In beauty, there are a few things you should splurge on: that 90-minute massage, the extralong scalp massage, and your skincare regimen.
Anytime I interview an esthetician, dermatologist, or makeup artist, I can count on this answer making its way into our conversation in one way or another: "Your skin is the key to making your makeup look gorgeous, and it can also be the key to feeling confident without makeup, too!" So, to drill it into your brain as well — your skin is the key to looking good, whether it's helping your makeup look better or saving you time by not having to wear it. And while there are plenty of products that cost less than $15 that can get the job done, many skincare products with high efficacy come with a higher price tag.
That's not to say some luxury brands aren't marking up their products while using a minimal amount of their active ingredient, though. It's frustrating to invest in a luxury product only to notice no results after continually using it, right? Nobody wants to waste their time or money on a $100 product that is equivalent to one that's $15. That said, here's a list of luxury brands that actually deliver on the claims they make, per my own experiences with each. If you're serious about spending some cash on your face, these are the products worth every cent.
La Prairie Anti-Aging Eye & Lip Perfection à Porter
Many consider La Prairie, a Switzerland-founded brand, to be the height of luxury when it comes to anti-aging. In fact, it became super popular after the Pope received a treatment from the original clinic in 1953. The foundation of La Prairie is the Exclusive Cellular Complex, which is used to regenerate skin cells. This complex has been kept a secret for decades, as the brand does all it can to protect it.
The La Prairie Anti-Aging Eye & Lip Perfection à Porter ($180) compact is one of the more affordable products from the line. The adorable set comes with both a luxurious eye cream gel and lip balm, meant to protect and plump both areas of your face. And it's decadent and portable, which makes it perfect for someone who travels frequently.
Kate Somerville KateCeuticals Clinic Reserve
If you've tried ExfoliKate, a cult-favorite exfoliator, you know the magic Kate Somerville holds. There are so many products you should get your hands on, but one standout is a new launch from 2017: Clinic Reserve ($250). This cream is perfect if you're notoriously dry, lacking bouncy skin, and want your face to feel refreshed — but not weighed down by heavy moisturizers.
Kate, who got her start in the industry to remedy her own eczema and psoriasis, opened her first clinic inside of a cosmetic surgeon's office. Now, she's turned her years of expertise into a global brand with her own clinic. Chances are the celebrities and personalities you see on TV have been touched by Kate's magic hands.
Omorovicza Thermal Cleansing Balm
Omorovicza originates in Budapest, where the largest thermal lake in the world exists. It's there that the brand pros get the Hungarian Moor Mud for the Thermal Cleansing Balm($110), which detoxes and purifies the skin. This is easily one of my favorite makeup removers because it doesn't require a double cleanse, leaves the skin soft with sweet almond oil, and never feels greasy like many other makeup removing balms can. Also, the black color makes it a lot cooler than traditional cleansing balms, and probably why it has taken off on Instagram.
Radical Skincare Age-Defying Exfoliating Pads
If you have lines around your eyes, this is one of the only products you should be using. Rachel and Liz Edlich are the "sisters on a mission" behind Radical Skincare. The line was influenced by their father Dr. Richard F. Edlich MD.PHD, a world renowned Professor of Plastic Surgery, which is why many of these products are so potent.
The Age-Defying Exfoliating Pads ($75) have alpha and beta hydroxy acids to gently exfoliate away dead skin and reveal a brighter, radiant complexion. It also helps make your pores look smaller, and I like to use them as a way to prep my skin for other products. It's one of the only products I've used around my eyes without issue.
Odacité Wild Carrot Vital Glow Serum Concentrate
Love natural, clean products? Odacité is a brand you need on your radar. French founder Valerie Grandury was on a journey to remove "all the toxins from her life" after being diagnosed with breast cancer, which evolved into creating Odacité. The vegan, cruelty and paraben-free line is one you can feel safe using that also yields gorgeous results. As someone with combo skin, I have tried many oils, but always end up leaving them in the dust because my skin can't handle them. But the Wild Carrot Vital Glow Serum Concentrate ($55) helps with my melasma without irritating my skin and absorbs into a beautiful, dewy finish.
Sunday Riley Tidal Brightening Enzyme Water Cream
I've discussed at length how I believe this is the best moisturizer on the market right now, especially for those of us who are combating both oily and dry areas. Sunday Riley has revolutionized the skin care industry by setting trends — oils never were the same until the brand created Juno and Luna. Tidal ($65) hydrates and disappears without drying out the skin, and it works gorgeously as a primer before makeup.
Goldfaden MD Doctor's Scrub
If Kate Hudson loves it, I'm willing to give it a try. Goldfaden MD's Doctor's Scrub ($98) is a fine, velvety scrub that seemingly sloughs off every dead skin cell from your face in one fell swoop. Unlike many physical scrubs, this one isn't harsh, and your skin will feel as smooth as as balloon after using it.
Bakel Thio-C Revitalising Glowing Serum
The thing about vitamin C is that it's at its most potent when you activate it yourself, meaning it comes in powder form and you mix it before you use it. Bakel Thio-C Revitalising Glowing Serum ($196) feels like a fun beauty lab project: you activate the Vitamin C by releasing it into the Glutothione, a powerful antioxidant. Then apply the dispenser on top and use it morning and evening within three days of activating the powder. This product is powerful enough to give you the radiance you've been lacking and to help smooth out labial folds, but also is delicate enough for areas like the eyelids and under the eyes.
Biologique Recherche Lotion P50V
I'd consider Biologique Recherche a holy grail beauty brand. The name can be daunting to pronounce and spell, but the product are anything but. Created by a biologist, a physiotherapist, and a doctor, these products are found in the most luxurious spas in the world (like Ciel Spa at the SLS Hotel in Los Angeles) and are often found at plastic surgery recovery facilities to speed up the healing process.
The product creating the most frenzy is Lotion P50. There are several iterations of this magical lotion, which is really active if applied like a toner. It exfoliates, hydrates the skin, and balances your pH level so your skin isn't over or under-producing oil. It's one of the most potent exfoliating products on the market, and my skin has become smoother and tighter from consistent use. I'm personally a big fan of Lotion P50V ($98). Unfortunately, it's difficult to purchase these products in the U.S. — be prepared to order it directly from spas or studiosthat carry the line. I'd also be hesitant about ordering the product off Amazon.
Other products to try: Lotion P50 ($98) and Crème Grand Millésime ($675).
Drunk Elephant T.L.C. Sukari Babyfacial
Drunk Elephant has emerged as a new power player in the beauty space. The fun name, pretty packaging, and effective products have created legions of devoted consumers.
Sukari Babyfacial ($80) as been recognized as an industry favorite because it's an alpha and beta hydroxy mask that works to clarify the skin. In fact, it contains 25 percent alpha hydroxy acid, so it's super potent without making your skin feel like it's on fire. All of the ingredients in Babyfacial complement each other, so that your pH levels are balanced and your skin is noticeably radiant after one use — like a baby's.
Caudalie Vinoperfect Radiance Serum
I'm aging myself, but this is the one product I've been using for 15 years. I used to steal Vinoperfect Radiance Serum ($79) from my mother's stash because it made acne marks visibly lighter after a week of using it. Caudalie's philosophy is based on grapes — hence Vino — and this serum gently illuminates the skin.
SK-II Facial Treatment Essence
Japan is always ahead of the game when it comes to beauty innovation. Japanese brand SK-II has been using active ingredient Pitera for decades, creating one of the first potent essences on the market. The Facial Treatment Essence ($270) is made of over 90 percent Pitera, which gently exfoliates the skin with each use. It's recommended that you soak a cotton pad and press it into the skin instead of rubbing, or pour into the palm of your hand and gently press it into the skin.
ZoMedical Melamin Skin Bleach & Correcting Creme by Zein Obagi MD
ZO Medical, created by Zein Obagi, is very similar to professional grade products, yielding results you might see from a trip to the dermatologist's office — but they take a little longer to work. Melamin Skin Bleach & Correcting Creme ($66) was prescribed to me by Dr. Obagi himself to help with my melasma. It contains 4 percent hydroquinone to help with pigmentation, which actually works without including the ruddiness or irritation you can usually experience from the ingredient.
Renée Rouleau Anti Cyst Treatment
Celebrity esthetician Renée Rouleau created Anti Cyst ($46) to take down the size of inflamed blemishes. The key is the ethyl lactate and citric acid, which helps minimize throbbing, painful cysts on the skin. Use it on your back, for ingrown hairs, or for any bulbous cyst that appears on your face — these types of breakouts aren't meant to come to a head, and it's important to calm them down and not pick them.
Clarins Double Serum
It's two serums in one, obviously. Clarins Double Serum ($122) is made to smooth and firm the skin, so if aging gracefully is what you're after, this is the potion you need. This has a lot of product in the package, so you'll get several months use out of it. Clarins is known for using plant extracts like turmeric, which is what makes this serum so potent.
Goop Exfoliating Instant Facial Masque
One reason I love Goop is because it partnered with Juice Beauty, another holistic brand, to create the line. Gwyneth Paltrow, who created the brand and its namesake, got it right with the Exfoliating Instant Facial Masque ($125). It feels like you're slathered in a rich icing that frosts your face, which is really chock full of alpha and beta hydroxy acids to eat away dead skin. Leave it on for a few minutes, then, while rinsing, work your fingertips in circular motions and benefit from the cellulose beads to experience a physical exfoliation.
La Mer Eye Concentrate
I'm sure you're confused. Why wouldn't I include the iconic Creme de la Mer? I think it gets enough press, no? For me, the Eye Concentrate ($205) is what's magic. Creme de la Mer is known for restoring lost moisture that seems to have been snatched away, never to be seen again. For someone like me, this results in overly oily skin, but it's perfect for my delicate and dry eye area. That's why I lean towards the Eye Concentrate. It utilizes the coveted Miracle Broth along with an iron-fortified mineral to help with dark circles.
Fresh Black Tea Instant Perfecting Mask
This is another product I've used for over a decade: Fresh Black Tea Instant Perfecting Mask($92). It's whipped consistency goes on the skin and cools it down, while the black tea helps to give your skin a little pick-me-up. Not to mention it smells like an aromatic tea, which is calming and delightful.
Other products to try: Soy Face Cleanser ($38) and Cannabis Santal Eau de Parfum ($90).
Nannette de Gaspé Face Mask
Sheet masks are nothing new, but one trend that's blown the beauty industry away is the introduction of dry sheet masks. No goopy residue here — you put these masks on and they're 100 percent dry, which plays tricks on the mind.
Nannette de Gaspé's ($120) are infused with ingredients to firm and tone the skin without a drop of water. Apply them by sliding the mask over your years for the perfect fit, then massage the mask into the skin and let it sit for 10-20 minutes. You'll be shocked after you remove it and your skin not only feels tighter, but noticeably dewy. Plus, you get three uses out of one mask.
Sisley Paris Black Rose Skin Infusion Cream
Skin feeling deflated? Sisley Paris Black Rose Skin Infusion Cream ($195) is here to plump. You. UP! This cream is the skin care equivalent of Arnold Schwarzenegger: it does the heavy lifting and it's so popular, it could run for office. You will notice an immediate difference in the texture of your skin, and over time, the luminosity of your skin will be completely revamped thanks to — wait for this doozy — Alkekengi calyx extract. Yeah. I struggled pronouncing it too, but it's the key to the plumping effect the cream has.
Rodin Olio Lusso
Linda Rodin created a true gem when it comes to face oils. Back when oils were relatively new to the beauty world, she introduced Rodin Olio Lusso ($170), a facial oil made from 11 specially curated oils that absorb beautifully into the skin for a radiant glow. Nobody would guess you're wearing an oil, outside of the fact that your skin will be gleaming. Take one look at Linda with her gorgoeus skin and cool-girl style and you'll be buying this product in bulk. She started the company at 59, and although she has stepped down from her post and is on to her next adventure, the oil does her name justice.