Behold: The 50 Best Skin-Care Products of 2021, According to Editors
Last year might have felt like R.E.M. was humming in the background of life about the end of the world as we know it, but rest assured: 2021 has been infinitely better, especially when it comes to new skin-care products. Over the last 16 months, while "skinimalism" continued to trend on TikTok, product development teams were hard at work innovating the best-of-the-best formulas to help you put your best face forward as we slowly but surely entered back into the world.
From countless brands taking more concerted steps toward sustainability to products that deliver the "less is more" trend to your doorstep — not to mention a single face cream that Jennifer Lopez swears will get you her glow (fingers crossed) — 2021 is all but guaranteed to bring brighter days to your skin-care routine.
If the upcoming skin-care launches ahead are any indication, it's the start of a new world in beauty as we know it — and you'll feel fine.
Drunk Elephant C-Firma Fresh Day Serum
If it ain't broke, why fix it? That's what you might think about Drunk Elephant's bestselling vitamin C serum, but the brand's new C-Firma Fresh Day Serum ($78) was created with a longer shelf life in mind. It uses the same blend of potent ingredients you'd find in the original, only you choose when you're ready to use it by mixing one bottle's ingredients with the other's.
"By separating the formula of C-Firma into two phases, one phase being the liquid serum base and other being the active vitamin C, the user is able to choose the moment of 'activation' for their C-Firma Fresh, which happens when they mix the two phases together," founder Tiffany Masterson told POPSUGAR. "That means no more color shifts and no wondering how much time your C-Firma will remain at its most potent."
Dr. Dennis Gross Advanced Retinol + Ferulic Texture Renewal Serum
Ever since retinol hit the mainstream market, many people with sensitive skin have struggled to find a version of the ingredient that doesn't anger and irritate their skin. God may be a woman, but Dr. Dennis Gross heard their prayers. The Advanced Retinol + Ferulic Texture Renewal Serum ($72) does everything a retinol serum should — smooth lines and clear acne — without the redness. How? The serum combines bakuchiol (pros say it has retinol-like benefits while preventing irritation) and rambutan (a collagen booster) with retinol and ferulic acid to gently turn over cells so your skin looks radiant.
Fig .1 Ceramide Seal Moisturizer
As far as women-founded skin-care brands go, this is perhaps the newest that deserves all of the hype. Come for the hot packaging (the colors make your vanity feel like a Met exhibit, while the glass bottles are meant to be refilled), but stay for the dermatologist-approved ingredients. Ask most beauty editors, and they'll say the oil cleanser is their new favorite, but we think the Ceramide Seal Moisturizer ($28) is the underdog of the collection. Packed with ceramides and peptides, this lightweight formula feels just as good underneath makeup as it does on its own day or night. It does what it needs to do — hydrate and strengthen your skin barrier — serving as the perfect cherry on top of your skin-care routine.
Hero Cosmetics Rescue Balm
We don't fully understand the blemish-healing magic behind the Hero Cosmetics Rescue Balm ($13), but it's so effective at banishing breakouts, we don't even care. (It's so good, it won a coveted spot for best acne treatment in POPSUGAR's March Beauty Awards.) After using a pimple patch, use a tiny dab of this balm — made with moisturizing panthenol and shea butter, plus brightening vitamin E — to kick-start the postzit healing process.
Kiehl's Skin Renewing Micro-Dose Retinol Serum
The world of microdosing has swept the medical field to psychedelic heights, but in the field of skin care, the results can be just as mind blowing when used as a delivery system for potent ingredients. Editors and dermatologists alike can agree: this Kiehl's Skin Renewing Micro-Dose Retinol Serum ($85) strikes the perfect balance between potent and gentle.
Dermalogica Biolumin-c Gel Moisturizer
Maybe the fact that the Dermalogica Biolumin-c Gel Moisturizer ($65) is loaded with brightening vitamin C and smells like a cup of orange juice is enough to sell you, but we like that the blend is balanced with hydrating ingredients like squalane and hyaluronic acid so you really glow.
FaceGym Youth Reformer Oil-In-Serum
It's really not surprising to anyone who's tried the FaceGym Youth Reformer Oil-In-Serum ($98) that it keeps selling out. Although the formula — a vitamin C and hyaluronic acid cocktail to moisturize and brighten — is impressive and comfy on skin, it's the unique packaging feature that has us reaching for this product every single day. On both the box and bottle, you'll find a QR code, which leads you directly to a short three-minute facial massage tutorial (the kind of thing FaceGym became famous for). If you're someone who loves a soothing and meditative massage but has yet to absorb a real regimen, this will be your jam.
Happy Dance Look Alive CBD Face Moisturizer
We know just the thing to get you skin like Kristen Bell's: her brand created with CBD industry leaders Lord Jones just dropped its Happy Dance Look Alive CBD Face Moisturizer ($29), a thick, luxurious cream loaded with heavy hydrators like avocado oil, squalane, and hyaluronic acid for that glow worthy of a red carpet.
Warew Travel Set Aqua
Whether you're traveling to your grandma's house for the weekend or from your couch to the gym, you'll want to stock the Warew Travel Set Aqua ($70) in your bag. It's got everything you need to finish your full skin-care routine: cleansing oil and face wash (to double cleanse), essence treatment, and moisturizer, each one of which is lightweight, simple yet effective, and not at all irritating.
Mara Beauty Volcanic Sea Clay Detox Masque
Don't let the lightweight feel fool you, the Mara Beauty Volcanic Sea Clay Detox Masque ($54) is another Beauty Award winner that gets the job done, fast. It's packed with power players in the deep-cleaning game, like kaolin clay and volcanic ash, that do work on clogged pores, but thanks to the addition of soothing green tea and honey (which is ethically sourced, BTW), it didn't leave our skin feeling dry or tight.
GoodHabit Skin Shielding Serum
The GoodHabit Skin Shielding Serum ($58) is a barrier-strengthening serum that fights against the damages of environmental aggressors such as blue light, smog, and pollution. It leaves your skin plump and hydrated with its botanical-packed formula. It has a flat applicator head that allows you to apply the serum directly to your skin hands-free, which makes it great for travel.
Tatcha The Dewy Serum
If you like to live by the motto of "do whatever Meghan Markle does that makes her skin look so royally good," go ahead and bookmark the latest from her favorite brand, the Tatcha The Dewy Serum ($88). The formula boasts its proprietary blend of Japenese rice, green tea, and algae, which all work in tandem to improve the skin's texture, plus the ever-hydrating hyaluronic acid and squalane to keep it plump.
Naturopathica Marshmallow & Microalgae Sensitivity Soothing Crème
This simple, no-frills Naturopathica Marshmallow & Microalgae Sensitivity Soothing Crème ($84) contains soothing microalgae and marshmallow (the kind from a flower, not a plastic bag) that calms all signs of redness, and the lightweight Cool Whip texture means it will layer expertly with the rest of your skin-care products.
Dr. Barbara Sturm The Good C Vitamin C Serum
If we had to guess the magic behind Hailey Bieber's brighter-than-bright skin, it's this serum. Formulated by her go-to aesthetics doctor, Dr. Barbara Sturm The Good C Vitamin C Serum ($145) features a potent dose of vitamin C and kakadu plum with none of the artificial citrus scent you often get with others (this stuff is totally fragrance free).
Laneige Radian-C Cream With Vitamin C
Our editors can attest that there's a lot to love with this Laneige Radian-C Cream With Vitamin C ($35). If it's not the scent — which is positively citrus forward — maybe you'll appreciate the heavy dose of vitamin C (8.5 percent, in fact) that brightens in no time, or the lightweight vitamin E blend that moisturizes the skin without feeling greasy.
Shani Darden Intensive Eye Renewal Cream
Formulated by one of the Hollywood's most sought-after aestheticians, the Shani Darden Intensive Eye Renewal Cream ($68) is everything your undereye area needs: firming peptides, hydrating squalane, and barrier-building ceramides. The rich, creamy formula is so effective, in fact, it won the Best Eye Cream category in our February POPSUGAR Beauty Awards.
Banila Co Clean It Zero Pore Clarifying Toner Pads
We love how the Banila Co Clean It Zero Pore Clarifying Toner Pads ($24) introduce a quick-and-easy approach to toning your skin. Each cloth is highly saturated with a blend of gentle exfoliators — like lactic acid, salicylic acid, and tea tree extract — that you swipe on post cleanse.
SkinCeuticals Silymarin CF
From the geniuses who brought you C E Ferulic — which is often regarded as the holy grail of vitamin C serums by dermatologists and beauty editors alike — comes its latest brightening treatment for acne-prone skin: SkinCeuticals Silymarin CF ($166). It blends the relatively new ingredient silymarin (a milk thistle extract) with the tried-and-true salicylic acid, l-ascorbic acid, and ferulic to keep breakouts in check while simultaneously fading hyperpigmentation and improving skin texture.
Peace Out Skincare Blemish Balm Cleanser
The Peace Out Skincare Blemish Balm Cleanser ($22) does double duty in more ways than one. Not only does the solid balm texture mean you'll get to wash away a day's worth of grime while still adding hydrating back to the skin, but it's also formulated with two kinds of gentle exfoliators. The biodegradable beads will physically slough off dead skin cells, while salicylic acid will work to dissolve any gunk from your pores. Win-win.
Kate Somerville Kateceuticals Total Repair Cream
If the fact that the Kate Somerville Kateceuticals Total Repair Cream ($120) was created by everyone's favorite aesthetician to the stars and boasts a laundry list of skin-loving ingredients — from firming peptides and ceramides to moisturizing squalene and hyaluronic acid — is not enough to convince you to buy it, maybe this will: we've yet to find another face moisturizer this year that feels this dreamy on skin.
StriVectin Multi-Action Super-C Vitamin C Moisturizer SPF 30 Sunscreen
The StriVectin Multi-Action Super-C Vitamin C Moisturizer SPF 30 Sunscreen ($69) gives you everything you need to take on the day: sun protection, a hit of hydration, and a dose of vitamin C to fight environmental aggressors. It also has the lightest scent of citrus that'll give you an instant pick-me-up the moment you swipe it on.
Hero Cosmetics Clear Collective Exfoliating Jelly Cleanser
The Hero Cosmetics Clear Collective Exfoliating Jelly Cleanser ($13) is like face wash on steroids: it doesn't just rinse away dirt and oil, but it also contains two forms of exfoliation to slough away dead skin cells. The first is chemical — that's glycolic + mandelic acids at work — and the other is physical — thanks to teeny konjac jellies.
Summer Fridays Cloud Dew Oil-Free Gel Cream Moisturizer
What's light-as-air and pretty all over? Cotton candy, sure, but otherwise the Summer Fridays Cloud Dew Oil-Free Gel Cream Moisturizer ($42) is it. This gel feels so weightless on skin, you'll barely notice it's heavy in hyaluronic acid (to hydrate) plus pineapple enzymes (to brighten).
Korres Greek Yoghurt Foaming Cream Cleanser
Creamy, soap-free, delicious-smelling — the Korres Greek Yoghurt Foaming Cream Cleanser ($26) checks all the boxes you'd want from a sudsy-yet-hydrating face wash. Fold that in with the fact that its loaded with probiotics from greek yogurt and honeysuckle to soothe redness, and you've got quite the treat for your skin.
Cover FX Custom Blending Moisturizer
In the cosmetics brand's first foray into skin-care territory, we suppose it only makes sense that the Cover FX Custom Blending Moisturizer ($42) is just as perfect pre-makeup as it is on its own. That's because the light-yet-hydrating cream is packed with hydrators like hyaluronic acid, shea butter, ceramides, and jojoba oil to lay the perfect canvas before foundation — but we guarantee you'll like it so much, you'll want to use it on makeup-free days, too.
Peace Out Retinol Eye Stick
Our editors can confirm: eye cream doesn't get much easier to apply than with the Peace Out Retinol Eye Stick ($28). The solid serum formula looks and feels like a lip balm — and you can glide it along your undereye area like one too — but it's also loaded with cell turnover-boosting retinol and plumping peptides to target dark spots and fine lines.
Keys Soulcare Skin Transformation Cream
If you've bought into skin care as a form of self-care these last few months, allow us to introduce you to your next indulgence: the Keys Soulcare Skin Transformation Cream ($30). One of the first to come from Alicia Keys' new beauty line, it's a rich, luxuriously emollient moisturizer formulated ceramides and hyaluronic acid to moisturize, plus bakuchiol, a plant-based alternative to retinol that helps improve texture and tone.
Burt's Bees Full-Spectrum CBD Foot & Hand Cream
When you need an emollient hand salve with a nod to the beauty industry's buzziest ingredient, you'll find no product better than the Burt's Bees Full-Spectrum CBD Foot & Hand Cream ($20). It's rich and decadent in all the best ways, but is also formulated with 200 mg of full-spectrum CBD to soothe any redness or patches.
Garnier Skinactive Micellar Cleansing Eco Pads
In the wider effort by the beauty industry to introduce more eco-friendly packaging, brands are rethinking single-use products in favor of recyclable counterparts. Exhibit A: the Garnier Skinactive Micellar Cleansing Eco Pads ($9), which consists of three reusable microfiber pads to douse your micellar water and sweep away a day's worth of makeup. Hand wash the pads afterward with gentle soap and water and then reuse, reuse, and reuse again.
Skin can never be too hydrated — we're on an endless quest to quench, saturate, slather, and moisturize ourselves into oblivion. Mercifully, the Buttah Skin CocoShea Creme ($19) from Dorian Renaud's line of products leaves us feeling like a baby seal that has just emerged, glistening, from the ocean. Packed with vitamin E, cocoa and shea butters, and hyaluronic acid, the formula is rich without suffocating my skin. Plus, it melts instantly from a cream to a divine facial oil consistency as it smooths on. (Insert pleased-baby-seal barking sounds here.)
JLo Beauty That Blockbuster Night Cream
Jennifer Lopez first gave a sneak peek at her new skin-care collection JLo Beauty in December, and we've been clamoring over it ever since. Among our favorites in the lineup? The JLo Beauty That Blockbuster Night Cream ($58), a rich, luxurious cream that uses a combo of hyaluronic acid (to add moisture) and peptides (to boost radiance). You can call it the closest thing you'll get to bottling the fountain of youth.
Caudalie Resveratrol-Lift Lightweight Firming Cashmere Cream
Hey, oily, acne-prone, or combo skin types: the Caudalie Resveratrol-Lift Lightweight Firming Cashmere Cream ($58) is hydrating yet lightweight enough that it slips across skin without leaving behind a greasy feel, making it perfect pre-makeup or on its own in the A.M. It's also formulated with a blend of antioxidant-rich resveratrol (the brand's bread and butter for keeping environmental aggressors at bay) and peptides, hyaluronic acid, and squalane (a winning hydrating combo) — all housed in 100 percent recyclable packaging to boot.
Curél Extreme Dry Hand Relief Cream
We know, we know: all the regular hand washing and sanitizing this year has turned enough people's skin so stiff and hardened you could place them in a Madame Tussauds museum. That's where the Curél Extreme Dry Hand Relief Cream ($4) comes in. It's loaded with heavy-hitting hydrators like coconut oil, vitamin E, monoi oil, and glycerin — just to name a few — to pack on the moisture, and yet somehow never feels greasy. Win-win.
SuperGoop! Daily Dose Vitamin C + SPF
From the brand that's known for doling out one game-changing sunscreen after another, Supergoop! is calling the new Daily Dose Vitamin C + SPF ($46, available Dec. 28) its most innovative SPF formula yet. That's because this serum-sunscreen hybrid packs a heavy punch of vitamin C (a compound that is notoriously tricky to formulate around, thanks to its unstable chemical makeup), making it a first of its kind.
Simple Skincare Instant Glow & Defend Wipes
Shortly off the heels of the brand's first set of compostable face wipes comes the Simple Skincare Instant Glow & Defend Wipes ($5) — the latest iteration that are also made with sustainably sourced, fully biodegradable plant fiber that take 42 days when composted. Even better, these are made with hydrating niacinamide and glycerin (but no fragrance, artificial color, alcohol) to keep your skin supple while wiping away day.
Drunk Elephant Sweet Biome Fermented Sake Spray
Its name may give a nod to the popular Japanese drink, but the Drunk Elephant Sweet Biome Fermented Sake Spray ($42, available in January) is more like a swig of Gatorade for your skin. Chock-full with electrolytes (like coconut water and sodium PCA), plus amino acids and ceramides, one spritz will make you look refreshed — and ready to take on the day.
Bioré Brightening Clay Mask
Yes, the Bioré Brightening Clay Mask ($6) might look like a punchier version of your favorite Capri Sun drink growing up, but what's packed inside — vitamin C-rich yuzu lemon to brighten; papaya enzymes to exfoliate — is even sweeter. Each pouch contains enough juice to use four to five times.
Lord Jones CBD Lip Balm
You should be able to count on one of the biggest brands in the CBD game to put their money where their mouth is, which is exactly what Lord Jones did with its CBD Lip Balm ($19). Laced with 25 mg of full-spectrum CBD — plus olive oil, shea butter, and beeswax — it's one of the dreamiest lip salves you'll buy.
Dove Irritation Care Body Wash
This Dove Irritation Care Body Wash ($6) goes out to the easily irritated types out there. Whether your skin is eczema-prone or just so happens to be more sensitive than the jealous best friend in every RomCom, this sulfate-free sudser is formulated sans any potential allergens so you can wash without the worry.
Olay Regenerist Collagen Peptide 24 Eye Cream
The team over at Olay really powered up with its Olay Regenerist Collagen Peptide 24 Eye Cream ($29, originally $39). The fragrance-free, creamy-as-hell formula marries collagen peptides and glycerin to deliver a heavy hit of hydration to the undereye area with niacinamide to target dark circles.
StriVectin Lactic Acid Nightly Retexturizing Serum
Lactid acid is one of the gentlest exfoliators you can buy, but that doesn't mean the StriVectin Lactic Acid Nightly Retexturizing Serum ($79) doesn't hold its weight. After just two weeks of use, our editors saw a huge improvement in skin texture and brightness — but without the irritation or harsh side effects you sometimes get with other acids.
Elizabeth Arden Flawless Start Hydrating Serum Primer
The rosy hue of the Elizabeth Arden Flawless Start Hydrating Serum Primer ($42) helps give your skin an instant boost. Use it under makeup for smooth application or on its own to give your skin a hydrated and glowy appearance.
Youth To The People 15% Vitamin C + Clean Caffeine Energy Serum
No one will know about your late-night Netflix binge after using the Youth To The People 15% Vitamin C + Clean Caffeine Energy Serum ($68). The lightweight serum helps brighten with a plant called guayusa and depuff with plant-derived caffeine, lending your skin the wakeup call it deserves.
Pacifica Glow Baby Brightening Peel Pads 10% AHA + BHA
Talk about swiping right: the Pacifica Glow Baby Brightening Peel Pads 10% AHA + BHA ($14) uses a blend of lactic, glycolic, and salicylic acids to exfoliate the skin and improve uneven texture, acne, and dullness. Don't worry about it being too drying — the apple fruit extract in the formula helps boost hydration.
Clarins Total Cleansing Oil
Nothing is more frustrating — or damaging for the skin – than rubbing frantically at your face trying to remove stubborn makeup. The Clarins Total Cleansing Oil ($35) melts away foundation, waterproof mascara, long-lasting liquid lipstick, you name it, in seconds.
Vaseline Clinical Care Hand Sanitizer Lotion
Ever wish you could get the bacteria-killing benefits of a hand sanitizer, without stripping away every inch of moisture in the process? Introducing the Vaseline Clinical Care Hand Sanitizer Lotion ($4), which is formulated with moisturizing glycerin and vitamin E to offset the very drying properties that could keep you from sanitizing.
IT Cosmetics Hello Results Daily Retinol Cream
IT Cosmetics is bringing in the big guns with its Hello Results Daily Retinol Cream ($69), which is formulated with encapsulated retinol to boost cell turnover — plus vitamin E to counter any drying effects that tend to come with it — and housed in a smart dispenser that keeps it from oxidizing. Just note that it does have quite a strong scent, so if you're averse to fragrance this one might not be for you.