Many of us are loyal to individual grooming products—perhaps you found the cleanser for preventing pesky pimples, or an eye cream that works miracles after a restless or rough night. But few people are loyal to a brand for their entire regimen. (Look at anyone’s vanity or shower caddy, and you’ll see five or six brands across just as many products.)
Most brands build out an assortment for this very reason: For you to use all of their products in tandem with one another, all balanced together with that in mind. (So it’s funny that we mix and match products at will, without ever considering if they nullify or lessen one another’s effects.) It’s understandable that you may not be in the market for an entirely new assortment — if that eye cream or cleanser is irreplaceable, for example — but the following brands should contend for a uniform placement across your vanity and shower. They’re the best brands for an entire skincare regimen, start to finish—some of them excelling in simplicity and affordability, and others in their nuance or lavishness. We’ll even pick a favorite product from each brand’s lineup if you want to test the waters before diving headfirst.
The best skincare brand for minimalists: Cleanse, moisturize repeat: That’s the baseline regimen, done first thing in the morning and last thing in the evening. However, we cannot congratulate anyone who merely grabs the nearest bar of soap, and a $5 moisturizer from CVS for both hydrations. You need a little curation, and only a little at that. Cardon answers your call with their terrific and essential assortment: Their Essentials Kit touts a gentle and toning clay cleanser, as well as two moisturizers: One with SPF 30 for daytime wear, and the other a soothing gel hydrator for overnight use. The rest of their assortment is rapidly expanding into “advanced” territory (which makes sense since it’s anchored in Korean skincare rituals): New exfoliating toner wipes and pimple patches just launched, joining eye gel, face masks, and more. So, start with the essentials, then add ad hoc.
The best skincare brand for advanced regimens: Let’s say you want to graduate beyond just a cleanser and moisturizer—but you still demand effective, top-shelf products in those categories, too. Aesop answers the call, not just with one of our favorite SPF moisturizers and gentle cleansers (among options for all skin types), but consider also all of the products in the brand’s Parsley Seed Extended Anti-Oxidant Skin Care Kit. From pollutant-fighting serums and eye creams to a balancing toner and pore-clearing mask, Aesop’s entire assortment adds these more advanced products to the mix, and even categorizes it by skin type and need. (They even have a collection of incredible scents—it’s Rozu for the win…)
The best skincare brand on a budget: Low-cost products aren’t necessarily subpar. Yes, the top-tier brands tout careful sourcing and research for all of their products, but no less research has gone into the drugstore brands. It’s just that many of them use more synthetic methods to achieve the end goal—and guess what? Science works, even in big-batch formulas like these brands. Our favorite drugstore brand (and many dermos’, too) is CeraVe. Their formulas cover the essential bases: cleanse, moisturize, even exfoliate. And within that, they add nuance like SPF to shield, salicylic acid to clear pores, ceramides and hyaluronic acid to fortify and hydrate, plus product lines tailored to dry, normal, combination, oily, and sensitive skin types. There’s nothing showy about the brand, aside from the great skin and leftover Benjamins that you have to parade around town.
The best luxury skincare brand: Dr. Barbara Sturm is the go-to skincare expert for seemingly everyone working in front of the camera. She gained notoriety for the potent creams she makes for her patients, a product known as MC1 that uses the person’s own plasma to stimulate healing and growth factors. In her skincare assortment, she of course can’t bottle plasma, so instead she relies on meticulously measured, molecularly perfect formulas that deliver clear, radiant results. In addition to having the firmest, brightest, plumpest skin of your life, you’ll also be the talk of the town for your sinkledge alone. Treat yourself to either of her essential anti-aging skin sets, for darker skin tones or lighter ones.
The best skincare brand for any skin type: Paula’s Choice gives you an education in skincare alongside their terrific spectrum of products. Their website is an encyclopedia of advice and ingredients, and the aforementioned assortment can be sectioned off into each skin type—or shopped by specific conditions, like proneness to acne, anti-aging initiatives, dullness, rough texture, etc. With an accessible price point and the ability to add as much nuance as you want or need, Paula’s Choice has one of the largest, most reliable assortments available.