin-strengthening.
Best for Rosacea: Cliganic USDA Organic Jojoba Oil
Jojoba oil is a solid choice for those with rosacea, and is even recommended by the Rosacea Foundation. The carrier oil contains anti-inflammatory agent myristic acid, which can reduce redness. This 100 percent pure jojoba has over 3,000 five-star ratings on Amazon, and is Amazon’s choice for “jojoba oil.”
Best Multi-Use: NOTO Botanics Rooted Body + Hair Oil
For the multi-tasking minimalist, we can’t recommend this versatile, all-natural oil from breakout brand NOTO enough. With palo santo wood oil as its hero ingredient, this face, body, and hair oil will re-energize your cells and soothe your mood at the same time.
When you’re on the go, it’s most comfortable to pair down your routine to just the essentials, and finding a good oil will help you on your way. This three-piece kit from F.Miller includes a face oil, body oil, and moisturizing lip balm, each with just a handful of ingredients (that you can actually pronounce). Take this set in its included canvas satchel with you on the plane and reapply generously. By the time you land, your face will be glowing, and your lips and hands will feel totally nourished.
More of a micellar water than a conventional oil, this syrupy product harnesses the power of ingredients like castor oil as a cleanser. The suspension uses droplets of oil within a watery solution to attract grime away from the skin. Pair that with nourishing vitamins deposited on the skin, and you’ve got a gentle yet hardworking formula that’s nothing like conventional cleansers. Follow up with Glossier’s Milky Jelly for best results.
It’s been called “herbal Botox” and a “natural retinol” — but does it actually work?
Bakuchiol (pronounced “buh-KOO-chee-all”) is a “naturally occurring antioxidant found in the seeds of Psoralea Corylifolia, a plant found in Eastern Asia,” explains Jesse Werner, founder of Whish, one of the first brands to incorporate the ingredient into its product offerings.
I’ve heard bakuchiol described as a “natural version of retinol” or an “herbal Botox,” so editors asked Werner if there was any truth to those claims. His answer made my highly-sensitive skin positively tingle with anticipation: “Clinical studies have confirmed that bakuchiol is a true retinol-like functional compound without the negative effects of retinol.” In other words, bakuchiol is a potential game-changer for those who struggle with sensitive or reactive skin and aren’t confident in the risk-to-reward ratio of retinol.
First, a quick refresher on retinol: A member of the retinoid family, which includes all vitamin A derivatives, it’s considered a Holy Grail ingredient for all things anti-aging and anti-acne; but even though it’s derived from natural vitamin A, the majority of retinoids are synthesized in some way. Retinol is commonly found in over-the-counter anti-aging products, and can be prescribed in higher concentrations by a dermatologist.
When applied to the skin, retinol “interacts with special retinoic acid receptors” and “initiates a biochemical cascade that leads to activation of certain genes that control collagen production, and reduction of the release of inflammatory mediators,” says Dr. Neil Sadick of Sadick Dermatology in New York City. The result? Smoother, clearer, younger-looking skin.
Oh, and potentially a whole lot of irritation.
Nearly all retinol users go through something called retinization: a period of about four weeks when redness, inflammation, dryness and even peeling occur while the skin adjusts to the medication. Dermatologists largely recognize this phase as temporary and safe, which is why retinol is so popular. But for some skin types, the “it-gets-worse-before-it-gets-better” functionality of retinol often ends at “it-gets-worse”. In addition to retinization, a small percentage of retinol users contract a red, scaly, itchy rash known as retinoid dermatitis.
While naturally derived ingredients aren’t always less-irritating than synthetics, the notion that bakuchiol may be a less-harsh anti-aging option is certainly an appealing one. “We were looking for the most effective ingredients to prevent and repair wrinkles, sagging skin and overall skin health. We kept coming back to retinol,” remembers Werner. “However, retinol is not natural, it’s very harsh on the skin, and it is very unstable. We searched the globe for an effective and natural retinol-like ingredient and we finally found bakuchiol.”
Bakuchiol doesn’t function in quite the same way that retinol does, but here’s the amazing thing: It offers similar results. “In one third party, 12-week clinical study, the conclusion was that retinol and bakuchiol do not have close structural similarities, yet they exhibit a similar gene expression profile especially on key anti-aging genes and proteins, which is remarkable,” explains Werner. In layman’s terms, bakuchiol visibly reduces fine lines, wrinkles and acne, and is considered a functional analog of retinol.
What’s more, the ingredient actually has some advantages over retinol, aside from simply being a natural alternative. Dr. Sadick confirms that it can be used “without any harsh side effects like irritation, flakiness and redness.” It also has photostability on its side; ulike retinol, which can break down and become less effective, it remains active even in direct sunlight.
It should be noted that bakuchi seed powder, sometimes called babchi seed powder, isn’t the same thing as bakuchiol – bakuchiol is the “compound extracted from the seeds using a solvent,” says cosmetic chemist Perry Romanowski, who adds that “there’s not likely to be a downside to adding bakuchi powder to a facial mask.” He notes that “no topical treatment would compare to Botox,” but can’t deny that bakuchiol has all the makings of a natural alternative to retinol.
Bakhuchiol is actually becoming much more common at beauty retailers of late. The ingredient first started popping up in skin-care formulations back in 2014, and its popularity has only grown since then, though it’s remained somewhat under the radar and is still far from ubiquitous. If you’re curious to try out the natural alternative to retinol for yourself — and honestly, you should be — scroll through the gallery below to see some of fan-favorite formulas.
Ole Henriksen Glow Cycle Retin-ALT Power Serum
An all-in-one skin-perfecting day serum made with a natural retinol alternative that targets fine lines, wrinkles, pores, and dark spots, while instantly brightening.
REN Clean Skincare’s Bio Retinoid™ Anti-Ageing Cream minimizes the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles for firmer skin. Its bio extracts moisturize your skin and help repair damaged cells. Rich in antioxidants that protect from free radicals, the formula leaves your skin looking younger and smoother.
Alpyn Beauty PlantGenius Melt Moisturizer contains PlantGenius, a proprietary complex of wildcrafted and hand-cultivated botanicals grown at elevation in the mountains surrounding Jackson Hole, Wyoming. This all natural, super-hydrator melts into skin leaving a fresh, velvety finish. Ceramides and squalane help fortify the moisture barrier; vitamin C helps brighten and support skin against environmental stressors; a non-irritating bio-available retinol diminishes the appearance of fine lines. Wild actives nourish with essential vitamins and fatty acids.
First of its kind, ultra-lightweight oil corrects the look of fine lines, wrinkles, uneven skin tone & texture. This advanced formula combines three separate but synergistic Retinol technologies, including naturally-derived Biomimetic Retinol – which mimics skin’s natural processes to better receive the benefits of Retinol ¿ with nourishing Squalane Oil and patented NIA-114 technology to limit sensitivity. Plant-derived Squalane & Chia Seed oils moisturize and replenished skin with essential fatty acids. Astaxanthin & Pro-anthocyanidins, two of the most powerful antioxidants, soothe and protect dry skin.
Shopping for a new moisturizer sounds great…until you’re actually shopping for a new moisturizer. Walking the aisles of Sephora or Target can feel a little like navigating the wild wild west of skincare, especially when you have dry skin. Dry types often need more attention: you want something hydrating enough to prevent flaking and painfully tight, parched skin. On the flip side, you don’t want something that’s going to clog your pores or leave you feeling greasy.
Considering not all face creams are created equal, where do you begin? Rather than spend your hard-earned money on products that may or may not work, ELLE editors brought in some major celebrity facialists for their suggestions on the best moisturizers for dry skin. Ahead, shop the products they use on their A-list clients.
FOR ACNE-PRONE SKIN: iS Clinical Reparative Moisture Emulsion
Celebrity esthetician Angela Caglia, the skin whisperer behind the glowy complexions of Helena Christensen and Minnie Driver, knows a thing or two about multitasking your skincare routine. For dry skin types that are also prone to breakouts, Caglia recommends her own line’s Detox Serum. “It’s made of hyaluronic acid to hydrate, chlorophyll to oxygenate the cells, and tea tree oil to help with breakouts.” She adds, “It’s perfect to replace your moisturizer in the summer for acne-prone skin.”
FOR UNDER MAKEUP: Tatcha The Dewy Skin Cream
Yolanda Mata, better known by her Instagram handle, Yoli Glo, is sought after by YouTube stars like Patrick Starrr and Desi Perkins. She recommends prepping skin for makeup with Tatcha’s Dewy Skin Cream, saying, “it’s a deeply hydrating formula that glides onto the skin providing nourishment and hydration, while the Japanese purple rice leaves the skin glowing, protected, and prepared for smooth makeup application.” She also adds, “it’s something no one should live without, worth every penny.” Consider us sold.
FOR UNDER MAKEUP: Sanitas Balancing Moisturizer
If you’re looking for pre-makeup hydration, Gina Mari suggests Sanitas Balancing Moisturizer. She explains, “it contains niacinamide (B3), a powerful vitamin that promotes healthy cell function. It also leaves the skin with a matte finish for consumers who don’t want to look shiny or greasy.”
FOR EXTRA HYDRATION: Koh Gen Do Macro Vintage T3 Premium Oil
If your skin is feeling extra dry (even more than usual), Tokyo-based Koh Gen Do brand director and celebrity esthetician Megumi Setoguchi, recommends upgrading your go-to moisturizer. She suggests adding one to two drops of the Koh Gen Do T3 Premium Oil to your daily face cream. “Its light, water-like consistency easily penetrates dry, hardened surface skin and supports the hydration from within to bring suppleness,” she says. “During the dry winter months, I apply it over my makeup, even on hair and the body—it gives skin a beautiful glow.”
FOR EXTRA HYDRATION: Nurse Jamie EGF Stem Cell Complex
Nurse Jamie, the celebrity skin expert behind big names like Lea Michelle, Jessica Alba, and Lisa Rinna, among many others, recommends a fan favorite for super dry complexions. She says her namesake Nurse Jamie EGF Botanical Complex“provides intense hydration with hyaluronic acid and epidermal growth factor to increase cell renewal.” Finally, added shea butter also helps lock in hydration. Nurse Jamie says, “I love the stuff; I’d bathe in it if I could!”
FOR A NATURAL FORMULA: Burt’s Bees Sensitive Daily Moisturizing Cream
If you prefer to pick up your moisturizer on your next Target run, Caglia suggests you load up on Burt’s Bees’ Sensitive Daily Moisturizing Cream. Packed with rice and cotton extract, and soothing aloe, this formula provides tons of hydration without the addition of harsh irritants. Caglia adds, “this moisturizer is great for all skin types.”
FOR A NATURAL FORMULA: Angela Caglia Soufflé Moisturizer
If natural ingredients are an essential detail in your skincare selection, Caglia recommends giving her own Soufflé Moisturizer a try. “The texture is light, and it’s filled with the most soothing and brightening ingredients, like goat’s milk and essential fatty acids,” she says. But even if natural products aren’t your priority, she boasts the formula “will convert a long time La Mer user after one application.”
FOR A SPLURGE: Amore Pacific Time Response Skin Reserve Gel Crème
Mari says, “for the ultimate splurge, I love Amore Pacific’s Time Response Skin Reserve Gel Creme. At a whopping $450 for a 50ml jar, it’s a splurge, indeed. She describes it as “a gel texture that’s really lightweight and the 24-hour release formula leaves the skin hydrated for hours.” As it turns out, you really can put a price on amazing skin.
FOR A SPLURGE: La Mer The Moisturizing Soft Cream
La Mer’s The Moisturizing Soft Cream is, without a doubt, a cult-favorite in the beauty world. Nurse Jamie suggests it’s worth every penny saying, “incredibly light,” and not just light, “basically weightless, but really great for dry skin types since it is super replenishing.” And it’s a good thing it gets her stamp of approval because, at $335 for a 60ml jar, it’s definitely a commitment.
You know what I think about a lot? That time Jason Momoa called out Chris Pratt for posing with a single-use plastic water bottle on Instagram by commenting, in part, “Bro … WTF.” Since then, whenever I scroll past a picture of serum-soaked polyester plastered to an influencer’s face, I can’t help but wonder: When will the sheet masks be Mamoa’d?
It seems the moment has come. Clean beauty retailer Credo recently announced it will stop selling sheet masks and other single-use skincare products, like makeup wipes and exfoliating pads, by June 2021—an industry first.
“‘Clean’ has to include sustainability,” Mia Davis, the Director of Environmental & Social Responsibility at Credo, tells ELLE.com. After all, what good is a product that’s supposedly safe for your skin if it’s unsafe for the earth, contributing to the health- and skin-degrading pollution particles that precipitate the need for “clean” skincare products in the first place? A 20-minute sheet mask, for example, is typically made of petroleum-based fibers, packaged in a non-recyclable foil packet or non-recyclable coated cardboard, sandwiched between two sheets of non-recyclable plastic, and covered in cosmetic chemicals—more of a sachet of superfluous waste than a skincare product, really. “We realized that prohibiting these items [at Credo] would, at a minimum, keep 3,000 pounds of trash out of the landfill,” Davis shares.
Yes, sheet masks are literal trash.
“Usually, none of these components are recyclable and all of them end up in the rubbish—at best, in a landfill; at worst, in the ocean,” Susan Stevens, the founder and CEO of Made With Respect, explains. Over hundreds of years, these materials break up into microplastic particles or break down and release greenhouse gasses, eventually polluting the air, water, soil, and bodies of all living beings (humans included). “Synthetic cosmetic chemical ingredients may make their way through waste-water treatment plants and into the ocean when they are washed down the drain, polluting marine life and causing environmental damage,” Stevens adds. But this visible excess—the foil packets, the plastic inserts, the product itself—only scratches the surface of the unsustainability of sheet masks.
The production of petroleum-based materials affects human health.
“Plastic affects our health way before it becomes a waste management issue,” Dianna Cohen, the co-founder and CEO of Plastic Pollution Coalition, says. She notes that the same goes for many cosmetic chemicals used in sheet masks, including petrochemicals (derived, like plastic, from petroleum) and the endocrine disruptors found in some synthetic fragrance formulas.
“When you look at the process of extracting crude oil, then converting it into hydrocarbon monomers, then converting that to plastic, you see that we’re polluting the environment and local communities by releasing greenhouse gasses and harmful chemicals into the water and into the air,” Cohen shares. Along that production line, potentially toxic substances like bisphenols and phthalates are added to the mix. “When we finally manufacture it and mold it into various products”—microfiber or polyester cloths, outer packaging, and cosmetic petrochemicals, just to name a few plastic products associated with sheet masks—“we are polluting the people who work at those factories and the communities surrounding those factories,” the co-founder says.
This pollution primarily impacts low-income communities and communities of color.
“These facilities are built in the neighborhoods where they live,” Cohen says, noting that this is known as environmental racism. “It’s a relic of colonialism and slavery and how we treat people as disposable and have built a culture around disposability with materials, but none of these materials are actually disposable,” she says. “Nothing is disposable.” Everything goes somewhere. The component parts of a sheet mask will live on in the environment, outliving the user.
Even “natural” and “plant-based” sheet masks present problems.
Davis points to the massive amount of resources required at the production level, “from the pesticides used growing cotton, to the water used growing crops [for plant-based materials].” For reference, producing just one pound of organic cotton demands 1,320 gallons of water; that means hundreds of gallons of water are wasted on each and every short-lived cotton sheet mask.
As for “biodegradable” or “compostable” versions? They are rarely biodegrade. “The unfortunate truth is that most people who are using those products are throwing them in their waste bin, and that’s going to a landfill, and nothing biodegrades in a landfill,” Davis says, confirming that Credo’s ban on sheet masks extends to these supposedly “eco-friendly” iterations as well. “We don’t want to lull anyone into a false sense of action. It’s not real.” Even if consumers plan to compost at home, ingredients matter. A plant-based sheet mask isn’t doing the soil any favors if it’s coated in a petrochemical-infused serum.
All of the above issues apply to regular beauty products, of course—it’s just that sheet masks have a particularly concerning product-waste-to-product-payoff ratio, no matter what they’re made of.
Can a ban on sheet masks really make a difference?
Like previous bans on plastic straws, bottles, and bags, a ban on sheet masks—even one from a small-scale retailer like Credo, which has proven to be a leader in the clean space—is more than a ban. It foreshadows a shift in the culture of consumption. The same way seeing a single-use water bottle on Instagram now calls to mind the plastic it’s made from and the marine life it could harm, spotting a sheet mask on social might soon signal the small pile of garbage sitting out of frame, the chemicals it leaches into the soil.
“When I see an influencer using a sheet mask, I do consciously think about the waste they’re creating,” Avery C. Banks, the beauty blogger behind The Boheaux, explains.(Banks used to sheet mask four times a week, but stopped earlier this year in an effort to be more eco-friendly.) “I don’t judge their sustainability journey, though. We’re all out here trying our best and maybe they simply haven’t thought about the environmental impact of that little mask.”
It’s becoming increasingly difficult to remain ignorant of said impact, if Credo’s stance on single-use skincare (and the urgency of climate change) is any indication—not that it was necessarily easy to ignore before. Consumers need only gaze upon their bursting garbage bins to realize the product is problematic.
“I was taking out the trash and all I could see were mask packages,” says Clare Neesham, a recently reformed sheet mask obsessive. She was sheet masking twice a week at the peak of her habit. “After a while, I started thinking about all the waste that was being produced, not just the masks themselves, but all the serum [and] the package,” Neesham recalls; too much for a few fleeting moments of self-care.
Still, eco-conscious retailers may have a hard time convincing customers to give them up.
“We let go of a sheet mask because it wasn’t fully biodegradable, and people complained that we didn’t have it anymore,”says Jeannie Jarnot, the founder of green beauty retailer Beauty Heroes. Credo’s Davis anticipates a similar reaction. “I do think that there will be some customers that are really bummed, and it will affect our bottom line,” she says. “We’re hoping some of the larger retailers”—Sephora, Ulta—“will make the same commitments, so that we will increase consumer awareness” and decrease the industry’s impact on the earth. This push-pull between companies and their customers is “the chicken or the egg” of the current climate crisis: Who bears the burden of creating a more sustainable future? “Corporate waste is the majority of the problem,” adds Aja Barber, a writer, stylist, and consultant in the environmental space. (100 companies are responsible for 71 percent of global emissions, as The Guardian reports.) “But corporations don’t change unless the general public takes an interest and holds them and our government regulators to account, and I think to do all of that, it starts with changing your own habits,” Barber continues. “A lot of people saying ‘I’m not interested in this product anymore’ changes the system.””In the comparison between individual action and corporation action, the question isn’t either/or,” Cohen agrees. “It’s that every action matters.”
Credo’s ban may be the catalyst to inspire that action, to make posting a sheet-masked selfie as taboo as posing with a plastic water bottle—to create a mass-scale Mamoa moment, if you will. It just may be the beginning of the end of the sheet mask.
In August, Lauren Conrad launched her beauty line, Lauren Conrad Beauty, with just five products. A month later, she’s introducing 26 more products in the makeup, skin-care, and body-care categories. Allure chatted with the entrepreneur to learn more. Welcome to Artist Spotlight #21 series on my blog.
You’d be forgiven if you think of Lauren Conrad, the businesswoman, mother, and former reality star, as a Fashion Person. She runs a clothing line, a shoe line, and a kids’ line, to name a few, and longtime fans may remember her televised internship in the Teen Vogue fashion closet. But along the way, Conrad has cultivated her own signature beauty look, which consists of easy breezy makeup and a consistent cat-eye. This summer, she surprised us by channeling that energy into the launch of Lauren Conrad Beauty. She began with five products, released direct-to-consumer from her own website — including a lip gloss formula that’s already won over Allure editors. As of October 9, she’ll expand into Kohl’s with a much longer list of products, including skin care, body care, and color cosmetics.
Conrad has wanted to start her own beauty line for some time, encountering plenty of false starts along the way. “I started the process a couple of times, but I wanted to wait until I could check all my boxes of formulas, packaging, and affordable price point,” she tells Allure. “I’ve worked on this line for two-and-a-half years, but I’ve tried for many years to make it happen.”
One of her priorities, and my personal favorite feature of the line, was the sustainability factor. The packaging is completely recycled and made from post-consumer goods, and the packaging can be recycled whole after use. That sounds like it should be the norm, but so much beauty packaging is made up of mixed materials (say, metal and plastic) that it can be impossible to recycle. But once you finish a tube of LC’s The Lipstick, it can go straight into the recycle bin.
If you stock up on the full line, that recycle bin will eventually be stacked up all the way to the top. The drop includes a whopping 26 products that can take you through an entire beauty and makeup routine. The long product list includes multiple types of facial cleanser, a vitamin C oil, two types of body moisturizers, and much, much more. But when I asked Conrad to narrow it down to her favorite, must-have product, the answer comes quickly: The Liquid Eyeliner (yes, that’s the actual product name — no needlessly florid naming conventions here.)
“Going into this process, I thought the one thing I especially had to get right was the liquid eyeliner,” she says. “It’s one of those products that I’m always seeking out, and I’ve had so much trouble finding the right one over the years, so I really wanted to nail it.”
Out of all the products, the eyeliner took the longest to create, and she only landed on it after much back-and-forth with the lab. “Fortunately, it was a product that we started really early on, so we had a lot of time to play with it.”
If liquid eyeliner isn’t your thing, the range also has The Eyeliner Pencil (in rich black onyx, for $18). Then, you can finish up your eye look with one of two The Eye Shadow Palettes (six bronze-hued shades each, for $29), The Eyebrow Pencil (a double-sided pigmented pencil and spoolie, in four shades, for $22), and The Mascara (in black only, $20). You can then wipe it all away with The Makeup Remover Balm, which is designed to double-cleanse skin in conjunction with The Facial Cleanser (both $20).
The makeup drop also includes powder brush and bronzer, liquid highlighter, a delicate lip and cheek tint that’s perfect for a quick pre-Zoom meeting pop, and the aforementioned Allure favorite lip gloss. There are eight shades of classic lipstick tubes; my favorite is the orange-red Poppy.
The best part of such a wide selection is that it leave the choice up to you. Prefer body cream to body lotion? Conrad’s got you covered. Need a powder blush instead of a creamy cheek tint? Don’t worry, she has both.
“My approach has always been ‘wear the makeup you really love that makes you feel like you’ and ‘use products that you feel good about,'” she says. With a line this comprehensive, we have a feeling there’s something for everyone that meets those criteria with flying colors.
A selection of Lauren Conrad Beauty products is available now on her own site and at Kohl’s.
Kate Somerville RetAsphere 2-in-1 Retinol Night Cream
This two-in-one night cream diminishes the appearance of wrinkles and evens out skin texture and tone. Plus, this formula packs its retinol in a lipid shell, meaning it minimizes irritation and dryness that can sometimes occur as a result of retinol.
Relying on a blend of vitamin B3 and retinol, this night serum works to reduce fine lines and wrinkles, dark spots, and enlarged pores — and keeps skin hydrated for 24 hours (hence the name). One reviewer, who said she’s been using Olay products since she was 14, noted that the product is “like fine wine.” She added: “Olay has tapped into the Fountain of Youth with this new line.”
If you’re down with the latest trends in retinol, then you may have heard of retinyl retinoate, an alternative to retinol that is said to boast the same benefits as its older sister (like increased collagen production and a reduction in fine lines and wrinkles) minus the skin irritation. Verso’s rich night cream also contains antioxidants, like vitamins C and E, as well as hyaluronlic acid and jojoba.
Scoop this Neutrogena pick up at your local drugstore and you’ll start to see benefits in a week. Anti-aging retinol and hyaluronic acid work together to plump and moisturize skin, reducing the look of deep wrinkles, including pesky crow’s feet.
If you’re looking for a brightening and anti-aging eye cream you can use morning or night, this one might just be your new go-to. It contains light-reflecting particles to instantly soften the look of dark circles and keeps fine lines around the eyes in check with time-released retinol.
SkinCeuticals Retinol 1.0 Maximum Strength Refining Night Cream
If you’ve been using a product with .5 percent retinol and looking for a little more oomph, consider this night cream from SkinCeuticals, which contains 1 percent retinol — plus ultra-soothing chamomile, frankincense, and shea butter. “The difference is amazing,” one reviewer, who has used the product for over a year, wrote. “At 62, my skin looks better than three years ago. My sun damage is gone.”
Naturopathica Argan & Retinol Wrinkle Repair Night Cream
If you’re looking to target fine lines and wrinkles but are prone to irritation, try this retinol night cream from Naturopathica. It uses encapsulated retinol plus argan plant stem cells and castor oil for a natural dose of moisture.
If you have sensitive or dry skin but want to start using a retinol cream, then this formula may be a match made in heaven for you. Not only does it address wrinkles, dullness, and dark spots, but it also serves as a skin-soothing moisturizer thanks to the addition of lactic acid, an exfoliant and humectant.
It’s hard to beat The Ordinary when it comes to an affordable and non-irritating retinol serum. The formula was created without parabens, sulfates, or phthalates and uses two forms of retinol known to cause less redness and irritation.
This budget-friendly cream is Amazon’s “most wished for” moisturizer, which really just means one thing — you need to get your hands on it STAT. And with no oily residue and the ability to reduce fine lines and wrinkles, there’s really no reason not to place an order.
Cult-favorite millennial brand Drunk Elephant finally released a retinol cream and it was worth the wait. Along with gentle 1 percent vegan retinol it contains ingredients like passionfruit, apricot, marula and jojoba oils to nourish and moisturize skin while fighting fine lines, wrinkles, and sun damage.
A roundup of retinol products really wouldn’t be complete without this drugstore staple. The RoC formula targets fine lines and wrinkles in the eye area and helps improve the appearance of dark circles and undereye puffiness in as little as four weeks.
La Roche-Posay Redermic R Anti-Aging Retinol Serum
If you like the lightweight feel of a serum, then this retinol treatment might be the pick for you. The topical treatment also includes lipo-hydroxy acid which acts as an exfoliator and visibly reduces wrinkles, fine lines, and crow’s feet. One reviewer said she has noticed overall smoother skin and fewer breakouts after using the product for a month. She added: “I’ve had a record number of mornings in the last month where I’ve looked in the mirror and thought, ‘Yeah, I look good today.’”