What brands are most reliable for skincare?

I feel like I can buy pretty blindly from Kiehl’s, Origins, Clinique, CeraVe, First Aid Beauty, and Dermalogica and feel like I’m not going to get a subpar product.

— Christine


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Kira Avatar

I have always had good experiences with DHC, COSRX, LANEIGE, Kiehl’s, and L’Occtaine. I’ve had experiences that didn’t work well with my skin with Neutrogena, Dove, Clinique, Shiseido, and Biossance. I would be interested in buying more skincare from Chanel, NARS, La Mer, Then I Met You, and Drunk Elephant in the future.

Seraphine Avatar

I’m very faithful when it comes to skincare products. My go-tos for years have been Kiehl’s (for body and eye), CeraVe (makeup), and Clinique (face wash and nighttime moisturizer). I’ve tried other products here and there, but found that these work the best for me and I no longer experiment with anything else. The only other product I fell in love with when I tried a sample a couple years ago was Guerlain Abeille Royale Youth Watery Oil, but I can’t bring myself to spend that much money for it.

Cheryl Avatar

I stay away from brands that use chemicals or mineral oil so I only use olive oil or coconut oil or avacado oil, rosehip oil.

Kitty Avatar

This is a great question and I look forward to the responses!

For me, there is absolutely no skincare brand that I can trust that any product would work for me (which I think is the implication of your question referring to reliability). I wish this weren’t so because it’s so frustrating. For example, I thought Drunk Elephant would be a brand whose products would work no matter what, but its Protini cream flared up my usually-mild rosacea big time (yet its LaLa cream works great). CeraVe, another possible candidate, has added some ingredients to some of its creams that irritate my skin, so it’s a big deal to buy anything it that brand unless I want to give away or discard what bothers my skin, although recently I managed to find a decent night cream made by them. Paula’s Choice is another hit or miss. Clinique is mostly a miss for me as is Estee Lauder; Estee Lauder and older more established brands that use fragrances in their products are a big no-no for me. The fancier brands like May Lindstrom, Odacite, etc. usually have something irritating in their products, even though they are advertised sometimes as being great for sensitive or aging skin, blah blah.

As a result of the inconsistency or untrustworthiness of skincare brands, there are few products I use on my face. For eye cream, I mix together a Vanicream Lite cream with some Paula’s Choice cream. For night cream, just one CeraVe. For daytime SPF moisturizer, JM; no SFP, the same mix as my eye cream or some Drunk Elephant LaLa. Currently, I’m using no facial oils. The best thing that works under my eyes and on the lids though is Vaseline at night–I realize many people think this is the worst thing to use on skin but honestly, it makes the eye area look pretty decent and gives me enough moisture that many times I get away with no moisturizer there during the daytime.

Heather Avatar

Have you tried any Korean skincare? It’s often gentler but still effective. I like Cosrx and Laneige the most.
If you’re looking for something like a facial oil, the Laneige cream refiner is a super moisturizing essence that I use whenever my gets dry.

kjh Avatar

Due to an uncommon, inflammatory skin issue, I big time need Centella and other anti-inflammatory ingredients. I agree with the Paula principles for the most part, but needed more/layers of cica, so now use primarily Cosrx and Purito. Many products advertised as tiger grass (lookin at you, Jart-boy) include some pretty inflammatory ingredients. Paula now is a distant third. Have been flirting with different eye creams. Drunk Elephant proved altogether too strong for me in all products. As a person who formerly could have washed with laundry detergent and moisturize with Crisco (not that I did) who ever could have predicted that I’d get major inflammatory and reactive?

Ana Maria Avatar

Paula’s Choice. I tried most of their products and they are almost always good products, even the ones that aren’t just for me (my routine, my skin type). Rarely I have found items from other brands to top off my favorites from Paula’s Choice, and since they partnered with Terracycle I don’t feel enticed to use other brands.

Nancy T Avatar

FAB (First Aid Beauty), Ole Henriksen, The Ordinary and Drunk Elephant have never let me down. Of note, I have very sensitive eczema and breakout prone skin and also Lupus. Therefore, my skincare has to be able to both give me noticeable positive results and not aggregate my skin’s various conditions. These that I mentioned work within those requirements.

Kristen Avatar

I have really sensitive skin and I’ve had good luck with Belif. I’ve gotten eczema from Neutrogena, Cerave, and Cetaphil. I’ve had acne triggered by First Aid Beauty. I am really careful about what I’ll try at this point!

Lesley Avatar

Cosrx, Paula’s Choice, The Ordinary and the Good Molecules line from Beautylish have not disappointed me and I like a few things from the IT Cosmetics Confidence line. Before I stopped buying from companies enabling animal testing I used a lot of Neutrogena, La Roche Posay and Avene.

Haley Avatar

I recently fell in love with FAB (First Aid Beauty), Laneige, and Cerave and I feel like I can’t go wrong with them. I use FAB’s ultra repair cream on body, serum and facial radiance pads on face, Cerave AM moisturzing lotion, and at night Laneige sleeping mask and lip mask. I rotate between Cerave SA cleanser and FAB’s face wash in the shower. Sometimes I also use Biossance’s squalane and rose oil on my face at night or their squalane all over body when I need extra hydration but it’s not an every day for me.

Deborah S. Avatar

I have loved reading the responses so far! It is amazing how products work or don’t work for so many people. Just reinforces how we all have different likes, tolerances and ideas of what skin care should do. I honestly have to say that there is no one brand that I could say works for me across the board. Probably the closest I have come is with Drunk Elephant. I don’t like a few of their products but overall I find the brand fairly consistent. The price is a killer to use all the products though so I have not purchased any since my trip to Europe in 2018. I have also had fairly good results with most Sunday Riley and Tatcha products. Sunday Riley Good Genes has been a staple in my skin care for several years now and I will likely continue to purchase it though the price point is a killer. I am thinking about trying some Maelove products so am curious what products others have had success with. They aren’t cheap either, though. I have holy grail products but not from the same brands. I am taking notes and will be trying some of the brands out and products mentioned here today. I have to do most of my buying online by virtue of where I live and skin care is not something that I find easy to purchase without touching and smelling. Certain scents turn me off. I am fine with herbal scents but anything too chemical and I just can’t do it. I would prefer no scent but would rather have floral or herbal rather than chemical. I discovered the hard way that my skin does not like CBD oil and so I avoid it like the plague and so many brands are adding it to their products so that is frustrating.

Stefanie Avatar

I don’t try a ton of products because once I find something that works, I stick with it. That said, my skin was acne-riddled for years, cleared up a bit once I stopped drinking milk, but nothing (not antibiotics, Differin, nor OTC acne products) could clear it up. Accutane even failed me because it increased my cholesterol so I had to stop. My roommate 8 years ago used Evanhealy products that are sold at our local food co-op (also at Whole Foods) and the mixture of these three things allowed my skin to heal itself: Evanhealy Blue Lavender Cleansing Milk, Immortelle HydroSoul, and Rosehip Treatment Facial Serum – Blue. The products maintain the skin’s acid mantle so my skin was able to heal itself and something about this trifecta melted my blackheads away. Oh, and the products smell lovely (as long as you can tolerate essential oils such as lavender and sandalwood).

I’ve run out and have been frugally using my backup products and, two weeks in, my face started to break out in all old usual spots. So, while I don’t know if the full Evanhealy range is consistent, the three products I use work consistently when used consistently and over the span of nearly a decade. I hope this is helpful.

TropicalCowgirl Avatar

Let me say first I grew up using olive oil to clean my skin. I learned about how it cleaned my teenage acne prone skin from my friend’s Greek mother who owned a spa in the 80s.

I like FAB…particularly their Hemp Seed Oil. I really like Kiel’s for body and their face creams. Their night mask is sooo nice and I just got my mom some after she used mine over Christmas. Ordinary is great…love the Caffeine and acid mask.

I also like Dr Brandt’s under eye cream on bad days but my husband loves it. I “borrow” from his stash on my bad allergy days. He has his brother using it…they call it voodoo magic. He’s older and his brother kept bugging him and about how people think he’s younger. He shared on a trip and his bro is hooked.

One brand of oils I have fallen in love with is Herbivore. The Orchid oil smells divine and love their Phoenix oil. My older dry skin wakes up feeling dewy! I can’t stop singing them praises!

While not a face topical product…I am currently charging my new Dermaflash Dermapore gadget. I’m excited. I hope it works. I like the idea of using something like that to push the oils/ serums into my face.

Nikki Avatar

I’ve always done well with Neutrogena. In the past few months I’ve added in 1.5% pure hyaluronic and 10% pure glycolic acids from L’Oreal RevitaLift DermIntensives as prophylactic anti-aging products, and they also seem to be working well for me.

Genevieve Avatar

Now that’s a tricky one because I use a wide variety of skincare products.
Cleansers: Really good value from CeraVe, Swisse, Neutragena – I don’t spend a lot of money on cleansers and I like to vary them.
Moisturisers – Daily – I loved Skin Physics because of their Supermoist daily moisturiser with SPF 50; Immortal’s Dragon daily moisturiser with SPF 20, Akin range of daily moisturisers too
Facial Oil – Physicians Formula Argon oil, Sukin Argon and Chia Seed Oil and now I am going to try The Ordinary’s Argon Oil
Night Time Moisturiser – Akin and Immortal are the brands I have tried most recently and I like them both.
Serums – Swisse, Claudele (as a sample and it was good – just finishing it now) .

I don’t tend to buy expensive skincare products because over the years I have found that they are not always worth the money and my skin looks the same.
Clarins is another great brand, but like Clinique (which is also good) it is really, really expensive here.

Cassie Avatar

Dermalogica is a solid brand (but maybe slightly overpriced). Clinique I’ve found historically hasn’t been good for my dry skin. I would buy “blindly” (obviously taking into account my dry skin type) from Dr Dennis Gross, Kate Sommerville, The Ordinary/NIOD/DECIEM, Murad, Inkey List, Medic8, Sunday Riley, Zelens, and La Roche Posay. I would also buy blindly from Sisely and La Mer in the sense that I find their products lovely but prohibitively expensive (ie I would happily buy some if someone gave me free money). I quite enjoy quite a bit of Drunk Elephant too, but they’ve produced a few products (harsh/stripping) which would make me want to check reviews and ingredients before purchasing from them. I find most of the products they do that I like have similar products made by other companies that I like slightly more. Plus I was never a fan of there whole “dirty dozen” scare mongering marketing strategy. I automatically distrust any skincare comany that mentions “chemicals”. Water is a chemical. Get out of here with your rubbish.

Miska Avatar

I used to stick to what worked for me and not deviate. I used the old Proactiv for 12+years. Then stuff would be D/C’d or I’d suddenly develop a new allergy, or an ingredient would change. As a result, I had to become more aware of ingredients and figure out what works for MY skin. It could be an HG product ingredient wise but then I’ll see something like an essential oil that I know is a trigger for my skin and the product is out. It’s the ingredients over the brands for me personally. I aim for the things I use to be budget friendly or wait on a good sale. I would consider my skin to be sensitive/combination and prone to redness. Below are skincare items that have or currently are working for me and I would recommend to others to try…
Neogen Real Cica Cleanser: Low foam, great as a morning cleanser or your second step cleanser. Cica is supposed to help with redness and I think this does.
Banila Co. Balm Cleanser (pink jar): This stuff works wonders to remove makeup and sunscreen!
Klavuu Foaming Cleanser: This is expensive (around $30) and I have a hard time justifying the price point of something that’s only on my skin a few minutes at best before it’s rinsed down the drain. I’d rather spend more on something that won’t be washed right off. Too each their own but I need budget friendly items. That being said, this stuff is HG status. A small amount will lather for days, so the tube will last awhile. This never strips my skin.
Tony Moly Wonder Rice Toner: The bottle is huge (500ml) and super affordable. The rice ferment in this helps to calm the redness in my face. I find that I can use this no matter what condition my skin is in with no problems such as burning.
May Coop Raw Sauce: Another one that I can use to calm down my skin no matter my skin’s condition. Provides a nice light layer of moisture that doesn’t jive with my sunscreen or makeup.
Neogen Real Cica Pads: Gentle PHA exfoliant with cica to combat redness.
Stridex Pads (2% in the red jar): These are just the right amount of BHA for me. I haven’t had the best of luck with AHA’s and alot of things have a “death ingredient” that I’m allergic to, eliminating so many choices. Retinols just plain scare me with my skin’s reaction history.
Neogen Real Vitamin C Powder: This is the ONLY vit C powder that I’ve been able to tolerate. It’s fading my hyper pigmentation and helping to brighten my skin.
Timeless Argan, Squalane and Hyaluronic Acid Serums: I use these alone or add them into various skin/body/hair care to “tweak” stuff. This brand has been very affordable and reliable with very few, if not any additives to their serums.
Acwell Licorice Eye Cream: I’m not sure how much it’s helping with my dark under eye circles but it doesn’t irritate my eyes or make me tear up. Another plus is it doesn’t cause milia around the eyes.
COSRX Oil Free Lotion with Birch Sap: Nice lightweight moisturizer. Wish it was fragrance free but it doesn’t break me out nor does it make me an oil slick like so many face moisturizers do.
Klavuu Blue Pearl Cream: A little goes a long way. I like to use this at night to lock in moisture after acid treatments. It’s too much for me to use during the day with makeup and sunscreen.
Face Masks: My guilty pleasure. I love putting them in the fridge before use. If you have some on hand, I highly suggest trying this. Great for a hangover, sunburn or a sinus headache. Some of my favorite brands are Dr Althea, Medi Heal, and the Soo AE Donkey Milk face masks. Also, anything with aloe, green tea, and tea tree are usually safe bets for me.
I alternate between sunscreens. I’m using 3 right now…
Biore UV Water Essence SPF 50+ PA++++: They reformulated (again!) in 2019 and it’s a bit thicker, takes more time to absorb and the initial smell of alcohol is short lived but strong. This still takes the place of moisturizer on hot days and it takes the place of makeup primer as well. I preferred the older version but it’s still good. No white cast on this essence.
Purito Centella Green Level Safe Sun SPF 50+ PA++++: It has a bit of a weird smell at the initial application but it doesn’t last and the centella seems to calm the redness in my face. It’s slightly moisturizing, takes a minute to rub it in but it doesn’t leave behind any white cast on my skin.
Klairs Soft Airy UV Essence SPF 50+ PA++++: It’s supposed to be a “water based gel texture” but I find this to be more like a cream personally. This one is vegan friendly if that appeals to you. This has the same strange smell upon initial application as the Purito but again this fades away quickly. I seem to be allergic to pretty much every sunscreen available here in the US. I have had tremendous luck with Asian sunscreens, they are so far ahead of the game. Honestly, before I discovered them I never wore sunscreen. Very bad I know but they would break me out, make me an oil slick and irritate my eyes or I would develop a horrible red rash. If you’re not having luck with US sunscreen choices, I advise looking into Korean, Japanese and Taiwanese sunscreens.
Whew, that was alot! Long time reader here but I don’t comment all that much. I guess now I have way too much time to do so. I find that these days I’m way more into skincare. I’ve been going sans makeup since masks went into effect. I am really missing my lipstick.

Deborah S. Avatar

Loved your long answer. I have used a lot of Asian beauty care and like you, have had some really good experiences. I use a lot of Cica products as they just seem to work well for my skin. My problem now is that I am a lot older, 66 and Asian products to combat ageing seem to be pretty expensive and I haven’t found one that really seems to help. I also find that outside of the really expensive products, they keep changing formula’s and discontinuing products.

Hannah Avatar

I’ve never tried a bad product from Fresh! And everything from them smells amazing. My skin reacts really badly to more chemical-ly brands, like the Ordinary, and Fresh is so gentle on my sensitive skin yet still does the job.

Christine Avatar

I am die hard on Kiehls, my dry skin just works with their range of moisturizers (nice price point too for the effect). I am also going to put Skyn Iceland up there, pricey but their masks and cloud cream are lovely

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