A person’s skin care routine can tell you a lot about their personality. No-BS types might gravitate towards a minimalist regimen, while maximalists will likely have a medicine cabinet filled to the brim with the buzziest new launches. However you define yourself (and your beauty routine), there’s a Bustle Beauty Award-winning product for you ahead. We’ve spent the last six months testing hundreds of skin care products across a wide variety of skin types and skin tones to bring you the best of the best. All of the products ahead blew us away with their ability to do everything from brighten dark spots to magically make our pores disappear (well, close). Whether you’re looking for a new find to replace an old, discontinued favorite or you’re ready to scrap your whole regimen and build a new one from scratch, we’ve got you. Keep reading to discover Bustle’s best skin care products of the year.
We at Bustle only include products that have been independently selected by our editors. We may receive a portion of sales if you purchase a product through a link in this article.
Best Gel Cleanser
Through an expert blend of amino acids, calming aloe vera juice, and ultra-hydrating squalane, Biossance’s gel cleanser manages to power-wash pores without leaving your skin feeling stripped and thirsty. Guest judge and esthetician Vanessa Lee shares that the fresh-smelling cleanser was kind even to her sensitive skin and goes a long way with just a few drops. “I loved the velvety lather and the fact that you can use a little bit, yet it spreads abundantly throughout the entire face,” she says.
Best Oil Cleanser
If you have particularly dry skin, chances are you’re already familiar with the game-changing power of an oil cleanser. Monday Born’s sea buckthorn oil-powered cleanser lifts away flaky skin, daily grime, and even the most stubborn sunscreen remnants to leave skin kitten-soft and thoroughly cleansed. BDG staffer Anne Meadows was so blown away by the cleanser, she starts her review off with a stunned, “Oh wow.” She says Ritual No1 is hydrating, cleansing, and free of the cloying fragrances that too often accompany otherwise-great products. “I felt so pampered,” she adds.
Best Cleansing Balm
There are some full-face looks that an entire sleeve of makeup wipes couldn’t vanquish. And when you need to call in the big guns, you call Paula’s Choice. This rich cleansing balm features a no-frills formula that lifts away makeup, grime, and buildup to reveal velvety, irritation-free skin beneath. Guest judge and dermatologist Dr. Whitney Bowe says this is a go-to first step in a double-cleanse routine. “It's rare to find a fragrance-free cleansing balm that is so gentle on the skin barrier, but still effectively removes makeup,” she notes. “This is a winner.”
Best Exfoliating Cleanser
Though it can be tempting to go all-out with exfoliation on dull-looking skin, any skin care expert will tell you that a soft touch is always the smartest route. Fortunately, Ranavat’s adaptogen-filled lineup means you never have to choose between renewing exfoliation and moisture retention. A super-fine polish made from rice powder and almond oil, it makes for a seriously satisfying scrub that won’t leave your skin feeling battered or dry. BDG staffer Tara Santora says that the polish feels “so luxurious, yet gentle.”
Best Cream Cleanser
Think of your skin barrier as the ultimate science experiment — the goal is to always find equilibrium. VERSED’s creamy cleanser does most of the heavy lifting for you with a pH-perfect blend of oat milk, marula oil, and blackberry vinegar that keeps the skin’s microbiome (or ecosystem) thriving. Guest judge and dermatologist Dr. Whitney Bowe immediately fell in love with the cream-based cleanser, calling it “excellent for that morning cleanse for people with dry, sensitive skin who want to be extra gentle on the skin barrier.”
If you’ve yet to find the ultimate does-it-all toner, consider this a sign. Not only is glowoasis’ balancing toner housed in the cutest bubble-topped bottle, but its rosemary leaf water and murumuru-filled formula keeps skin hydrated and calm while keeping redness and breakouts at bay. “I’ve fallen in love with this toner,” says BDG staffer Kiara Brown. “It makes my skin feel clean and refreshed without drying it out.”
Best Face Sunscreen
By now, it’s commonly accepted to view sunscreen as among the most crucial necessities in daily skin care. But with so many different brands, formulas, finishes, and types, selecting a solid all-rounder can be more than a little daunting. A shortcut? Just go for Kinfield’s glow-inducing version, perfect for long, active days. “I love this!” BDG staffer Amanda Chan raves. “It smells so good, the consistency is so fresh and light, and even though it looked slightly tinted, it rubbed in seamlessly to my skin, so there was no weird coloration. Instead, it just made my skin look glowy!” She even put it to the test on morning runs — no burns.
Best Nighttime Moisturizer
Before going to sleep, swaddling skin in a night cream or treatment is a foolproof shortcut to silky, hydrated skin by morning. Tatcha’s version, made with time-tested Japanese indigo, is an ideal choice even for those working with heavy-duty topicals like retinol or tretinoin, since the cream also soothes irritation. BDG staffer Charlotte Owen doesn’t hold back: “It’s pure magic,” she says. “Like a cold cream but also gives you a glow. Super moisturizing — I'm obsessed!”
Best Daytime Moisturizer
Perfect for prepping skin pre-makeup and on its own as a brightening daytime moisturizer, Laneige’s Radian-C cream has won over plenty of fans thanks to tone-evening vitamin C and nourishing vitamin E. Plus, with a tub that cheerful-looking, it’s impossible to not feel optimistic while slathering this on. Rachel Lapidos, Bustle’s senior beauty editor, says the cream strikes a balance between lightweight and super hydrating, adding that “it sinks in instantly and left my skin looking smoother and brighter!”
Best Anti-Aging Moisturizer
To truly target signs of aging, sometimes a regular moisturizer just won’t cut it. To address fine lines and volume loss head-on, Sulwhasoo recently reformulated its cult-favorite cream to be even more potent: a blend of Korean ginseng and retinol firm your skin, while ginseng flower extract nourishes and slows the arrival of new lines. “I'm blown away by this moisturizer,” raves Faith Xue, BDG’s executive beauty director. “It left my skin feeling super soft and looking radiant, and the herbal smell from the traditional Korean herbs was a soothing sensorial experience.”
Best Retinol Serum
Perhaps more than any other topical, retinol’s reputation precedes it. Skin care fanatics rave about its line-smoothing properties with zealous enthusiasm, though it can be intimidating to experiment with at first because it can cause irritation. For first-time users, this 0.6% formulation is a perfect first foray into the world of retinol. “I've had issues with retinol before and this product wasn't harsh on my skin at all,” says BDG staffer Alexa Pipia, explaining that using it once or twice per week was all she needed to see its effects. “Even the morning after using it, I felt like it helped clear my skin.”
Best Vitamin C Serum
The very definition of love at first sight, this shimmery rose-gold serum looks as much like a cauldron-brewed potion as a tone-evening treatment. Pat a dropperful of the line-fighting serum into skin for a radiance boost, and keep it somewhere you’ll see it for a mood boost — it really is that lovely. As BDG staffer Dhara Parikh explains, though, this serum is more than just a pretty package. “I loved this,” she says, remarking that it’s often hard to find a vitamin C serum that’s neither too sticky nor off-smelling. “This goes on very light and gives you a nice glow. I noticed my skin did look brighter with consistent use and paired with SPF.”
Best Hydrating Serum
Why spare precious cabinet space with a slew of serums when you can pick one powerhouse that does it all? For an all-purpose skin assist, go for this fusion of hydration and radiance from HoliFrog, which instantly hydrates and plumps skin for inflatable-castle-level bounce. BDG staffer Abby Lebet says they can’t imagine their skin care routine without this serum now, calling it their new obsession. “It made my skin both look and feel super dewy and refreshed,” they say. “I can't imagine my skin care routine anymore without this!”
Best Soothing Serum
If your skin feels more temperamental than it was during your teenage years (as in, redness and irritation have become a daily struggle ), you might need a soothing serum to bring it back to equilibrium — and you won’t find better than this one from Good Light’s We Come In Peace Microbiome Serum. It’s made with probiotics to balance your skin’s microbiome, plus bakuchiol for gentle cell turnover and blue tansy to soothe inflammation. “Every time I use this serum, it’s like I’m giving my skin a tall drink of water,” says Faith Xue, BDG’s executive beauty director. “I love how it melts into my skin and leaves it feeling instantly soothed.”
Best Multi-Tasking Serum
It’s hard to claim a serum really “does it all,” but Drunk Elephant’s Protini serum proves it’s possible. This milky serum is made with 10% lactic acid for gentle resurfacing, plus a slew of skin-pumping peptides and snow mushroom extract to soothe any potential irritation. Hyaluronic acid draws in moisture while squalane and grape tea seed oil locks it in. BDG staffer Laura Willis noticed how it smoothed her skin and “made it really soft,” while Chloe Foussianes even raves about its acne-fighting effect on her sensitive skin. One and done!
Best Eye Cream
Those after the ultimate eye cream know it’s not so much a search as an ongoing quest, but Kate Somerville’s top-rated version might just be the Holy Grail. Developed by a team of scientists after the same sort of age-defying results not found outside of a clinic, this eye cream uses a blend of peptides, algae, and vitamin C to at once smooth, tone, lift, and refresh — no needles necessary. After trying it out, BDG staffer Kylie McConville says she’s buying it for everyone she knows. “I am SO into this,” she says. “I have never used an eye cream like this before that actually delivers on its promise.”
Best Chemical Exfoliator
From the delightfully named Slurp Laboratories comes your new secret weapon against uneven texture, stretched pores, breakouts, and fine lines. Mimicking the consistency of skin’s naturally produced oil, Decalt harnesses some familiar favorites like salicylic acid, jojoba seed oil, squalane, and glycolic acid to effectively resurface skin without irritation. So effectively, actually, that Bustle beauty writer Danielle Sinay calls Decalt her favorite product tested in all categories. “I’ve literally told friends about it,” she shares. “It’s changed my skin so much in such a good way, and cleared up stubborn cheek congestion that nothing else has ever worked on.”
Best Physical Exfoliator
For flaky skin or just lots of buildup, a physically exfoliating scrub is both efficacious and super satisfying to use — people who like their products to “feel” like they’re working especially appreciate this. Peter Thomas Roth’s salicylic acid-packed scrub goes after deep-buried blackheads and stubborn whiteheads with a four-minute rinse-off formula designed for twice-weekly use. BDG staffer Kiara Brown says she saw immediate results after the first try, calling the powerful exfoliant “a literal blackhead eraser.”
Best Hydrating Face Mask
The perfect accompaniment to an ultra-luxe bathtime ritual, this mask soaks skin in a hydrating complex of oat, coconut, and chamomile — and yes, it smells as good as it sounds. Guest judge and esthetician Vanessa Lee says this mask is a great one for anyone with dryness, sensitivity, redness, or irritation, calling it a year-round pick for hydration. “My skin was noticeably softer and plumper after one use,” she says. “I would absolutely recommend this product to my friends and followers!”
Best Brightening Mask
Talk about multisensory — not only does this illuminating mask change to the most selfie-worthy shade of light blue upon application, but it smells like refreshing cucumber and feels soothing as it sinks into skin. Guest judge and esthetician Vanessa Lee says the mask is enjoyable with a lineup of classic evening ingredients to round it out. “The ingredient profile is a typical brightening product trilogy of vitamin C, niacinamide, and a hyaluronic acid component,” she says, “but what made it so fun was how the ingredients reacted on the face.”
Best Purifying Mask
Somehow, the minds over at Glow Recipe managed to take an entire spa facial experience — from the blood-circulating massage to the pore-tightening topicals to the hydrating steam — and distill it down into one transformative, watermelon-scented mask. Thanks to its instantly tightening pore treatment, it’s a perfect pre-weekend pick to prep your skin for makeup application. BDG staffer Eileen Cain says she can feel her pores shrink when she uses this, which she just loves. “I felt all sorts of glowy after using it,” she raves.
Best Face Oil
“Glow” is truly the operative word here. Joaquina Botanica’s daily-use oil is bounce-maximizing and dew-inducing thanks to hero ingredients like bakuchiol and a superfruit blend, but the vitamin C content acts as a spotlight on the face – immediate glow all but guaranteed. “This is a really nice oil,” affirms Rachel Lapidos, Bustle’s senior beauty and lifestyle editor. “It's rich and hydrating without feeling heavy or greasy.”
Best Lip Balm
At any given moment, how many lip balms do you have in your home, office, bag, and car? Chances are the answer is “way too many,” but you can cut that down to exactly one with Lord Jones’ CBD-infused lip balm. Fragranced with the slightest hint of summery grapefruit, the balm’s blend of olive oil, shea butter, rosemary oil, and beeswax envelope lips in a buttery, soothing coat full of moisture. BDG staffer Laura Willis confirms just how moisturizing the balm really is, adding that “it glides right on.”
Best Lip Balm - Tinted
A hydrating tint of color and SPF 30? This lip balm from MD Solar Sciences is an overachiever, in the best way. In five shades from deep berry to light pink, it glides on smoothly and adds a hydrating slick of color to your lips; its sheer finish means you don’t need a mirror to apply. “I've never really liked lip products with SPF in them before this, so I'm very impressed by this formula,” says Bustle beauty writer Danielle Sinay. “I'll definitely be buying more!”
Best Acne Treatment
At this point, Starface is as synonymous with Gen Z’s optimistic aesthetic as bucket hats — and equally cute, too. Not only do the star-shaped hydrocolloid pimple patches look adorable on skin, but the five-point arms grip the zits to make sure its salicylic acid content penetrates as well as possible. BDG staffer Kaitlin Cubria praises the brand’s take on cute-ifying (and therefore destigmatizing!) acne, and says they “flattened the big red ones on my chin overnight.”
Top Image Credit: KES dress