14 skincare products that actually work as advertised

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Sophie Ross is In The Know’s shopping contributor. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram for more.

With a new celebrity skincare brand seemingly dropping every day, the sheer number of products and potions out there can feel downright overwhelming. Sure, good marketing and an attached-celebrity name can help sell units. But it’s far more important for us — the people — to know if a product actually works before dropping dollars on it. 

That’s why I’m breaking down my favorite skincare products that truly perform as promised — no false advertising necessary. Seriously, there’s nothing on this list I haven’t put on my face many, many times before.

Shop: CeraVe Resurfacing Retinol Serum, $17.99

Credit: Amazon

Fact: The only skincare ingredient scientifically proven by dermatologists to reduce the appearance of aging is retinol. Yes, you could pay top dollar for a fancy formula, but why bother when CeraVe’s incredible retinol serum exists? After all, CeraVe is the top drugstore skincare brand for a reason.

Shop: Glow Recipe Avocado Melt Retinol Sleeping Mask, $49

Credit: Glow Recipe

Speaking of retinol, Glow Recipe carries a collection of natural, “fruit-powered” skincare — and the Avocado Melt Retinol Sleeping Mask is the antioxidant-rich and ultra-nourishing night cream of my dreams. I wear it as an overnight treatment, but you can also use it as a mask for a “flash facial.”

Shop: Caudalie Vinopure Pore Purifying Gel Cleanser, $28

Credit: Sephora

I’ve always been partial to gel cleansers for their texture and consistency — and I’ve yet to find one as light, fresh and effective as Caudelie’s luxe-feeling formula. I’m currently nearing “empty” status on this product, and I need to order a new one STAT, even though I have some other cleansers on deck in my apartment. If that’s not a sign of a great skincare product, I don’t know what is.

Shop: Dermal Korea Collagen Essence Facial Sheet Mask Pack, $11.99 (orig. $29.99)

Credit: Amazon

Honestly, I’m a sucker for any and all sheet masks. But these are the ones I find myself ordering (and hoarding) over and over again. Every pack comes with sixteen masks, and I like to use ‘em before fancy events — or whenever my skin needs a boost. No one criticizes my complexion more than my Jewish mother, and even she says I look ten years younger after using one. Just apply one as the “serum” step in your skincare routine after you wash your face and prior to moisturizing for glowier, dewier skin.

Shop: Vaseline Petroleum Jelly, $3.98

Credit: Amazon

This shouldn’t be groundbreaking news, but petroleum jelly is truly the nectar of the gods. I slather it on my lips and hands at bedtime year-round — not just in the dry winter months — and always take it when I travel. Without it, my digits are drier than the Sahara. (The one time a TSA agent made me throw out my oversized jar, I nearly cried.) 

Shop: Neutrogena On-The-Spot Acne Treatment, $6.49

Credit: Amazon

This is the only spot treatment to ever truly work for me. Feel a blemish festering under your skin? Slap some of this on before bed and your zit-to-be will be gone by morning. 

Shop: Ole Henrikson Banana Bright Eye Crème, $39 

Credit: Sephora

As someone with chronic under-eye bags and genetic dark circles, I’ve tried pretty much every eye cream on the market — and nothing compares to Ole Henrikson’s cult-favorite eye cream. (Still not convinced? Read this.) Pro tip: Store it in the refrigerator before using. The cold temp constricts blood vessels to bring puffiness down even further.

Shop: Sunday Riley Good Genes Lactic Acid Treatment, $85

Credit: Sunday Riley

I’ll be honest: I was on the fence about this chemical exfoliant at first, thinking my skin may be too sensitive for it. (The slight “burning” sensation is real.) But now, I’m fully committed. The AHA (alpha-hydroxy acid) component gently lifts dead skin cells while also correctly color hyperpigmentation, redness and dark spots. I use it as an overnight treatment and see an instant difference in my complexion in the mornings.

Shop: Handmade Heroes Vegan Coconut Lip Scrub, $9.99

Credit: Amazon

If you’re not using a lip scrub yet, what are you doing? This one scrubs dead skin away for a smooth, kissable pout — perfect for prepping your lips for lipstick application, makeout sessions or duck-face selfies. Literally no judgment.

Shop: COSRX Advanced Snail 92 All-In-One Cream, $24

Credit: Ulta

Okay, I get it: Snail mucin has an… off-putting ring to it. But this lightweight, satiny formula is the perfect daytime moisturizer, filled with replenishing and hydrating snail extract and hyaluronic acid for brighter, replenished skin. (And there are many, many more reasons why we love it.) Trusted K-beauty brand COSRX gets this formula completely right — and you’ll be hooked. 

Shop: Biossance Squalane + Antioxidant Cleansing Oil, $30

Credit: Biossance

I didn’t start double-cleansing until a few years ago, but I soon realized it makes all the difference. An oil cleanser like this one from clean-beauty brand Biossance dissolves your makeup prior to cleansing, creating a clean, dirt-free surface for the rest of your skincare routine. As a night showerer, it’s a necessary addition to my end-of-day routine.

Shop: Herbivore Botanicals Jasmine Green Tea Oil Control Toner, $22

Credit: Herbivore Botanicals

Harsh alcohols and astringents strip your complexion of essential oils, causing your skin to, in turn, overproduce oil to make up for it. The Herbivore Botanicals Jasmine Green Tea Oil Control Toner is gentle, lightly-scented and feels incredible on your skin — whether you’re spraying it on directly or using a cotton pad.

Shop: Tatcha The Water Cream Oil-Free Pore Minimizing Moisturizer, $68

Credit: Sephora

I’ve been taken with Tatcha — a J-beauty brand with luxe ingredients sourced straight from Japan — since I first discovered it. This airy daytime moisturizer certainly tops my “all-time favorites” list. The nutrient-rich and pore-minimizing formula is lightweight enough for hot summer days, but rich enough to replenish dehydrated winter skin, too. Win-win. 

Shop: Thayers Alcohol-Free Witch Hazel Facial Toner, $10.95

Credit: Ulta

I know, I know — witch hazel is controversial, but I would never steer you wrong. The alcohol-free version by Thayers is a gentle, refreshing godsend. It leaves my skin completely clean and balanced — a perfect canvas for the skincare products that follow. I use it as a toner, but it’s great for ingrown hairs and irritated skin, too.

If you enjoyed this story, check out Sophie Ross’ list of things she actually bought while scrolling through Instagram.

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