16 Cult-Favorite Skin Care Products That Really Work (Since Derms Use Them, Too)

Stock up your beauty cabinet.

by Jessica DeFino and Natasha Marsh
Originally Published: 
La Mer products are cult-favorite skin care products for a reason.

The term “cult-favorite” gets tossed around a lot in beauty — but one brief, buzzy moment does not a cult-favorite skin care product make. What does? An all-star ingredient list, for one. A legion of adoring fans. A time-tested formula (because you don’t just develop a cult following overnight). And I’d argue that dermatologist approval also belongs on that list of requirements — after all, no matter how much Instagram attention a particular product may get, you wouldn’t rub it on your precious face without the go-ahead from your derm, right? These 16 cult-favorite skin care products — from an iconic eye cream to a celeb-loved serum — check all the boxes.

The official list of derm faves includes some familiar names, for sure. “La Mer Crème de la Mer Moisturizing Cream is the moisturizer of all moisturizers,” Dr. Aanand Geria, a dermatologist with Geria Dermatology in New Jersey, tells TZR. The price point reflects the hype: A two-ounce jar of the La Mer cream goes for $350… or die-hard fans can supersize their order and score 16.5 ounces for a cool $2,475. On the other end of the spectrum, you have under-the-radar (and under-$15) finds like Aztec Secret Indian Healing Clay. “It has calming, oil-absorbing, acne-treating, and pore-minimizing benefits,” Dr. Joshua Zeichner of Zeichner Dermatology in New York City tells TZR, proving that “cult-favorite” doesn’t have to mean “cost-prohibitive.”

Drunk Elephant

Ahead, 16 buzzy beauty products that dermatologists agree actually work.

We only include products that have been independently selected by TZR's editorial team. However, we may receive a portion of sales if you purchase a product through a link in this article.

La Mer Crème de la Mer Moisturizing Cream

Based on the price alone, you might be wondering “Is la Mer worth it?” And while it’s not uncommon that an exorbitant price tag can sometimes mean you're only paying for that brand name, there is actually something to this formula. “Crème de la Mer contains a variety of natural oils as well as seaweed extract to hydrate and calm the skin,” Dr. Zeichner says. “While many products contain similar types of ingredients, there is something about the quality of the formulation that makes it superior and a cult-favorite.”

That “something” would be the brand’s proprietary broth. “The secret lies in La Mer’s Miracle Broth — a specific way in which the brand’s ingredients are combined,” Dr. Geria explains. “This is perfect for those with extremely dry skin looking for a smooth, hydrated touch.”

Neutrogena Bright Boost Resurfacing Micropolish

“A blend of my favorite AHAs, glycolic and mandelic acid, this drugstore exfoliant is great for uneven skin tone, dark spots and dull, rough textured skin,” says board-certified dermatologist Dr. Hope Mitchell.

Laneige Lip Sleeping Mask

In 2015, Laneige changed the overnight lip mask scene for the better. Priced at just $22, this gel-cream texture plumps, hydrates, and soothes lips overnight for an unbelievably soft result.

Glow Recipe Avocado Melt Retinol Eye Sleeping Mask

You can hardly go to any beauty editor or skin care-obsessed home without seeing bottles of sacred Glow Recipe’s famous eye cream. Packed with avocado, encapsulated retinol, and coffee berry, this small but mighty cream will brighten, de-puff, and treat the appearance of dark circles.

Freck Cactus Water

Fairly new to the scene, Freck’s cactus water is a brilliant cleansing lactic acid toner that looks like water, acts like water, but does so much more. Formulated with lactic acid and a plethora of vegetable and plant extracts, the toner balances and promotes evenness in the skin.

Elta MD Tinted Sunscreen

“This sunscreen doubles as my winter sunscreen plus foundation,” says Dr. Orit Markowitz, New York City board-certified dermatologist. “In the winter months, when the sun's rays are less harsh and I am not outdoors as often, this sunscreen provides sufficient sun protection. In the summer months, I like to layer my sunscreen for added protection, so this product becomes my sunscreen primer. I love this formula because it doubles as protection and as a foundation. Additionally, it is super lightweight, making the application process feel good.”

Humphreys Nourish Witch Hazel + Aloe Alcohol-Free Toner

“As the season transitions into cooler weather, I love using Humphreys Nourish Witch Hazel + Aloe Alcohol-Free Toner, to gently nourish dry skin,” says board-certified dermatologist Dr. Dendy Engelman. “It features certified organic witch hazel as the first ingredient, which means the natural potency of the plant is preserved, not diluted or polluted with harmful ingredients. The alcohol-free formula is also enriched with organic aloe and vitamin E to help moisturize and soften even sensitive skin. It’s great to include in your daily routine prior to a moisturizer, or carry around as a mist to reapply as needed to freshen up during the day.”

Biologique Recherche Lotion P50

“Even though this product smells like vinegar, people have been drawn to it for over four decades because it’s an amazing exfoliant,” Dr. Geria says. “The craze is also over its anti-inflammatory and anti-acne properties — not to mention, it contains lots of natural, uncommon ingredients like onion and horseradish extract.” Alpha-hydroxy acids (AHAs) and beta-hydroxy acids (BHAs) dissolve dead skin cells on contact, but what really makes P50 stand out? “It also contains ingredients that replenish hydration, strengthen the skin barrier, and balance the skin's pH,” Dr. Sejal Shah, the founder of SmarterSkin Dermatology, tells TZR.

Granted, this much-loved formula can be a little harsh, so the original version isn’t recommended for acid newbies. “The line comes with several different versions for sensitive or beginner skin, like P50 V,” Dr. Zeichner says. Want to try it for yourself? The exclusive French brand only sells through its spa affiliates, so sign up for a (free) account on Rescue Spa to place an order.

Drunk Elephant TLC Sukari Babyfacial

“I love this product for targeting bumpy skin and texture complaints,” Dr. Sabrina Uddin, a board certified dermatologist, tells TZR. “It features a great combination of AHAs and BHAs to help smooth the skin’s surface and brighten the skin overall. Babyfacial is formulated with hyaluronic acid, which hydrates the skin, in addition [to] the acids, which are acting as exfoliants. This makes the product much more tolerable than just applying straight AHAs or BHAs.”

The derm recommends using the mask once a week for best results — join in the fun on Insta every "#babyfacialsunday" for your weekly fix. Bonus: “Drunk Elephant as a brand is known for its clean ingredients, and this product is just that,” Dr. Geria says.

Charlotte Tilbury Charlotte's Magic Cream

Charlotte Tilbury is better known for her range of cosmetics, but the makeup artist’s moisturizer is often cited as the best product in the line — for good reason. “The Charlotte Tilbury Magic Cream contains a blend of humectant and emollient ingredients to soften the skin,” Dr. Zeichner says. “It also contains a skin-strengthening peptide and antioxidants to calm and protect.” Dr. Shah adds that it’s not just for moisturizing — she says it addresses signs of aging and “instantly plumps and smooths the skin,” thanks to hyaluronic acid. Magical, indeed.

Ole Henriksen Banana Bright Eye Crème

“Talk about hydration,” Dr. Uddin says. “I have used this eye cream for about eight months now and notice that the days I use it, my concealer glides on like a dream. The combination of jojoba seed oil, shea butter, glycerin, and dimethicone creates a powerful moisturizing effect. It keeps the skin from forming pesky wrinkles around the eyes. I do think the vitamin C contributes to evening of the skin tone around the eye, but I think the key to how this cream works is in hydrating the under-eye area. Also, a little goes a long way — so the price point is actually quite reasonable.”

Volition Strawberry-C Serum

“We have Marilyn Monroe to thank for this one, as she was notorious for rubbing strawberries on her face,” Dr. Geria says. “This brand ran with that idea and later learned that strawberries are loaded with vitamin C, giving that bright, radiant glow everyone is chasing.” Monroe was definitely onto something — Volition’s Strawberry-C Serum sold out at Sephora almost as soon as it launched. (Thankfully, it’s back in stock — so you’ll want to click “Add to Cart” ASAP.)

Sunday Riley Good Genes

Clearly, derms are on board with acid exfoliators; they suggest this one from Sunday Riley for those with sensitive skin. “Good Genes uses only [lactic acid] AHAs, which is nice because it’s considered to be safe in pregnancy; as opposed to BHAs, which we do not typically recommend due to lack of safety data,” Dr. Uddin tells TZR. “If you have sensitive skin, I recommend rinsing this off after 10 to 15 minutes and applying your moisturizer.”

Sunday Riley Ceramic Slip Cleanser

Dr. Uddin tells TZR that she uses Good Genes in combination with Sunday Riley Ceramic Slip Cleanseras a “flash facial.” “It is a great 10-minute brightener before events,” she says. “I have used it this way and love the overall brightening.” The cleanser is gentle but effective in pulling impurities and excess oil from the pores to boost radiance.

Vintner’s Daughter Active Botanical Serum

“This is a perfectly-curated serum that contains countless botanicals, and even better, a thought-out application system,” Dr. Geria says. “You ‘push and press’ into the skin to ensure proper, adequate absorption to give a healthy, radiant glow.” Besides derms, Vintner’s Daughter Active Botanical Serum gets a stamp of approval from celebrities like Gwyneth Paltrow and Tracee Ellis Ross. At $185, it’s not cheap… but it is, apparently, worth it.

Aztec Secret Indian Clay Healing Mask

The one skin care product that consistently makes its way into derms’ Amazon carts? This $11 mask that calls itself “the world’s most powerful facial”... a title that experts are surprisingly on board with. “This contains bentonite clay that helps remove debris, excess oil, and other impurities from the skin,” Dr. Shah tells TZR. “It’s great for oily and acne-prone skin. It can still be used if you have dry or sensitive skin, but use with caution as it can be drying.”

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