“It’s a yes from me. I hated using retinol, but knew its benefits,” wrote one person of Tula’s serum. “This product eliminated the terrible burning and redness I would get from actual retinol, [and] my skin looks tighter and more even. I just bought my second bottle.” Repeat buyers abound in the comments, where reviewers say that the formula smoothed out “horrible wrinkles” around their eyes and “made a world of difference” for silky smooth, younger-looking skin.
Per Tula, the serum has a laundry list of things going for it. There’s bakuchiol, the much-discussed retinol alternative that softens lines and hyperpigmentation without putting your skin through the ringer; probiotic extracts and prebiotics to firm skin and amp up its natural barrier; squalane to condition; and alfalfa extract to scavenge free radicals and reduce cell-damaging oxidative stress. Beta-carotene bundles in more antioxidants, vitamin E, and jojoba oil to add ample moisture, and gluconolactone and lactic acid gently exfoliate.
Whether they found their way to it while pregnant or on the hunt for an anti-ager fit for sensitive, dry, and irritation-prone skin, customers say they’re impressed with the brightening, firming effects they see in around two weeks. But things really start to look different in a little over a month: “Makes my skin feel so hydrated, and the appearance of fine lines is drastically reduced,” wrote a shopper of their thoughts at the six-week benchmark.
Your mileage may vary, though. In just a week’s time, one person says they were deeply pleased with the effects. “No irritation, and it does seem to be working on my fine lines around my eyes and the larger lines on my forehead.” As a last 80-year-old shopper wrote, it’s even succeeded at making their “aging skin” soft again, and dark circles less outstanding. “This product feels amazing, and I think it’s making the wrinkles less prominent. Just had a great dermatology check up, so I must be doing something right.”
Intrigued? Want to exclaim “Mamma Mia!” at your face, but in a good way? Try the serum for $68.
There is no such thing as a single “correct” skin-care routine, but there’s definitely an optimal way to apply your products. Whether you’re a minimalist who prefers sticking to a three-step routine or the type of person willing to undertake 11 steps daily in pursuit of glass skin, the way you layer your chosen products has a big impact on how well they work. The more product-intense you go, the more important this order becomes.
There’s a reason cleansing comes first, serum sits beneath moisturizer, and sunscreen goes on last. Understanding this order will ensure your favorite skin-care products work effectively—because no one wants to splurge on a luxury serum only to render it useless because of misapplication. If you’ve ever looked at a tube of retinol or a bottle of face oil and wondered exactly how (and when) to use it, wonder no more. Below, dermatologists and skin-care experts explain the most effective way to apply every single product in your routine.
The Best Order to Apply Skin-Care Products
The easiest way to break it down is to refer to the table above, which lays out the best order for your separate morning and night skin-care routines. “The principle behind ordering is to cleanse your skin, open your skin so products can soak in, add actives on, then seal with moisturizing products,” says Morgan Rabach, M.D., dermatologist and co-founder of LM Medical NYC. Below, the detailed breakdown of every single step in your daily skin care routine.
1. Makeup Remover/Cleansing Oil
Unless you went to bed with makeup on (please don’t), there’s no reason to do this step in the morning. But at night it makes your cleanser’s job a lot easier.
“Removing all makeup from your skin should always be your first step at the end of the day,” says Loretta Ciraldo, M.D., dermatologist and founder of Dr. Loretta Skincare. Look for formulas that are effective enough to melt away waterproof mascara, but still gentle on your face—like micellar water. You can also double-cleanse with an emulsifying oil, which gets rid of the need to buy cotton rounds.
Do this step: Morning and night.
Now that your makeup layer is gone, you can proceed with washing your face. “A cleanser gets rid of dead skin, pollutants, oils, dirt, and bacteria,” says Rabach. Both she and Ciraldo recommend also doing this step when you first wake up in the morning, in order to prep your skin to absorb the active ingredients in your other products.
The best cleanser for you will depend on your skin type. “It’s important to pay attention to what’s in your cleanser and what’s not in it,” says Ciraldo. She recommends avoiding sulfates, which can have a harsh, stripping effect on your face, and looking for actives that suit your needs. “For normal or dry skin, I favor a hydrating cleanser with peptides,” she says. “If you’re oily or acne-prone, use a mild exfoliating cleanser with salicylic acid, which dislodges the dead cells that can clog pores.“
3. Eye Cream
Do this step: Morning and night.
The first product to go on your face? Eye cream. The reason is simple—because you’ll probably forget to do it otherwise. Ciraldo recommends patting eye cream on gently with your ring finger (this way you’ll tug less at the delicate skin there) all the way around your eyes, not just underneath them. If you’re worried about eye cream causing your concealer or eye makeup to smear, choose a more lightweight option, like a hydrating gel that sinks in quickly and stays put.
For the best results, look for ingredients like peptides—which help tighten your skin and depuff—as well as antioxidants. Rabach recommends formulas that contain hydrating hyaluronic acid, brightening caffeine, and ceramides (these lock in moisture and help strengthen your skin barrier).
Do this step: Morning and night.
Both toners and essences are meant to help further prime your skin to absorb active ingredients, but the one you choose will depend on your skin type. Old-school toners were meant to balance skin pH and counteract alkaline soaps, before soap-free cleansers became popular. Now toner usually refers to liquid formulations geared toward oily skin that’s in need of gentle exfoliation and resurfacing. Ciraldo says those with oily or acne-prone skin should look for toners with ingredients like glycolic or salicylic acid.
Essences, on the other hand, tend to be more hydrating. Rabach recommends looking for actives like hyaluronic acid, which will flood your skin with moisture that you can lock in during subsequent steps. To apply, soak a cotton pad in liquid and gently pat it over your face. Alternatively, you can use your hands to do the same thing.
Do this step: Morning and night.
This is the step where you’ll deliver the bulk of active ingredients to your toner/essence-primed face, and it’s important to do it early on in your routine. “Serums are formulated with smaller molecular-weight actives so they penetrate into deeper skin layers,” says Ciraldo. “If you apply your serum after a thicker formulation, the active ingredients may not penetrate as well.“
While you should apply serum twice a day, you shouldn’t be using the same formulation. “Serum actives differ for day and night,” says Rabach. During the day, she likes to choose serums with antioxidants that protect skin from daytime stressors like free radicals (caused by UV rays), pollutants, and blue light. The most popular ingredient for this is vitamin C, which you will have no problem finding in serum form. (Just make sure to choose one that’s properly stabilized for maximum effect.) At night, opt for a serum with peptides and growth factors to repair skin.
For both daytime and nighttime serums, Rabach also has a general list of ingredients she likes to look for across both formulations: Niacinamide to reduce redness, hyaluronic acid to pull moisture into your skin, and alpha and beta hydroxy acids (AHAs and BHAs), which help boost collagen and even out skin pigmentation. Ciraldo further splits up her preferred serum ingredients by skin type. “For acne-prone skin, look for stem cells, retinol, and green tea,” she says. “For dehydrated skin, look for lipids, hyaluronic acid, and peptides. And for hyperpigmented skin, look for vitamin C.”
Do this step: At night only.
Retinol truly deserves its own essay, but the short version is this: The vitamin A derivative boosts collagen production and increases the rate of cellular turnover. “Retinol reduces fine lines, reduces pore size, increases collagen and elastin production, takes off dead skin, reduces oil production, unclogs pores, and evens out skin tone,” says Rabach. Whether you want to clear breakouts or fade fine lines—or basically do anything to your face—retinol is your friend.
On the flip side, this is a strong ingredient, and beginners should proceed with caution when adding to their routines. Potential side effects can include flaking, dryness, retinol burn, and increased sensitivity to the sun, which is why you should stick to applying it at night. Dermatologists often recommend easing into daily application slowly. “Start three times a week for the first week or two,” says Ciraldo. From there, you can gradually increase the frequency of application.
Most will apply their retinol layer after their serums and before moisturizer, but there is one exception. If your skin has trouble tolerating retinol and you want to minimize its side effects, you can buffer it instead. Retinol buffering refers to a technique whereby you mix your retinol with your moisturizer and apply it as a single step. This helps you still get the benefits, but decreases the potential for irritation. To take it a step further, you can also apply retinol over your moisturizer. Experiment with this step, and see where it fits best in your routine.
Do this step: Morning and night.
Moisturizers are there to simultaneously hydrate and seal in hydration, which is why these formulas tend to be heavier than the layers that go underneath. “You should use moisturizers with humectants like glycerin and hyaluronic acid, which pull in water,” says Rabach. “I also recommend looking for ceramides, which seal the outer layers of skin.”
Ciraldo says that many of her patients prefer to use separate formulas for their morning and nighttime routines. This has more to do with how moisturizers feel than anything else. You can use a lightweight formula in the morning that blends better with your makeup and reserve a heavier cream for evening. Ciraldo’s additional tip is to double up on your serum and moisturizer actives. For example, if you use a vitamin C serum in the morning, you can layer a vitamin C moisturizer right on top to boost the benefits.
8. Spot Treatment
Do this step: Morning and night.
You need to use spot treatments on active breakouts only, but if you’re experiencing acne, you can apply a leave-on spot treatment both morning and night to speed up its healing cycle. According to Ciraldo, you should spot-treat after you’ve applied your moisturizer, not before. This helps make sure the product stays on top of the pimple, and doesn’t go on the rest of your face. “If you’re using a strong acid and then smear moisturizer all over your face, you run the risk of the product getting on more sensitive areas,” she says. You’ll also dilute its effectiveness. Wait for your a.m./p.m. moisturizer to sink in, then carefully pat over the affected areas.
The two most common over-the-counter ingredients for spot treatments are benzoyl peroxide and salicylic acid. Rabach differentiates them like this: Benzoyl peroxide helps kill acne-causing bacteria, while salicylic acid gently exfoliates and dries out your oil glands.
9. Face Oil
Do this step: Morning and night.
If there’s one step in your daily skin-care routine that surprisingly divides experts, it’s face oil. The most common recommendation is to apply it last at night and second-to-last before sunscreen in the morning. That’s because oils are occlusive, says Mona Gohara, M.D., dermatologist and associate clinical professor at Yale School of Medicine. Meaning, they help trap moisture in your skin. This is why Renée Rouleau, celebrity esthetician and founder of Renée Rouleau Skin Care, says you should think of face oils as a topcoat. “Oils provide a protective barrier to help prevent moisture from evaporating,” she says. “Anything applied over it may not be offering as much benefit to your skin because it can’t get through.”
However, some derms advise their patients to take this step earlier in their routines (usually before moisturizer), depending on the formulation of the oil they’re using. “Some oils are designed with ingredients that hydrate, others to brighten or even to strengthen your skin,” says Joshua Zeichner, M.D., director of cosmetic and clinical research in dermatology at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City. Ciraldo also says it’s okay to mix oils with your moisturizer if you prefer.
Whichever way you land, the important thing is that you don’t overdo it—with face oils, a little goes a long way. To apply, warm about two to three drops of oil in your palms and pat lightly over your face.
Do this step: In the morning only.
What derms unanimously agree on is that you should wear sunscreen every single day to prevent UV damage—whether or not you go outside. Sunscreen needs to go over face oil in order to be most effective. “You do not want anything to stop the sunscreen from working, or making it less effective,” says Gohara. “Putting an oil on top of your sunscreen can decrease it’s efficacy.”
There are two types of sunscreens to choose from for your final step: physical and chemical. Physical blockers contain minerals like titanium dioxide and zinc oxide and work by reflecting light away from your skin. Chemical blockers, on the other hand, work by absorbing light and converting it into heat, preventing it from penetrating into your skin. Rouleau says that mineral formulas are often better for sensitive skin, while chemical formulations tend to be thinner and spread more easily.
Chemical formulas also come with the benefit of not leaving a white cast on darker skin tones. While mineral sunscreens traditionally cast an ashy tone, Zeichner points out that brands have begun formulating better physical sunscreens to counteract that. “The newest formulation technology has brought us micronized sunscreens that rub in to your skin much better than ever before,” he says. “So using a zinc-based sunscreen no longer necessarily means your face will have that white cast. No matter what your personal preference is, there are sunscreens for every need.”
In the beauty world, not being able to withstand a retinol product is an Achilles heel. Touted as one of the strongest and most effective products to treat fine lines, uneven texture, discolouration, and even acne, retinol is basically the Holy Grail. It also happens to be the only ingredient the skin either absolutely can not stand, or it loves it. About an hour after putting on a retinol–even the gentlest ones on the market–some people’s skin begins to peel, develop bumps all over the face, and it’s a general mess. BUT…
“This texture is so smooth and hydrating, which is always a good sign, since retinol products are notoriously drying. After layering it with a moisturizer, I went to bed and prayed I woke up to a decent face. To my immense surprise, my skin felt silky smooth, I wasn’t having a bad reaction at all, and I even felt confident to try it again, two nights later.” – ELLE Beauty Editor
This product is a blend of retinol with fatty acids derived from sunflower seeds–which makes it less irritating–along with line-reducing stevia extract and hydrating mongo grass root extract.
As the days get shorter and the temperatures creep lower, your skin needs warm and cozy layers, too. Come fall, products with gentle, hydrating formulas help prevent dryness caused by both indoor and outdoor air.
“As we head into fall, temperatures get lower and humidity decreases. There can also be brisk winds and dry heat from heaters — and all of these factors can contribute to drying out our skin,” says Dr. Hadley King, a board-certified dermatologist in New York City. “In low humidity environments, we lose more moisture from our skin into the air.”
The shift in seasons can also exacerbate inflammatory skin conditions, like eczema, that are associated with dehydration in the skin. “You can begin to counteract these changes by taking some initial easy steps such as turning down the water temperature to lukewarm when bathing, using a more emollient soap, and switching to a heavier moisturizer,” adds Dr. Carlos Charles, board-certified dermatologist and co-founder of 4.5.6 Skin.
Ahead, the two dermatologists help us breakdown what skincare products to use in your fall skincare routine to help prevent and repair dryness, along with what to shelve until next summer.
Add: Creamy Cleanser — Drop: Gel or Foam Cleanser
Look for a creamy cleanser that will support and cushion skin as fall weather settles in. “A creamy cleanser that supports the skin barrier while it cleanses may be helpful as the weather gets drier,” says Dr. King. “Avoid harsh detergents that strip natural oils from the skin.”
Dr. Charles adds that gel and foam formulas may fall into the drying category. “Gel and foam-based cleansers that are meant to decrease oil production and increase cell turnover may become overly drying and strip away much of the essential and innate protection of the skin as we move into the fall months,” he says.
Add: Hyaluronic Acid Serum — Drop: Chemical Exfoliant Serums
For an extra layer of moisture, Dr. Charles recommends incorporating a hyaluronic acid serum into your routine. “When evaluating serums for the fall, thicker hyaluronic acid-based serum can help lock in moisture as opposed to the lighter water-based serums that you may use in the summer,” he says.
But depending on your skin type or concerns, you may still want to use a serum with chemical exfoliants or anti-aging benefits. “Proper formulations and usage of ingredients like hydroxy acids and retinols can still be helpful, depending on your skin,” says Dr. King. “So this means that depending on your skin type, it may be best for you to decrease exfoliation in colder weather — frequency and strength. And look for exfoliators that support the skin barrier while they exfoliate.”
Given that retinol is considered the gold standard of skincare ingredients, because it can treat a number of common issues like fine lines, hyperpigmentation, acne, and uneven texture, you might want to use it year-round. Dr. Dennis Gross’ Advanced Retinol + Ferulic Acid Texture Renewal Serum has supporting ingredients that help prevent irritation and dehydration.
Add: Rich Moisturizer — Drop: Lotion
“Moisturizers should always include a combination of humectants, emollients, and occlusives, but heavy occlusives may feel like too much when the weather is hot and humid,” Dr. King explains. “Lower humidity may make heavier occlusives more important to lock in moisture.”
Dr. Charles seconds this. “Cream-based moisturizers are heavier and therefore are more effective in sealing moisture content to the skin. A lotion is lighter with more water content and less oil, whereas creams have more oil content and less water which is ideal for the dry season.” He recommends the Day Hack Matte Moisturizer from 4.5.6. Skin.
Add: Moisturizing Mask — Drop: Clay Mask
While clay masks can be effective at drawing the extra gunk out of your pores, they can also leave skin feeling dry and tight. That’s why if you’re looking to indulge in a face mask during the fall, Dr. King recommends reaching for a hydrating formula.
Topicals’ Like Butter mask is designed to soothe and minimize irritation, while strengthening the skin barrier.
Add: Hydrating Toner — Drop: Exfoliating and Alcohol-Based Toners
If you’re a fan of toners, you guessed it: ditch ones with harsh exfoliants and alcohol during the fall. “Toners are always optional, but if you want to use one, you may want to switch to a more hydrating and soothing formula that is alcohol free,” says Dr. King.
When it comes to skincare, there always seems to be a hot new ingredient of the moment. Does anyone remember salmon milt? The latest It ingredient? Humble jojoba oil, harvested from the seeds of a North American bush, is a multi-purpose has withstood the trends and test of time. Rose Ingleton, a New York City-based board-certified dermatologist, frequently recommends jojoba oil to her patients. (The Jamaican-born derm also has her own skincare line, which is spiked with superfruits from her native home). Here are the five reasons she loves it so much:
It’s just like human sebum (and that’s a good thing).
It may be weird to think that the oil made by pressing jojoba plant seeds is so close to those produced by the human body, but nature is wild! “This means it can actually absorb into the skin rather than sitting on top of it like most oils,” Ingleton says.
Sensitive skin will love it.
“If your skin is particularly sensitive and irritated by active ingredients, pure jojoba oil is a good option for moisturizing your skin,” she adds. Anybody who suffers from eczema, seborrheic dermatitis, or just plain old finicky skin can benefit from slathering their face and body with the golden oil.
You can truly use it all over.
Hair, cuticles, even to soothe chapped lips—jojoba can be an all-body experience. Ingleton’s tip for maximum hydration and absorption? “As with any oil, applying it to slightly damp skin and hair is always going to work best.”
No clogged pores, here!
Jojoba oil’s bio-similarity to human sebum means that it’s non-comedogenic. “Acne-prone skin types may also see a benefit because it has some anti-microbial and anti-inflammatory properties,” Ingleton adds. (Hint: coconut oil is comedogenic, so jojoba oil is better if you’re looking for an oil-based makeup remover.)
It plays nice with harsher ingredients.
Retinol? Don’t be scared of it you’re using jojoba oil in your routine. “Because jojoba oil helps with dryness and irritation, it’s a great match for pairing with prescription topicals or with retinol serums,” Ingleton says. She suggests using Retxurizing Retinol Booster Serum from her own line (which has been designated as Clean at Sephora).
Ah, retinol. When it comes to defense against fine lines and maintaining a healthy glow, there’s no ingredient in skincare more lauded. The irony? Even though the revolutionary youth-enhancing active is a mainstay of drugstores, department store counters, and dermatologist offices alike, it still manages to mystify. And thus, it’s often underutilized or misused.
What is retinol?
To bring it back to the basics, retinol—alongside other retinoids, such as retinoic acid and retinyl palmitate—is essentially a derivative of vitamin A, which is one of the body’s key nutrients for boosting cell turnover. “It’s added to topical skincare products to promote skin renewal, brighten skin tone, reduce acne, and boost the collagen production,” explains New York City dermatologist Whitney Bowe, MD. “It also functions like an antioxidant to help address free radical damage, which leads to visible signs of aging.” The way dermatologist Francesca Fusco, MD, sees it, it’s the ingredient that does it all in dermatology, both cosmetically and medically. “I consider it a gold standard in skincare and often explain it to my patients as something that sweeps away dead skin cells, clogged pores, and dull skin,” she explains.
Here, experts break down how to carefully incorporate the powerhouse ingredient into your regimen to achieve a supernaturally fresh-faced complexion, now and for decades to come.
Begin in Your Mid 20s or Early 30s
Thirty has long been the banner year for introducing retinol into one’s routine, but many women are starting before then, motivated by early signs of aging, such as sun spots or crows feet, or simply eager to get a head start and utilize the latest technologies—under the careful watch of their dermatologist. “Your mid-twenties are a great time to start using retinol,” says Ellen Marmur, M.D. “Many patients who have used it for years swear by it.”
Integrate Retinol Slowly and Gently
“Balance is critical,” cautions Bowe. “Retinol can be very irritating if used too frequently or if the formulation is too strong for your skin.” She recommends starting off with a pea-sized amount of a low percentage over-the-counter formula (.01% to 0.03%), and using it “two times per week, slowly increasing the usage to give the skin a chance to acclimate.” Moreover, you should skip your retinol product on the day before you exfoliate (Bowe recommends exfoliating two to three times per week). “Exfoliating is abrasive and irritating, and you do not want to compound the skin irritation by heightening your skin’s sensitivity,” she says, adding that if you’re getting certain in-office treatments like lasers, microneedling, microdermabrasion, you will want to take a break from your retinol. In the spirit of not overdoing it, there’s a spate of new time-release formulas fit for skin types prone to redness or breakouts. “They’re a good option for people who have sensitive skin,” explains Fusco. “It releases the active ingredient over time and may offer less irritation.” In terms of prescription retinol versus something over the counter, the former is much more potent with a higher percentage of retinol and one may graduate to it over time, says Bowe.
Watch Out for Harsh Side Effects
While certain side effects, such as mild irritation, dryness, and sun sensitivity are normal as your skin adjusts to the active ingredient, intense flaking, redness, and burning are not—and those with especially sensitive skin, or who struggle with conditions like rosacea or eczema, should be wary of retinol or shy away from it all together. “If you cannot tolerate retinol, don’t worry,” says Marmur. “It’s not the only anti-ager! There are plenty of amazing anti-aging ingredients, such as wild indigo, that work beautifully without any irritation or sun sensitivity.”
Use Retinol Only at Night and Wear SPF Every Day
“Retinol makes your skin more sensitive to UV rays and sunlight decreases the efficacy of the product,” explains Bowe, who instructs patients to only use retinoids at night and be diligent about applying a daily broad-spectrum SPF 30 or higher during the day. Moreover, with retinol use, one should always be conscious of the weather forecast and trips to hot locales. “It should not be used during seasons or vacations when individuals will be spending extended time in direct sunlight,” warns Fusco.
Don’t Stop at Your Face
When applying a retinol-infused elixir, don’t neglect your neck or décolletage, which are areas notorious for showing the signs of aging, yet often overlooked. “If those zones seem too sensitive for your current formula, add a squirt of ceramide-enriched moisturizer before smoothing it on, or pick up a separate retinoid made specifically for the area in question,” says Bowe. “They typically contain a lower dose of vitamin A, zero fragrance, and loads of soothers.”
The long, dark days of winter are officially behind us, but the effects may linger in the form of dull, lackluster skin. Fortunately, the seasonal shift brings a sense of renewal, the welcome shedding of layers—and there’s no reason that should stop with your wardrobe.
“Spring is an ideal time of the year to start incorporating retinol into your routine,” says Onyeka Obioha, M.D., a dermatologist in Los Angeles. She joins a perpetual chorus of experts championing the ingredient as a means to brighter, smoother skin. Plus, she adds, “in warmer months, people are able to better tolerate it.”
For the uninitiated, retinol and other derivatives of vitamin A (together, they fall under the umbrella category of “retinoids”) count among the hardest-working ingredients in the skin-care realm. Vitamin A offers a multitude of benefits for skin: Thanks to its ability to speed cell turnover and spur collagen production, it can help smooth out wrinkles and fine lines, brighten dark spots and discoloration, and even quell breakouts. (The prescription-strength form called tretinoin—known by its brand name, Retin-A—originally launched as an acne medication before people realized its broader utility.) “When it comes to visibly improving the texture and appearance of your skin while preventing signs of aging, retinol is unmatched,” says Austin-based esthetician Renée Rouleau.
There is a common downside. Because the ingredient is so powerful, explains Rouleau, “it can also come with unwanted side effects, like dryness, flaking, irritation, and sensitivity, for a lot of people, especially during the first four to six weeks.” (Retinoids are not advised for those who are pregnant or nursing.) Although over-the-counter forms of retinol tend to be milder than the derm-prescribed counterpart, it’s still wise to wade in slowly. Obioha recommends starting with a pea-size amount three nights a week, then gradually increasing from there. Following up with daytime sun protection is of utmost importance, since retinol can increase skin’s sensitivity to sunlight.
Even if you’ve had a touch-and-go experience with retinol in the past, recent formulations designed with tolerance in mind offer an incentive to dip back in. There’s no better time for a fresh start.
Shani Darden Retinol Reform Serum
Created by Los Angeles aesthetician Shani Darden, this cream combines retinol with lactic acid and anti-inflammatory niacinamide. It’s a strategic pairing, with the lactic acid delivering immediate smoothing and hydrating benefits while retinol gets to work from within.
StriVectin Super-C Retinol Brighten & Correct Vitamin C Serum
While vitamin C certainly has a starring role in many retinol products, it doesn’t always match the power of a dedicated vitamin C serum. Not so with this dual-action serum, which offers that dream team at high concentrations to improve skin tone and texture.
La Roche-Posay Effaclar Adapalene Gel 0.1% Topical Retinoid Acne Treatment
If you’re experiencing acne lately, you’re not alone. “Warmer temperatures and an increase in humidity can cause buildup on the skin, which clogs pores and can result in breakouts,” says Obioha. This powerful treatment uses adapalene, which is the sole prescription-strength retinoid available without an Rx, to help maintain a clear complexion.
As protective face masks are still de rigueur, so is maskne. Retinol can help. “It can work to increase skin cell turnover and unclog pores,” says Obioha. Salicylic acid in this oil offers acne-fighting benefits on the spot, while the retinol works to prevent future breakouts.
RoC Retinol Correxion Line Smoothing Night Serum Capsules
Concentration isn’t the only thing that matters in a skin-care formula—potency does, too. These sealed, biodegradable capsules keep the combination of retinol and antioxidants fresh and at peak efficacy until it’s applied to the skin.
Why settle for one type of retinol when you can have three? This potent cream consists of a fast-acting retinol, a time-release version, and a retinol booster for peak efficiency. Lest your skin starts to feel dry just reading that, not to worry: Niacinamide gives it proper credibility as a calming night treatment, too.
To amp up the power of this night oil, retinol is paired with salicylic acid, which is prized in its own right for its ability to gently lift dead skin cells. In practice, this ultimately clears the way for retinol to better penetrate—in turn yielding results in as little as one week.
IT Cosmetics Hello Results Wrinkle-Reducing Daily Retinol Serum-in-Cream
Retinol is uniquely equipped to handle signs of aging. “Retinoids actually build collagen and thicken the dermis layer of the skin, which makes the skin appear plump and healthy,” says Obioha. This hybrid formula pairs both free and encapsulated retinol molecules—the better to reach multiple layers of skin—with soothing niacinamide.
Fine lines and deeper wrinkles can’t be blamed on a single culprit. Conversely, their treatment approach isn’t singular, either. That’s why this serum combines retinol with a collagen-boosting blend of peptides, vitamin C, and botanical extracts, which together work to firm and smooth skin.
While Drunk Elephant originally started as a skincare brand, the company has since expanded its product line into the body and makeup categories — and most recently, hair care. As always, you can rest assured that each product is designed to keep your skin (and now hair) healthy, nourished, and radiant, thanks to the innovative vitamin-, antioxidant-, and mineral-infused formulas.
There’s plenty of praise to be sung for this brand, and a long list of products to choose from. If you’re new to Drunk Elephant or already a fan and looking to try the latest launches, I’ve narrowed down several — 11, to be exact — of the top picks that I think are worthy of a spot in your routine.
B-Hydra Intensive Hydration Serum
Applying serum before your moisturizer is one of the easiest ways to keep your skin looking and feeling healthy since many are packed with highly concentrated doses of active ingredients. The B-Hydra Intensive Hydration Serum features a lightweight formula containing brightening pineapple ceramide and hydrating vitamin B5. It’s also infused with sodium hyaluronate, which cosmetic chemist Kelly Dobos tells Allure is “very effective for plumping lines.”
The Best of Beauty Award-winning C-Firma Vitamin C Day Serum is another great option. The vitamin C- and antioxidant-rich serum repairs sun damage. It also features pumpkin ferment and pomegranate extract, both of which help to dissolve dead skin cells, thus reducing the appearance of pores and overall dullness.
You already know the importance of wearing sunscreen daily (even indoors), but with so many options on the market, it can be challenging to narrow it down. The ultra-lightweight Umbra Sheer Physical Daily Defense SPF 30 pretty much eliminates the guesswork. It’s designed for — you guessed it — everyday wear. The editor-favorite sunscreen has won an Allure Readers’ Choice Award three consecutive years in a row, and it’s easy to see why. The creamy, silicone-free formula is ideal for even the most sensitive skin types and contains 20 percent zinc oxide (to protect the skin from harmful UV rays), as well as antioxidant-rich algae, sunflower sprout extracts, and raspberry seed oil.
A-Passioni Retinol Cream picked up a 2020 Best of Beauty Award after one Allure editor credited the product for reducing hyperpigmentation and breakouts. Retinol is one of the most versatile, dermatologist-lauded skin-care ingredients and can do just about anything, including brightening skin, reducing wrinkles, and minimizing breakouts. That said, it’s an all-around win for a range of skin concerns.
With professional facials few and far between these days, the T.L.C. Sukari Babyfacial at-home peel is a more-than-suitable substitute. It’s designed for weekly use and is formulated with 25 percent alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs) like glycolic, tartaric, lactic, and citric acids — and two percent beta hydroxy acids (BHAs), otherwise known as salicylic acid. These chemical exfoliants eliminate dead skin cells and smooth texture. The creamy, non-traditional formula will leave your skin feeling fresh, clean, and rejuvenated. No wonder it won a Best of Beauty Award.
Once you’ve smoothed skin over with a peel, top it off with the brand’s moisturizing Virgin Marula Luxury Face Oil. It’s a pure one-ingredient oil packed with skin-restoring and vitamin E-infused marula seed oil to protect against free radicals and pollution.
The Best of Beauty-winning Slaai Makeup-Melting Butter Cleanser is chock-full of soothing fruit extracts and oils including marula, baobab, and Kalahari melon seeds to keep skin moisturized and nourished. The oil-based cleansing balm also features bamboo and charcoal powders to gently exfoliate dead and dry skin.
Drunk Elephant’s Lippe Balm is especially ideal for the winter months when many of us suffer from dry, dehydrated, and chapped lips. The buttery balm is also made with moisturizing avocado oil, which is rich in fatty acids, along with mongongo oil to keep skin smooth, and hydrating peptides.
For a natural-looking, all-over glow in any season, try the antioxidant-rich D-Bronzi Anti-Pollution Bronzing Drops. The lightweight formula is infused with soothing cocoa extract, fine line-eliminating peptides, rejuvenating vitamin D, and vitamin F (fatty acids), the latter of which promotes a healthy skin barrier.
If you’ve yet to dive into the greatness of micellar water, you’re surely missing out. The beloved, ultra-gentle cleaning format gently grabs dirt, tones skin, and removes makeup all at the same time — and all without stripping or harming the skin. The hydrating, non-irritating E-Rase Milki Micellar Water offers a milky formula with nourishing omega fatty acids. “This is a great ceramide-based micellar water that’s perfect for removing makeup pre-wash,” board-certified dermatologist Deanne Mraz Robinson previously told Allure.
Knots won’t know what hit ’em when the Wild Marula Tangle Spray makes contact. The leave-in treatment works three-fold to detangle, condition, and act as a heat protectant, thanks to moisturizing sacha inchi and pracaxi seed oils. Strengthening amino acids, on the other hand, will help prevent breakage-induced dryness that can settle in during colder winter months.
As we say “so long!” to the winter and enter the spring, it’s time to switch up our skincare routine because when the months change, your regimen should too. So, to help you out, I’m going to keep on sharing the newness that I know you’ll love so much.
SK-II Skinpower Airy Milky Lotion
SK-II’s Skinpower Airy Milky Lotion is an airy, lightweight moisturizer that will plump up your skin as it’s hydrating it. Inside the little red jar, you’ll find a formula filled with calla lily extract, dokudami extract, and peony extract, which work together to give skin a bouncy, healthy look and feel.
If your skin is looking tired or dull, try the Versed Auto-Save Advanced Restoring Serum. Its formula has ferulic acid to diminish dark spots and shea butter to moisturize. Not to mention, there’s also microalgae in the mix, which will assist in brightening.
Elizabeth Arden Visible Brightening CicaGlow Concentrate
Ready to glow? Elizabeth Arden has you covered with the new Visible Brightening CicaGlow Concentrate. This treatment is made with niacinamide and cica to help diminish hyperpigmentation and soothe skin. The top green liquid is loaded with vitamin C to brighten, while the orangey bottom has all the exfoliants in it, like chestnut extract. Shake them together, and say hello luminosity.
Clark’s Botanical Jasmine Vital Oil is made with a fast-drying, non-greasy formula that features virgin hemp and cottonseed oils to give skin a dewy, hydrated finish. Pat on a dropper-full of this oil before makeup, and you’ll have that glow-from-within vibe within seconds of applying.
Pimples can be a pain, but let’s not forget the dark spots that come after a breakout, too. With Dermalogica’s PowerBright Dark Spot Serum, you can diminish that hyperpigmentation in no time. Its ingredient list features niacinamide and shiitake mushroom, which will help brighten that unwanted discoloration (while simultaneously hydrating it) in no time.
Chapstick Total Hydration Sea Minerals Exfoliator Lip Balm
Chapstick’s Total Hydration Sea Minerals Exfoliator Lip Balm features shea butter to moisturize and sea salt extract to buff away dead skin. This stick formula is also super convenient — the sleek, compact tube is tiny enough to go just about anywhere with you.
When you apply Isle of Paradise’s Self-Tanning Butter before you go to bed, you’ll wake up with the most natural-looking tan. The gradual formula has a faint green hue that works as a color corrector, so not only will you look bronze, but your tone will be nice and even.
Dial’s Clean Gentle Body Wash comes in three scents: Fragrance-Free, Waterlily, and Aloe. It’s a vegan formula that leaves skin feeling hydrated, soft, and silky (thanks to the flower oil on the ingredient list) as it cleanses.
Philosophy Purity Made Simple One-Step Facial Cleanser With Goji Berry Extract
If you love Philosophy’s Purity Made Simple One-Step Facial Cleanser, you’re going to adore this limited-edition version. Like the original, this wash has meadowfoam seed oil, which melts away leftover debris and makeup, as well as goji berry extract, a Chinese fruit known to be a powerful antioxidant that reduces inflammation.
Ole Henriksen Wrinkle Blur Bakuchiol Eye Gel es Créme
Ole Henriksen’s latest eye cream, Wrinkle Blur Bakuchiol Eye Gel Créme, is — you guessed it — made with bakuchiol, a natural alternative to retinol. The pretty lavender formula also has orchid stem cell to reduce the look of fine lines and wrinkles.
When you mix one pump of Curél’s Makeup Cleansing Oil with water you get a milky texture that instantly lifts makeup and even stubborn waterproof mascara. For that, you can thank the castor oil in the formula, which also leaves the skin feeling soft and looking dewy.
Founded by model Emily DiDonato, new skincare brand Covey launched with three products in its collection, including the First of All Cleanser. It’s made with hydrating ingredients like aloe leaf juice and babassu oil to remove all dirt and makeup effortlessly without stripping skin.
First Aid Beauty Ultra Repair Firming Collagen Cream
Made with colloidal oatmeal to calm the skin and niacinamide to reduce redness, First Aid Beauty’s Ultra Repair Firming Collagen Cream is a dream for eczema- and acne-prone skin. Not to mention its thick texture is perfect for what’s left of these dry, winter days.
Elemis just launched its first-ever essence: the Pro-Collagen Marine Moisture. It’s made a hydrating blend of hyaluronic acid and sea spring water to plump skin and diminish dryness. Gently pat the treatment into your skin after cleansing and instantly reveal glowiness.
Join me in welcoming Peace Out’s first cleanser: the Blemish Balm. Work this exfoliating formula into your skin in the morning and at night, and you’ll start to notice a clearer complexion, thanks to its salicylic acid. Plus, this jar also has hydrating hyaluronic acid in it, so don’t worry about drying your skin out.
Kate Somerville’s Kateceuticals Total Repair Cream is formulated with hyaluronic acid and squalane to hydrate and a powerful blend of ceramides and peptides to smooth out any fine lines. Consider it a one-stop shop for softer, plumper skin.
Get ready to scrub all of your skin concerns away with Thrive Causemetics’ Smart Microdermabrasion 2-in-1 Instant Facial. It’s made with a blend of alpha hydroxy acids to exfoliate and beta hydroxy acids to reduce the appearance of acne and enlarged pores. Use this treatment twice a week to reveal your softest, brightest skin.
Packed with eye-opening ingredients like caffeine and hyaluronic acid, these top-rated picks help you fake a full night’s rest.
The use of eye cream is a heated debate: half believe slathering the undereye area with decadent creams can help minimize the appearance of dark circles over time, while the other half seems to think they’re moisturizers in tiny tubs and offer nothing more than a placebo effect. There is one thing we can agree on: no one wants to look like they got roughly four hours of sleep.
Ahead, you’ll find the most luxurious and effective ones — packed with eye-opening ingredients like blood vessel-constricting caffeine and skin-plumping hyaluronic acid — to help fake a full night’s rest, no matter how many hours of Zzz’s you have or have not managed to squeeze in.
Peter Thomas Roth Vital-E Microbiome Moisture Defense Eye Cream
The integrity of the skin barrier is so important to the look and feel of your skin, especially in the very delicate undereye area. The 2020 Best of Beauty-winning Peter Thomas Ross Vital-E Microbiome Moisture Defense Eye Cream relies on prebiotic and probiotic ingredients, as well as powerful antioxidants to protect skin and ultimately reduce the look of lines and puffiness.
The hint of yellow tint in 2020 Readers’ Choice and Best of Beauty Award winner Ole Henriksen Banana Bright Eye Crème — which doesn’t actually contain banana, by the way — instantly brightens and color-corrects dark circles. Vitamin C and collagen support skin’s clarity and elasticity.
L’Oréal Paris Age Perfect Hydra-Nutrition Manuka Honey Eye Gel
Equipped with a cooling rollerball applicator, L’Oréal Paris’ Age Perfect Hydra-Nutrition Manuka Honey Eye Gel won a 2020 Best of Beauty Award for its depuffing and dark-circles-reducing abilities. The soothing combination of manuka honey, caffeine, and hyaluronic acid is especially perfect for dry, mature skin. Gently pat in any excess product with your fingers.
Retinol near your eyes sounds scary, but with this gentle cream you’ve got nothing to fear. RoC Retinol Correxion Eye Cream, an ophthalmologist-tested 2020 Best of Beauty Award winner, slowly releases the vitamin A derivative to fight fine lines around your eyes. And because it also contains hyaluronic acid, it does all this with lots of hydration.
Dr. Loretta’s peptide-packed Tightening Eye Gel nabbed a 2019 Allure Best of Beauty Award for best de-puffing eye cream for the ability to improve the area’s contour. But there’s a bonus: The proprietary Chromabright complex fades uneven pigment, making this a great pick for dark circles too.
Wake up tired eyes with Kiehl’s Youth Dose Eye Treatment, made with pro-retinol (a proprietary retinol derivative), vitamin C, and grapeseed extract. The trio works in tandem over time to brighten and minimize the appearance of lines and dark circles.
Tatcha The Pearl Tinted Eye Illuminating Treatment
Like a tinted moisturizer for your undereyes, Tatcha’s almost-too-pretty-to-use The Pearl Tinted Eye Illuminating Treatment is available in three versatile shades to instantly mask discoloration and improve the appearance of skin.
This little white jar with its signature green text by Kiehl’s is a mainstay on top shelves around the world. Avocado oil in Kiehl’s Creamy Eye Treatment with Avocado is one of the most potent natural moisturizers and works to nourish and hydrate the eyes.
Drugstore fave Neutrogena Hydro Boost Eye Gel-Cream is packed with potent hyaluronic acid, which as you may know, helps lock hydration into the skin. It’s one of those good-for-everyone picks: light enough for oily skin, hydrating for anyone, and the gel texture makes it cool to the touch.
Hydrate the delicate undereye area with a formula that’s infused with hyaluronic acid, peptides, and avocado protein extract. Plus, brightening ingredients like date seed extract mean less concealer over time.
Estée Lauder Advanced Night Repair Eye Supercharged Complex
Not getting enough of those all-important z’s? Keep ’em guessing with Estée Lauder’s Advanced Night Repair Eye Supercharged Complex, a luxurious gel-cream that combats the side effects of sleep deprivation, UV damage, and pollution buildup.
La Roche-Posay Pigmentclar Eyes was born of studies about dark undereye circles. As it turns out, the blue ones are due to a lack of microcirculation, which can result from fatigue and are worse in the morning because we sleep horizontally; brown circles can result from sun exposure, genetics, and even excessive rubbing of the eyes. If you didn’t even know undereye circles came in two types, there’s good news: This innovative LRP product was created to target both.