Finding the perfect eyeliner is the kind of undertaking that can take years of trial and error. There are hundreds of options in the beauty aisle and even more online, but how do you know which one is best without swiping it on? Not to mention the wad of cash spent experimenting with different formulas. In short, the search is exhausting.
But before I dive into the products themselves, let’s talk about what makes a good eyeliner. For starters, it needs a rich pigment. No one has time to stand in the mirror swiping on layer after layer of eyeliner — all that ends with is red, watery eyes and an exhausted arm. Next, the application needs to glide on with ease. You don’t want a liner that involves tugging on your skin or skipping along the lash line. And finally, you need a formula that stays put all day long. There’s nothing cute about sporting raccoon eyes come lunchtime.
As for the formula, the choice is up to you. There’s pencil, gel, liquid, and marker options. If you’re an eyeliner newbie, I recommend sticking with a pencil or marker applicator, which are more foolproof. But those with experience or a love for a dramatic cat-eye can grab a liquid of gel formula for optimal results.
Here are the 13 best eyeliners for every look and budget:
- Best Rated: Urban Decay 24/7 Glide-On Eye Pencil
- Best Affordable: Maybelline Curvitude Liner
- Best Splurge: Giorgio Armani Eyes to Kill Designer Eyeliner
- Best Non-Toxic: Ilia Clean Line Gel Eyeliner
- Best Pencil: Marc Jacobs Beauty Highliner Gel Eye Crayon
- Best Liquid: Urban Decay Perversion Waterproof Fine-Point Eye Pen
- Best Gel: Bobbi Brown Long-Wear Gel Eyeliner
- Best Waterproof: Stila Stay All Day Waterproof Liquid Eyeliner
- Best Color: NYX Vivid Brights Eyeliner
- Best White: KVD Vegan Beauty Cake Pencil Eyeliner in White Out
- Best Glitter: Urban Decay Heavy Metal Glitter Eyeliner
- Best for Cat Eyes: Lancôme GRANDIÔSE Bendable Liquid Eyeliner
- Best for Waterline: Charlotte Tilbury Rock ‘N Kohl Eyeliner Pencil in Eye Cheat
Best Rated: Urban Decay 24/7 Glide-On Eye Pencil
This eyeliner has won over the hearts of thousands of reviewers. It’s garnered over 10,000 five-star reviews on Sephora and users can’t stop raving about the smooth application, rich pigment, and smudge-free formula. Not to mention, there’s over 30 shades to choose from with matte, metallic, and satin finishes.
Best Affordable: Maybelline Curvitude Liner
If you find it hard to handle eyeliner, you’ll love this curved-tip option. It’s a pen applicator with a bendable, angled tip that allows the liner to be flexible at whatever angle you need. No more awkward arm positions to draw your perfect line.
Best Splurge: Giorgio Armani Eyes to Kill Designer Eyeliner
For days when bold liner is a must, reach for this luxury option from Giorgio Armani. It’s a water-based formula that has a glossy finish like a liquid liner and it stays locked in place all day long (no lie). If you’re a liner newbie, we do recommend experimenting with this liner first because it dries quickly, which is a good thing, but it leaves little room for mistakes and redos. All in all, this splurge-worthy liner is a must-have, even if you only save it for special occasions.
Best Non-Toxic: Ilia Clean Line Gel Eyeliner
It’s vegan and free of sulfates, parabens, phthalates, and many more toxic ingredients. But don’t let that make you think it doesn’t apply well, too. This gel liner glides on smoothly and doesn’t wear off mid-day. It’s also versatile if you want to blend it or smudge it around for more of a sultry, smokey look.
Best Pencil: Marc Jacobs Beauty Highliner Gel Eye Crayon
In our honest opinion, there’s no better soft-pigment option than this liner. If you prefer a pencil liner but you don’t like the sharp, pointy edge digging into your lash line, you have to try this eye crayon. It works the same as an eyeliner, but the formula is creamy and glides on like butter. And since the color is highly pigmented, swiping on one line does the trick. Plus, if you find yourself head over heels for this formula, you’ll love the 36 different colors it’s available in, too.
Best Liquid: Urban Decay Perversion Waterproof Fine-Point Eye Pen
If you’ve ever tried to master the barely there liner look, you know the struggle. That’s why we love this fine-point pen that makes drawing on practically any look a breeze. The fine tip is also flexible so you can flick out the ends and even draw graphic lines, if that’s your style. As for the pigment, it’s really black and dries semi-matte.
Best Gel: Bobbi Brown Long-Wear Gel Eyeliner
Gel eyeliner can be a wee bit intimidating, but the result is gorgeous. For starters, the color goes on bold, like, super bold. And the color dries in place relatively quickly, so you have to apply with speed and precision. But once you overcome that hurdle, the end product is truly unique. This award-winning formula stays put for up to eight hours and is water- and sweat-proof.
Best Waterproof: Stila Stay All Day Waterproof Liquid Eyeliner
Whether you’re taking a dip in the pool or plan on sweating (or crying), you need an eyeliner that promises to stay put for hours. This liquid liner stays on all day and night and no drop of water will cause it to fade, crack, or run. It’s truly magic.
Best Color: NYX Vivid Brights Eyeliner
Sure, black and brown liners are classic, but there’s something fun and youthful about applying poppy colors to your lids. These vibrant hues can be worn alone or atop your everyday black liner. Even if they aren’t the traditional pick for your 9 to 5, you’ll still have fun playing with them over the weekend.
Best White: KVD Vegan Beauty Cake Pencil Eyeliner in White Out
White eyeliner: You either love it or hate it, but truth be told, it can make a huge difference. Often suggested for smaller eyes, adding white liner can make your eyes pop and help you appear more awake, even if you only slept for three hours last night. This one doesn’t look chalky or flake throughout the day, and it glides easily so you don’t have any gaps or bumps in your liner look.
Best Glitter: Urban Decay Heavy Metal Glitter Eyeliner
Calling all the glitter obsessed! This sparkly eyeliner is so festive and perfect for adding glitz to otherwise neutral looks or amping up your eye look for a special occasion or holiday. There are over 15 shades to choose from and each are chock-full of glitter and sparkles. Consider it confetti for your lids.
Best for Cat Eyes: Lancôme GRANDIÔSE Bendable Liquid Eyeliner
Any tool or product that makes it easy to master a perfect cat eye is easily worth hundreds, if you ask us. This bendable eyeliner has a 35-degree bendable wand that is super thin and allows you to hug tight to the lash line without curving or skipping. This liquid liner is a fan-favorite and has a creamy, black finish that won’t smear.
Best for Waterline: Charlotte Tilbury Rock ‘N Kohl Eyeliner Pencil in Eye Cheat
While you can apply just about any pencil liner to your waterline, this nude liner is our go-to pick. You won’t be able to see a pigmented line when you apply, but adding this neutral tone to your waterline makes your eyes appear bigger and brighter. And the best part is, no one will know your pro-level trick for making your eyes pop.
If you’re a habitual nighttime lip-moisturizer, then this product is guaranteed to rock your routine. A cult-favorite of my friend group, this overnight lip mask is ultra-hydrating and buttery soft. It is less greasy than Vaseline or Aquaphor and offers a glossier, thicker texture that stays saturated throughout the night while also firming up those fine lines around your mouth.
Containing a mix of vitamin C and antioxidants, the Laneige Overnight Lip Sleeping Mask comes in five soothing flavors that are subtle but refreshing, including vanilla, berry, and sweet candy. Apart from being a friend-group favorite, this product is also a major hit with Sephora shoppers who’ve given it over 8,000 five-star reviews, with many citing chronically chapped lips and year-round use.
“This lip mask is a staple in my beauty regime,” said one reviewer. “I especially love it in the cooler months to keep my lips looking plump and moisturized, but love it equally as much in the summertime. Sometimes I use it as a gloss because I love the jelly texture!”
In polling my inner circle on their favorite features of the product, one agreed that she uses it in the daytime as well — including over lip tint or lipstick for a glossy finish. Another pointed to the unbelievable staying power this product has throughout the night, remarking that she wakes up with balmy lips that feel like she applied the product just an hour prior. This sustained saturation is a specialty of the Korean brand, which claims that the formula of this balm releases water onto your lips over an eight-hour release period, a proprietary technology they call Moisture Wrap.
Along with hydrating the skin around your lips, this mask is also proven to improve skin texture and elasticity. It can help firm up your skin and therefore decrease the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, so don’t be afraid to paint outside the lines in your application.
In addition to guaranteeing you supple lips for all seasons, the $22 price point of this mask doesn’t push your typical nighttime chapstick budget too far off the beaten path. For a formidable solution to your parched lips, visit the links below.
When it comes to our skin-care routines, there’s no step perhaps more indulgent than doing a face mask. Whether you prefer a deep-cleansing clay mask or a hydrating overnight gel formula, there’s no better form of beauty T.L.C. than devoting 20 to 30 minutes to take care of your skin. “[Face masks] are designed to deliver high concentrations of active ingredients to your skin,” Joshua Zeichner, director of cosmetic and clinical research at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City, tells Allure. “Generally speaking, masks are used intermittently to help give your skin a boost when it needs it.”
And while our desks are continually graced by new product launches on the daily (a tough job, we know, but someone’s got to do it), we’re taking a step back to spotlight the best face masks that left our complexions brighter, dewier, less congested, and just generally glowed-up. Happy masking!
Lancer Clarifying Detox Mask with Green Tea and 3% Sulfur
Those with acne-prone and oily skin will love the Lancer Clarifying Detox Mask with Green Tea and 3% Sulfur, which is made with a blend of clay, sulfur, azelaic acid, and fruit extracts. It was even created by a dermatologist for his own clients. According to Lancer himself, “Acne and aging are triggered by the same mechanisms,” and his skin-care products take on both with a double whammy. Because of this, the mask won a 2019 Allure Best of Beauty Award.
$75 (Shop Now)
Dr. Dennis Gross Clarifying Mask With Colloidal Sulfur
Part of Dr. Dennis Gross’s DRx Blemish Solutions collection, the Clarifying Mask With Colloidal Sulfur relies on some of least-drying acne-fighting ingredients — colloidal sulfur, bentonite clay, and kaolin clay, to be specific — to help clear up breakouts. Worn overnight, it makes a noticeable difference on the angriest blemishes without causing any additional irritation. In fact, your skin will even feel soothed come morning.
$28 (Shop Now)
Biossance Squalane + Vitamin C Rose Mask
The Biossance Squalane + Vitamin C Rose Mask pumps out as a gel and soaks in as a cream, which is a cool enough reason to give it a try, but you’ll keep coming back to it for the brightening vitamin C delivered via moisturizing squalane.
$48 (Shop Now)
Burt’s Bees Restoring Antioxidant Mask
There are a lot of reasons to hate pollution, but what it does to your skin is the one that hits closest to home. One way to fight back against its dulling effects: this Burt’s Bees Restoring Antioxidant Mask. Of all of its natural ingredients, green tea takes the spotlight as the antioxidant powerhouse. The formula hydrates to give skin a noticeable boost while preparing it to face another day outside.
$15 (Shop Now)
Renée Rouleau Rapid Response Detox Masque
Renée Rouleau promises, if you use the Rapid Response Detox Masque right when you sense a breakout coming on, this calming gel formula will essentially interrupt the erruption. But it’s not just for acne — Rouleau also recommends it when you’re puffy after partying and even to soothe skin after waxing.
$65 (Shop Now)
VENeffect Skin Calming Mask
Old-school mineral ingredients, such as calamine, zinc, and pink clay, are modernized with the VENeffect Skin Calming Mask. The 2019 Allure Best of Beauty winner can be slathered all over your face to slough away dead skin cells and banish breakouts, or you can dab it on blemishes to clear them up overnight.
$60 (Shop Now)
Herbivore Botanicals’s Blue Tansy Resurfacing Clarity Mask
The serious tingle factor from Herbivore Botanicals’s Blue Tansy Resurfacing Clarity Mask will let you know it’s working. And thanks to the alpha and beta hydroxy acids and white willow bark, skin will be left looking and feeling smooth post-rinse and beyond.
$48 (Shop Now)
Dr. Brandt Pores No More Vacuum Cleaner
A pore-purifying powerhouse, this 2019 Best of Beauty-winning maskemploys glycolic and salicylic acids to gently exfoliate and suck up oil. Tiny beads in the Dr. Brandt Pores No More Vacuum Cleaner get massaged into skin, releasing iris root and rose extract to nourish skin as the mask tightens.
$42 (Shop Now)
Drunk Elephant F-Balm Electrolyte Waterfacial Mask
Just like electrolytes in a drink help rehydrate your body, the electrolytes in this formula bring your skin back to a more hydrated, supple state. You can also thank ceramides, omega fatty acids, and antioxidants for their barrier-replenishing help.
$52 (Shop Now)
Dior Hydra Life Glow Better Jelly Mask
Consider the Dior Hydra life Glow Better Jelly Mask one that fully lives up to its name, thanks to botanical extracts packed with exfoliating alpha hydroxy acids and an invigorating gel texture. Oh, and did we mention it only takes three minutes to use?
$69 (Shop Now)
Caudalie Instant Detox Mask
Combat excess oil and breakouts with the deep-cleansing Caudalie Instant Detox Mask, which contains papaya enzymes to brighten, plus pink clay and coffee to target blackheads.
$39 (Shop Now)
Fresh Black Tea Instant Perfecting Mask
It takes a lot for a mask to call itself a not one, not two, but three-time Best of Beauty winner. Fresh’s Black Tea Instant Perfecting Mask is an all-star in our book due to its potent antioxidant-rich formula, and the fact that it leaves skin feeling “rose-petal soft.”
$92 (Shop Now)
Drunk Elephant T.L.C. Sukari Babyfacial
A whopping 25-percent alpha hydroxy acid formula packs a serious punch in Drunk Elephant’s T.L.C. Sukari Babyfacial, which quickly won over skin-care fanatics with its gentle yet effective approach to at-home exfoliation. “Ingredients such as matcha and milk thistle contain potent antioxidant and anti-pollution properties, which help to condition and soothe redness,” Shereene Idriss, a dermatologist at Union Square Laser Dermatology in New York City, tells Allure.
$80 (Shop Now)
First Aid Beauty Hello FAB Ginger and Turmeric Vitamin C Jelly Mask
Like a Jello shot for your skin, The First Aid Beauty Hello FAB Ginger and Turmeric Vitamin C Jelly Mask is a cooling jelly mask (and Allure Best of Beauty 2019 pick) that hydrates and brightens skin with antioxidant-packed ingredients, like ginger, turmeric, and vitamin C. Plus, lactic acid gently exfoliates to leave your face feeling all radian, fresh, and new.
$32 (Shop Now)
Kiehl’s Calendula & Aloe Soothing Hydration Mask
If the (skin) thirst is real, consider the Kiehl’s Calendula & Aloe Soothing Hydration Mask a complexion oasis. The cooling gel formula not only feels incredible on skin, but if you’re a fan of the brand’s toner, consider the duo a match made in skin-care heaven.
$45 (Shop Now)
GlamGlow Supermud Clearing Treatment
When it comes to acne-fighting masks, the GlamGlow Supermud Clearing Treatment is a game-changer. After leaving it on for 10 minutes, you can visibly see the oil drawn out from your pores (yuck, but in a good way), and after rinsing, skin is left looking brighter than ever.
$59 (Shop Now)
Philosophy Purity Made Simple Pore Exfoliating Clay Mask
Philosophy’s Purity Made Simple Pore Exfoliating Clay Mask — a 2017 Best of Beauty winner — contains salicylic acid to gently exfoliate skin and ward off breakouts. Another plus? It just takes five minutes to work its magic.
$35 (Shop Now)
Origins Original Skin Retexturizing Mask with Rose Clay
The Origins Original Skin Retexturizing Mask with Rose Clay is adored by many a beauty editor, and it’s easy to see why: It instantly minimizes the appearance of pores and leaves your complexion looking beyond glowy — and clocks in at under $30.
$26 (Shop Now)
Peter Thomas Roth Irish Moor Mud Purifying Black Mask
Not all mud masks are created equal. Case in point: Peter Thomas Roth’s Irish Moor Mud Purifying Black Mask doesn’t leave your complexion feeling the least bit parched, so if you’re looking for a mask that will decongest skin without drying it out, look no further.
$60 (Shop Now)
Sisley Black Rose Cream Mask
While Sisley’s Black Rose Cream Mask — you know, with its $166 price tag and all — exists firmly in “splurge” territory, the brightening, dewy results of this mask speak for itself.
$166 (Shop Now)
SK-II Facial Treatment Mask
“SK-II’s Facial Treatment Mask offers a super-luxe hydrating experience,” says Idriss, who encourages patients to save the remaining essence (which there’s a ton of in that little packet, FYI). “The power player here is pitera, a blend of vitamins, amino acids, minerals, and organic acids, that work together to stimulate cellular repair and promote more efficient skin regeneration. The results are a brightened, moisturized, and smoother skin surface.”
$95 (Shop Now)
Sunday Riley Saturn Sulfur Acne Treatment Mask
Breakouts don’t stand a chance against Sunday Riley’s Saturn Sulfur Acne Treatment Mask. And unlike other formulas, Saturn addresses much more than just blackheads; it also clears congested pores, hormonal acne, and emerging zits.
$55 (Shop Now)
Tata Harper Resurfacing Mask
Take the farm-to-skin approach with Tata Harper’s Resurfacing Mask, which curbs excess oil and evens skin tone by gently exfoliating.
$65 (Shop Now)
Laneige Water Sleeping Mask
Don’t sleep on Laneige’s Water Sleeping Mask, which, as one Allureeditor put it, is the beauty product equivalent of skin-care commercial models rinsing their faces serenely “by dramatically splashing water on it in slow motion.”
$25 (Shop Now)
Dermatologists consider retinol the holy grail of noninvasive wrinkle-prevention. When applied topically, this vitamin A derivative stimulates collagen production and cell turnover, which reduces the appearance of fine lines, evens out complexion, and unclogs pores.
That said, retinol does have its drawbacks. Side effects can include dryness, peeling, and skin irritation, and some people may see their acne flare up. So before you start slathering these products on your face and neck, you’ll want to keep a few tips in mind.
“To reduce irritation, start every other night with the product and move up to every night only when tolerated,” says Elizabeth Tanzi, MD, founder director of Capital Laser & Skin Care and assistant clinical professor at the George Washington University Medical Center. “Add extra moisturizer when using, and use only a very mild, creamy cleanser to compensate for the extra dryness.” You’ll also want to guard your skin with SPF 30—retinol may make your skin more sensitive to the sun’s harmful UV rays.
Though you can ask your doc for a prescription-strength retinoid—which is a much stronger version of what you can buy over the counter—the derms we spoke to said drugstore and beauty counter brands do the same thing, and that it just may take longer to see results. Read on for the retinol recommendations from Dr. Tanzi and other top skin doctors.
Neutrogena Ageless Intensives Deep Wrinkle Moisture, Night
“I recommend this product to my patients all the time because Neutrogena is a reliable company and the products are easy to find in any drugstore. The ingredients are of good quality and I have never had anyone complain about any skin reaction or difficulty managing this retinol.” —Jessica Krant MD, board-certified dermatologist at the Laser & Skin Surgery Center of NY and assistant clinical professor of dermatology at SUNY Downstate
CosMedix Serum 16
“This is a great intro-to-retinol product because if features microencapsulated retinol complex, which delivers results without the irritation and drying.” —Francesca Fusco, MD, assistant clinical professor of dermatology at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City
Neocutis Nouvelle Plus Retinol Correction Intensive Anti-Aging Cream
“One of my favorite retinols utilizes only 0.6% retinol in a special microbead formulation that helps penetrate the skin deeper with less skin irritation and less flaking. As an added bonus, it contains melaplex, a hydroquinone-free skin-brightening complex, that diminishes the appearance of dark spots and evens out skin tone. We recommend our patients start applying retinol two to three times a week, just before bedtime and slowly progress to nightly as tolerated.” ––Ulysses Scarpidis, New York City plastic surgeon, Scarpidis Aesthetics
Roc Retinol Correxion Deep Wrinkle Night Cream
“The highest strength of retinol you can get before a trip to the dermatologist’s office.” –– Dr. Tanzi
Amarte Wonder Cream
“A key goal within any retinol skin care program is maximum retinol effectiveness with minimized potential for irritation. Because of this, high potency nano-encapsulated retinol formulations such as Amarte Wonder Cream (which also contains multiple potent natural antioxidant ingredients) are ideal. They will ensure maximized retinol efficacy with a virtually non-existent potential for irritation.” ––Craig Kraffert, MD, Redding Derm
HydroPeptide Anti-Wrinkle Polish & Plump Peel
“I love recommending the HydroPeptide Anti-Wrinkle Polish & Plump Peel to clients as it’s an extremely effective over-the-counter option for brightening skin and tightening pores. Instead of retinol, which can be irritating to sensitive skin types, it actually utilizes Retinyl Palmitate—an ester of Vitamin A that’s converted to retinoic acid once absorbed by the skin. I use it weekly, on Sundays, (which is my pampering day!), to ensure my skin always has a healthy glow.” –– Joyce Imahiyerobo-Ip, MD, MPhil, Vibrant Dermatology
Neutrogena Rapid Wrinkle Repair Moisturizer SPF 30
“One of my favorite OTC retinoids is Neutrogena Rapid Wrinkle Repair Moisturizer SPF 30. It works against fine lines during the day with a unique sunscreen and moisturizer hybrid. A glucose derivative is combined with this retinol formula to help brighten discoloration. I especially like that it contains hyaluronic acid which holds up to 1,000 times its weight in water.” ––Jeanette Jacknin M.D. and Brand Ambassador for ZSS Skincare Solutions
SkinMedica Retinol Complex .25
“When patients want a particularly gentle formulation, I like SkinMedica Retinol Complex .25. It is one of the mildest non-prescription retinols available and is in an elegant moisturizing formulation.” —Dr. Krant
Drunk Elephant A-Passioni Retinol Cream
“I wear this gentle cream—a brand-new release from Drunk Elephant that’s made with vegan retinol—during the day with sunscreen on top. It doesn’t irritate at all and is lightweight.”
- MAKE UP FOR EVER single eyeshadows, Artist Face Color Blush in B110 & Artist Plexi Gloss in 406 Burgundy
- MAC Cosmetics Studio Fix Fluid & Bronze Bronzer
- Anastasia Beverly Hills Brow Definer in Medium Brown & Clear Brow Gel
- NYX Cosmetics Photo Loving Primer & Strobe of Genius highlighter palette.
(Disclaimer: I do have Katie’s consent to post her images on designated websites including Facebook, Instagram, WordPress, and use in my digital portfolio.)
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.
Once a hard-to-find novelty, Korean beauty (or K-beauty) is now just as accessible as drugstore staples. You can thank Glow Recipe for that. While it’s currently best known for its adorable fruit-shaped skin-care products and clean ethos, the brand got its footing by creating a marketplace for Americans to shop the best products Korea had to offer. Now the company focuses solely on its own skin-care range, which takes the glow-forward philosophy of Korean skin-care routines and distills it into a smaller number of steps that are simple to follow and fun to use.
To say Glow Recipe has been a smash hit would be an understatement. It’s beloved by bloggers and editors, and one of its signature Watermelon Glow Sleeping Masks is sold every 3 minutes! In addition to having some of the best-smelling products out there, the brand also uses no parabens, SLS, SLES, phthalates, or mineral oil, among others. Add on the Instagram-bait packaging and the fact that no product tops $50, and it’s no wonder Glow Recipe is one of the brands talked about the most.
Glow Recipe Watermelon + AHA Glow Sleeping Mask
I’m not usually a huge fan of sweet-smelling beauty products, but it’s truly impossible not to love the scent of Glow Recipe’s watermelon line. And if there’s only one product you have to try, it’s this subtly plumping, gently exfoliating overnight mask—which racked up a 5,000-person wait list at Sephora after it first launched (and a Glamour Beauty Award in the Readers’ Choice category). That’s how strong the word of mouth is on this gem. Sleeping mask might make you think of a thick night cream, but the consistency is more like a gel that instantly sinks into your skin. I put it on before bed, let its combo of amino-acid rich watermelon extract, hyaluronic acid, and gentle AHAs go to work, and wake up with noticeably dewier-looking skin.
Glow Recipe Banana Soufflé Moisture Cream
If you love bakery-style banana pudding, you will be overjoyed when you unscrew the lid of this cream and smell dessert. Even though it looks dense, it’s more bouncy gel cream than buttery lotion, which means it spreads into the thinnest of layers despite being packed with anti-inflammatory ingredients like centella asiatica and turmeric. Miraculously, it achieves the same level of hydration it usually takes several serums to accomplish, taking any dehydrated skin from parched to plump and keeping it that way. Truly, this is how the universe intended bananas to be used.
Glow Recipe Avocado Melt Retinol Sleeping Face Mask
I’m always looking for that natural dewy glow, and this retinol wonder delivers. Its bouncy texture sinks right in and magically depuffs the skin overnight. It feels as if I’ve woken up from a luxurious facial.
Glow Recipe Watermelon Pink Juice Oil-Free Moisturizer
It was the scent that got me—light and cool, like a summer day with no plans—but the moisturizer itself that made me a true fan. It’s so gentle on dry and irritable skin, which is harder to find than you’d think. I especially love that it actually makes my skin feel hydrated all day without the need to slather on a thick or sticky cream.
Glow Recipe Watermelon Lip Pop
I love a good lipstick but also suffer from chronically dry lips, so wearing it becomes a whole thing. This all-in-one from Glow Recipe combines a lip scrub, lip balm, and tint to make it a little easier. The scrub gently exfoliates away flakes before dissolving away, and the balm it leaves behind keeps the lips coated in moisture all day. My favorite part (besides the watermelon scent) is the poppy-pink tint for that perfect Popsicle flush.
Glow Recipe Pineapple Glow Serum
Vitamin C serums are notoriously hard to formulate since the ingredient is difficult to stabilize, but this serum has three different forms to maximize its stability and potency. It also has AHAs to gently exfoliate and is paired with hydrating and soothing ingredients so it’s not too drying. After a few weeks of regular use, reviewers noticed a brighter complexion, reduced hyperpigmentation, and pores that appear smaller. It’s gentle enough that it won’t triggered rosacea or cause any dry patches to crop up. Plus, the sunny golden hue and irresistible scent are half the reason why it’s so attractive to use.
Glow Recipe Watermelon Glow PHA+BHA Pore-Tight Toner
This all-in-one hydrating, exfoliating, and pore-tightening toner from Glow Recipe has truly outdone itself. With a bouncy texture (thanks to the watermelon and cactus extracts), it preps your skin for the steps to come in your skin-care regimen and smells absolutely incredible. Ever since applying this toner both day and night, my skin is soft to the touch and more radiant than ever before.
Glow Recipe Avocado Melt Retinol Eye Sleeping Mask
If the word retinol sends you running, don’t be scared of this eye cream. The brand used encapsulated retinol here for gentler, slow-release results that minimize the risk of irritation and sensitivity. The idea is that you get the benefits of retinol (speeding up cellular turnover, smoothing your skin’s surface, and spiking collagen production) without the stronger side effects (drying, flaking, and peeling—my unholy trinity). Along with retinol, avocado provides a brilliant dose of inspiration for the packaging, while also adding antioxidants and a soothing, anti-inflammatory effect. Additionally, there is hyaluronic acid (in two forms) and squalane, which are two of the best ways to receive potent hydration. What you get in the end is a formula that balances smoothing and brightening effects with plenty of moisture, so there’s no risk of dryness or irritation, even with daily use.
Glow Recipe Blueberry Bounce Gentle Cleanser
My skin-care routine is something I look forward to as soon as I wake up and the second I get done with work. The first step is a great cleanser, and I love this blueberry one. The texture is on the thicker side for a gel, which is ideal for removing makeup from the day, especially stubborn mascara. I also love that it doubles as a clarifying mask when you leave it on for about five minutes. A perfect two-in-one for bouncy-smooth, hydrated skin.
Glow Recipe Watermelon Glow Ultra-Fine Mist
I’m a big fan of face mists and the smell of this watermelon spray is truly a delight. It’s light and refreshing, and doesn’t feel sticky or tacky on the face.
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, is often misused or underutilized.
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.”
Who is Retinol best for?
While retinol can be beneficial for most skin types, it’s not one-size-fits-all. “Retinoids are notoriously difficult to manage for people with sensitive or easily irritated skin,” says Krant. “Technically speaking, everyone could use one, but not everyone is able to figure out how to make it work for them. The conditions that make it the trickiest are rosacea, dryness, contact allergies, and general sensitivity.” She recommends people with sensitive skin try using Adapalene (like Differin), which has a gentler effect on skin and is FDA-approved for treating acne, but can also be used for antiaging.
“I always try to get my patients on the highest retinoid that they can tolerate, but because of initial redness and dryness, this often requires starting at a lower strength and building up over time,” says Marchbein, who recommends Skinbetter AlphaRet Cream (which you can get through a derm) or the CeraVe Renewing Retinol Serum as entry-level products.
Pay attention to what percentage of retinol you’re using too: 0.05% is a good place to start if you don’t have sensitive skin, and you can work up to stronger amounts over time. If you have more serious acne, your doctor can prescribe you a prescription retinoid (adapalene or tretinoin), that will be more potent, but can also be more irritating.
What side effects does retinol have?
Retinoids have a reputation for being a harsh on your skin—you can expect some dryness, redness, and peeling—but according to Krant, this is just a side effect of the retinoids effectively turning over cells. While this irritation can be, well, irritating, it can be managed with the proper routine. Marchbein recommends using acids (like AHAs, BHAs, and PHAs) sparingly when using a retinol, and to be careful with treatments like chemical peels and lasers (i.e., tell your derm or skin tech what retinol you’re using before getting a treatment so they can make a proper assessment). If you’re fighting acne, she recommends not layering benzoyl peroxide and retinoids, since they can cancel out each other’s efficacy.
How do you use retinol in your skin-care routine?
“Retinoids are the backbone of nearly every good skin-care routine,” says Marchbein. “I recommend using both a vitamin C serum and retinoid daily, since they serve different purposes and work synergistically to help your skin look its best.” Since vitamin C protects your skin from free radical damage caused by the sun and pollution, your serum should be applied in the morning, whereas retinoids build collagen and help repair, so they should be used at night.
She also says to stick with gentle cleansers (she likes CeraVe), and to always follow your retinol with a moisturizer, especially those with hyaluronic acid and ceramides. If your skin is really irritated, you can try buffering, where you apply moisturizer before retinol to reduce side effects. Most derms also recommend easing into retinol, starting with application once a week, and working up to every other or every night, depending on how tolerant your skin is.
No matter what, “a broad-spectrum SPF 30+ should be worn religiously every day of the year, not only to prevent skin cancers, wrinkles, and sun spots, but because retinoids can make your skin more sensitive to the sun,” says Marchbein.
Begin in Your Mid ’20s or Early ’30s
Thirty has long been the banner year for introducing retinol into one’s routine, but 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, many women are starting before then and 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.” And in that spirit, 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 New York dermatologist Francesca Fusco, MD. “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.
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 neglected. “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.”
When it comes to moisturizing your skin, it can be challenging to achieve the perfect balance between hydrated and greasy, especially on hot, humid summer days. To the rescue: hyaluronic acid serums. Hyaluronic acid is a powerful skincare ingredient that can help retain moisture. “It’s a humectant that attracts water, hydrating the skin without making it oily,” explains William Kwan, MD, a San Francisco-based dermatologist. For this reason, serums that contain hyaluronic acid are ideal for those with oily skin. “Many moisturizers are too heavy or can cause acne [for people with oily skin], which is why I love hyaluronic acid gels,” he says.
What’s more, hyaluronic acid can deliver serious anti-aging benefits—whether or not your skin shows signs of aging. “Millennials should consider including hyaluronic acid to ensure their skin is adequately moisturized and stave off dryness and irritation,” says Ted Lain, MD, a dermatologist from Austin, Texas. “Older people need hyaluronic acid not only to help moisturize, but also to delay skin thinning, itching, and the overall aging process.”
La Roche-Posay Redermic C Anti-Wrinkle Firming Moisturizing Filler for Sensitive Skin
Ted Lain, MD, a dermatologist from Austin, Texas, loves this hydrating serum, which he says delivers both short- and long-term benefits. “I look for products that can give an immediate plumping due to short chain hyaluronic acid, and a longer term moisturizing ability with the longer chain hyaluronic acid and other humectants,” he explains.
SkinMedica HA5 Rejuvenating Hydrator
It’s not cheap, but this product is “the most consistent” over-the-counter hyaluronic acid serum New Jersey-based dermatologist Jeanine Downie, MD, has found. “It has five different types of hyaluronic acid in it,” she says. “And it hydrates the skin without making it sticky.”
Neutrogena Hydro Boost Hydrating Serum
New York City-based dermatologistDebra Jaliman, MD, recommends this Neutrogena serum. “It contains hyaluronic acid, it’s non-comedogenic, and it’s incredibly hydrating,” she says. Plus, it’s wallet-friendly.
Skinceuticals Hyaluronic Acid Intensifier
Dr. Kwan’s top pick is this Skinceuticals serum, which he says is perfect for aging skin, since hyaluronic acid can help revive the skin’s natural elasticity. “It also has 2% licorice extract, which can help lighten and brighten the skin,” he adds.
The Ordinary Hyaluronic Acid 2% + B5
It’s tough to beat the price (or user reviews) of The Ordinary’s hyaluronic acid serum, but you won’t be sacrificing quality either.
CeraVe Hyaluronic Acid Face Serum
Dermatologists love this brand, which is formulated with ultra gentle ingredients that won’t irritate even the most sensitive skin. And of course, their hyaluronic acid serum is no different. We love that the formula layers beautifully under their classic Moisturizing Cream.
Peter Thomas Roth Water Drench Hyaluronic Cloud Serum
A whopping 75% hyaluronic acid, along with other top ingredients like silk proteins and good-for-skin minerals, help make this serum a bestseller. Plus: It’s free of sulfates and phthalates.