The discussion surrounding the ‘R’ word is a frenzied one. Retinoids (the umbrella term for retinol products) are powerful enough to improve skin texture, pigmentation, and tone in just a few drops of a retinol serum or dollops of cream. The transformative effects on your skin are due to very potent formulations, which have caused retinols to garner a lot of differing opinions — and even more questions. When should you use them (along with when should you definitely steer clear of them)? How do the formulas work? Are they compatible with sensitive skin? And even, how do you refer to them? Are they retinols? And what’s retin-A? These questions and more have confused many a skin-care fanatic.
With plenty of false information floating around about retinoids, below are 11 myths about retinols and the truth behind them.
All these ingredients starting with ‘R’ (Retinol, Retinoic Acid) basically do the same thing.
Yes and no. Prescription formulas contain retinoic acid, the magic ingredient that fights visible signs of aging; nonprescription alternatives need to be converted into retinoic acid by the skin at the cellular level. “In off-the-shelf formulas, the ingredient called retinol is the only derivative of vitamin A worth using,” says Dana Sachs, an associate professor of dermatology at the University of Michigan Medical School. “There’s a lot of literature showing that while retinol is more gentle than retinoic acid, biochemically it does exactly the same thing — it may just take longer to see results.” The same can’t be said for the derivatives called pro-retinols (aka, retinyl palmitate, retinyl acetate, and retinyl linoleate), which are the most gentle — but weaker, too. Of these formulas, Retin-A requires a prescription, but others are available over the counter.
For a simple yet potent shot of rejuvenating power in the form of 0.3% pure retinol, try the L’Oréal Paris Revitalift Derm Intensives Night Serum, shown below. Another option: Incorporate it into your routine with a moisturizer, like Skinceuticals’s Retinol 0.5. or the Murad Retinol Youth Renewal Night Cream (which contains a less irritating form of vitamin A known as retinyl propionate).
Retinoids work by exfoliating your skin.
“There’s often peeling and redness, but that’s a side effect of the irritation, not a true and even exfoliation like the one you get from an ingredient like glycolic acid,” says Sachs. “The peeling is certainly not why people start looking better. In fact, it’s why most people give it up.” Retinoids work at a much more profound level by affecting gene expression and causing enhanced collagen production, skin smoothing, and an evening of pigmentation.
You shouldn’t wear retinoids during the day because they increase your risk of sunburn.
“This is one of the biggest myths out there,” says Sachs. It’s true that retinoids break down in sunlight, which is why they are bottled in opaque packaging and are still best worn at night to make sure they aren’t rendered inactive. However, they do not make the skin more prone to sunburn. “This misconception came about because in some early studies, people described putting on a retinoid, walking into the sun, and immediately burning. But that redness is likely related to heat exposure,” says Sachs. “Clinical studies have shown pretty definitively that retinoids do not lower the MED — or minimal erythemal dos — of human skin, which is the amount of UV light you can take before the skin burns.”
You should always apply retinoids to dry skin.
Sometimes, even doctors break the rules: “I know the instructions on the box often recommend waiting until your face is completely dry before applying a retinoid,” says Sachs. “But there’s no evidence in the scientific literature I’ve seen that shows damp or wet skin exacerbates sensitivity.” And while we’re on the topic, applying a retinoid to damp skin doesn’t maximize its potency, either. “Nothing having to do with application decides how much of the retinol is converted into retinoic acid, the form of vitamin A that actually repairs skin,” Sachs says. “That’s solely related to your skin’s chemistry and retinoid receptors.”
You’ll need to wait four to six weeks for your retinoid to really work.
Turns out it’ll be double — or even triple — that amount of time, according to Gary Fisher, a professor of dermatology at the University of Michigan Medical School. “Many over-the-counter formulas claim you’ll see results within weeks,” says Fisher. “But in my experience, it takes an average of 12 weeks for retinoic acid to produce noticeable changes in the skin. So stick with it for at least that long to see the benefits.”
Gentle retinoids can be just as effective as stronger ones.
“The words ‘sensitive skin’ on a label (such as on RoC Retinol Correxion Sensitive Night Cream shown here) are often code for a low concentration of active ingredients,” says Sachs. However, dermatologists still recommend them because these lower concentrations (and soothing supplemental ingredients) make them the perfect gateway retinoid. “Once a patient with sensitive skin has tolerated a tube of that over a period of several weeks, we can then graduate to a stronger retinoid knowing the skin cells are now better adapted to handle it,” says Jonathan Weiss, an Atlanta-based dermatologist.
You should stop applying retinoid if your skin gets irritated.
Irritation that flares up after adding vitamin A to your regimen is “all part of the process,” says Weiss. “We’ve seen clinically that after two or three weeks the skin cells adapt to the retinoic acid and begin to tolerate the ingredient.” The caveat: We’re talking about reasonably flushed, drier-than-usual, lightly peeling skin. “If the discomfort is prolonged or very uncomfortable, use it once a week or switch to a weaker formula,” says Sachs.
You can’t take your retinoid on vacation.
“A change in climate won’t suddenly make your skin react to a retinoid you were tolerating a few days earlier at home,” says Weiss. Once skin cells have adapted to the strength of the retinoid you’re applying, any irritation (called retinoid dermatitis) generally stops. “It’s unlikely to flare up again until you switch to something stronger,” says Weiss. Still, if you’re jumping on a long-haul flight or going skiing, it’s a good idea to layer a heavier moisturizer over your retinoid to avoid dryness, which makes skin more susceptible to irritation in general.
OK, but you shouldn’t take it with you on yourbeach vacation.
I’m still processing the fact that retinoids don’t increase the risk of sunburn, too. But get this: Combining retinoids with island hopping may even be a good thing. They not only boost collagen production, but may also have the potential to stop photoaging before it starts. “They’ve been shown to prevent the rise of collagenase — the enzyme that breaks down collagen — after UV exposure,” says Sachs.
Don’t put retinoids around your eyes. The skin there is too sensitive.
Not only can you, you really should — that’s where most of the damage shows up, says Weiss. “Studies have shown that people who apply retinoids right up to the eyes get the best results.” And if you get it in your eye? “It may sting a little, but it won’t do any harm,” says Weiss, and the skin there is no more likely to get red or flaky than anywhere else on the face.
The skin-smoothing benefits of retinoids plateau after six months.
“Several clinical studies have shown that prescription retinoids will significantly improve skin for over a year,” says Weiss — and Johnson & Johnson recently completed a trial demonstrating that over-the-counter retinol smooths wrinkles and fades blotches over 12 months, too. OK, so what are you supposed to do after the year is up? The answer isn’t to rush off and embrace a new ingredient (peptides, anyone?). Your skin may just be ready for a stronger prescription retinoid, says Weiss.
Although some people are using these stay-at-home days to give their skin a break from foundation, others are using this time at home as an excuse to test new base makeup. If you’re wondering what people are loving in the matte foundation category, lucky for you, there’s quite a range of picks to share. These oil-free base products are often assumed to be drying or face-flattening, but that’s not always the case — especially if you pick the right matte foundation formula.
According to cosmetic chemist Ginger King, it’s the silica powder in the oil-free formulas in matte foundations that makes them dry down with zero shine or dew. “Silica powder helps to absorb oil and is often used in foundation ingredient lists to give a matte appearance,” she says. “Some brands also use clay as a way to keep skin looking matte.”
Knowing that, matte foundations may be the way to go because many of them are also transfer-proof, meaning the product won’t smudge onto your mask. Plenty of non-dewy base products deliver a flawless finish, stave off shine all day, and disguise blemishes.
New York City-based makeup artist Tommy loves to use a matte base on anyone with oily or acne-prone skin. “I always pull for a matte foundation when working on a client that wants to cover any blemishes,” he says. “I’ll apply small amounts at a time to the face to ensure nothing dries down before I blend it out with a large kabuki brush. If I need more — I add as I go.”
Estée Lauder Double Wear Stay-in-Place Foundation
This liquid foundation is an anti-shine person’s dream. The Estée Lauder Double Wear Stay-in-Place Foundation comes in 56 shades and creates an even skin tone if you’re trying to cover up blemishes. Keep in mind, it’s full coverage, so if that’s not your jam, you can use it as a spot cover-up because it’s also great for that.
$42 (Shop Now)
NARS Soft Matte Complete Foundation
The NARS Soft Matte Complete Foundation is a great pick if you want a matte finish but sheerer coverage. “This hydrating formula has a way of just appearing like real skin, just better,” says Tommy. I believe that the hydrating hyaluronic acid in its formula explains why. Just one drop is enough to cover your entire face with whatever application tool your heart desires.
$40 (Shop Now)
UOMA Beauty Say What?! Foundation
Yes, UOMA Beauty’s Say What?! Foundation is matte, but it’s spiked with hyaluronic acid to keep skin hydrated throughout the day. Its creamy texture is a medium-coverage finish in 51 shades — no wonder it has received a Best of Beauty Award.
$39 (Shop Now)
NYX Stay Matte But Not Flat Liquid Foundation
The NYX Stay Matte But Not Flat Liquid Foundation is oil-free, so have no fear of it clogging your pores. Its hydrating, water-based formula is packed inside a squeezy tube, making it a mess-free dream and allowing you to get every last drop of it.
$8 (Shop Now)
L’Oréal Paris Infallible Pro-Matte Foundation
The L’Oréal Paris Infallible Pro-Matte Foundation is a great pick because it’s affordable, and the coverage is incredible. Apply a pea-sized amount to your forehead, cheeks, and chin, and buff it out with your favorite sponge, brush, or even your fingers. You’ll have a smooth, even base in no time.
$13 (Shop Now)
Clé de Peau Beauté Radiant Fluid Foundation Matte Broad Spectrum SPF 20 Sunscreen
“The Clé de Peau Beauté Radiant Fluid Foundation is a great splurge because it gives you an even base with its luxurious texture,” says makeup artist Nam Vo. The luxe liquid is infused with SPF 20 and illuminates skin while keeping it shine-free in all the right places.
$130 (Shop Now)
Make Up For Ever Matte Velvet Skin Full Coverage Foundation
If you have oily skin, this one’s for you. The Make Up For Ever Matte Velvet Skin Full Coverage Foundation provides a soft, velvety finish for an ultra-smooth base. It also has oil-absorbing powders in it to keep you completely matte for a full day of Zoom meetings.
$38 (Shop Now)
CoverGirl Full Spectrum Matte Ambition All Day Foundation
The CoverGirl Full Spectrum Matte Ambition All Day Foundation is the perfect base to wear under your mask. It’s comfortable, soft on the skin, and it’s so full coverage you may want to even skip concealer. Plus, it won’t leave foundation marks on your mask.
$12 (Shop Now)
Fenty Beauty Pro Filt’r Soft Matte Longwear Foundation
When Rihanna dropped the Fenty Beauty Pro Filt’r Soft Matte Longwear Foundation it paved a way for beauty brands to become more shade inclusive. It also has an insanely good formula that’s never cakey and doesn’t let any shine come through. Tommy suggests applying this formula in dots around the face a blending it out with your favorite foundation brush.
$35 (Shop Now)
HUDA Beauty #FauxFilter Full Coverage Matte Foundation
The HUDA Beauty #FauxFilter Full Coverage Matte Foundation is commerce writer Angela Trakoshis’s favorite foundation ever. “With just one pump, this thick foundation does exactly what its name reads: creates a filter for your face,” she says. It’s matte, it’s lightweight, and those dark spots you want to conceal? They disappear with just one layer of this stuff.
$40 (Shop Now)
Clinique Stay Matte Oil-Free Foundation
The Clinique Stay Matte Foundation is an oil-free formula that keeps your skin looking crease-free all day long. It’s also buildable, so layer it up with your favorite beauty sponge for a more full-coverage effect.
$31 (Shop Now)
It feels almost weightless, absorbs instantly, and doesn’t leave a single trace of white cast or residue.
Every day, without fail, you need to be slathering sunscreen on your face. After not wearing SPF regularly for the first 21 years of my life, it’s basically become my way of sending a love letter to my skin. However, I’d be absolutely lying if I said that I wasn’t picky about my sunscreens.
Look, some people will stand by mineral sunscreens, and if they were the only option available — sure, I would, too. But if I’m choosing from a range of broad-spectrum (meaning it protects against both UVA and UVB rays) sunscreens that are at or above the American Academy of Dermatology-recommended SPF 30 level — barring any irritation or side effects — I’ll choose a sunscreen that I’ll actually enjoy putting on every day.
Current cult-favorite is Flesh Beauty’s Sheer Flesh Hydrating Serum, which is a chemical sunscreen that delivers broad-spectrum SPF 35 protection. “Chemical sunscreens penetrate the top layers of the skin and absorb UV rays to prevent them from causing damage,” Y. Claire Chang, a board-certified dermatologist in New York City, explains.
Sheer Flesh contains common chemical sunscreen ingredients, like homosalate, octisalate, and avobenzone (but does not contain oxybenzone or octinoxate), but there are actually over 30 chemical sunscreen ingredients. “A combination of ingredients is often used together to ensure broad-spectrum coverage,” Chang says.
Mineral sunscreens, on the other hand, are made with ingredients such as zinc oxide and titanium dioxide. “They are small mineral particles that sit on the surface of the skin and act as a [physical] barrier to reflect UVA and UVB rays away from the skin,” Chang says.
Science aside, let’s get into why Sheer Flesh, in my opinion, is one of the best sunscreens out there. As most people of color would agree (even though I’m light-skinned), nobody likes dealing with white cast or taking a long time to fully rub in sunscreen. “Chemical sunscreens tend to be more lightweight and non-sticky, so they are generally easier to apply and do not leave a whitening effect,” Chang says, speaking to their appeal.
So not only does Sheer Flesh absorb immediately without any hint of residue, but it’s also really hydrating — which I’m about all day, every day. It feels like a cool burst of moisture, and my skin can’t get enough of it. To be more specific, it’s infused with glycerin, pomegranate, and honey extract — all ingredients that hydrate and nourish skin. It also gives the skin a slightly dewy finish, which is usually only achieved with makeup products.
It also has a lovely, but not overwhelming, scent, thanks to a blend of chamomile, orange, and lemon notes. I can live with sunscreens that smell, well, like sunscreens — because it’s serving a greater purpose — but if a sunscreen smells like citrus fruits, I’m not complaining. It’s also the perfect follow-up to my morning moisturizer!
No more excuses for skipping sunscreen!
Wearing a bra, pants, or even a T-shirt without holes in it are all optional when working from home, but sunscreen should be non-negotiable.
I know what you’re probably thinking: “Why do I need SPF if I’m inside?” Well, if you have windows in your house, then it’s possible for UVA rays to penetrate through the glass and onto your skin.
My skincare routine since the beginning of COVID-19 in March 2020 has fluctuated: from being neglected to super intense. I’ve stripped the products I use every day down to the essentials (including SPF!), but I jump at an easy way out. That’s where hybrid products like Supergoop!’s Daily Dose Vitamin C + SPF enter the conversation.
Daily Dose is the first serum to combine vitamin C with SPF. Here’s how it works: the formula contains a stable form of vitamin C (10% 3-O-Ethyl Ascorbic Acid) to tackle dark spots, plus additional radiance-boosting ingredients such as niacinamide, and kakadu plum extract. Because mineral sunscreen operates at a different pH level than vitamin C, Supergoop! has included an oxybenzone-free chemical SPF 40 in the serum. There’s also marine extract to protect skin against blue light, another cause of hyperpigmentation.
Skin cancer and sun damage are the two most important reasons for wearing sunscreen despite spending most of your time social distancing at home. But if the focus of your skincare routine is hyperpigmentation, acne, uneven texture, or all of the above, you’re wasting your money buying expensive products with active ingredients if you’re not topping off your routine with sunscreen to prevent further damage.
That’s why, as someone who has become somewhat lazy with their skincare, replacing my vitamin C serum and SPF with Daily Dose was a no-brainer.
If you’re using the serum in lieu of a traditional SPF, Daily Dose should be the last step in your morning skincare routine. However, you can add another SPF over top for an extra layer of protection, or you can finish things off with your favorite moisturizer, which won’t disrupt SPF filter.
While serum comes out of the bottle with a thin gel-like texture, it gets thicker like a traditional SPF when you apply it. However, the white cast goes away with a bit of massaging and it doesn’t feel heavy under any moisturizer or make it pill.
The verdict is still out whether the vitamin C is doing anything to get rid of dark spots. But reviews are being patient. And in the meantime, its glow-boosting ingredients gives an instantly dewy look.
Plus, I like the convenience of having two important skincare steps in one product!
I feel as though physical exfoliation is one of the most satisfying skin-care practices because of the instant gratification it can provide (hello, immediately refreshed skin). Not only does exfoliation feel amazing and leave skin instantly more luminous; a good face scrub paves the way for the serums and moisturizers to follow, according to board-certified dermatologist Jeannette Graf.
“Exfoliating can help skin-care products penetrate 20 percent better,” she tells Allure. But here’s a word to the wise: As with most things, there is such thing as too much of a good thing in the case of scrubbing your face. You can avoid over-exfoliation by capping your scrub sessions to a maximum of three times per week.
Whether you need something that’s extra gentle for sensitive skin or want a scrub with a little extra oomph for perpetually clogged pores, I’ve got you — and your wallet — covered. Happy scrubbing, folks.
Cetaphil Extra Gentle Daily Scrub
It’s not ideal to use a face scrub every day, according to dermatologists — so if you’re going to kick up your exfoliation, use the most gentle scrub possible to prevent damage to your skin barrier. The daily scrub from Cetaphil is packed with pH-balancing glycerin, so it hydrates while it sloughs away dead skin cells.
$10 (Shop Now)
Bioderma Sebium Exfoliating Gel
If you’re prone to acne, dullness, and hyperpigmentation, here’s a prime pick for you. The itty-bitty granules in Bioderma’s Exfoliating Gel physically exfoliate until they burst with salicylic and glycolic acid, which chemically exfoliate away impurities. With this formula, you’re getting twice the exfoliation in one product.
$15 (Shop Now)
Neutrogena Oil-Free Acne Wash Pink Grapefuit Exfoliating Scrub
Dermatologists love the Best of Beauty-winning Pink Grapefruit Facial Cleanser from Neutrogena, and the scrub version is full of all the same clarifying ingredients, plus tiny microbeads that give an added boost of physical exfoliation.
$11 (Shop Now)
No7 Radiant Results Revitalising Daily Face Polish
No7’s Daily Face Polish contains ginseng root, which, all by itself, comes with a multitude of skin benefits. According to dermatologists, ginseng contains all sorts of antioxidants and vitamins that prevent fine lines, acne, and even hyperpigmentation.
$9 (Shop Now)
Aveeno Positively Radiant Skin Brightening Daily Scrub
You can always count on an Aveeno product to be gentle on even the most sensitive skin types, and its Radiant Skin Brightening Daily Scrub is no exception. With antioxidant soy extract, gylcerin, and jojoba oil, this scrub exfoliates just as much as it soothes and nourishes.
$12 (Shop Now)
Bliss Micro Magic
Just like the treatments available at Bliss Spa locations, the Micro Magic scrub will leave you feeling totally refreshed. It’s basically a gentle, at-home version of a microdermabrasion that sloughs away dirt and oil with volcanic pumice while its aloe vera soothes and de-puffs.
$13 (Shop Now)
La Roche-Posay Ultra-Fine Scrub
If sensitive skin plus physical exfoliation sounds like a recipe for disaster, let the Ultra-Fine Scrub by La Roche-Posay change your mind. Super-fine pumice particles — suspended in a cooling gel formula — provide just the right amount of grit without feeling scratchy. Plus, this stuff leaves skin with a quenched suppleness you might expect from a water-based gel moisturizer.
$18 (Shop Now)
L’Oréal Paris Pure-Sugar Scrub Nourish & Soften
This L’Oréal Paris sugar scrub is everything a sugar scrub should be — but better. The Pure-Sugar Scrub is infused with not one but three different types of sugar, suspended in a creamy mixture of coconut oil and cocoa butter. The skin-softening formula isn’t overly abrasive, yet it leaves skin visibly glowing after one use. As you probably guessed by the ingredients, the formula smells like baking batter — but just like real batter, you definitely shouldn’t eat it. That said, it does doubles as an excellent lip scrub if you’re compelled to use it near your mouth.
$10 (Shop Now)
Simple Smoothing Facial Scrub
Oily-skinned folks, listen up. The creamy white exfoliator from Simple contains rice powder to absorb excess oil, and the gentle silica particles — a replacement for microbeads — work to manually slough off dead skin, leaving you positively glowing.
$8 (Shop Now)
Yes To Coconut Energizing Coffee 2-in-1 Scrub & Cleanser Stick
In case you prefer toting your cleansers around in stick form, consider this portable scrub by Yes to Coconut, which makes exfoliating way easier than ever. Not to mention, Yes To’s coconut and coffee combo smells amazing.
$10 (Shop Now)
Olay Micropolishing Cleansing Infusions Facial Cleanser with Crushed Ginger
This micro-polish cleanser from Olay reminds me of formulas that are five times its price. The tiny granules feel pleasantly sandy and break down into a creamy consistency as you cleanse, leaving skin visibly glowy post-rinse. Plus, the formula has a zingy scent that smells like summer and happy days, thanks to crushed ginger and citrus.
$10 (Shop Now)
St. Ives Energizing Coconut & Coffee Scrub
Fun fact: This concoction from St. Ives was born after the brand asked fans which scrub they’d like to see next on shelves. This enlivening coffee and coconut combo won. Fans of the (albeit, controversial) Apricot Scrub will love how this provides the same level of super-deep exfoliation (thanks to an infusion of crushed walnut) with the added benefits of skin-softening coconut and circulation-promoting coffee.
$5 (Shop Now)
Yes To Grapefruit Daily Facial Scrub
Citrus scents in the shower are a pick-me-up as much as they are a wake-me-up. The grapefruit extract in Yes To’s citrusy scrub is naturally high in vitamin C (so it boosts collagen production and helps reduce hyperpigmentation), as well as lycopene, which naturally aids in protecting skin from UV damage.
$7 (Shop Now)
Bioré Charcoal Pore Minimizer
The beaker-like nozzle of Bioré’s Charcoal Pore Minimizer makes you feel like you’re in chemistry class every time you use this black scrub. The charcoal powder pulls out oil and pollutants like a magnet, and it all rinses away with the gel.
$10 (Shop Now)
Mario Badescu Kiwi Face Scrub
The super-creamy formula, which features kiwi seeds and alpha-hydroxy acids (which you can read more about here), leaves your skin smoother than ever — and yet it’s astonishingly nonabrasive. The pearlescent mint-green color is so stunning!
$15 (Shop Now)
Peace Out Retinol Eye Stick
This squalane-based balm not only nourishes dry under-eyes, but it also is packed with concentrated encapsulated retinol (which is more gentle on the sensitives skin region) to smooth the look of fine lines.
Maybelline New York Lash Sensational Sky High Mascara
This magical tube of mascara went viral on TikTok right after it hit stores thanks to its ability to transform stubby lashes in a few swipes — and believe us, it really does live up to the hype.
Living Proof Curl Elongator
From the brand’s first foray into the curly hair category, this cloud-like cream — designed for type 4A, 4B and 4C coils — gives game-changing definition. It also contains a Healthy Curl Complex, which provides a protective, strengthening barrier around each strand.
Supergoop! Daily Dose Vitamin C + SPF 40
Combining the two most important A.M. skincare steps, the first-ever hybrid Vitamin C and SPF lotion gives you no excuse to say you forgot either one.
Sol de Janeiro Triple Brazilian Butter Hair Repair Treatment
This mask’s three Brazilian butters deeply nourish damaged ends. The best part? The warm, tropical scent makes you feel like you’re on vacation, which we’re all craving right now.
Caudalie Resveratrol-Lift Serum
Besides looking oh-so gorgeous on your vanity, this pretty pink potion really does pack a punch. The eco-conscious brand (this packaging is 100% recyclable through Terracycle) partnered with Harvard University to develop a patent-pending booster that’s proven to pump up your skin’s natural production of hyaluronic acid and collagen.
Olay Regenerist Collagen Peptide24 Moisturizer
The fragrance-free cream contains peptides that penetrate deep to perk up your complexion. Bonus: The texture feels just as luxurious as fancy formulas.
For some days and for some people, foundations and concealers just feel like way too much work — and way too much coverage. While there’s certainly a time and a place for a full-coverage face, there’s no denying the effortless and hydrating properties of a tinted moisturizer. But although the concept of a tinted moisturizer sounds pretty simple, there are tons of specific ingredients that make the difference between an OK tinted moisturizer and an amazing one. And by “amazing tinted moisturizer,” I really mean one that actually — well, you know… moisturizes.
So ALLURE editors asked makeup artists and cosmetic chemists to break down what they think are the best tinted moisturizers out there. If you love makeup that comes with added skincare benefits for plump, dewy, and hydrated skin, try one of these picks.
Whether you end up loving an older staple from a brand like Laura Mercier or an experimentative new take like Ilia Beauty’s pigmented serum, you’ll find your skin is in much better shape for it.
BareMinerals Complexion Rescue Tinted Hydrating Gel Cream
Many tinted moisturizers have powder pigments that soak up skin’s oils, zapping some of the natural moisture from your face. To fix this, BareMinerals coated its pigments in lauroyl lysine, an amino acid derived from coconuts.
“Because the pigments are cocooned, they won’t dry out your skin. Instead, the formula feels very soft and silky,” says cosmetic chemist Ni’Kita Wilson. When you mix those pigments with glycerin and squalane, you get a formula that “actively promotes hydration.” In addition to containing moisturizing ingredients, the light, cooling gel evens out skin tone and minimizes redness, which means all you’re left with is a soft, dewy glow.
$33 (Shop Now)
Tarte Maracuja Tinted Hydrator
Tarte’s tinted moisturizers have always been an Allure editor favorite, and its latest version is no different. The Maracuja Tinted Hydrator combines the skin-nourishing properties of maracuja oil with plumping hyaluronic acid and collagen, plus brightening turmeric, for skin that glows well after you’ve taken this off.
$29 (Shop Now)
Ilia Beauty Super Serum Skin Tint
Squalane, hyaluronic acid, and niacinamide join forces for Ilia’s Super Serum Skin Tint. With the added benefit of sun-protective SPF 40, this thick, hydrating serum offers up light but buildable coverage you can rub in quickly and easily with your fingertips.
$46 (Shop Now)
Erborian BB Cream Tinted Moisturizer
Even though its only available in a few light shades, Allure associate beauty director Sarah Kinonen loves this BB Cream Tinted Moisturizer for its hydrating ginseng and brightening fruit extracts. For those who are extra prone to redness, you can also turn to the brand’s Best of Beauty-winning CC Red Correct.
$39 (Shop Now)
Burt’s Bees Goodness Glows Tinted Moisturizer
With its pH-balancing glycerin, squalene, and sunflower seed oil, it’s clear to see why Burt’s Bees Goodness Glows has such high ratings online. What’s more: It contains antioxidant green tea extract that reduces redness, leaving behind a calm, even base for its sheer pigments.
$12 (Shop Now)
Beautycounter Dew Skin Tinted Moisturizer
This tinted moisturizer is free of pthalates, parabens, and 1,500 other ingredients that the cruelty-free brand has identified as potentially harmful or irritating, so you’re left with only tried-and-true elements, like glycerin and sodium hyaluronate.
“Both of these ingredients are humectants, meaning they draw moisture to the surface of the skin to keep cells hydrated,” says Wilson. The creamy formula is more pigmented than most tinted moisturizers, so it does a great job of covering imperfections. One catch: Its thick consistency makes it a little difficult to spread, so you’ll likely end up using more product than usual.
$45 (Shop Now)
Laura Mercier Tinted Moisturizer Natural Skin Perfector
Ask any beauty fan and they’ll likely tell you that Laura Mercier’s is the first tinted moisturizer they ever used — and fell in love with. With its sheer, buildable coverage and moisture-packed formula, there’s a reason this product is a cult favorite and four-time Allure Best of Beauty winner.It’s noncomedogenic, but those with acne-prone or oily skin may benefit even more from the upgraded oil-free version of the formula.
$47 (Shop Now)
Chanel Les Beiges All-In-One Healthy Glow Fluid
For skin that needs a hefty dose of hydration, this illuminating tinted moisturizer packs a major punch. It contains glycerin, which leaves skin feeling soft and plump while dimethicone wards off dryness throughout the day.
“Dimethicone reduces transepidermal water loss, which is when water escapes through the skin and into the atmosphere, so it works long-term to increase skin’s hydration,” explains Wilson. And thanks to the smallest, tiniest shimmery gold particles, you’re left with a natural, allover glow that will have people asking if you just got back from vacation.
$40 (Shop Now)
Clinique Moisture Surge Sheertint Hydrator
Just like Clinique’s beloved Moisture Surge cream, the Sheertint Hydrator penetrates deep beneath the skin to hydrate and calm the skin — that’s thanks to its strong concentration of cucumber extract, aloe, and hyaluronic acid.
$39 (Shop Now)
Josie Maran Argan Daily Moisturizer Tinted SPF 47 Protect + Perfect
Josie Maran’s Protect + Perfect is less of a tinted moisturizer and more of a tinted sunscreen, and we’ll take all the sun protection we can get. Alongside its SPF 47, this formula is very lightly tinted with pigments in one tan shade, giving it just enough color to mask slight skin imperfections and give its wearer and warm, sun-tanned look.
$34 (Shop Now)
L’Oréal Paris Visible Lift Luminous Serum Tinted Moisturizer
Consider L’Oréal’s Visible Lift Luminous Serum the perfect solution to skin that needs an extra boost of shimmer for radiance. Available in five warm shades, this tinted moisturizer acts more like a highlighter than your average formula, so feel free to pat a little extra on all the high points of your face.
$15 (Shop Now)
Neutrogena Healthy Skin Radiant Tinted Moisturizer
It’s not shocking at all that a brand that Neutrogena could deliver one of the best tinted moisturizer formulas out there with ingredients like vitamins A, C, and E. On top of all those antioxidants, Healthy Skin Tinted Moisturizer also contains small pearlescent pigment that provide a glowing, dewy sheen.
$13 (Shop Now)
Nars Pure Radiant Tinted Moisturizer
Sensitive-skinned girls, Nars has got one just for you. The silky-smooth Radian Tinted Moisturizer has a formula that’s both oil-free and made without parabens or synthetic fragrances, so you won’t have to worry about irritation or clogged pores.
“This is a really great product to apply with your fingertips; it’s super sheer and easy to blend,” says makeup artist Ashleigh Ciucci. “Or you can tap it on with a sponge to build subtle coverage.” Its barely-there coverage might be a little too light for those with post-breakout redness or discoloration, though, so have a concealer on hand for touch-ups.
$45 (Shop Now)
No7 City Light Tinted Moisturizer
This highly rated tinted moisturizer formula from No7 is a fan-favorite for low-effort application and comfortable light coverage. Although it contains SPF 15 for sun protection, we still recommend wearing an SPF 30 or higher underneath it, especially if you plan to go outside.
$15 (Shop Now)
Philosophy Renewed Hope in a Jar Skin Tint
This thick and creamy skin tint from Philosophy has slightly higher coverage than other tinted moisturizer, according to Dall’Asen. But you can still apply it directly with the fingers just like you would your favorite moisturizer for effortless all-over coverage with a slightly matte finish.
$40 (Shop Now)
Toners are an important part of the skin-care equation, especially if your end goal is dewy, luminous skin. However, a lot of people still don’t know what exactly toners are or what they do. Board-certified dermatologist Tiffany Libby explains that a toner is designed to help remove the debris your cleanser might have missed and to prep your skin for the next step in your routine. “I think of them more as an adjunct or add-on to your skin-care routine,” Libby tells Allure.
Toners of the past were known for their astringent properties, which often dried skin out. Today, however, toner formulations have been improved to target an array of skin concerns, such as the loss of collagen or excess oiliness that can lead to breakouts — all made with varying ingredients, depending on your skin-care goals.
Board-certified dermatologist Sapna Palep tells Allure toners that hydrate and smooth out fine lines often contain antioxidants, amino acids, and hyaluronic acid. While toners that treat acne often include salicylic or glycolic acid.
Just as there are different ingredients for you to choose from, there is more than one way to put product on. Application is very easy and Libby says it’s really up to an individual’s preference: you can use your hands or cotton pads (Palep’s preference). And beyond the traditional bottled liquid, toners can also come in other delivery systems, such as gel sticks and face mists. (Libby particularly loves the spray formulations.)
But with so many toners out there in the market, it can be difficult to know what to pick for your specific skin needs. Scroll down to find the right toner to add to your skin-care routine.
Kate Somerville Liquid Exfolikate
If adding a toner to your mix feels like an unnecessary middle step, the Best of Beauty-winning Liquid Exfolikate by Kate Somerville may change your mind. Think of this toner, packed with alpha hydroxy acids and fruit enzymes, as a multi-purpose treatment that helps get rid of dead skin buildup so that your products absorb better. Spritz it on a night right before your moisturizer and sunscreen.
$58 (Shop Now)
Clean & Clear Lemon Juice Toner
Some facial toners use alcohol to clear away dirt and oil, but it can seriously dry skin out. Clean & Clear’s Lemon Juice Toner does the exact same thing, sans the stripping alcohol. There’s also vitamin C in this Allure Best of Beauty 2020 winner to help brighten and even dullness and dark spots.
$6 (Shop Now)
Mamonde Rose Water Toner
Mamonde Rose Water Toner is made with 90 percent rose water to give skin an intense boost of hydration. Not only will your skin will feel soft after using it, you’ll also get that dewy look that so many of us are constantly chasing.
$23 (Shop Now)
Pixi by Petra Glow Tonic
If you’ve been using and loving the Pixi by Petra Glow Tonic for as long as I have, you know it’s basically magic in a bottle. It’s made with hero ingredients — such as glycolic acid, aloe vera, and witch hazel — recommended for clearer, softer skin.
$29 (Shop Now)
Boscia Resurfacing Treatment Toner
Those who are blemish-prone will want to pay special attention to the Boscia Resurfacing Treatment Toner. It contains alpha- and beta-hydroxy acids (like glycolic and salicylic acid) to gently remove dead skin cells and clear pores of dirt and grime — both of which will prevent breakouts in the long run.
$28 (Shop Now)
Dr. Jart+ Ceramidin Liquid Moisturizing Toner
Can a toner really be moisturizing? The 2019 Best of Beauty winner Dr. Jart+ Ceramidin Liquid answers that question and more. Thanks to a formula full of ceramides, an ingredient that helps restore any lost moisture, skin is left feeling soft and supple after every use.
$39 (Shop Now)
Ole Henriksen Balancing Force Oil Control Toner
Ole Henriksen Balancing Force Oil Control Toner is made with a powerful blend of glycolic, salicylic, and lactic acids to control excess oil production without stripping away too much moisture. Plus, the 2019 Best of Beauty winner has a refreshing eucalyptus and peppermint scent that makes it a joy to use.
$29 (Shop Now)
Too Cool For School Rules of Mastic Facial Tonic
As the only mist on this list, Too Cool For School Rules of Mastic Facial Tonic doubles as a toner and hydrating spray you can use in the morning and then throughout the day. It contains ceramides and mastic oil, which strengthens the skin’s resiliency and helps heal damaged skin.
$14 (Shop Now)
E.L.F. Cosmetics Supertone
The E.L.F. Supertone toner livens up dull and tired skin, thanks to exfoliating glycolic acid, while soothing aloe reduces redness and inflammation.
$8 (Shop Now)
Fresh Rose Deep Hydration Facial Toner
I came to the Fresh Rose Deep Hydration Facial Toner because I have an unhealthy obsession with all things rose, but I stayed because it’s just that damn good. The 2017 Best of Beauty winner contains rose fruit extract, rosewater, and angelica leaf extract — all known for their nourishing and soothing properties. Plus, it’s alcohol-free, so it won’t dry your skin out.
$45 (Shop Now)
Laneige Cream Skin Toner & Moisturizer
Laneige Cream Skin Toner & Moisturizer is a two-in-one formula that both strengthens skin’s natural defense barrier and moisturizes. Double the hydration, double the fun?
$33 (Shop Now)
Lumene Glow Lumenessence Brightening Beauty Lotion
Lumene Glow Lumenessence Brightening Beauty Lotion contains only the best ingredients to get you glowy skin. Yes, it has vitamin C, but it also has wild arctic cloudberry, which helps fight off oxidative damage and strengthen your skin’s natural defense barrier.
$15 (Shop Now)
Milk Makeup Matcha Toner
Milk’s Matcha Toner is truly unique for many reasons, but the obvious? It’s a solid, gel-stick toner, made with anti-inflammatory matcha green tea and oil-wicking kombucha, to soothe skin and prep it for its next skin-care product.
$28 (Shop Now)
Best Moisturizer for Acne-Prone Skin: Boscia Green Tea Oil-Free Moisturizer
“Less moisture in the air causes skin dryness,” says Dr. Nussbaum. “If your skin’s natural moisture barrier isn’t properly hydrated, it’s not as equipped to fight off acne-causing bacteria.” If you deal with constant blemishes, look for an oil-free, water-based lotion or gel that will moisture skin without clogging pores. This Boscia gel offers a soothing formula, rich with calming tea tree extract that will minimize breakout-induced redness.
Best Moisturizer for Sensitive Skin: Aveeno Ultra-Calming Moisturizer SPF 15
If your skin leans on the sensitive side, Dr. Nussbaum recommends avoiding moisturizers with “irritants such as fragrances, dyes, lanolin, parabens and formaldehyde.” This drugstore staple checks off all the boxes. Aveeno’s moisturizer is light, fast-absorbing, and is formulated with skin-calming botanicals. Bonus: It also serves as a second layer of SPF protection.
Best Moisturizer for Hyperpigmentation: Murad Essential-C Day Moisture Broad Spectrum SPF 30 PA+++
Whether your uneven skin tone is the result of a bad breakout or caused by sun damage, a vitamin C-infused moisturizer will help brighten dark spots while simultaneously hydrating skin. But don’t forget the sunscreen. “Moisturizers containing SPF will reduce the oxidative damage of the sun,” explains Dr. Nussbaum. That’s exactly what this Murad tube is made to do.
Best Moisturizer for Oily Skin: Neutrogena Hydro Boost Gel-Cream
Fun fact: Hyaluronic acid is an all-star moisturizing ingredient, because it can hold up to 1000 times its weight in water. That’s what makes Neutrogena’s gel-based, HA-packed moisturizer ideal for oily skin types. Instead of a heavy cream, this lightweight water-based product pulls in moisture without clogging already congested pores.
Best Moisturizer for Combination Skin: The Ordinary Natural Moisturizing Factors + HA
The Gemini of skin types, finding the right moisturizer for combination skin can be tough because it has to jive with both oilyness and dryness. That’s where The Ordinary’s Natural Moisturizing Factors comes in. The lightweight, non-greasy cream includes dermal lipids to protect the outer skin layer, hyaluronic acid to draw in moisture, and amino acids to hydrate. It’ll moisturize the right areas of the face without making oily spots shinier.
Best Moisturizer for Aging Skin: Dr. Dennis Gross Skincare Ferulic + Retinol Anti-Aging Moisturizer
Important PSA: The sun can still cause oxidative damage in the winter, which can lead to photoaging. That said, Dr. Nussbaum suggests looking for a moisturizer that’s packed with antioxidants to counteract the harmful effects of UV/UVA rays. What else should an anti-aging moisturizer include? Retinol, along with skin-plumping hyaluronic acid and moisture-sealing ceramides. “Certain moisturizers will contain a form of retinol that increases skin cell turnover,” she says. “The shedding of the dead skin cell layers also enables increased absorption of moisturizers.” Look no futher than this Dr. Dennis Gross jar, which is formulated with both retinol and ferulic acid, a powerful antioxdant.
Best Moisturizer for Dry Skin: Dr. Jart+ Ceramidin Cream
“Ceramides are lipids that help form the skin’s natural moisture barrier,” explains Dr. Nussbaum. “In dry, cold weather, your skin’s ability to naturally produce ceramides may be compromised, leading to dry, dull skin.” If your skin is extremely dry year-round, go with a ceramide-rich moisturizer for winter, like Dr. Jart+’s cult-favorite cream. The lipids will strengthen the skin barrier so less moisture gets out.
Best Moisturizer for All Skin Types: Olay Regenerist Micro-Sculpting Cream Face Moisturizer
If your skin doesn’t fall into one particular category, Dr. Nussbaum is a fan of Olay’s Sculpting Cream because it’s a rich, nourishing cream that works well for balanced skin, but also targets dryness and aging. “It contains niacinamide (vitamin B3), a hard-working ingredient which regenerates surface cells and strengthens skin’s natural moisture barrier,” she says. “It also contains amino-peptides, known to boost collagen production and improve skin’s elasticity, smoothness and firmness as well as hyaluronic acid & glycerin.”