We Tested Hundreds Of Skin Care Products — These Are The 27 That Impressed Us Most

Your new favorites await.

by TZR Beauty Team
Assorted skincare products that are winner of TZR's 2024 beauty groundbreakers awards
TZR Beauty Groundbreakers Awards 2024
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Pores aside, the skin care industry can be a clogged space. While it’s nice to have choices, the sheer volume of products out on the market can make shopping for a simple moisturizer or face serum a time-consuming and frustrating experience. Not all skin care is created equal — in formulation, in package design, or in brand efforts to reduce waste — and you’ve likely experienced the disappointment that comes with a cream or serum doing, well, next to nothing for your skin. The good news: there really are skin care unicorns out there — aka products that are reinventing their respective categories with cutting-edge ingredients, potent formulas, luxurious textures, and a commitment to sustainability.

Whether you’re looking for an acne treatment that pulverizes pimples without stripping your skin, a weightless sunscreen you’ll actually look forward to applying, or a daily serum that noticeably plumps fine lines and wrinkles, we’ve got a game-changing suggestion for you. Judging from the winners on this list, your shelfies are about to get a major facelift.

Best Acne Treatment

The role of exfoliation in preventing breakouts is a pretty big deal, but one that gets ignored a lot — like, a lot, a lot. Here’s the deal: exfoliating helps to slough off the dead skin cells, dirt, and excess oil that can clog your pores and cause blackheads, whiteheads, and inflamed pimples. Sofie Pavitt Face’s Mandelic Clearing Serum is a standout for acneic skin because it utilizes mandelic acid as the active ingredient — an AHA known for its blemish-fighting and gentle exfoliating benefits. But that’s not all it clears. Balanced with hydrating hyaluronic acid and soothing panthenol, the serum smooths and brightens skin, making it a really great treatment for those looking to address common signs of aging like fine lines and discoloration.

Best Brightening Serum

The reason Dr. Shereene Idriss’s Major Fade Hyper Serum scored a Beauty Groundbreakers Award? It’s all in the name — when used twice daily, you can expect noticeable fading in your dark spots, less redness, and an overall more even, brighter complexion. In fact, when clinically tested, 90% of testers said the appearance of their hyperpigmentation was reduced, and everyone experienced brighter skin. The formula, which consists of active ingredients like alpha arbutin, kojic acid, and niacinamide, is housed in a cartridge to ensure maximum potency. “I am obsessed with the fact that this comes in an injectable tube so you're guaranteed freshness every time, but the real win is having a dark spot on my chin (that would not go away, even after a facial) clear up just after two weeks of use,” raves BDG staffer Chelsea Szmania.

Best Cleanser - Balm

Each individual dose of the Noble Panacea The Elemental Cleansing Balm & Exfoliating Refiner contains a cleansing balm on one side and an exfoliator on the other, which pretty much means you’ll have no excuse for skipping either step — both of which are crucial for thoroughly resetting and prepping your skin for active-rich products. When massaged on your face, the balm, infused with plant oils like grape and moringa seed, transforms into a silky substance that erases dirt, pollution, sunscreen, and stubborn makeup without stripping. The Exfoliating Refiner uses AHAs, PHAs, and niacinamide to exfoliate and reduce the appearance of pores. Both formulas are made with the brand’s signature OSMV Technology, which works to protect the potency of active ingredients for better performance. Bonus: Each order comes with 30 ultra-convenient doses and a complimentary recycling envelope so you can collect your empty packets and ship them back once you’re through.

Best Cleanser - Cream

There are a whole lot of creamy cleansers out there, but this one is the cream of the crop. Ideal for combination skin types, it has a luxe, milky consistency that’s easy to massage on and can even tackle removing makeup. According to our expert judge, board-certified dermatologist Dr. Michelle Henry, M.D., the formula “leaves the skin refreshed and well moisturized after cleansing without a sticky residue.” Unlike other cream cleansers that you rinse from the skin with a few splashes of water, the brand recommends taking off Lait S.R. with wet cotton pads or a damp cloth.

Best Cleanser - Gel

The U Beauty The Mantle Skin Conditioning Wash is like the Goldilocks of gel cleansers — it sweeps away everything you want off your skin before you crawl into bed (think sweat, pollution, makeup, excess oil) without disrupting the acid mantle, or the important balance of lipids and amino acids on the skin’s surface that helps to defend against bacteria and other nasties. The brand claims it’s like a double cleanse in a bottle, and BDG staffer Alison Syrett can attest: “Oftentimes I find cream cleansers require a great deal of rubbing to remove everything from my face, but this one would instantly melt away my makeup with little to no effort.”

Best Do-It-All Serum

The Silk Serum offers impressive retinol-like skin benefits without having a single drop of the ingredient in it — ideal for those who are still weary about adding the vitamin A derivative to their routine. Thanks to upcycled cranberry extract and sea fennel plus silk protein and the brand’s proprietary Hadasei-3 complex, the silky serum helps to plump and firm, even skin tone, hydrate, reduce the look of fine lines, address redness, and more. It’s skin care multitasking at its most luxurious.

Best Essence

It’s understandable if you’re critical of celebrity skin care brands (it feels like there’s a new line launching every single day, after all), but we’re pleased to report that Hailey Bieber’s rhode has truly earned our stamp of approval — thanks in part to this hydrating, redness-reducing essence. With an elegantly milky texture that sinks in quickly, the rhode Glazing Milk uses ingredients like ceramides and beta-glucan to hydrate and support the skin barrier (the outermost layer of skin that’s key to moisture retention), which, according to the brand, helps your other products absorb better. It’s also worth mentioning that it’s free of fragrance and has earned a Seal of Acceptance from the National Eczema Association.

Best Exfoliator - Chemical

If there’s anyone who knows anything about getting a red carpet glow, it’s celebrity esthetician Shani Darden. Thankfully, she doesn’t gatekeep radiance and has bottled up her skin care secrets for all of us with the Triple Acid Signature Peel. The two-step product includes a brush-on, tingly peel that powerfully exfoliates and brightens with the help of lactic, mandelic, and glycolic acids, and a kaolin and bentonite clay mask that neutralizes the peel and deep cleans pores. “I was worried that this chemical peel would make my very sensitive skin flare up, but luckily my skin had no issues,” says BDG staffer Emma Chao. “After [using it] I put on my essence and moisturized, and my partner said my face looked like ‘it had a full face of makeup on.’ I was absolutely shimmering, and my skin texture was definitely smoother.”

Best Exfoliator - Physical

This isn’t the face scrub that rubbed your skin raw from your teenage past. The ALASTIN ReSURFACE Skin Polish is actually both a chemical and physical exfoliant in one, providing major exfoliating benefits without drying you out or causing irritation. Volcanic minerals gently slough off dead skin cells as you massage the product on your skin. The smoothing, radiance-boosting effect is further enhanced with the help of glycolic, an AHA known for its resurfacing abilities. According to the brand, it’s suitable for combination, oily, and even dry skin types.

Best Eye Cream

The Sulwhasoo Ultimate S Eye Cream is an undeniable splurge, but our testers confirmed it pays off. “After a few weeks, I noticed that my under-eye area was a lot smoother and that my dark circles were less intense,” says BDG staffer Jessica Fields. She also mentioned that a little product goes a long way, further validating the price tag. Housed in a sculptural, opaque white jar inspired by the moon’s curvature, the formula provides its firming and hydrating perks with the help of Ginseng Berry SR, a patented extract that contains syringaresinol, an ingredient that may help prevent signs of skin aging.

Best Face Mask - Hydrating

Medicine cabinets have limited space, so it’s only worth stashing face masks that deliver noticeable results. And if the formula multitasks? Even better. Both a non-comedogenic face mask and a moisturizer, the Estée Lauder Nutritious Melting Soft Creme/Mask has a light, airy texture and provides thirst-quenching hydration. Formulated with the brand’s signature Nutri-9 Complex, consisting of a trio of coconut water, sweet kelp, and red algae ferment, it’s also designed to make pores a little less apparent and nix shine. To use it as a face mask, the brand recommends applying a light layer, letting it sink in for about five minutes, and then removing it with a tissue.

Best Face Mask - Firming

If you’re not game for an in-office procedure like Kybella to sculpt your jawline, picking up a potent face mask that’s specifically designed to target this area might be your next best choice. The RéVive Skincare Fermitif Chin Contour Instant Tightening Peptide Mask’s ear-loop design ensures the peptide-packed product lays taut against the skin in order to firm, hydrate, and tone the chin and neck. Results can be seen in as little as 20 minutes, though it’s worth noting they won’t be nearly as long-lasting as a treatment your dermatologist can perform. Still, BDG testers say it’s the perfect product to use when you want immediate results before a special event or whenever you need a quick pick-me-up.

Best Face Mask - Clarifying

Made with kaolin clay and salicylic acid, this little blue number will help you kick clogged pores to the curb. On top of clearing out gunk like pollution, excess oil, and dead skin cells that make pores appear larger, the creamy, botanical-rich mask offers hydrating, soothing, and brightening benefits. It’s even won over TZR’s editor-in-chief. “I often find clay masks to dry my skin, but this one left my skin refreshed and balanced,” says Kathy Lee. “I particularly loved the luxurious feeling of it, how easy it was to apply evenly across my face, and the medium consistency that dried to perfection as it worked its magic.”

Best Face Mist

Besides its chic, minimalist design, we love that this face mist is infused with ingredients that you usually find in a serum or a night cream. “This is really more of a hydrating skin care product than just your average face mist,” says BDG Executive Beauty Director Faith Xue. “I love the refreshing coconut smell (it's fresh, and not artificial or sweet), and how the Kakadu plum and hyaluronic acid help my skin look better over time. It's become my favorite way to revive my skin and spirit in the middle of the day.” While you’ll probably want this bottle on your bedside table (it’s that pretty), the brand says you can stash it in the fridge for an immediate cooling effect.

Best Face Oil

Face oils tend to get a bad rap for being overly greasy or heavy, especially for those with blemish-prone or oily skin types, but this one is groundbreaking for a reason. Boasting squalane and mokaté oil, it provides the deeply moisturizing benefits that face oils are famous for while also being extremely lightweight and quick to absorb. In other words, you don’t have to worry about your skin feeling like an oil slick all day. In fact, the blend is meant to help balance your skin’s natural oils — a benefit BDG staffer Kaitlin Cubria vouches for. “I am always nervous whenever I put anything with the word ‘oil’ near my face — having combination skin and a minimum of three different types of acne at all times will do that to you. So I held my breath for the potential reactions I would have for this product, but wow — WOW. For once, my natural oil levels felt balanced.”

Best Firming Serum

Sweet Chemistry is proof of the buzzy influence regenerative medicine is having on skin care technology. The brand’s Reparative Oil-Serum Infusion harnesses the power of patent-pending upcycled bovine-derived peptides called matrikines, which are said to help reverse tissue damage, therefore helping to improve signs of skin aging. On top of plumping and smoothing fine lines and wrinkles, the waterless serum targets hyperpigmentation, hydrates with a collection of potent botanical oils, and provides barrier repair support.

Best Hydrating Serum

TBH, this little bottle is so much more than a hydrator. In addition to quickly refilling your skin’s cup with hydrating, plumping hyaluronic acid, the ELEMENT EIGHT O2 Niacinamide Eight Active Serum is packed with unique ingredients like 12% liquid oxygen to enhance cellular metabolism and ward off wrinkles, and carnosine to defend against glycation. It’s also packed with skin-loving classics like niacinamide to regulate oil production and boost radiance, as well as antioxidant-rich resveratrol to protect and soothe.

Best Moisturizer - Daytime

Moisturizers made with hyaluronic acid are a dime a dozen, but this delectable daytime cream stands out from the rest because it uses multiple molecular weights of the ingredient, allowing it to hydrate deeper layers of the skin. It also boasts a proprietary complex and pink rock rose extract sourced from the Mediterranean to help promote collagen production, firm skin, and minimize the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles.

Best Moisturizer - Nighttime

There’s something so luxurious about a night cream — it’s the skin care equivalent of slipping on a set of silky pajamas. So if you’re looking to revamp your evening routine, we highly suggest incorporating this one into your before-bed lineup. Housed in a refillable glass jar, the silky formula deeply moisturizes, firms, and boosts skin radiance. The refills are also available in a finer or richer texture, making it easier to transition to a warm or cold weather routine, respectively. “This is truly the most luxurious moisturizer,” says BDG Executive Beauty Director Faith Xue. “Applying it every night feels like a treat. It feels silky-soft and sinks in instantly, and my skin looks and feels softer and bouncier as I've been using it.”

Best Retinol

There’s a reason dermatologists sing the praises of retinol — it’s one of the most effective skin care ingredients out there. It can help even out skin tone, banish breakouts, smooth wrinkles, and more. If you’re ready to add the superstar to your routine, give the iS Clinical Retinol+ Emulsion a try. It includes retinol and botanicals like bakuchiol (popularly dubbed nature’s retinol) to quickly target fine lines and enhance radiance without causing irritation. “It was gentle and easy to incorporate into my routine, and I saw some decent results in a short amount of time,” says BDG staffer Jessica Fields. “I used it three nights per week and noticed my skin’s texture had improved and that my face looked brighter and smoother.”

Best Serum For Aging Skin

Containing a byproduct of mesenchymal stem cells rich in real growth factors, proteins, and peptides, plus man-made exosomes, peptides, and other molecules, the Angela Caglia Cell Forté Serum is designed to help your skin regenerate better and quicker, warding off signs of aging like wrinkles and hyperpigmentation. On top of that, it enhances hydration with the help of hyaluronic acid and snow mushroom. To experience the full results, the brand recommends applying a dropper-full morning and night. The bottle should last you about a month.

Best Skin Multitasker

The Danucera Cerabalm may look like a gorgeous jar of golden honey, but slather it on your skin and you’ll see there’s no tacky or greasy feeling to be found — just refreshing, dewy moisture and nourishment. The formula, rich in plant-based oils and ingredients like sea buckthorn oil, spirulina extract, and apricot kern oil, is designed to target a wide range of skin care concerns, like dehydration, discoloration, breakouts, wrinkles, and more. It’s also a multitasker in the sense that it can be used as a moisturizer, a cleansing balm, and a mask.

Best Chemical Sunscreen

This lightweight primer-sunscreen hybrid comes in three shimmery tints — bronze, peach, and champagne — to give your skin a subtle dose of radiance while increasing the wear of your makeup and protecting it from the sun’s damaging UVA and UVB rays with SPF 30. Remember, though, in order to get the formula’s full sun protection, you’ll need to apply about a nickel-size dollop to your face. Since it’s infused with aloe, hyaluronic acid, and squalane, it’s also a nice option for anyone looking to add a little more hydration into their skin care routine.

Best Physical Sunscreen

Developed with the consultation of dermatologists and medical oncologists, this non-greasy mineral sunscreen holds an SPF 30 and utilizes DiamondCore® zinc oxide — an ingredient the brand says helps block UV-generated particles that cause photoaging. On top of offering sun protection, the formula is designed to reverse and fade existing signs of aging like hyperpigmentation, sagging, and fine lines.

Best Toner

It’s true that you can’t really shrink your pores, but you can help them appear smaller by clearing them of dirt, oil, and grime with the right toner. Reach for the Alpyn Beauty Pore Perfecting Liquid Exfoliator, which helps hydrate, brighten, and unclog congested pores thanks to 2% salicylic acid, vitamin C, and tremella mushroom. Work it into your routine after cleansing and before applying your serums, moisturizer, and sunscreen.

Best Face Tool

This techy tool combines red light, blue light, and red + infrared light to fade dark spots, fight breakouts, and firm the skin by stimulating collagen production. But the feature that’ll really motivate you to face mask and chill? The gentle micro-motors provide soothing, tension-relieving vibration therapy to pressure points on the face and scalp. “Innovative doesn't even begin to cover this mask,” says TZR Beauty Editor Amanda Ross. “First of all, it's based on cutting-edge percussive therapy, which uses vibrations to stimulate lymphatic and blood circulation to increase results. It's comfortable and thoughtfully designed (there's even extra padding around the eye area) with different light therapy modalities to target a seriously wide range of issues.”

Best Skin Treatment

Inside this cooling, de-puffing, and refillable rollerball device you’ll find a vial of the brand’s Skin Activator serum — a hydrating and firming formula made with niacinamide, hyaluronic acid, and peptides meant to mimic the skin’s natural composition for faster absorption. Two clicks release the serum, which you can then gently glide onto the skin using the rollerball. Think of it as an easy way to give yourself a quick facial massage every single day.

Photographs: Chelsea Kyle

Set Designer: Emma Chao

Photo Director: Alex Pollack

Editor in Chief: Kathy Lee

Executive Beauty Director: Faith Xue

SVP Creative: Karen Hibbert