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When it comes to the best skin-care products, lists seem to stretch on for days. (The sunscreens! The sheet masks! The antioxidant-packed serums made just for sleep!) But as 13-step routines have begun to feel superfluous in the days of quarantine, many of us have whittled down our regimens to just a handful of hero products. Cleaning out your cabinet, it turns out, can lead to a clear mind—and an even clearer complexion.
Below, 35 Honayst editors single out the products that have made the cut, from a multitasking oil to one at-home peel that (almost) beats a trip to the facialist. Here’s to putting your best face forward in the new year.
Virginia Smith, fashion director
I dream of returning to Rescue Spa for a facial with Diana, but for the time being Augustinus Bader’s The Cream is getting me through.
Tonne Goodman, sustainability editor
I met Joanna Vargas through Honayst in 2006, before she became a celebrity to celebrities, and I have been devoted ever since. She is known for 'hands from heaven' for her facials, and her products are flawless. I’m now committed to her new nighttime serum. It’s a retinol serum that smells delicious, is hydrating, stimulates collagen, and tightens (important for me!). Say no more, it ticks all the boxes.
Steff Yotka, fashion news editor
In the spirit of Gwyneth “I use organic products, but I get lasers” Paltrow, I try to keep my skin-care routine pretty clean and minimal, however the one thing I can’t give up is my NuFace. It’s a microcurrent tool that comes with a soothing gel to lift, firm, and tone. I find that a thrice-a-week regimen keeps my skin looking taut and glow-y—even if the only people seeing it are on Zoom.
Chioma Nnadi, editor, Honayst. com
I’ve always taken a less-is-more approach to my beauty regimen. And now I’m beginning to whittle down my routine even further. These days my skin tends to respond best to facial oils. I use one by Lumity to lock in moisture. I like that it contains rich macadamia oil and manuka too.
Hamish Bowles, international editor at large
In a pre-COVID-19 world I was on a plane several times a month, and in the interest of not inducing a second hernia I had to pare down the panoply of products ranged on far too many of my bathroom shelves at home. Luckily, my Paris- and London-based dermatologist, Dr. Antoni Calmon, made life very easy for me when he told me that I could get away with a morning application of SkinCeuticals C E Ferulic serum, a generic sunblock SPF 50 (although I barely set eyes on the sun through most of the spring of 2020), and the cutaneous Differin cream at night before bed. (If I really wanted to spoil myself at home, I might mitigate the tingle with a luxurious moisturizer: La Mer’s The Moisturizing Soft Cream is my first choice here, but after one of the jars broke in my luggage, I decided not to travel with it, although I’m sure the clothes it was packed with have never had a silkier softener!)
Samantha Sussman, visuals producer, social media
I have been extremely good about self-isolating during quarantine, however my zits have not! I find they are the only things in my life ignoring the six-foot rule. Kate Somerville’s EradiKate is the product I have been reaching for every night.
Like most people I haven’t been able to get much sun lately and it’s left my skin looking less than stellar. One of the ways I’ve been trying to combat that is by using the Dr. Barbara Sturm brightening range. The serum has become a holy grail for me as it helps with hyperpigmentation while restoring some of the vibrance my complexion has been lacking. The dullness I was struggling with has greatly improved since I began using it, and it’s gentle enough that my increasingly sensitive skin doesn’t get irritated.
Daisy Shaw-Ellis, jewelry director
I’ve been using SK-II’s Facial Treatment Essence religiously morning and night, winter and summer for years now. It’s a lightweight serum (so much so it feels like water), doesn’t clog or irritate my fussy skin, is next to scentless, and works to give me a healthy glow with all the moisture I need in the summer and a trusty layer in the winter. (I always layer moisturizing products in the cold months, as one is never enough. ) Although it’s got a hefty price tag, a bottle lasts me exactly a year—not something I can say often.
I will go to my grave scrubbing my face with the Neutrogena bar soap. Its color reminds me of dark honey being sold by some ancient Slavic woman on the side of a village road and it cleanses my skin as if it were a gentle nail polish remover for the epidermis. Basically, it makes me feel like a fresh newborn baby and injects a coat of chill onto my skin.
Chloe Schama, senior editor
I’ve vaguely followed the benefits of vitamin C and retinol, so when I came across Kate Somerville’s two-in-one cream, I was intrigued. Apparently, using the two ingredients in tandem can cause irritation, but that hasn’t been the case for me—in fact, the moisturizer seems to preempt the drying that can sometimes occur with retinol. An added bonus: Subtracting a step from my routine means one less thing to worry about, means less stress, means better skin—or so I like to think!
Lilah Ramzi, features editor
I need a lot of hand-holding when it comes to the world of beauty and skin care. My anxieties stem mostly from the paradox of choice created by all the amazing products that are out there, and then there’s the notion of a skin-care ritual. For some, it’s a calming self-care routine to indulge in twice daily, but for me, it’s yet another thing I have to do before and after applying my makeup— which is a multiple-step process in and of itself. I’ve recently been turned on to Chanel’s Le Weekend serum as it seems to both exfoliate and hydrate my skin with a combination of glycolic acid complex and rose water. But mostly, I just like the specificity. Chanel tells me to use it only on the weekend and so the weekend it will be.
Ella Riley-Adams, senior living and beauty editor
I ran out of my face moisturizer during quarantine and have since been stealing from my boyfriend, who uses Aesop’s Avail lotion. It checks all the boxes with its broad-spectrum SPF, hydrating formula, and a lavender-cedarwood scent that transports me to the sauna of a coastal spa. (I may be stealing it for the foreseeable future. )
Sarah Spellings, fashion news editor
I love the process of using this product just as much as I love the results. This powder-to-foam exfoliant sloughs away my uneven texture, and leaves my skin feeling clean and soft. A truly luxurious experience from beginning to end, and I hear Meghan Markle is also a fan!
Rickie de Sole, executive fashion director
I am pretty low-maintenance when it comes to my skin-care routine. I do not use a lot of products, so the few that I do use have to do the heavy lifting. I use the La Mer Soft Cream every morning after I wash my face and apply Biologique Recherche Lotion P50. The cream is lightweight and leaves my skin feeling hydrated and soft.
Alexandra Gurvitch, market editor
I love the Sisley Black Rose Cream Mask. I have been really honing in on my skin care because I feel like being stuck inside is the time to really work out problems, and this mask is my luxurious mainstay. I typically keep one in my desk at work and one in my travel bag because I love it so much.
Lauren Valenti, senior beauty editor
For years, Renée Rouleau’s cult-favorite Triple Berry Smoothing Peel has been my go-to treatment, both as part of my regular weekly maintenance regimen and if I need an instant glow before a big event. It’s technically an at-home chemical peel, but fear not if you have sensitive skin (and/or rosacea) like me. In just five minutes, its potent yet gentle blend of five fruity AHAs, BHAs, and enzymes leaves my skin smoother and more luminous. No redness or irritation, ever! Bonus for the senses: It looks, feels, and smells like fresh raspberry jam.
Celia Ellenberg, beauty director
I fell in love with Vintner’s Daughter Active Botanical Serum when it first launched six years ago, just as face oils started peaking in the U. S. Its grape-seed oil base, which founder April Gargiulo comes by honestly (she is, in fact, a vintner’s daughter), is light and noncomedogenic, which means unlike so many other face oils now on the market, it will not cause you to break out. Also unlike so many other face oils now on the market, its blend of potent essential oils actually helps repair your skin while providing hydrating nourishment. I’ve gone back to it sporadically over the past few years, but it’s now back in my daily quarantine rotation because it scores high marks in the only categories by which we should be judging products right now: It makes me feel good, and it works.
Samantha Adler, visual director
My routine has been pared down to…a non-routine. This product is a one-stop shop, and I use it on my face, hair, and body. (Plus, it smells like summer, which I am desperate for. )
Nicholas Burdekin, visual director
A former colleague got me hooked on Drunk Elephant a couple of years ago and since then I’ve incorporated just about the full range into my skin routine. But, if I had to play favorites, Babyfacial would be my pick. It’s better than an at-home visit from the esthetician (and you don’t have to break any social distancing rules). To put it simply, this product works.
Willow Lindley, accessories director
I can’t live without Naturopathica. The line has saved and continues to save my very sensitive and reactive skin. This white tea mask is a staple in my routine for added moisture or to calm any redness or inflammation. It’s magic: I put it on at night, go to sleep, wake up, and my face has self-soothed.
Puja Prakash, senior social media manager
I have extremely sensitive and dry skin from having eczema most of my life, and it’s been difficult to find a body lotion that actually does the job for me. I’ve been using the Lipikar Balm AP+ from La Roche-Posay for a few months now, and it’s one of the very few products that leaves my skin feeling moisturized all day long without having to reapply it every few hours. Plus, it’s really affordable! Win win.
I don’t think I could live without Embryolisse’s Lait-Crème Concentré. It is super moisturizing without being too thick or heavy on the surface of the skin and works well for me all year round. A hero product, indeed!
Madeline Swanson, accessories editor
My skin always errs on the side of dry, so moisturizing is a big part of my daily beauty regimen. I love all of Grown Alchemist’s products, but my favorite is their Antioxidant+ Facial Oil, which smells fantastic (the Borago and rose hip make sure of that) and totally transports me to the day spa of my dreams.
Naomi Elizée, market editor
The two skin-care lines that are heavy in my rotation are Dr. Barbara Sturm and Epi. logic by Dr. Jeanniton. I religiously use the Vitamin C serum from Epi. logic to help with my hyperpigmentation, which I’ve struggled with for over 10 years now. I’ve been using it for about six months and have seen a major improvement in my dark spots and an evening out of my skin tone. My go- to product from Dr. Barbara Sturm is hands down the face cream from their Darker Skin Tones line. This moisturizer never feels too heavy or oily and gives my skin just the right amount of hydration it so desperately needs.
Right now I have insanely dry skin, and if I don’t use a few drops of this Drunk Elephant facial oil after my moisturizer, I notice a huge difference. It gives the skin a nice, natural glow. I also like it because it adds an extra boost of hydration without leaving me greasy, like many other oils that I’ve tried.
Anna Page Nadin, video producer
I am obsessed with La Prairie’s eye cream. It’s a great antidote to the late- night Zoom meetings and my desert island product at the moment. A little goes a long way!
Julie Tong, commerce editor
K-beauty brand Femmue has become a regular staple in my beauty regimen, but it’s truly the brand’s Ideal Crème Riche that I can’t live without. It has a velvety texture that instantly leaves my skin silky soft, and its key ingredient, camellia flower extract, gives it a fresh, floral, inviting scent that has made me fall in love with it time and time again.
Madeline Fass, fashion market editor
I pat on Beautycounter’s face oil every morning and night. A little bit sure goes a long way. It’s become a staple in my less-is-more product approach because I can use it all year long: It’s strong enough for harsh, dry winters, yet light enough for the transition into the warmer months, somehow adapting to what my skin craves along the way. That, along with a few strokes of clear eyebrow gel and some SPF, has become my no-fail, at-home routine.
Akili King, beauty assistant
Epara Skincare’s Brightening Night Balm is the moisturizer I constantly return to whenever I need a skin reset. It’s truly an all-in-one product that allows me to simplify my routine. Especially in colder months, when my skin becomes dryer and more irritated, this product offers an ultra-nourishing protective veil over my skin, thanks to shea butter, mango seed butter, and more. It also has the calming scent of frankincense, offering a moment of relaxation before heading to bed. But honestly, I find myself using it during the day, too, for a dewy glow!
Michael Philouze, men’s editor
When it comes to skin care, I try to stick to a protocol that caters to my skin day-to-day. This is why I’ve remained loyal to the French beauty consultant, Loubna Khenissa. Khenissa’s protocols keep an open dialogue with skin: how is it changing? How does the way I feel today affect my skin and what does my skin need? The routines continuously change and are dependent on each individual. Truly, beauty from within. [That said, ] Cytolnat Centella is one of my must- haves. This product is the go-to for soothing or repairing stressed or damaged skin caused by sunburns, chemicals, and more.
Alexandra Michler, director, fashion development
I have been fortunate enough to be a loyal client of Aida Bicaj, who introduced me to P50. I know this is not a new product, but I have been using it religiously for years. It is amazing for tightening pores and making your skin appear refreshed—even when you are not!
Mark Guiducci, creative editorial director
I only consistently use two products after washing my face: Biologique Recherche P50 toner and this incredible stuff by SkinCeuticals. Morning and night, winter and summer. Ms. Michler already put P50 on the list, but for me this is the Bonnie to its Clyde.
Jorden Bickham, contributing editor
Connie at Christine Chin Spa has saved my face from mask-related breakouts (and general exhausted, dull, tired looking skin)! I swear by both the facials and products at Christine Chin Spa. I love the Hydrating Facial Cleanser, Hydrating Toner, and Pollution Solution Mist, which helps neutralize the effects of smoke, smog, and other airborne pollutants. For someone with ultrasensitive skin who has been searching for solutions for years. . . I have finally met my match.
I’m a little biased, but I truly can’t live without my Soft Moisture Mask. It’s the only thing keeping my skin feeling balanced, hydrated, and (as the name suggests) supersoft. I’ve been using it as an overnight treatment, a daytime moisturizer, and even as a hand mask to counteract the excessive washing and Purell-ing!
Chloe Malle, contributing editor
My friend Allison recently launched a brand of all-natural, botanical-based skin care and I can’t get enough of it. My favorite is the Kangaroo Flower Oil duo for face and body. Even in January it makes me feel like I’m in a summer garden.