the best skincare brands

What are the best skincare brands? I’m an elitist. When it comes to skincare, only the best products will do. And why not? You’re not exactly going to achieve the glowing, flawless skin you want if you settle for second best, are you? But with the a new skincare brand or two joining the market every single day, it’s hard to tell what’s the absolute best out there and what’s just overpriced marketing hype.

Wouldn’t it be amazing if you could have a selection of skincare brands you can buy from knowing every single product is amazing and does exactly what it says on the tin? We’re not 100% there yet, but there are a few trusted brand I always turn to when I need a new moisturiser or serums. They’re the brands I check out before any others for their proven track record of delivering results. So what are the best skincare brands you can trust?

My Criteria For Picking The Best Skincare Brands

Before I tell you what the best skincare brands are, let me explain how I made my selection. This way, you can also use the same criteria to evaluate new brands that come on the market (there’s always a new one).

  1. Science-backed actives: 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. This is why I prefer retinol to granactive retinoids or peptides.
  2. 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.
  3. 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 are the best skincare brands that fit these criteria for me?

paula's choice 10% niacinamide booster 01

Best Multitasking Skincare Brand: Paula’s Choice

Paula’s Choice used to be my all-time fave brand because it made my life so much easier. I could pick any product off the shelf, knowing it did what it said on the tin. The founder, Paula Begoun never cared about what ingredient is the current media’s darling. She never stopped using an ingredient because the idiots at the EWG think it’s bad (#sorrynotsorry, they get it wrong WAY more often than they get it right).

Why am I talking in the past? Unfortunately, Paula sold the brand a few years ago and the horrible people who bought it started changing things up. The old products formulated by Paula are still top notch. Paula always looked at scientific research only. If science says an ingredient works, it makes the cut. If science says an ingredient is irritating, it gets the boot. The best part? Each product has EVERYTHING your skin needs – nothing more and nothing less.

Here’s the deal: skin is a complex organ that needs humectants and occlusives to moisturise it, antioxidants to fight wrinkles, skin-soothers to calm down inflammation and a lot of other stuff. Most skincare brands give you only ONE of these things. Like, a moisturizer that only moisturises. Or an antioxidant serum that only prevents wrinkles. Not Paula’s Choice. Each of their moisturisers (and everything else they make, for that matter) has a bit of everything so it can moisturise, fight wrinkles, calm skin etc.

So, if you’re picking up an old formula, you can rest assured it works. The new formula? The new owners are jumping on the marketing bandwagon, creating products Paula herself would never have approved of, like eye creams that do nothing, peptides serums that haven’t been scientifically proven to work, and Vitamin C moisturisers that barely contain any Vitamin C at all.

As of right now, there are still enough of the old formulas for the brand to make the cut as one of the best. Just beware of any new product that comes out. It may be more hype than science. *sighs*


  • Paula’s Choice 10% Niacinamide Booster ($42.00/£40.00): A niacinamide + antioxidants booster you can mix with your fave skincare products to moisturise skin, soothe irritations, brighten the complexion, fight wrinkles, fade away dark spots and even shrink pores. Available at Cult BeautyDermstorePaula’s ChoiceSephora, and SpaceNK
  • Paula’s Choice C15 Super Booster ($49.00/£45.00): A dupe for Skinceuticals CE Ferulic, it’s loaded with antioxidants and skin-soothers to destroy free radicals and calm down inflammation – two of the main causes of premature aging. Available at Cult BeautyDermstoreNet-A-PorterPaula’s ChoiceSephora, and SpaceNK
  • Paula’s Choice Clinical 1% Retinol Treatment ($56.00/£47.00): Turns your serums and moisturisers into powerful wrinkle-fighters. Available at Cult BeautyNet-A-PorterPaula’s ChoiceSephora, and SpaceNK
  • Paula’s Choice Skin Perfecting 2% BHA Liquid Exfoliant ($29.00/£26.00): A best-selling exfoliant that unclogs pores, treats breakouts and gets rid of blackheads. Available at Cult BeautyDermstoreNet-A-PorterPaula’s ChoiceSephora, and SpaceNK.
  • Paula’s Choice Resist Super-Light Wrinkle Defense SPF 30 ($33.00): A tinted mineral sunscreens packed with antioxidants with soothing properties. It has a lightweight texture that doesn’t leave a white cast behind. Available at Cult BeautyDermstore, Paula’s Choice, and Sephora.

Related: Paula’s Choice 10% Niacinamide Booster Review

drunk elephant c-firma day serum

Best Natural Skincare Brand: Drunk Elephant

Ok, I’m using the term “natural” very broadly here. Drunk Elephant doesn’t shy away from synthetic chemicals – IF they work and are safe. But they do refuse to use silicones, fragrances, dyes and other chemicals with a bad rep. If you want them out of your skincare products, Drunk Elephant is a brand you want to check out.

Why? Drunk Elephant has a lot in common with Paula’s Choice. ALL their products feature actives that can really do what they claim on the tin. Plus, they’re multitasking. Their vitamin C serum, for example, fights wrinkles, moisturises skin and gently exfoliates it to boot. The only con is the price. Drunk Elephant is more expensive than Paula’s Choice but then they use way more natural extracts – those can cost a pretty penny!


  • Drunk Elephant B-Hydra Intensive Hydration Serum ($52.00/£44.00): A super hydrating hyaluronic acid serum that doubles as an oil-free moisturiser for oily skin. Available at Cult BeautySephora, and SpaceNK
  • Drunk Elephant C-Firma Day Serum ($80.00/£67.00): A dupe for Skinceuticals CE Ferulic that fights premature aging, moisturises skin and gently exfoliates it too. Available at Cult BeautySephora and SpaceNK
  • Drunk Elephant A-Passioni Retinol Cream ($28.00/£24.00): A high-strength, 1% retinol serum to fight wrinkles and boost collagen. It’s also oaded with antioxidants that prevent premature wrinkles and natural oils to moisturize skin. Use it only if you’re used to such high concentrations of retinol. Available at Cult BeautySephora, and SpaceNK
  • Drunk Elephant Protini Polypeptide Cream ($68.00/£57.00): This peptide moisturiser is loaded with amino acids (the building blocks of your skin) to moisturise skin and plump it up – without clogging your pores and giving you breakouts. Its lightweight, gel-like texture sinks in immediately, leaving skin softer, smoother, and dewy. Available at Cult BeautySephora and SpaceNK
  • Drunk Elephant T.L.C. Framboos Glycolic Night Serum ($90.00/£76.00): A multitasker that exfoliates, hydrates, soothes, unclogs pores and helps prevent wrinkles. Available at BootsCult BeautyDrunk ElephantLook FantasticSephoraSpaceNK, and Ulta

Related: Drunk Elephant C-Firma Day Full Review

niod modulating glucosides review

3. Best Innovative Skincare Brand: Niod

Deciem has a gazillion brands, each one with a distinct mission and personality. The Ordinary, for example, is all about bringing you actives that work for the cheapest possible price. I’m all for that but… I’m a NIOD girl at heart. I like the brand because it pushes the boundaries, using the latest breakthrough ingredients and technologies no one else has.

And, it doesn’t charge you a premium for it. I mean, when Skinceuticals came out with its CE Ferulic serums (revolutionary for its time), it charged $150+ for it. NIOD doesn’t think originality and breakthroughs should come with a premium price tag. If you want to be the first to use the new skincare HGs of the future, look no further.


  • Niod Copper Amino Isolate Serum 3:1 (£38.00): A copper peptide serum to boost collagen, firm skin and keep in a constant state of repair. Available at Beauty BayCult BeautyNiod, and SpaceNK
  • Niod Ethylated L-Ascorbic Acid 30% Network (£33.33): A highly concentrated vitamin C serum that fights wrinkles and enhances skin barrier function. Available at Beauty Bay, Brown Thomas, Niod, and SpaceNK
  • Niod Modulating Glucosides (£21.33): A serum loaded with every skin-soother you can think of to calm down irritations, reduce redness and prevent premature aging.  Available at HarrodsNiod, and Selfridges
  • Niod Multi-Molecular Hyaluronic Complex (£25.00): It has 10+ forms of hyaluronic acid to hydrate every layer of your skin and plump up your face. Available at Beauty Bay, and Cult Beauty
  • Niod Survival 30 (£25.00): A sunscreen on steroids that protects skin from the sun and prevents sun damage without leaving a white cast behind. Available at Beauty Bay, Cult Beauty, and Niod

Related: Niod Copper Amino Isolate Serum 2:1 Full Review

cerave moisturizing lotion

Best Drugstore Skincare Brand: CeraVe

This is the best skincare brand you can find at the drugstore. Bar none. Trust me, I’ve tried them all. Ok, it’s better for dry than oily skin – those moisturisers are on the thick side. But hey, they’re just what the doctor ordered to strengthen your skin’s barrier and keep your skin soft and supple even in the foulest of weathers.

CeraVe products are loaded with niacinamide, ceramides and fatty acids, all the good stuff skin needs to stay hydrated and withstand the attacks from cold weather… and that we take for granted. The downside? You won’t find many antioxidants here. Hey, they have to keep the price down somehow…


Related: CeraVe Hydrating Cleanser Full Review

The Verdict

There you have it, the best skincare brands for every budget and need. Not all products from this brand are top notch, but they by far have more gems than duds – you can rarely go wrong with any of them.