The 10 Best Skin-Care Brands Pros Swear By for the Best Complexion of Your Life
With this guide, finding the best skin-care brands for your skin type and concerns is a lot easier—and cheaper!—than you think
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It’s hard to know who to believe when it comes to skin care. Everywhere you look, there’s a TikTokker saying they’ve found a lotion or potion you can’t live without, and of course, the brands themselves tout their products as must-haves for your skin-care routine. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed, even without the inevitable questions like: Is the best skin-care routine for your 30s different from that for your 40s? Are those triple-digit products better than affordable ones? And what about your specific skin-care needs? After all, skin care for oily skin will be very different from skin care for dry skin. There’s even a special skin-care routine for men. So what are the best skin-care brands—really?
It’s not quite that straightforward. “Choosing a skin-care brand depends on personal preferences, individual skin concerns and skin types or underlying ingredients,” says Suchismita Paul, MD, a board-certified dermatologist in California. “It is also important to keep in mind that skin care is not only about addressing existing concerns but also about prevention and maintenance.”
That said, within each of the categories—whether you’re looking for products for your skin type or specific needs, like aging or eczema—there are some definite standouts. And we went straight to the experts to find out which ones are worth your time and money.
How we selected the best skin-care brands
We consulted board-certified dermatologists, a cosmetic chemist and the founder of a beauty manufacturing lab to narrow down the skin-care brands that deliver top-notch results. We also looked at customer favorites, tried many of the skin-care brands on this list ourselves and made sure to include a range of brands for every budget.
Additionally, we made sure these brands were safe. According to cosmetic chemist Marisa Plescia, while skin-care products use some preservatives to keep microbial contamination at bay, you should stay far away from certain ingredients. Those include things like imidazolindinyl urea (which contains formaldehyde) and BHT/BHA, which are known toxins and endocrine disruptors. Plescia provided guidance on that, but we also double-checked our recommended products with the Beautypedia Skin Care Ingredient Checker on the Paula’s Choice website, which reads and analyzes ingredients for you.
All that said, “the best brand for your skin is the one you actually love,” says Dr. Paul. And we can pretty much guarantee that you’ll find your new favorite on this list.
The best skin-care brands of 2023
- Best overall: CeraVe
- Best clinical-grade: Skinbetter Science
- Best for acne-prone skin: La Roche-Posay
- Best for oily skin: Paula’s Choice
- Best for dry skin: Comfort Zone
- Best for aging skin: Murad
- Best skin care with SPF: Supergoop!
- Best drugstore brand: Cetaphil
- Best for sensitive skin: Avène
- Best for eczema: Vanicream
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More expensive does not always equal more effective, and CereVe proves that point in spades. New York City dermatologist Melissa Levin, MD, founder of Entière Dermatology, recommends this drugstore brand to patients of all ages and skin types, and Dr. Paul touts its gentleness, effectiveness and affordability. “I think for cleansers and moisturizers, both drugstore and high-end products are similar,” says Dr. Paul. (You’ll see more of a difference with serums and targeted anti-aging products.) And let’s talk about the affordability factor for a moment: Most of CeraVe’s products cost less than $20, including a 19-ounce jar of CeraVe moisturizing cream, which both Dr. Paul and Dr. Levin recommend to their patients. On the other hand, you can find yourself paying anywhere from $20 to $100 for a one- to two-ounce jar of moisturizer from more expensive brands.
While there are a wide array of great products to choose from, CeraVe’s Hydrating Facial Cleanser is the one you’ll want to add to your cart right away. This fragrance-free, non-foaming face wash is gentle enough for all skin types, including sensitive skin. And while it does a terrific job ridding your face of makeup, dirt and excess oil, it won’t dry out your skin. It’s formulated with hyaluronic acid, ceramides and glycerin to help hydrate your skin and help maintain its natural protective barrier. And believe it or not, it’s just $14 for a 16-ounce bottle.
- Gentle, fragrance-free and effective
- Affordable—and dermatologists say it works just as well as pricier brands
- Widely available in drugstores and big-box stores, as well as online
- Suitable for all skin types
- Might not find a product with the latest trendy ingredient
- Boring packaging
Wish you could get top-notch skin care with scientifically proven results without trekking to the dermatologist? You can! “Skinbetter Science puts so much incredible research into every product. Their team has a profound understanding of skin aging and what it takes to help defy the effects of time,” says Dr. Levin. “Additionally, each and every product formulation is tested on a variety of skin tones and skin types to ensure physicians have an idea of how the products could work for all our patients.” Just be aware that you won’t find these products at your local drugstore, Sephora or Ulta, but you can buy them online. And while you’ll likely end up paying quite a bit more for Skinbetter’s products, fans say it’s worth it.
Dr. Levin particularly loves the Alto Advanced Defense and Repair Serum. “This serum has 20 antioxidants, which neutralize free radicals (unstable molecules) produced by the body and support more efficient energy creation,” she explains. “This is critical to the skin’s renewal and repair process.” Adding just one pump of this serum to your morning and evening skin-care routines will have you on your way to brighter and more youthful-looking skin in no time.
- Clinically proven to work on aging skin
- Effective, with little to no irritation
- Can be used morning and night
- Paraben-free, fragrance-free, dye-free and cruelty-free
- Pricey; a one-ounce bottle of serum will set you back $190, though it can last three to four months
Best for acne-prone skin
Shiny skin and pesky breakouts aren’t just teenager problems. If you have oily, acne-prone skin as an adult, you’ll need a skin-care brand specially formulated to combat it. La Roche-Posay’s extensive line of dermatologist-tested acne treatments and products include medicated cleansers, prescription-strength topical retinoids and lightweight, oil-free moisturizers. So it’s not surprising that La Roche-Posay is recommended by 90,000 dermatologists worldwide, including Dr. Levin and Dr. Paul.
And even if you don’t have acne-prone skin, you’ll likely find something perfectly suited for your skin. “La Roche-Posay is renowned for incorporating high-quality ingredients that are well-tolerated and beneficial for the skin, with a particular focus on catering to sensitive skin types,” says Defne Arikan, founder and CEO of Bryhel beauty lab and manufacturer. “They offer a wide range of products that cater to individual needs, providing tailored solutions.”
If you’re looking to clear up your complexion, Dr. Levin and Dr. Paul recommend La Roche-Posay’s Effaclar Adapalene Gel. This prescription-strength product is formulated with a topical retinoid that treats and prevents blackheads, whiteheads and other blemishes. Apply the gel all over your face during your nighttime skin-care routine, then follow with a moisturizer that’s right for your skin type for blemish-free skin.
- Caters to sensitive skin types, including oily and acne-prone skin
- Offers prescription-strength products
- Products are developed and tested by dermatologists
- An entire skin-care regimen costs less than $100
- You may go through products quickly
Best for oily skin
Another favorite of Dr. Levin’s, Paula’s Choice offers effective products backed up by clinical studies and scientific evidence. And while the brand has a variety of different offerings suited for various skin needs, its extensive line of lightweight products make it particularly amazing for oily skin. They’re specially formulated to balance hydration and control shine, with the help of ingredients like niacinamide, salicylic acid and retinol.
If you’re dealing with oily skin, you’ll want to get your hands on the brand’s highly concentrated niacinamide serum. According to Plescia, niacinamide (a form of vitamin B3) is a true multitasker. “It also helps stimulate a skin cell’s life cycle, allowing the skin to retain moisture and leading to an improved barrier and hydrated skin,” she explains. “Additionally, a healthy skin barrier can help regulate oil production and pore size.” It can also help with inflammatory skin conditions such as rosacea or acne, as well as decrease skin redness and irritation.
Personally, I love the one-step Paula’s Choice Skin Perfecting Liquid Exfoliant. I don’t have particularly oily skin, but I do get the occasional breakout. I tried this exfoliant for four weeks and ended up with noticeably smoother, brighter and even-toned skin. Suffice to say, I am now a fan! I would absolutely recommend it to anyone, regardless of skin type.
- Offers products specially formulated to control oil
- Reasonably priced
- Can purchase skin-care kits and sets to address your needs
- User-friendly website makes it easy to find products for your skin type and concerns
- The men’s line is limited
Best for dry skin
Get ready to fall in love and forget that dry skin is even a concern. This Italian skin-care brand’s Hydramemory line uses prickly pear extract and hyaluronic acid to give your skin a serious dose of hydration by strengthening the skin barrier, increasing the amount of keratin in your skin and preventing moisture loss while maintaining brightness and softness. Translation: Your skin will retain moisture, giving it a more hydrated and plumped-up appearance.
Comfort Zone, as a brand, also focuses on clean formulas made primarily from natural ingredients. (Hence, the prickly pear extract.) Its products don’t contain silicone, animal derivatives, mineral oil and artificial colorants, and instead rely on botanical molecules and extracts. How effective are plant-based ingredients? While there’s no one-size-fits-all answer to this question, “they are generally considered gentler on the skin, making them suitable for sensitive skin,” Arikan says. “Comfort Zone’s products also tend to avoid synthetic additives, chemicals and artificial fragrances, which is a bonus to those who want to minimize their exposure to potential irritants.”
I’m a fan of the Hydramemory Water Source Serum, which I apply to clean, dry skin before my moisturizer. I’ve been using this and other products from the line for months now, and they managed to keep my skin soft and hydrated during a rough New England winter. They also have a fresh, clean scent that makes me feel like I just spent the day at the spa. When you’re ready for your makeup, check out these foundations made for dry skin.
- Keeps skin hydrated with natural extracts and hero ingredients like hyaluronic acid
- Made with more than 90% natural ingredients
- Not tested on animals
- Many products have a strong fragrance
Best for aging skin
As the first of the clinical-grade skin-care products available without a prescription, Murad set a new standard for skin care when it hit the market more than 30 years ago. And while Murad offers products specially formulated for a plethora of skin types and concerns, including eczema and acne-prone skin, a big focus is aging skin. Murad’s Resurgence line is designed to restore skin’s youthful appearance by reversing sun damage, smoothing deep wrinkle lines and improving overall skin texture. It also incorporates potent skin-tightening ingredients to give you a visible lift and smoother, firmer skin. Dr. Paul appreciates that their products are “effective and backed up by clinical studies and scientific evidence.” The company views skin care as health care.
If you want to look younger, Dr. Paul recommends Murad’s Retinol Youth Renewal Serum. This fast-acting serum promises results in just two weeks, thanks to its smart retinol technology, which balances a fast-acting retinoid, delayed-release retinol and a retinol booster for rapid results. Since retinol is notoriously drying, this serum contains hyaluronic acid to help skin retain moisture, and it’s gentle enough to be used nightly.
- Has a comprehensive line of products to tackle lines and wrinkles, as well as lift and firm aging skin
- Formulated with anti-aging ingredients like retinol, hyaluronic acid, peptides and ceramides
- Suitable for all skin types
- More expensive than some other anti-aging products
Best skin care with SPF
It should go without saying that you should wear face sunscreen every day. But chemical sunscreens, which contain octinoxate and oxybenzone, are not currently deemed safe by the FDA. Instead, says Plescia, you should opt for mineral sunscreens with zinc oxide and titanium dioxide—and that’s what all of Supergoop!’s products have. In fact, they are completely free of not just octinoxate and oxybenzone but also parabens and a long list of other harmful ingredients. This skin-care brand is also EU-compliant. What does that mean? With more than 1,300 ingredients banned from their formulas, the European Union is much stricter than the United States when it comes to ingredients that brands can and can’t use. In short, Supergoop! uses only clean ingredients, including that all-important mineral sunscreen.
Dr. Paul recommends Supergoop!’s Glowscreen Sunscreen to her patients with normal skin. But when it comes to skin-care products, Supergoop!’s lightweight Daily Dose Bioretinol + Mineral SPF is one of the brand’s bestsellers. It’s also one that I started using daily almost a year ago. It’s formulated with bakuchiol, a plant-based retinol alternative that Plescia refers to as the gold standard of retinol alternatives. “It has been clinically proven to have similar results to retinol with a much better skin tolerance,” she says. “This includes helping combat the appearance of hyperpigmentation and uneven skin tone, as well as reducing the appearance of fine lines, wrinkles and other signs of maturing skin.” This SPF-packed serum also contains a collagen-boosting peptide that targets fine lines, wrinkles and loss of elasticity.
- Clean ingredients, including bakuchiol and mineral sunscreen
- Lightweight, tinted formula blends into all skin tones and doesn’t leave a white caste
- No fragrance
- Doesn’t leave skin greasy
- Safe for sensitive and acne-prone skin
- Eyedroppers in the serums don’t suck up enough product to cover your entire face in one go
Best drugstore brand
If you thought drugstore brands were less effective than high-end brands, think again. “I love Cetaphil because they are dedicated to affordable and well-studied products, and they work alongside dermatologists to provide a variety of skin-care products to all consumers,” says Dr. Levin. And while Cetaphil’s products are designed for sensitive skin, they’re good for everyone. They’re formulated with hydrating ingredients such as niacinamide and glycerin, as well as panthenol (or pro-vitamin B5), which gently soothes and moisturizes skin. Add in some vitamin E, shea butter, hyaluronic acid, aloe vera, ceramides and more, and you have a gentle yet surprisingly strong cocktail that strengthens the skin barrier and improves the overall quality and appearance of your skin.
For patients suffering from dry skin, Dr. Levin recommends Cetaphil Restoraderm moisturizer. This fragrance-free formula provides immediate relief as it helps repair the skin barrier. It’s easily absorbed into the skin for long-lasting moisture, and it’s so gentle that it’s safe to use on babies who are 3 months or older.
- The brand works closely with dermatologists
- Formulated for sensitive skin but suited for all skin types
- Easy to find in drugstores and online
- More expensive than CeraVe
Best for sensitive skin
From food to fashion, the French seem to know what they’re doing, and skin care is no exception. Water from a mineral-rich thermal spring in the town of Avène in the South of France has been soothing sensitive skin for more than 200 years, and in 1990, the first Eau Thermale Avène products were manufactured to share those benefits with the world. Aside from using gentle ingredients like thermal water, omegas and post-biotic complexes, the brand has developed patented airtight packaging called Sterile Cosmetics, which allows Avène to package some of its formulas without preservatives. This offers even more protection to those with highly sensitive skin. FYI, sterile packaging or not, here’s how long your skin-care products and makeup will last after opening.
Dr. Levin recommends the brand’s Tolérance Control Soothing Skin Recovery Cream. This lightweight cream helps restore the skin’s barrier while soothing visible redness, tightness and overheating. It’s also infused with post-biotics to calm skin discomfort such as burning, tingling or tightness, and comes in sterile, preservative-free packaging.
- Formulated for sensitive skin
- Sterile packaging allows some formulas to be preservative-free
- Products are affordable and widely available
- Not all products are preservative-free
Best for eczema
If you suffer from eczema, you know all too well how painful those dry, itchy, scaly patches can be. You also know that even the gentlest of creams can burn when you’re in the midst of a flare-up. That’s why you’ll adore Vanicream, one of the best skin-care brands on the market for eczema, according to Dr. Levin and Dr. Paul. Awarded the National Eczema Association’s Seal of Acceptance, it’s also great for all types of sensitive skin. Notably, its products are free from common chemical irritants, including fragrances, dyes, lanolin, parabens and formaldehyde releasers. But even though this brand is super gentle, you’ll still want to steer clear of double cleansing, which can strip your skin of necessary oils.
Dr. Levin and Dr. Paul both recommend Vanicream Moisturizing Cream to patients with eczema. It’s also what my daughter’s pediatric dermatologist recommended for the painful eczema that covered much of her body when she was a toddler. This soothing cream is one of the few that didn’t burn when applied to even the most painful patches of dry skin. Though this cream isn’t particularly lightweight, it absorbs quickly into the skin and doesn’t leave a greasy residue.
- Has the National Eczema Association’s Seal of Acceptance
- Gentle products formulated for sensitive skin
- Free from common chemical irritants
- Affordable, with most products under $20
- I have received a few tubs with a pump that didn’t work. It cannot be returned, but Amazon was always quick to send a replacement.
About the experts
- Melissa K. Levin, MD, FAAD, is a New York City dermatologist, the founder and CEO of Entière Dermatology and a clinical assistant professor at Mount Sinai Icahn School of Medicine.
- Suchismita Paul, MD, FAAD, is a board-certified dermatologist in California.
- Marisa Plescia is a cosmetic chemist based in Saint Paul, Minnesota.
- Defne Arikan is the founder and CEO of Bryhel beauty lab and manufacturer.