I’m an elitist.
When it comes to skincare, only the best products will do.
And why not? I’m not exactly going to achieve the glowing, flawless skin I want if I settle for second best, am I?
But, how do you define best?
- Top Notch Formula: forget those rare “miraculous” exotic extracts the manufacturers swear do wonders for the skin. If science hasn’t shown REPEATEDLY that an ingredient works, it doesn’t make the cut.
- Functional packaging: the best skincare ingredients are divas. When they come in contact with light and air, they throw a tantrum and stop working. So, they must come in opaque and airtight tubes and bottles for me to even consider them.
- Reasonable price: I don’t mind paying a small premium for something that REALLY works, but some brands charge an outrageously high price just because they can. That’s not cool.
So, what brands fit these criteria for me?
1. Paula’s Choice
My first love. Before I met Paula’s Choice, I thought every skincare brand had its gems and duds (more duds than gems, judging from my experience). Paula’s Choice is different.
Paula doesn’t care about what ingredient is the current media’s darling. She doesn’t stop using an ingredient because the idiots at the EWG think it’s bad (sorry, but they get it wrong WAY more often than they get it right).
Instead, she looks at the science. If science says an ingredient works, it makes the cut. If science says an ingredient is irritating, it gets the boot.
You can trust every product to do what it says it does. You can trust they have the right packaging. And you can trust them to be reasonably priced (even though shipping charges to Italy are way too high!).
- Calm Redness Relief Repairing Serum ($34.00): a soothing serum with antiaging properties even sensitive skin will love
- Clinical 1% Retinol Treatment ($56.00): an antiaging powerhouse to bust wrinkles
- Skin Perfecting 2% BHA Liquid Exfoliant ($29.00): an exfoliant that unclogs the pores – bye bye breakouts!
2. Drunk Elephant
I thought I could never love another brand as much as I love Paula’s Choice. Then, Drunk Elephant came along.
The two have so much in common. They only use the best ingredients. The ones that work, you know. And put them in tubes and bottles that keep them stable and effective for long.
What’s different is their size. Drunk Elephant only makes a handful of products. As much as I’d like them to grow, I have to admit, that makes choosing the right products so much easier!
In case you were wondering, it’s called Drunk Elephant because elephants get drunk on marula, their key ingredient. But the products I love the most are those with vitamin C and glycolic acid. You know, those oldies but goodies.
- C-Firma Day Serum ($80.00): A powerful vitamin C serum with vitamin E and ferulid acid to prevent wrinkles and brighten skin
- T.L.C. Framboos Glycolic Night Serum ($90.00): A multi-tasker that exfoliates, hydrates, soothes and helps prevent wrinkles
- Umbra Sheer Physical Defense SPF30 ($38.00): A mineral sunscreen loaded with antioxidants to protect skin from UV rays and prevent premature aging.
Deciem is the umbrella for beauty brands that are disrupting the industry. Niod, Hylamide, The Ordinary, Fountain, White RX… all Deciem.
What do all they have in common? They push the boundaries using the latest breakthrough ingredients. And when they fall back on the old ones, you can bet your last penny, they only pick the gold stars that have been proven they work time and time again.
The icing on the cake? They don’t charge you a hefty premium just because they can. Deciem keeps the prices as low as it possibly can.
- Ethylated L-Ascorbic Acid 30% Network ($64.53): A highly concentrated vitamin C serum that fights wrinkles and enhances skin barrier function
- Hylamide Booster Glow (£20.00): a self-tanner without DHA (the things that gives you a streaky orangey tan) for the most natural sun-kissed glow ever
- The Ordinary Advanced Retinoid 2% (£8.00): The gentlest retinol serum I’ve ever tried. And it works like a charm.
This is the best skincare brand you can find at the drugstore. Bar none. Trust me, I’ve tried them all.
Ok, some of the moisturizers are loaded with palmitate and myrystate ingredients that make you breakout (I said it was the best, not that it was perfect 😉 ). Avoid those.
But, most of the products have stuff that really works. Serums with retinoids. Exfoliants with AHAs. Sunscreen with broad spectrum protection (no, that’s not a given). And pretty much everything has niacinamide. It’s a multitasker that treats wrinkles, dark spots, acne and irritations.
Do you know how difficult it is to find a brand that puts a big dollop of niacinamide in their products, especially at the drugstore? Forget about the old lady image. If you’re on a budget, load up on this stuff!
Most of their products are properly packaged in opaques tubes and bottles too, so the goodies inside won’t go bad. Need I say more?
- Pro-X Age Repair Lotion With SPF 30 (£47.99): a lightweight moisturizer that prevents wrinkles and provides some extra sun protection
- Pro-X Deep Wrinkle Treatment ($44.99): a lightweight moisturizer with vitamin A that helps prevent premature aging
- Pro-X Even Skin Tone Spot Fading Treatment ($44.99): Fades dark spots while soothing skin.
5. Future Derm
The name gives it away, doesn’t it? Yep, it’s the brand founded by one of my fave skincare gurus, Nicki Zevola of Future Derm.
Nicki was studying to become a dermatologist when she realised she was doing it only because she wanted her own skincare line. So, she ditched it and created her own products.
But, her studies dodn’t go to waste. Nicki used what she’s learned about skincare to formulate skincare products that REALLY work. If science doesn’t prove an ingredient works, she won’t use it.
And she makes sure the packaging keeps the active safe. She doesn’t want them to go to waste before her customers can even use them (yes, that happens).
This is a girlboss who knows what she’s doing and I can’t wait to see what she’s going to release next.
- Specialist Customizable Moisturizer: fill in a short questionnarie and Nicki will create a bespoke formula just for you!
- Time Release Retinol 0.5: releases retinol slowly over several hours so it doesn’t irritate skin
- Vitamin CE Caffeic Silk Serum 16+2: like Skinceuticals CE Ferulic, but with caffeic acid instead of ferulic acid
That doesn’t mean that I never check out other brands. But, usually, whenever I’m shopping around for a new serum or sunscreen, I turn to these brands first. They (usually! – fingers crossed I don’t jinx it now) never let me down.
What are your favourite skincare brands?