One thing we love about skin care is that there’s always room for improvement. New, more powerful active ingredients? Check. Innovative formulations? Check. Room for vegan, sustainable or clean formulas? Check, check, check. There’s no shortage of good, under-the-radar skin care brands to choose from when you’re looking to build or restock your routine. You might not have heard of these seven standouts, but that should change — here’s why.
The brainchild of a New York dermatologist and much loved by beauty editors, BeautyRx Skincare is rooted in glycolic acid. Think of glycolic acid as the MVP of skin care ingredients: Not only does it gently exfoliate skin, but it can actually moisturize and kick-start collagen production, too. It doesn’t get much better than that.
While glycolic acid can be found in many BeautyRx products, it’s the mainstay of two best-sellers. The Dermstick for Pores ($29; amazon.com) uses it to clear out the gunk that can plug and enlarge pores, while the Tetrafoliant 10% Peel Pads ($70; amazon.com), which pack 10% glycolic acid, aim to tackle wrinkles, breakouts and dark spots in just a few swipes.
One of the first K-beauty brands on the scene — for the uninitiated, that’s Korean beauty — Belif made a splash a few years ago with its apothecary-inspired skin care formulas, harnessing the power of healing herbal and botanical extracts. The products are not only rooted in nature, but super-nourishing to boot.
Take the Aqua Bomb Hydrating Toner ($28; sephora.com), one of the latest debuts. It’s called a toner but is technically an essence. Essences, which are liquid-y formulas you use after cleansing, serve to hydrate skin, better allowing it to absorb whatever you apply afterward. (Like a sponge, it’s most absorbent when damp.) Laced with honeysuckle and baobab, this toner soothes and calms skin.
Another K-beauty import, I Dew Care goes all in on one of the hallmarks of Korean skin care: fun. Really — the word “skintertainment” is often used to describe the playfulness and whimsy in many K-beauty packages and formulations. And while this brand made a name for itself with its glitter-infused masks, it’s got some serious skin care products to give it some cred.
A good one to start with: Bright Side Up Brightening Vitamin C Serum ($20; ulta.com). Vitamin C is an antioxidant known for its ability to brighten skin, protect against environmental aggressors, and even out skin tone. But it’s not your average serum. Along with being one of the most affordable vitamin C formulas out there, it also has a fun, jelly-like texture and juicy citrus scent. We repeat — fun!
You might recognize Briogeo as one of the first clean hair care brands, inspired by the founder’s grandmother’s recipes. That founder, Nancy Twine, recently dove headfirst into wellness with B. Well, a collection of skin care, deodorants, supplements and other clean formulations. And it’s hard to do wellness these days without CBD oil, short for cannabidiol.
Derived from the non-psychoactive portion of the marijuana plant, CBD oil locks in moisture and calms skin. B.Well 100mg CBD + Arnica Flower Soothing Skin & Scalp Oil ($48; sephora.com) pairs it with arnica flower, which has a similarly soothing effect on skin. Pour it all over yourself this winter if you know what’s good for you.
Known for its Amazon best-sellers, natural skin care line InstaNatural sends out hit after hit. And they actually work, too, sometimes better than their not-so-natural counterparts, addressing a range of concerns — all without causing your bank to send you an account-balance alert.
Dealing with a new breakout? Vitamin C Anti Aging Skin Clearing Serum ($21.97; amazon.com) has got your back — or your face, if we’re being technical. Feeling like your skin could use a vacation? Try Vitamin C Serum with Hyaluronic Acid & Vit E ($14.45; amazon.com), which offers a trifecta of ingredients — vitamins C and E, plus hyaluronic acid — to firm and hydrate skin. No wonder it’s one of the best-selling serums on Amazon, full stop.
Backed by L’Oréal, Seed Phytonutrients is the future of sustainable skin care, bottled. Full of sustainably sourced plant extracts and butters, everything from the line is as wholesome and nurturing as you’d expect.
What really sets it apart is its genius packaging. Made using only recycled and recyclable materials, the paper bottle won’t fall apart in the shower. But once you finish using a product like, say, the best-selling Daily Hair Cleanser Shampoo ($24; amazon.com), you can take the bottle apart and plant the seeds that are hidden inside. Planet: 1. You: Also 1.
Sweet Chef is the little-sister line to Glow Recipe, the K-beauty website and skin care brand that took the world (and Sephora) by storm a few years ago. It incorporates a lot of the good-for-skin vitamins and vegetables found in the original line, but at a lower price point and with more variety.
One such winner is the Ginger Kombucha + Vitamin D Chill Mist ($16.99; target.com), which improves skin texture and tone with probiotics (good bacteria). Ginger is brimming with antioxidants to defend skin against pollution, while vitamin D smooths. Together, they make for a refreshing spritz that you’ll want to mist on morning, day, and night.
Note: The prices above reflect the retailers’ listed prices at the time of publication.