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Whether you’re a beauty product enthusiast or a minimalist, everyone needs a solid skincare routine. Part of this process involves finding a skincare brand that works best for your skin type and concerns. Despite a slight dip in sales in 2020 due to the pandemic, the skincare market still accounted for approximately 42 percent of the global beauty market — the top category beating out haircare and cosmetics. A serum, moisturizer, eye cream, exfoliant, face wash, and sunscreen are staples of an efficient skincare regimen.
But if you don’t have the time, energy, patience, or extra funds to sample copious products from department stores, drugstores, and online, we’re here to help out. At The Derm Review, our job is to review skincare products and brands through a scientific lens, ensuring that they’re formulated with clinically-driven, safe, and effective ingredients like hyaluronic acid and retinol so that you can achieve the best results possible.
Related: Best Skincare Products
Best Skincare Brands: The List
Best Clinical Skincare Brands
Best Natural Skincare Brands
Best Luxury Skincare Brands
Best Korean Skincare Brands
Best Cruelty-Free Skincare
Best Drugstore Skincare
Best Peer-to-Peer Skincare Brand
Rodan + Fields
How to Choose a Skincare Brand
Choosing a skincare brand can feel overwhelming, and while you might be tempted to select products based on attractive packaging or a celebrity endorsement, you must do your homework before committing. After all, a complete regimen includes a minimum of a serum, moisturizer, eye cream, exfoliant, face wash, and sunscreen in order to maintain the health of your skin.
What to Look for in a Skincare Brand
- Skin Types and Concerns: Not all brands carry products that meet the needs of all skin types and concerns. So, someone with acne or oily skin should stay away from brands that only offer rich formulas to deeply hydrate dry, mature skin and vice versa.
- Evidence-based Ingredients: Many skincare products are filled with filler ingredients that temporarily make the skin look and feel better. Our in-house biochemist Elle recommends looking for a skincare line that formulates its products with hero ingredients, including hyaluronic acid (the ultimate of hydrators), peptides (which can help boost collagen production), squalane (a highly moisturizing lipid), and a variety of botanical extracts like licorice root and turmeric, both skin brighteners.
- Ingredient Order: Many brands make claims that product formulations contain the aforementioned evidence-based ingredients (they may even be mentioned in the product title), but the concentration is so low that it won’t affect your skin. One way to figure out if the product is of quality is to check out the ingredient list. The closer to the top of the list the ingredient is, the higher the concentration will be.
What to Avoid in a Skincare Brand
- Potentially Dangerous Ingredients: Did you know that Up to 60% of what we put on our skin gets absorbed? This means your health and overall wellbeing can be affected negatively or positively. Because the FDA does not regulate skincare, many ingredients found in traditional products have been linked to allergies, eczema, cancer, hormonal disruption, and reproductive problems. When shopping for the best skincare, avoid the “toxic 12,” such as parabens, synthetic fragrances, formaldehyde, etc.
- Animal Testing: Even though more beauty companies are jumping on the cruelty-free bandwagon still, half a million animals are used to test various cosmetic products worldwide each year. That means more than 1,369 animals were sacrificed today alone. The term cruelty-free represents an animal rights movement in which a company’s products or activities don’t harm or kill animals anywhere in the world.
When it comes to certification, the Leaping Bunny has been the only international third-party cruelty-free certification program since the 1990s. You’ll know the product you’re looking at is legitimately cruelty-free if it bares the organization’s iconic leaping bunny — but if only it were that easy.
Be aware that many brands trick consumers by putting a fake cruelty-free bunny image on their packaging, not the legit cruelty-free logo. Unfortunately, there is currently no regulation in the U.S. or Canada for the term “cruelty-free.”
Lastly, companies like Estee Lauder may not test on animals in the States, but because the brand’s products are sold in mainland China where testing is required, they cannot be considered 100% cruelty-free.
Best Skincare Brands
From bargain busters to luxe formulas, here are our picks for the best skincare brands. Our top picks are Formulyst and Carrot & Stick.
Best Clinical Skincare Brands
Formulyst’s philosophy is to create the right products that will help treat skin issues rather than cover them up. The brand believes in long-term solutions and prevention rather than quick fixes. The formulas made in the USA are created with a potent mix of active ingredients. The focus is on gold-standard ingredients that really work, such as retinol, rather than creating products that just feel good and smell good.
The team behind Formulyst comes from the dermatology world, so they know what works and what doesn’t — and that different skin types don’t always react in the same way to the same product. Formulyst incorporates plenty of vitamins and antioxidants in its formulas, such as Vitamin B, C, E, and powerhouse ingredients such as retinol, the gold standard for tackling fine lines and discolorations. Other components include gentle but effective AHAs (alpha-hydroxy acids), which slough off dead skin cells, and rosehip seed oil, a supercharged moisturizer.
Finding a targeted solution for a specific skincare concern can be more challenging than you would expect. Because of this, brands like Lanbena have started to create precise solutions to common skin concerns like acne, scarring, and more. Today, the brand offers a full range of results-oriented skincare.
Lanbena is an Asian skincare brand that specializes in creating results-oriented products with traditional Chinese ingredients. Although this brand is most well known for the Lanbena Scar Removal Cream, they also have a full range of facial care, eye care, and health care items that suit various skin types and skin concerns.
Dr. Murad championed the idea of “beauty from within” and took a 360-degree approach to skincare and wellness. Put another way. He is also known as ‘The Father of Internal Skincare.” Dr. Murad has a wide range of products formulated to deliver antioxidants, have anti-inflammatory properties, and boost hydration. When it comes to his skincare line, the workhorses are the serums, which he views as the heavy lifters of a beauty routine, and “have the power to change your skin.”
Related: Best Anti Aging Face Serums
The Murad system is based on a three-step cleansing, treatment, and moisturizing process, and each product is color-coded. Products can be mixed and matched depending on a particular skin concern. Murad products use clinical–strength ingredients, and the formulas are a mix of naturally derived extracts and lab-created ones.
SkinCeuticals is a brand that offers clinical skincare products that are backed by science. The story behind this brand started long before the company’s founding in 1997, thanks to the pivotal research performed by Dr. Sheldon Pinnell, the leading scientist behind SkinCeuticals. Fun fact: In 1992, Dr. Pinnell filed the very first vitamin C patent. This discovery paved the way for an entirely new skincare category: topical vitamin C.
Dr. Pinnell has been called the “founding father of topical antioxidants,” so they are the key ingredients used in SkinCeuticals products. The brand’s most popular product is C E Ferulic, a potent antioxidant serum. This product, along with the other SkinCeuticals vitamin C formulations, may also correct existing signs of aging since vitamin C promotes new collagen synthesis.
Founded in 2016, Skin Better Science believes remarkable results can be achieved simply through purposeful product innovation. The brand’s products are formulated to prevent and correct signs of aging, such as lines, wrinkles, hyperpigmentation, uneven skin tone, and more. Here at The Derm Review, we love brands that formulate their products based on science, so it’s no surprise that our team enjoyed reviewing the Skinbetter Science products.
Overall, we think that Skinbetter Science products are formulated well with a combination of evidence-based and proprietary ingredients such as AHAs, retinol, hyaluronic acid. Bonus points for being paraben-, fragrance- and dye-free, as well as cruelty-free.
GlyMed Plus was founded in 1991 by Christine Heathman, a Licensed Master Esthetician, Certified Medical Esthetician and Licensed Massage Therapist. GlyMed Plus is a pioneer and industry leader in the field of pharmaceutical skincare products. GlyMed Plus products follow a four-step system to fight the effects of aging, acne, sun damage, pigmentation, rosacea, and other skin conditions. The four steps are cleansing, treating, balancing, and protecting.
GlyMed Plus offers more than 100 products, divided into five sub-lines: Age Management, Master Aesthetics Elite, Cell Science, Serious Action, and For Men. Key ingredients used in the GlyMed Plus products are Advanced Drone Technology and fulvic acid. Advanced Drone Technology is a delivery system using encapsulated peptides to treat targeted skin cells directly. It is said to reverse, repair, and prevent future damage at the cellular level.
NeoStrata is a skincare brand that offers dermatologist-grade anti-aging skincare products. NeoStrata translates to “new layers,” which describes the brand’s skincare philosophy: visible results come from renewing layers of the skin. This philosophy began in 1974 when NeoStrata’s founders discovered the profound benefits of alpha-hydroxy acids (AHAs) on the skin.
Over the years, NeoStrata developed several innovative ingredients that are now patented, for example, bionic polyhydroxy acids, Neoglucosamine, and Aminofil. Today, Neostrata skincare products are sold by doctors in 85 countries, and the brand has more than 100 publications and patents.
Best Natural Skincare Brands
Carrot & Stick
Whether you’re already a fan of natural skincare or simply want to try it, one of the newest naturally derived skincare brands is Carrot & Stick. The collection offers the best of both worlds, meaning it combines plant-based ingredients with cutting-edge science to formulate skincare products that are effective and gentle to the environment.
Carrot & Stick takes a tough-love approach to skincare, perfectly balancing the gentle nurturing of plants with the powerful results of innovative science. The result? Straightforward, effective skincare that delivers radiant-looking skin that is good for you and good for the environment. The collection covers all the essential skincare needs with a moisturizer, serum, face wash, brightening pads, and targeted serums to address various skincare concerns.
One of the pioneers of natural-based cosmetics is Origins, which William Lauder launched in 1990. Origins continues to trail blaze with green ideas, such as reducing its environmental impact and committing to planting trees.
Origins’ slogan is “Powered by Nature. Proven by Science.” The brand’s philosophy is to incorporate natural ingredients into its skincare line. This means a mix of exotic ingredients sourced worldwide and more common plant and oil-based products, such as charcoal, ginseng, and caffeine – all created in an environmentally conscious way. One of the first products was the Clear Improvement Active charcoal mask, still one of the best-selling masks in the US.
Mad Hippie is a clean beauty brand built on the notion that natural skincare can be very effective as traditional. The brand uses organic natural ingredients and safe synthetic ingredients to formulate its skincare and makeup products while leaving out toxic ingredients and unnecessary additives.
The brand does an excellent job of incorporating a wide variety of beneficial ingredients into its product formulations. Mad Hippie uses many unique botanical extracts and oils, such as konjac root, cloudberry fruit extract, blackcurrant seed oil, acai extract, reishi mushroom extract, and chlorella extract just to name a few. Additionally, you’ll find many tried-and-true anti-aging ingredients in its formulas, such as vitamins A, C, and E, and peptides.
Tata Harper founded her eponymous skincare brand in 2010 when the “farm to face” concept was still new. Today the Tata Harper brand is one of the best-known natural skincare brands with fans including Gwyneth Paltrow and Emma Watson. Harper herself is one of many females leading a beauty company, including Charlotte Tilbury, Glossier’s Emily Weiss, and Jamie Kern Lima of IT Cosmetics.
Tata Harper makes natural skincare products made in small batches in Vermont led by an all-female lab. Ingredients not grown in Vermont are sourced from around the world. Tata Harper products use 43 “high performance” ingredients. The company states that “We pack the most ingredients at the highest levels of concentration to deliver maximum results—without a single drop of artificial chemicals.” Each product has its batch number etched on the bottle so that customers can track how (and when) their item was made. Tata Harper products are free from GMOs, toxins, fillers, artificial fragrances, artificial colors, and synthetic chemicals.
Egyptian Magic is a skincare brand that has amassed a cult following because of its “magic” All-Purpose Skin Cream. Making its debut in 1991, Egyptian Magic All-Purpose Skin Cream is a healing balm formulated with natural ingredients. This cult product can be used for copious purposes, including face moisturizer, eye cream, makeup remover, repairing split ends, treating cuts or scrapes, preventing stretch marks during pregnancy, and much more.
Egyptian Magic formula only contains olive oil, beeswax, honey, bee pollen, royal jelly, and bee propolis. It’s void of additives, added preservatives, fragrances, parabens, and GMO ingredients. Even celebrity makeup artists, models, and actresses like Kate Hudson and Ashley Benson swear by Egyptian Magic cream.
Best Luxury Skincare Brands
StriVectin launched in 2002 as a stretch mark cream that was sold in health food stores. Today StriVectin is a leader in the anti-aging skincare market with a wide range of products to treat the face, neck, and body. The StriVectin line includes moisturizers, serums, cleansers, masks, and hand and body creams.
Related: Best Neck Cream
The hero ingredient in StriVectin products is NIA-114, a patented, optimized form of niacin/vitamin B3. NIA-114 results from 30 years of research led by Myron and Elaine Jacobson, a husband and wife biochemist team who worked at the University of Arizona. The company says it is clinically proven to strengthen the skin barrier and supercharge the performance of other ingredients for visibly transformed, more youthful-looking skin. It’s also believed to protect skin from external stressors and prevent water loss.
ZO Skin Health
If you haven’t heard of ZO Skin Health, there’s a good chance you’ve heard of its founder, world-renowned dermatologist Dr. Zein Obagi. Dr. Obagi is also the creator of his namesake line of products — Obagi skincare. He left that brand in 2006 and launched a new skincare company in 2007 called ZO Skin Health.
ZO Skin Health believes the only way to achieve skin health is through the power of science. We share this belief here at The Derm Review, which is why it’s on our list of the best skincare brands. Each ZO Skin Health product contains different critical ingredients in different concentrations. The brand combines evidence-based ingredients, such as vitamins C and E, retinol, glycerin, salicylic acid, and glycolic acid, with proprietary blends like ZPRO, ZCORE complex, and more.
Kiehl’s started as an apothecary in 1851, with a location on Third Avenue and 13th Street in New York – that location is still the company’s flagship store. Over the years, Kiehl’s became known for its “try before you buy” motto. Also, for listing its ingredients on the products, which was considered unusual at the time. The company grew by word of mouth as it has never advertised.
Kiehl’s has an extensive collection of face and body products, including Kiehl’s moisturizers, masks, face wash, serums, and eye creams. The company also has specific lines for babies and men and sells fragrances. Kiehl’s products are formulated with plenty of botanical extracts, and the company says that 95% of its formulas contain at least one natural or natural origin raw material.
Related: Best Eye Creams for Dark Circles
Maystorm is a new luxury brand that offers plant-based skincare. It taps into the ancient wisdom of the earth and the mystical beauty of flowers. The brand does this by crafting exquisite formulas that feel good on the skin and celebrate the earth’s bounty.
What sets the new brand Maystorm apart from other luxury brands is that it embraces the power of plants and delivers replenishing ingredients to the skin. Think of it as an avalanche of natural beauty. Maystorm also believes in giving back to Mother Nature by supporting and protecting natural habitats. The product line is comprehensive, offering moisturizers, serum, oils, and a face wash.
Proven Skincare was launched in November 2018 by founder and CEO Ming Zhao and data scientist and computational physicist co-founder Amy Yuan. They created an artificial intelligence (AI) platform known as The Skin Genome Project to solve their skin concerns. It’s the most comprehensive analytical database of clinically effective ingredients for skincare ever created.
Instead of using a “one-size-fits-all” approach and formulating products for the masses, AI beauty technology can develop custom cosmetics and skincare products to address each individual’s unique needs. Ultimately, this delivers better results in a shorter period. The brand only offers three customized products: a cleanser, SPF day cream, and night cream.
Clinique is a skincare brand that has been around for decades and is synonymous with a clinical approach to beauty. When it launched in 1968, the brand was unique because it avoided any ingredients that could potentially irritate the skin or cause allergies, such as fragrance. Even today, Clinique products are free from parabens, phthalates, and fragrance.
Another factor that made the brand unique is that instead of taking a one-size-fits-all approach to the products, the Clinique line was meant to evoke a one-on-one consultation. The company created the “Clinique Computer,” a non-electronic display box with sliding knobs that helped customers pinpoint their skin type. The idea was a hit, and now Clinique is one of the best-selling skincare brands in the world.
Dermalogica is a brand that has been formulating professional-grade skincare since 1986. Products include everything you need to create a complete routine, including cleansers, exfoliants, moisturizers, masques, toners, facial oils, serums, targeted treatments, eye treatments, body care, and more.
Dermalogica is focused on skin health rather than “beauty.” The company takes a no-nonsense approach to its products and packaging. Products have always been formulated without common irritants and ingredients that could cause breakouts, including lanolin, SD alcohol, mineral oil, and artificial colors. The packaging is simple and understated and looks practical rather than luxurious.
While dermatologists create many skincare brands, the story behind Tula is a little different. The brand’s founder — Dr. Roshini Raj — is actually a board-certified gastroenterologist. Through her medical career, Dr. Raj found that probiotics could benefit the skin like they benefit the digestive system. And that’s why you’ll find probiotics as the key ingredients in all Tula skincare products.
The probiotics used in Tula skincare products are clinically proven to help promote the look of skin’s natural balance, locking in moisture to leave your complexion more hydrated and reducing the appearance of inflammation. Tula also uses several superfoods in their skincare products, such as blueberries, turmeric, and white tea. All products are 100% free from phthalates, parabens, propylene glycol, petrolatum, gluten, and mineral oil.
Estée Lauder, the company, was officially launched in 1946. Lauder promoted her products by pounding the pavement and introducing them to women at beauty salons, where she gave out free samples of her products. Lauder also pioneered the “Gift With Purchase” concept, which is now considered a mainstay.
Today the Estée Lauder brand sells a wide variety of products, including makeup, creams, skincare, serums, and fragrance. Advanced Night Repair is arguably Estée Lauder’s most famous product. Officially called Advanced Night Repair Synchronized Recovery Complex II, this product is thought to be the industry’s first serum and is designed to help reduce the signs of aging.
Clarins was created by the French chiropractor Jacques Courtin. In 1954 he set up a spa in Paris and focused on massages that helped firm the skin and boost circulation. He used essential oils in his massages and later started selling products made from plants and minerals. By 1980 Clarins was the top-selling brand in France and expanded to the US shortly afterward.
The Clarins philosophy is based around plants’ power and taps into the emotional aspect of beauty. Products are based around botanicals, including tamarind, the blue orchid extract found in its signature Face Treatment Oil, as well as hibiscus. The anti-aging collection is powered by botanicals such as organic harungana and Montpellier rose to tackle age spots. Oils are also found in many Clarins products.
Tatcha is a Japanese beauty brand that offers a simplified approach to skincare. They combine natural ingredients with Japanese traditions and the latest technology to create luxurious skincare products. The foundation of the Tatcha skincare line is Hadasei-3, the brand’s proprietary blend of three anti-aging superfoods — Okinawa red algae, Uji green tea, and Japanese rice bran.
Tatcha’s first product was the Original Aburatorigami Japanese Beauty Papers, the same blotting papers used by geisha. This was followed by developing cleansers, moisturizers, serums, masks, essences, and more.
Best Korean Skincare Brands
Atomy is a Korean beauty brand that offers everything from supplements to makeup to skincare and more. The brand is set up as a multi-level marketing (MLM) company, which means the products are sold through independent distributors. Atomy skincare products include everything you need to create a complete skincare routine, including cleansers, toners, serums, moisturizers, facial mists, and more.
The brand uses many vital key ingredients to formulate its products, but the main categories include antioxidants, emollients, humectants, hyaluronic acid, niacinamide, peptides, and botanical extracts. These are all excellent ingredients that have research to support their skincare benefits.
Founded in 2014, April Skin is a K-beauty brand that initially hit the market with just one product: April Skin Magic Stone soap. Soon, April Skin grew into a full line of natural skincare products and cosmetics, including cleansers, masks, peels, serums, body care, and more.
While this K-beauty brand uses various vital ingredients to formulate its products, the formulas with calendula are the most popular. The brand uses Calendula officinalis — also known as pot marigold — traditionally used in Ayurvedic and Traditional Chinese Medicine due to its anti-inflammatory activity.
Sulwhasoo is a brand of luxury skincare products with roots in Korean herbal medicine and a long tradition of Eastern holistic philosophy. The name Sulwhasoo comes from a combination of two words, sulwha meaning ‘blooming like a beautiful snow blossom on the skin’ and soo meaning ‘exceptionally beautiful.’
Sulwhasoo was founded by Suh Sung-whan, who grew up in Kaesong, a city renowned for the exceptional quality of its ginseng, Korea’s signature plant. Understanding the efficacies of ginseng, Suh introduced ABC Ginseng Cream in 1966, which began the Sulwhasoo legacy.
Today, this brand is known for the best seller Sulwhasoo First Care Activating Serum. And when we say bestseller, we aren’t exaggerating; one bottle of Sulwhasoo First Care Activating Serum is sold every 10 seconds in Korea, and since its launch in 1997, more than 35 million bottles have been sold worldwide!
Best Cruelty-Free Skincare
Pacifica Beauty is a 100% vegan and cruelty-free brand that was founded in 1996 by Brook Harvey-Taylor. It all began in Brook’s kitchen, where she would create perfumes out of essential oils, eventually selling them locally in Eugene, Oregon. Brook even told Well + Good that she would sell her perfumes at The Grateful Dead shows when they came into town.
Today, Pacifica has expanded to offer an extensive fragrance collection and hair care, skincare, makeup, and more. Generally speaking, the Pacifica skincare products contain plant-derived emollients like sunflower seed oil, caprylic/capric triglyceride, coconut oil, and several others. There are also high concentrations of humectants and antioxidants. The brand doesn’t use harmful ingredients like parabens, phthalates, SLS, or mineral oil in its products.
Cruelty-free brand Drunk Elephant has several top-rated products. With its clean formulations and Instagram-worthy packaging, Drunk Elephant is beloved by shoppers, influencers, and beauty editors. The brand has received plenty of editorial coverage in publications such as Allure, New Beauty, Vogue, and Refinery29 and has scooped up plenty of industry awards as well.
Drunk Elephant combines tried-and-true skincare ingredients (i.e., vitamin C, retinol, and peptides) with unique extracts (i.e., marula oil, mongongo oil, and more) to create products that truly stand out from the crowd. Plus, the brand leaves out harmful ingredients — aka the “Suspicious 6” — that they believe are at the root of almost every skin issue.
Three years after Rihanna launched Fenty Beauty, the singer and actress launched her complementary skincare line called Fenty Skin in 2020. This brand sets its gender inclusivity, multi-tasking products, and earth-conscious packaging apart from thousands of others. Even more, Rhianna’s cruelty-free skincare line is also green and clean and has several unique formulations.
There are a total of six products in the Fenty Skin collection. You can purchase them individually or in various sets. Many ingredients are inspired by Rihanna’s international lifestyle — like watermelon extract, for example. Additionally, there are evidence-based picks such as glycerin, niacinamide, hyaluronic acid, caprylic/capric triglyceride, and provitamin B5.
Agency is a new personalized anti-aging skincare brand brought to you by the founders of the buzzed-about brand Curology. The goal behind Agency Skincare is to offer anti-aging products customized for each person’s unique skin with the help of the brand’s licensed dermatology providers. Agency is cruelty-free, and the products are officially Leaping Bunny Certified.
While both brands offer customized formulas, Agency and Curology leverage different active ingredients to treat specific skin concerns. Curology’s components are customized to target acne skin concerns, while the Agency Skincare custom formulas are designed to treat signs of aging, like texture, wrinkles, fine lines, and more.
Best Drugstore Skincare
La Roche Posay
Did you know that one of the key ingredients used inside La Roche Posay skincare dates back to the 14th century? We’re talking about La Roche Posay Thermal Spring Water, unique selenium-rich water at the heart of the brand. Fast forward to 1975, and the La Roche Posay Laboratoire Dermatologique was created with its mission being to use this special thermal water to develop skincare products that would provide dermatologists with effective skincare solutions for their patients, especially those with sensitive skin.
La Roche Posay is a dermatological skincare brand that formulates products with high efficacy and safety standards to address skin needs, even sensitive skin. Recommended by tens of thousands of dermatologists across the globe, La Roche Posay has become known for delivering highly effective skincare solutions that target various skin concerns, from acne to aging and more. The brand is committed to making dermatological skincare accessible to those who need it. It offers consumers products for each step of their skincare routine, making it one of the best drugstore skincare brands.
Trusted by millions of women worldwide, Olay is the best-selling anti-aging skincare range in five continents. This multi-billion dollar brand produces hundreds of different beauty products, making it pretty daunting to choose a product to fit your specific needs. Olay offers a wide variety of skincare products, including cleansers, toners, masks, mists, moisturizers, serums, treatments, and sun protection products.
One ingredient Olay loves to include in their formulations is niacinamide, the amide form of vitamin B3 (niacin) that provides many benefits to the skin. Niacinamide is also an antioxidant that helps the skin combat free radicals, the unstable molecules that contribute to premature wrinkles and fine lines on the skin. Another key ingredient used throughout the collection of Olay skincare products is palmitoyl pentapeptide-4, or what the brand calls an “amino-peptide.”
Cetaphil certainly has staying power — the formula hasn’t changed at all since 1947! However, what has changed is that today Cetaphil offers over 40 products, including moisturizers, body lotions, cleansers, and even a baby line.
Suppose you look up just about any article written about the best facial cleansers, one product that’s almost guaranteed to be on it — Cetaphil Gentle Skin Cleanser. It’s one of those cult-favorite drugstore products that have maintained their popularity for decades. This Cetaphil cleanser originally debuted in 1947 but didn’t gain momentum until the 1960s.
We noticed this brand primarily focuses on using emollients as crucial ingredients. An emollient is an oily substance that fills in the spaces between dead skin cells, thus creating a smooth skin surface. While an emollient will provide some occlusive effects, the primary function is to help soften the skin.
RoC is a French brand created in 1957 at the Roge Cavailles pharmacy in Paris by Dr. Jean-Charles Lissarrague. Lissarrague was a Parisian pharmacist who believed in taking a proactive approach to beauty. The company was also among the first to discover a method for stabilizing retinol, the go-to skincare ingredient for fighting the signs of aging. Retinol, a vitamin A derivative, helps reduce fine lines, soften the appearance of wrinkles, and targets hyperpigmentation.
RoC sells a full range of skincare products, including moisturizers, night creams, wrinkle treatments, eye creams, and exfoliants, but it’s mostly known for its anti-aging products containing retinol.
Best Bargain Skincare Brands
While it’s not a drugstore brand per se, The Ordinary offers lower than drugstore prices in most cases. This brand is extremely affordable. We’re talking $7 retinol serums and $6 vitamin C serums. In fact, almost all of the brand’s products are less than $15. This approach to skincare has enabled The Ordinary to become one of the most popular skincare brands on the market today. In fact, 2021 market trends show The Ordinary is currently the world’s most sought-after skincare brand.
The Ordinary skincare formulations are simple, including one or two actives and leaving out additives, fillers, fragrances, and dyes. Even the product packaging is minimal, with straightforward names that describe the product without any extra fluff or deceptive details.
A team of beauty industry veterans at Beautylish founded skincare brand Good Molecules intending to provide effective skincare products at a fair price. By working directly with labs, Good Molecules offers products that target skin issues like acne, redness, and hyperpigmentation without the traditional retail markup. In fact, some Good Molecules skincare products start at just $6.
After evaluating the Good Molecules product formulations, we noticed that the brand uses several evidence-based ingredients throughout its collection, including niacinamide, sodium hyaluronate, licorice root extract, and vitamin C.
Mario Badescu is a skincare brand that’s known for its clinical formulations and affordable price point. The European-inspired brand is known for its low-key packaging, clinical formulations, and affordability.
Products are formulated with evidence-based ingredients like glycolic acid, salicylic acid, vitamin C, and more. The Drying Lotion acne spot treatment has developed a cult following of loyal customers, beauty editors, and celebrities.
Best Peer-to-Peer Skincare Brand
Rodan + Fields
Rodan + Fields was started by two Stanford-trained dermatologists, Katie Rodan and Kathy Fields. The duo had previously created Proactiv, a skincare line designed to target acne-prone skin for those 30 and up. Rodan + Fields is the top-selling brand in the US which means the company is doing something right.
Take a closer look at the ingredients in many of the products, and you’ll see a range of beauty all-stars such as retinol, which is the gold standard for tackling fine lines and wrinkles and encouraging cell turnover. For skin lightening and brightening, the company uses ingredients that are proven winners, such as alpha-hydroxy acid to smooth and soften skin, as well as kojic acid, a natural brightening agent. Rodan + Fields isn’t using obscure ingredients in their products – what they are doing is using ingredients known to have a positive effect on the skin.
Founded in 1984, Nu Skin is a multilevel-marketing company that distributes more than 200 anti-aging products in personal care and nutritional supplements categories.
Nu Skin is a brand that leads with science, which is demonstrated through their comprehensive product portfolio and the scientific research that has been conducted on their products and published in scientific journals. We also lead with science here at The Derm Review, which is why it’s on our list of the best skincare brands.
Nu Skin offers an extensive collection of skincare products, including facial cleansers, moisturizers, serums, exfoliators, body care, skincare devices, and more. Interestingly, the Nu Skin Tanner is the brand’s most popular product.
Best Skincare Brands: The Bottom Line
Choosing a skincare brand can feel overwhelming. While you might be tempted to select products based on attractive packaging or a celebrity endorsement, you must do your homework before committing.
Consider your skin type and any concerns you want to address to choose the right brands and formulas. Look for evidence-based ingredients like hyaluronic acid, peptides, squalene, and a variety of botanical extracts. Remember that to figure out if a product is of quality and is formulated with a high concentration of active ingredients, check out the ingredient list. The closer to the top of the list the ingredient is, the higher the concentration will be.
On the flip side, avoid skincare brands that formulate products with potentially dangerous ingredients like the “toxic 12,” including parabens, synthetic fragrances, formaldehyde, etc. Lastly, strive to use cruelty-free brands that don’t test on animals — more than 1,369 animals are sacrificed daily for this inhumane process. When it comes to certification, the Leaping Bunny has been the only international third-party cruelty-free certification program since the 1990s.
You’ll know the product you’re looking at is legitimately cruelty-free if it bares the organization’s iconic leaping bunny — just keep an eye out for imposters. If you’re not sure, Search for Leaping Bunny cruelty-free brands before shopping for your skincare and cosmetics if you’re not sure if a product is genuine.
“Cosmetics Industry: Statistics and Facts,” Statista, October 2021.
“The Toxic 12 Chemicals and Contaminants in Cosmetics,” EWG.org, May 2020.
“Which Animals are Used in Cosmetics Tests?,” Cruelty-Free International.
“The Ordinary is the World’s Most Sought-After Skincare Brand,” Premium Beauty News, May 2021.