Lava lamps. Jelly sandals. Charcuterie boards. In a world full of fleeting fads and passing trends, it’s a comfort to know that soft, supple, glowing skin will always be in style. But trying to achieve it has never been a straightforward proposition. Too often we’re distracted by buzzy ingredients and internet-famous products that amount to little more than a flash in the pan. Like a scene from Great Expectations, our medicine cabinet is filled with half-empty jars and abandoned bottles that seduced us with promises, but in the end, failed to produce meaningful results. All that changes with the Skin Care category’s winners of the 2023 Allure Best of Beauty Awards.
That’s why Allure editors spend months each year searching for the great exceptions: Creams, serums, and cleansers that don’t just represent all our beauty hopes and dreams, they manage to deliver in every department. The winners on our list diminish fine lines, erase dullness, zap breakouts, depuff eyes, lock in moisture, boost glow — and are destined to achieve #empties status.
Now, get to know the year’s best skin-care products. After you’re done, check out the winners of the 2023 Allure Best of Beauty Awards for the Hair-Care, Nail, and Sensitive Skin categories.
Best of Beauty Awards 2023: Skin Care
Jump to your favorite category or keep scrolling for the year’s very best face creams, cleansers, and serums.
Best Face Serums
Face Serum, Multitasking: Olay Super Serum
Why it won: Loaded with peptides, antioxidants, and niacinamide, Olay Super Serum is your line-smoothing, skin-brightening, free-radical-fighting sidekick. Actually, there’s a good chance that we’re the sidekick in this relationship. But we’re cool with that.
Face Serum, Antioxidant Protection: Dr. Dennis Gross Skincare Vitamin C Lactic 15% Vitamin C Firm & Bright Serum
Why it won: Every dermatologist will tell you that vitamin C is the industry standard for treating signs of environmental damage. The potent dose in Dr. Dennis Gross Skincare Vitamin C Lactic 15% Vitamin C Firm & Bright Serum visibly fades dark spots and evens out tone — everyone else’s standard.
Face Serum, Hydration: Clarins Double Serum Light
Why it won: Clarins Double Serum Light delivers heavy-duty yet weightless hydration, depositing a veil of glycerin- and squalane-packed moisture with a naked feel and primer-like finish.
Face Serum, Soothing: PillowtalkDerm The Depuffer: Arnica Sculpting Serum Roller
Why it won: PillowtalkDerm The Depuffer: Arnica Sculpting Serum Roller literally glides (with a built-in two-inch roller) over every curve and contour, distributing a thin layer of redness-reducing ingredients, including niacinamide, glycerin, and oat kernel extract. Associate features director Dianna Mazzone got hive-y one weekend during this year’s skin-care testing process (the culprit shall remain nameless), but this serum made her face camera-ready again by Monday.
Face Serum, Line-Smoothing: IOPE Retinol Expert 0.1%
Why it won: With a stable concentration of retinol — one of the few topical ingredients proven to effectively minimize wrinkles — IOPE Retinol Expert 0.1% visibly diminishes lines over time. And the pointed, ultraprecise tube applicator makes it easy to target specific areas of the face (crow’s-feet, forehead crinkles).
Face Serum, Resurfacing: Sunday Riley Good Genes All-in-One Lactic Acid Treatment
Why it won: Dullness comes in many forms: dead cells, clogged pores, dark spots. Luckily, a comprehensive treatment for it comes in one bottle: Sunday Riley Good Genes All-in-One Lactic Acid Treatment gently sloughs away congestion and damaged layers with lactic acid and brightens with licorice root.
Best Face Cleanser
Face Cleanser, Oil: Dermalogica Precleanse Cleansing Oil
Why it won: The fatty acids and vitamin E in Dermalogica Precleanse Cleansing Oil dissolve all manner of makeup (including for the eyes) without stripping skin — or making a big ol’ mess, thanks to its sturdy pump.
Face Cleanser, Gel: Glomance The Squeeze
Why it won: Packed with spinach, kale, and other nutrient-rich green things, Glomance The Squeeze helps lackluster skin turn over a radiant new leaf as it cleanses. And the “lovely, spa-like” scent is a nice bonus, says senior copy manager Dawn Rebecky.
Face Cleanser, Bar (Hydrating): Good Time Gentle Cleansing Face Bar
Why it won: Good Time Gentle Cleansing Face Bar, a soap-free antidote to thirsty skin, tackles dehydration with squalane.
Face Cleanser, Bar (Exfoliating): DamDam Snow Mushroom Salt Cleanser
Why it won: For double the scrubbing action, DamDam Snow Mushroom Salt Cleanser fits into an (included) exfoliating glove and yields the smoothest results, bar none.
Face Cleanser, Cream: EltaMD Oil-in-Gel Cleanser
Why it won: Evolving from a thin gel into a silky emulsion isn’t the only cool trick that EltaMD Oil-in-Gel Cleanser pulls off; this nourishing wash uses fatty acids and vitamin E to transform tight, flaky skin. It can even perform disappearing acts: “It does a great job removing makeup too,” says deputy digital director Kara McGrath.
Face Cleanser, Powder: Prakti PritiPolish
Why it won: Perfect for a morning pick-me-up cleanse, Prakti PritiPolish contains rice granules to loosen flakes, pomegranate enzymes to soften texture, and rose and vetiver to lift your mood.
Face Cleanser, Balm (in Tube): Renée Rouleau Better Than Balm
Why it won: When your gel nail extensions make scooping an impossibility, squeeze into your palm a pea-size amount of the jojoba oil-packed Renée Rouleau Better Than Balm to eliminate makeup and decongest pores. It’s more of a gel than a salve, but it’ll deliver all the melting power of a traditional balm formula.
Face Cleanser, Balm (in Tub): Saturday Skin Melt + Cleanse Makeup Melting Balm
Why it won: The smooth, buttery texture of Saturday Skin Melt + Cleanse Makeup Melting Balm converts from a solid to an oil the second it hits skin, without leaving behind a trace of the day’s grime. (No wonder we keep putting it in the Allure Beauty Box!)
Best Exfoliating Products
Face Scrub: Dr. Loretta Resurfacing Enzyme Polish
Why it won: The pomegranate and radish root buffers in Dr. Loretta Resurfacing Enzyme Polish dissolve flakes and boost cell turnover for a smoother, dewier appearance. For extra-silky skin, wait a few minutes before rinsing — some of our testers also loved this as a mask.
Exfoliating Toner: Benefit Cosmetics The POREfessional Tight ‘N Toned: Pore-Refining AHA + PHA Toning Foam
Why it won: Think of Benefit Cosmetics The POREfessional Tight ‘N Toned: Pore-Refining AHA + PHA Toning Foam as a personal trainer for your skin: alpha hydroxy acids visibly smooth and brighten, while glycerin reinforces the moisture barrier. Skip the cotton pad with this one — pump the airy foam right into your palms and pat it on your skin. (That’s right, folks: It’s a toner that is also a foam.)
Face Peel: Drunk Elephant Bouncy Brightfacial
Why it won: A weekly application of Drunk Elephant Bouncy Brightfacial keeps dullness at bay, thanks to an exfoliating cocktail of azelaic and salicylic acids.
Face Peel: Shani Darden Skin Care Triple Acid Signature Peel
Why it won: Shani Darden Skin Care Triple Acid Signature Peel goes to town (but no more than twice a month, please) on dead cells, rough patches, and blackheads. Executive beauty director Jenny Bailly likes to use it before a big trip, presentation, or party to get her skin looking luminous and her pores microscopic.
Essence, Milky: Laneige Cream Skin Cerapeptide Toner & Moisturizer
Why it won: A hydrating hybrid of cream and liquid, Laneige Cream Skin Cerapeptide Toner & Moisturizer refines texture and minimizes the appearance of pores. It’s a particular favorite of editor in chief Jessica Cruel, so you know it’s good.
Essence, Watery: AHC Aqualuronic Toner
Why it won: If you prefer to hold the milk post-cleanse, AHC Aqualuronic Toner (here for its second Best of Beauty win) may look like straight-up water, but the cushy blend of ceramides and hyaluronic acid gives skin a bouncy feel.
Best Face Mist
Fresh Rose Pore-Minimizing Hydration Mist
Why it won: The morning dew of facial mists, Fresh Rose Pore-Minimizing Hydration Mist gives skin a petal-soft finish while practically evaporating oil from your slick T-zone. And the TSA-friendly size makes it easy to pack (or stash at the office), so you can spritz anytime, anywhere.
Best Face Moisturizers
Face Moisturizer, Light: Kate Somerville HydraKate Recharging Water Cream
Why it won: For weightless moisture, one push on the dispenser for the Kate Somerville HydraKate Recharging Water Cream is all it takes. The perfectly measured dose that pops up (with a satisfying wobble) absorbs in seconds and gives skin bouncy-castle-level resilience.
Face Moisturizer, Rich: Caudalíe Premier Cru The Rich Cream
Why it won: Senior commerce writer Angela Trakoshis credits Caudalíe Premier Cru The Rich Cream with curing her skin’s chronic dryness. This decadent cocktail of ceramides, hyaluronic acid, and polyphenols repairs microscopic holes in the moisture barrier, keeping water in and irritants out.
Face Moisturizer, Balm (in Tube): Kiehl’s Ultra Facial Advanced Barrier Cream
Why it won: Kiehl’s Ultra Facial Advanced Barrier Cream marries the richness of a balm with the silkiness of a cream. A tube of this stuff checks every box, for better (run-of-the-mill dryness) or worse (eczema flare-ups).
Face Moisturizer, Balm (in Tub): Aquaphor
Why it won: A tub of Aquaphor seems to last forever. One dab of this classic salve tames dry patches and peeling lips (and, at Allure HQ, sometimes rogue brow hairs).
Best Face Oil
Ole Henriksen HydraBarrier Nourishing Face Oil
Why it won: Ole Henriksen HydraBarrier Nourishing Face Oil, which contains antioxidant-rich oils extracted from Scandinavian cloud, lingon, and elder berries, is like the aurora borealis in a bottle. A few drops of this lightweight elixir deliver so much softness and glow, you’ve got to see it to believe it.
Best Eye Creams
Eye Cream, Line Smoothing: SkinCeuticals A.G.E. Advanced Eye
Why it won: Unlike some topical formulas that just contain collagen, where the natural protein gives skin volume but doesn’t penetrate the outer layer, SkinCeuticals A.G.E. Advanced Eye encourages cells to produce it, visibly minimizing lines and crepiness over time.
Eye Cream, Depuffing Serum: Youth to the People Peptides + C Energy Eye Concentrate
Why it won: Tired of people telling you how tired you look? A satiny layer of Youth to the People Peptides + C Energy Eye Concentrate takes down bloat, perks up eyes, and puts an end to those unwanted comments with peptides and caffeine.
Eye Cream, Depuffing Balm: Tula Skincare Glow + Get It Cooling & Brightening Eye Balm
Why it won: Tula Skincare Glow + Get It Cooling & Brightening Eye Balm, which is pumped with hydrating hyaluronic acid, watermelon, and apple, is a cushiony salve that sinks right in to reduce swelling (for a few hours). It also has a chilly feel, making it a less startling substitute for an ice roller.
Eye Cream, Brightening: Ilia Beauty Bright Start Activated Eye Cream
Why it won: Ilia Beauty Bright Start Activated Eye Cream, which contains a sea fennel-derived alternative to retinol, diminishes lines and fades dark circles by helping to thicken too-transparent skin.
Best Face Masks
Face Mask, Clarifying: The Outset Purifying Blue Clay Mask
Why it won: The Outset Purifying Blue Clay Mask is…exactly what it says it is. The slate-colored paste purges your pores of deep-seated grime using kaolin clay, charcoal, and salicylic acid. The taut, glowy results are equally up front.
Face Mask, Hydrating: Kiehl’s Ultra Facial Overnight Rehydrating Mask With 10.5% Squalane
Why it won: A rich balm that seeps right in, Kiehl’s Ultra Facial Overnight Rehydrating Mask With 10.5% Squalane delivers a steady stream of fatty acids that plumps skin while you sleep — but won’t rub off on the pillow.
Face Mask, Soothing: Farmacy Honey Potion Plus Ceramide Hydration Mask
Why it won: Farmacy Honey Potion Plus Ceramide Hydration Mask comes in a jar that looks and smells like a pot of honey, but that’s not even the fun part. The golden goop melts into a warm, white cream that gets skin glowing and circulation humming. Meanwhile, ceramides work like busy little bees to repair the protective barrier.
Face Mask, Brightening: Kate Somerville Mega-C 30% Vitamin C Brightening Facial
Why it won: The high concentration of vitamin C in Kate Somerville Mega-C 30% Vitamin C Brightening Facial produces a glow that rivals the results of some professional brightening treatments we’ve had (and we’ve had them all).
Best Sunscreens for Face
Sunscreen for Face, Chemical: KraveBeauty Beet the Sun SPF 40 PA+++
Why it won: Not since the invention of goat cheese has there been a better partner for beets: KraveBeauty Beet the Sun SPF 40 PA+++ harnesses the vegetable’s antioxidant power to neutralize free radicals, while homosalate, octisalate, avobenzone, and octocrylene absorb UV rays.
Sunscreen for Face, Chemical: Innisfree Daily UV Defense Sunscreen Broad Spectrum SPF 36
Why it won: Got a beet allergy (like one of our editors does)? We’re here for you and so is Innisfree Daily UV Defense Sunscreen Broad Spectrum SPF 36. It has a weightless texture and invisible finish that didn’t read white on any of our testers.
Sunscreen for Face, Mineral: La Roche-Posay Anthelios 50 Tinted Mineral Ultra-Light Fluid Sunscreen
Why it won: We know you know that sunscreen is a necessity. But did you know it can also be a joy to apply? A few shakes of La Roche-Posay Anthelios 50 Tinted Mineral Ultra-Light Fluid Sunscreen blends mineral blockers and tinted spheres into one tone-perfecting, skin-softening fluid.
Best Self-Tanner for Face
Bondi Sands Pure Self Tanning Face Mist
Why it won: The only thing worse than streaks on your body is…streaks on your face. That’s why we’re awarding Bondi Sands Pure Self Tanning Face Mist in this category. The impossible-to-mess-up mist quenches skin while gradually building uniform warmth.
Best Acne Treatments
Cleanse for Acne: Cetaphil Gentle Clear Complexion-Clearing BPO Acne Cleanser
Why it won: What do you get when you combine the bacteria-fighting prowess of benzoyl peroxide with the do-no-harm approach of Cetaphil? Exactly what you’d expect. Cetaphil Gentle Clear Complexion-Clearing BPO Acne Cleanser helps eradicate breakouts while preserving the skin’s delicate moisture barrier.
Allover Acne Treatment: Skinfix Acne+ Adapinoid Gel
Why it won: Breakouts are irritating enough without medication exacerbating the problem (talk about adding insult to injury). That’s why Skinfix Acne+ Adapinoid Gel is your new go-to for treating acne. The gel rolls over skin, calms redness, and intercepts pimples with a slow-release retinoid. This product gets bonus points for its ability to target blemishes below the neck too, which Allure‘s PR associate Allison Hill was thrilled to discover: “It’s great for body acne!” she wrote — in all caps — in her post-testing review.
Spot Treatment, Pimple Patches: Hero Cosmetics Micropoint for Blemishes XL
Why it won: Zits rarely act alone, which is why Hero Cosmetics Micropoint for Blemishes XL casts a wide net. The oversize, niacinamide- and salicylic acid-packed patch targets entire problem areas (cheeks, jawline, chin) to cover prominent blemishes and their smaller accomplices, bringing them down while you sleep.
Spot Treatment, Gel: Rael Miracle Clear Soothing Spot Gel
Why it won: It took a while, but someone finally realized acne isn’t nocturnal. Rael Miracle Clear Soothing Spot Gel dries to a clear, satiny finish that won’t disrupt makeup.
Like what you see from Allure‘s Best of Beauty Awards?