Beauty editors are truly the gatekeepers to the best secrets for all things skincare. The nature of their jobs is to try the latest products, buzzy ingredients, and treatments before they're even on the market. Their desks are a steady stream of new jars and bottles, all with the promise of more youthful skin and a glowing complexion. And their faces end up being the testing ground to experiment with whatever comes their way.
Very often, products fall flat and don't live up to the hype. However, the ones that have been rigorously tested and are religiously used by beauty editors are worth taking note of. So what are the products insiders can't live without for flawless skin? Here, industry experts are sharing the holy grail products they swear by for a perfect complexion. From affordable finds to beauty splurges, go on to see why each made the cut.
Megan O'Neill, Senior Beauty Editor, Goop
"The combination of exfoliating more (as in every night) and smoothing on May Lindstrom's The Blue Cocoon before bed and in the morning has made an enormous difference for my breakout-prone skin. It's this luscious blue balm that's infused with the most glow-boosting, soothing botanicals like blue tansy (great for helping to treat blemishes) and camellia seed and marula oil. It leaves your skin deeply moisturized, gleamy, and happy. It comes luxuriously packaged in black glass, and you need, like, half a pea-size amount for your entire face. It's that rich. (I usually end up splitting mine with my mom—the ingredients are so pure and thus perishable.)
"It smells like heaven, melts in instantly, is excellent for sensitive and breakout types, and it just makes me feel beautiful knowing I'm smoothing myself down in pure goodness. I love it in winter and in summer (though I use an even teensier amount during sticky New York City summers). It's not cheap, I should add, but my god is it epic. Best gift ever to yourself if you're feeling flush."
Cat Quinn, Beauty Director, Refinery29
"I struggled with adult acne for years, and my routine used to be a continuous cycle of breaking out, clearing it, and breaking out again. This was the first cream that didn't just keep my skin consistently clear, but it also made it glow. I never imagined I'd get to a place where I was happy with my skin, let alone get compliments from other people about it. My dermatologist, who has treated my acne for years, even asked me what I was using. I ran out of it recently on a trip to rural Texas and didn't hesitate to overnight it. It's so, so expensive, but worth every penny for the confidence it has given me in my skin."
Emily Ferber, Brand Strategy, Glossier
"The world needs to know about this serum. It's a serious salicylic acid formula, plus a minty menthol kick, and it zaps enlarged pores and pimples nearly instantly. After playing whack-a-mole with my forehead acne for years, barely a week after introducing three drops of this stuff nightly, I was a changed woman. I barely wear concealer anymore."
Kathleen Suico, Beauty Assistant, Allure
"It may not look like it, but I wear a lot of makeup. Sometimes even a double cleanse doesn't remove all of it. This toner has truly transformed my combo skin and helped those annoying post-acne spots. My skin rarely gets congested where it used to and this primes it to absorb whatever I layer on."
Erin Jahns, Beauty Editor, Who What Wear
"No one talks about this primer from Tarte, but I swear on my life it's one of the best makeup products on the market if you're after a practically poreless complexion. On days when I don't use it (which is seldom), I notice a night and day difference in my makeup—not only how the rest of my makeup looks, but also how it applies. It's deeply hydrating but also so lightweight. Unlike so many primers, you don't feel it on your face, and I've never had issues with it breaking me out (and I break out from almost everything!). It provides the most seamless canvas for an über-smooth foundation application. I truly don't know what I will do if Tarte ever discontinues it. Nothing else I've used can compare!"
Courtney Higgs, Associate Editor, Who What Wear
"To me, cleansing is the most important part of my skincare routine. Although my everyday makeup is pretty minimal, it's still so important to me to make sure my skin gets a thorough cleanse at the end of each day. I suffered from breakouts for a period of time in my twenties, and focusing on cleansing really helped me get a handle on that situation. I used to put way less emphasis on the quality of my cleanser (after all, it's quite literally money down the drain), but this is the gel that changed the game for me. It's silky and slippery, so it clings to all sorts of makeup and grime to remove it with ease. The best part is that my face never feels tight or overly dry after I use it—just really, really clean."
Jenna Rosenstein, Beauty Director, HarpersBazaar.com
"It's so hard to pick just one product because my skin is constantly changing, so I like to give my dry skin what it needs at the moment. I like to keep my routine fairly simple: a great gentle cleanser, a hydrating serum, and a thick moisturizer. I love Caudalie's Instant Foaming Cleanser, La Mer's The Concentrate or Estée Lauder's Re-Nutriv Ultimate Diamond Dual Infusion, and Augustinus Bader's The Rich Cream. When I use these products individually or together, they make my skin feel soft and plump while calming redness. I even notice the fine lines around my eyes and mouth look drastically less noticeable."
Alix Tunell, Deputy Editor, RealSelf
"You might be tempted to doubt the powers of a pink cream that smells like roses and comes in a Barbie pot. I did at first too. But of all the moisturizers on my fridge's top shelf (13 at the moment), this is the one that makes the biggest difference in my skin. I reserve it only for my worst mornings when I'm at my most hungover, when I've picked my face the night before, or when it's been 30 degrees for a week straight and my skin looks like it's been sitting in the morgue. Yes, it's deeply nourishing and absorbs quickly enough that you don't have to wait around before applying makeup, but the pink tone is really what sets it apart. 'Revitalize' is used far too often in skincare marketing, yet it's the best way to describe the immediate rosy flush this gives my dull, grayish complexion. Everything else just moisturizes—this makes me look alive."
Maya Allen, Digital Beauty Editor, Marie Claire
"I'll spare you the details, but in short, I've been around the block a few times with cleansers. It's been so hard for me to find the one. That is until I had a life-changing facial with celebrity aesthetician and all-around skin wiz Renée Rouleau. She thoughtfully analyzed my skin and kindly listened to me vent about my concerns for nearly two hours like the angel she is. After my skin therapy session was over, I started using her acne-targeted cleanser, which has truly changed the game for me. It's made with salicylic, lactic and glycolic acids (which get all the gunk out). It makes my pores feel squeaky-skin without feeling stripped and reduces the look of dark spots over time. This stuff is truly magic. Over time, I've noticed my dark spots look way less prominent, which is all I can really ask for."
Michelle Li, Fashion and Beauty Editor, Teen Vogue
"I recently was sent this manuka honey mask, and now I count down the minutes until I can get home and put it on. It's truly life-changing, especially for the winter when my skin is enduring so much heat and cold breezes. At the end of the day, this really does nourish my skin and bring it back to where it's supposed to be."