Hundreds of products come across our desks every month, but not all of them deliver on their claims or live up to the hype. (Not everything that goes viral on TikTok is a miracle worker.) This is our exclusive curation of the best-in-class skin-care products receiving rave reviews from our team and hitting shelves right now.
KORA Organics Plant Stem Cell Retinol Alternative Serum ($75)
“When I heard about bakuchiol as a natural alternative to retinol, I was really interested,” says founder Miranda Kerr. I’ve tried a lot of different products in my career, but every time I’ve used retinol, my skin was too sensitive for it. There was also so much research on alfalfa and its power to visibly improve signs of aging. It’s very good at smoothing out the roughness of the skin without irritating the skin. So, the combination of the alfalfa extract with the bakuchiol is super powerful. And then we included plant stem cells.
The formula five times more powerful than any other retinol alternative on the market—it’s a 5-percent retinol alternative blend versus 1 percent—and it’s the first-ever certified-organic retinol alternative on the market. There’s such a misconception about organics not being as powerful, but what many people don’t know, is that there are 60 percent more antioxidants in a certified-organic ingredient. A study from Cambridge shows that.
I’ve been using this serum for the last six months, morning and night, and it resurfaces my skin without irritation. People are gonna go nuts when they see the results they get. The before-and-after pictures from our clinical trials blow my mind, and they were taken after only four weeks. The serum also works on fine lines and wrinkles on the neck and chest, too, which we often forget.”
Beauty Pie AcidEnzyme Exfoliating Face & Body Cleanser ($60)
Beauty Pie is calling this “the best betahydroxy acid face and body wash on the planet” because not only does it work wonders on oily and acne-prone skin (it helps with KP, too), but it does so without drying out or irritating the skin. To create a balanced, vegan formula, the brand mixed 2-percent salicylic acid (BHA) with 3 percent of its C-X-Papaya Enzyme Complex for serious, yet gentle exfoliation.
For brightening you can see and smoothing you can feel, use the cleanser once or twice a week. Massage one to pumps of gel onto damp skin and let it get a little foamy before you rinse it off.
SkinCeuticals A.G.E. Interrupter Advanced ($185)
A new breakthrough from one of the top skin-care brands recommended by dermatologists, this rich, hydrating cream tackles the signs of aging that result from glycation. This process occurs when the body’s excess sugars bind to its structural proteins like collagen, and break them down. Unfortunately, we know what happens next: wrinkles, lax skin, crepey skin, and dullness.
“The launch of A.G.E. Interrupter Advanced harnesses 15-plus years of glycation expertise and new anti-glycation science resulting in a modernized ingredient technology,” explains Amy Sloan, head of SkinCeuticals U.S. “The appearance of glycated collagen can be first seen at the age of 20. It accumulates with a rate of about 3.7 percent per year, reaching a 30- to 50-percent increase by age 80. This launch is extremely important to us knowing that glycation is something everyone will experience in their lifetime.”
All skin types and tones can use it (morning and/or night), and the clinical testing results are impressive: After 12 weeks, it visibly smoothed five types of wrinkles, including forehead wrinkles, nasolabial folds, marionette lines, glabellar lines (11s), and crow’s-feet.
Drunk Elephant A-Shaba Complex Eye Serum ($64)
An upgraded version of the brand’s OG Shaba Eye Serum back in 2015, this new formula brings three new ingredients into the mix: 0.1-percent vegan retinol to smooth lines, 3-percent caffeine to alleviate puffiness around the eyes, and copper peptides to stimulate collagen and improve elasticity.
It’s really moisturizing yet also lightweight and quick to absorb. You can use it both under the eyes, along the orbital bone, and also on the eyelids (rare for a product containing retinol). Over time with daily use, it gives the eye area a more youthful, rested look.
Alphascience Mela Bright [C+] ($149)
This brightening skin-care innovation has some big claims to note: It’s the first and only one-step product to feature cysteamine; the first and only product with stabilized cysteamine; and the first and only no-wash-off cysteamine product.
“This serum is safe to use every day, all year, on all skin tones,” says Boston facial plastic surgeon Jaimie DeRosa, MD, noting it can also be used by those with sensitive skin. “It’s very gentle on the skin, it doesn’t irritate or cause peeling, and the smell isn’t as potent as it is in other products containing cysteamine. You can also see a reduction in pore size with this product, and you can use it on your body and hands—anywhere that is affected by pigment. It’s best used in the morning, but it can also be used at night.”
Kopari Sun Shield Soft Glow Daily Face SPF 30 ($38)
Last year came the wildly successful launch of the brand’s Sun Shield Body Glow (it sold out multiple times; a rose gold version dropped in February, too), and now there’s finally a version for the face. The texture is gel-like and feels really light on the skin as it blends in clear without any trace of white cast (this factor was incredibly important to Kopari founder Kiana Cabell).
It makes your skin glowy (thanks to mica), but not disco ball glowy, and in my opinion it’s perfect for those who have great skin and can get away with just wearing SPF in the summertime (no foundation or other base makeup). I did try it with a little concealer layered on top in places I needed it like under my eyes and around my nose, and it didn’t pill.
Kat Burki FORM CONTROL Neck Control & Exfoliating Pen ($150)
If you’re looking for a little more help the in the neck line/wrinkle department than what your serum or cream can deliver on its own, try this. The unique “pen” applicator adds exfoliation into the mix, so you get a two-in-one treatment (it also feels really good). Not only does it help smooth with pumpkin seed and papaya enzymes, but it also brightens skin with alpha-arbutin and a stable form of vitamin C. The vitamin C provides collagen-stimulating benefits, too, if you use it consistently.
All skin types can benefit, and Kat recommends using it twice a week after cleansing. Like other serum-infused rollers, you squeeze the tube to release the gel-like serum as you’re brushing the applicator over your neck and décolleté. Though it kind of looks like honey, the formula isn’t sticky and absorbs really nicely.
Babo Botanicals Swim and Sport Mineral Sunscreen Balm SPF 50 ($17.50)
“This waterless, creamy-balm is a new format for us and specifically designed for anyone of all ages with an active lifestyle,” says Ela Juras, director of global product development for the brand. “It features this combination of natural bentonite clay mixed with zinc oxide that allows for super spreadability and adhesion to the skin that really helps to withstand physical activity such as swimming, hiking and outdoor sports. It also offers 80-minute water-resistance, which is really important for those who like to be in the water”.
Like the rest of the Babo line, this formula is a physical sunscreen—the brand doesn’t use any chemical UV filters in its products—and infused with plant-based ingredients. “We’ve also added a sustainably sourced passionfruit oil to this formula, and not only is it amazing for the skin—it increases hydration and moisturization—but we’re also partnering with local farmers in Peru to procure unused passionfruit seeds from the juicing industry. We press them into a really rich, nutritious oil and help support the zero-waste initiatives.”
The balm allows for visible coverage and is great for use on the high points on the face and the shoulders to really protect those areas where the sun hits more than others. It’s more white than usual, which was intentional: The brand has actually received a lot of requests from surfers and California-based customers for sunscreens that are more white so they can see their application.
PillowtalkDerm The Depuffer Arnica Sculpting Serum Roller ($38)
“This is my baby—the first-ever product I created way before the Major Fade line,” says founder and New York dermatologist Shereene Idriss, MD. This product was born out of frustration really, because the number-one question I got in 2018 and 2019 was, ‘Do face rollers really work?’ I felt so bad for those of you who were rolling to no end without getting any added benefit.
So I thought to myself, how do we bring the face roller into the 21st century? By marrying it to a powerhouse serum with actives [arnica, centella asiatica, niacinamide and more] that not only help reduce the look of swelling and depuff your face in the process, but also help reduce the look of redness. Redness is the second component when it comes to discoloration that can make you look ruddy and just not cute over time.”
Pavise by B.A.I. Biosciences UV Camera ($176)
This one is for all the skin-care nerds out there like me. This launch grabbed my attention instantly, and I think it’s so cool because it’s essentially a compact, consumer-friendly version of technology used in dermatology offices. (Have you ever had your skin assessed by a Visia?) Designed for use with the Pavise app, (find it in the Apple App Store), this tiny, chic camera plugs into your iPhone and uses advanced UV lens technology to take photos and videos of your skin.
It not only shows you where you’ve missed a spot during your sunscreen application, but it also reveals any existing sun damage below the surface of your skin to help you detect future spots and areas of hyperpigmentation. You can also use it to inspect your skin after cleansing to see if you’ve thoroughly removed everything (especially SPF, which tends to really grab on to every nook and cranny.) By helping you to be more sun-smart, it can help you reduce your risk of skin cancer and sun-induced signs of aging.