Working as a beauty editor and writer for the last six and a half years, I’ve tried close to a gazillion beauty products in an effort to kill my acne, hydrate my dry skin, banish eczema around my face, and make my melasma disappear during the different seasons. But there are some skincare products I’d buy with my own money and some that I would not.
Who knows how many chemicals have made contact with my face over the years, but if there’s one thing I know for sure, it’s that the below four products work and continue to outshine the others on my vanity shelf. Despite all the brilliant newness that gets sent to my mailbox daily, the picks below are worship-worthy products that I would spend my own, hard-earned freelance funds on if I were to no longer get products sent to me for free to test out and write about.
It’s hard to find products that work and can be used to maintain a hydrated and healthy complexion. I’ve had to give myself grace as I explore other products, but it is a matter of fact, that these are three that I continue to turn to.
Skincare Products I’d Buy With My Own Money
Avène Tolerance Control Soothing Skin Recovery Cream
This cream came to me when I needed it most—it was senior year of college, I was just coming off from heavy antibiotics for my acne, and I believe the strong medication made me breakout very heavily with eczema all over my face. Not only was I incredibly hungover on my graduation day, but my skin was absolutely caked in makeup trying to cover up the redness and itchiness that my eczema left behind.
This was all pre-beauty editor days, when I spent hours watching YouTube makeup tutorial videos and sifting through Reddit for advice. Many Reddit users suggested trying this cream to calm inflammation due to eczema, and they were right—it was my saving grace.
Since these times, I’ve been recommending everyone this cream if you have super sensitive skin (or a similar skin type) like myself. It’s super thick and moisturizing, so if you prefer a lighter consistency, I don’t recommend it (but doesn’t feel as heavy as a facial oil). Ideal for cold winter months, this life-saver has been a godsend for my younger brother as well, who also suffers from eczema. This product uses minimal ingredients but is highly effective.
Other Avène products I can’t live without:
- Avène XeraCalm A.D Lipid-Replenishing Cleansing Oil ($32)
- Avène Gentle Milk Moisturizing No-Rinse Cleansing Lotion for Sensitive Skin ($20)
- Avène XeraCalm A.D Lipid-Replenishing Cream ($36)
Paula’s Choice Skin Perfecting 2% BHA Liquid Salicylic Acid Exfoliant
I’ve personally met Paula Begoun a few times, and let me tell you, this lady knows her shit. She’s authored 18 books about the beauty industry, founded Beautypedia.com, and lets everyone know how much she hates sheet masks (I actually do, too)! Paula is the real deal. She’s a no-nonsense kinda gal, and her anti-aging skincare products fall under the same philosophy, too.
Her Skin Perfecting 2% BHA Liquid has a huge, huge cult-following, and once you try it for yourself, I think you’ll understand why. It exfoliates dead skin cells while clearing pores for a more even tone, plus it visibly reduces fine lines & wrinkles. The active ingredient in this pick is 2% salicylic acid. I’ve gone through a couple of bottles of this liquid gold, and maybe I’m going crazy and just seeing things, but every time I run out or I stop using it, my skin completely freaks out and starts to break out again.
With an exfoliant like this, it’s a product you only need to use 3-4 times a week. It’s recommended to start slow and apply every other day. This exfoliant will also help to diminish the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, which is always a win for my aging skin (I started using an eye cream at 30!). One of my favorite ingredients in this product is green tea leaf extract, which helps calm redness and soothes sensitivity.
Note: This exfoliant is not a fash wash.
The fact that this efoliant is not a face wash is great—especially as many of us have skin that can be sensitive. It’s recommended that you gently apply over your face and neck after cleansing. To apply you are to use your hands and or a cotton pad. And the key part here is to NOT rinse.
I usually apply it to a cotton pad and use it about once a day on clean skin, let it dry, then apply her Skin Recovery Replenishing Moisturizer ($35) on top. I’ve gone through multiple tubes of this moisturizer and it is another Paula’s Choice product I fully stand behind (note: it’s not ideal if you have oily skin). I’ll also add that all of Paula’s products are 100% fragrance-free, which is incredibly important if you have super sensitive skin. When you use this moisturizer, your skin feels safe and calm. It’s not an overwhelming product and it’s really great for those that are prone to rosacea and eczema. This is also a really great product for those with acne-prone skin.
Other Paula’s Choice products I can’t live without:
- Paula’s Choice Boost Hyaluronic Acid Booster with Ceramides ($39)
- Paula’s Choice Skin Perfecting 8% AHA Gel Exfoliant with Glycolic Acid ($37)
- Paula’s Choice Lip & Body Emollient Treatment Balm ($15)
PCA Skin Hydrating Serum
There are so many PCA products I adore, but this serum is a staple in my skincare routine. It feels beautiful, soaks in seamlessly, and hydrates the hell out of my dry dermis. I like to apply this one in the morning and at night if my skin is extra dry, just after cleansing and toning. It is a product that feels like a treat and is luxurious to put on. The brand also has another popular serum, called the Hyaluronic Acid Boosting Serum, but I find that one to be a bit too slimy for my liking—the Hydrating Serum is a perfect consistency and never fails me! Yes, texture matters. And yes, I know the price point on this one is high, but I think it’s worth it. When using this product, I can assure you that your face feels soft, plump and hydrated.
One of the benefits of using this serum is that I notice a huge difference in how my foundation looks every time I apply this. It allows for makeup application to feel seamless. It always manages to make my loose mineral foundation look a bit more glowy, which I love. The serum is a good base for putting on other products without losing the dewy look I’m often seeking. There is no question that with time this product will have your skin tone at the next level.
Not only is this product really helpful for hydration, it is also a really instrumental product for addressing inflammation. It is generally very gentle yet effective. No greasiness or icky perfume scents either, so it’s a win-win!
Other PCA Skin products I can’t live without:
Supergoop! Unseen Sunscreen SPF 40
No skincare routine is complete without sunscreen as the last step—seriously. It’s extremely important to shield your skin—on your face, neck, and chest, especially—from the sun’s harmful UV rays. I’ve tested countless amounts of sunscreens and have to say that the best of its kind is this Supergoop! Unseen Sunscreen SPF 40. Yes, the name is cute and it rhymes, but more importantly, this product lives up to its name: it truly is unseen, meaning that it doesn’t leave a white caste like other pasty mineral sunscreens. Because of that, I could recommend it to friends who are more melanated.
I’m not alone in my devotion to this sunscreen. In fact, more than 12,000 people have rated Unseen 4.6 out of five stars. One particularly positive review: “Absolutely the best sunblock I have ever used. It’s not greasy at all; it glides on like a silicone primer. In fact, I use it as my primer before I put on my liquid foundation. The best part is it does not pill at all as I add my liquid foundation and my cream blush.”
CeraVe Healing Ointment
Natalie Arroyo Camacho, one of the contributing writers at The Daley Dose, swears by this mineral oil-based product. She says it’s worked wonders for her scars—which she thought would be with her forever. She’s also 99 percent sure that this is one of the things that has helped completely heal the eczema on her hands. On some days, she says, the pain and itching from her eczema was so bad it made her want to cry. This product is formulated with mineral oil and contains petrolatum—which are both good for retaining your skin’s water. Occlusives are also helpful in creating a barrier between your skin and the outside world.
Every night, Natalie uses a pea-sized amount of the ointment to wrap up her skincare routine. “I feel like it helps lock in all the good stuff and my skin is so smooth when I wake up in the morning,” she says. She’s been doing this for three years and has bought three of these bad boys. She’s also put her roommate and many friends onto this top-tier product. She learned this tip from content creator Tiara Willis, and it’s important to her that we shout her out—so, hey, Tiara!
Other CeraVe products I can’t live without:
- CeraVe Hydrating Facial Cleanser ($20)
- CeraVe AM Facial Moisturizing Lotion SPF 30 ($20)
- CeraVe Vitamin C Serum with Hyaluronic Acid ($29)
Charlotte Tilbury Magic Water Cream
As you may be able to tell from her choice above, Natalie isn’t one for a splurge. That said, if she had to pick a product that was worth the extra cash, she’d go with this one. “This moisturizer is truly every bit as magical as it claims,” she says. “I’ve used it in so many climates and it does its job whether I’m in the tropics, the chilly Midwest, or in the dead heat of a Los Angeles summer.”
This is great for all skin types because it’s highly hydrating and it contains niacinamide, which is known to help reduce the appearance of pores. Its consistency is mostly true to its name, since it’s not as thick as other moisturizers we’ve tried. That said, it’s not super runny and its composition is definitely like that of a cream instead of like a serum.
Other Charlotte Tilbury products I can’t live without:
- Charlotte Tilbury Magic Hydrator Mist ($47)
- Charlotte Tilbury Serum Crystal Elixir ($85)
- Charlotte Tilbury Invisible UV Flawless Primer ($55)
Garnier SkinActive Micellar Cleansing Water
This pick proves that Natalie really is all about the basics. “This is a skincare product that I’d buy with my own money. In fact, I always do,” she says. “I like to use it to remove my makeup since it makes for an easier cleanse,” she adds. “But I’ll also use it as a gentler cleanser if I know that I’ve been inside all day or if I didn’t get particularly sweaty.”
Since this is a dermatologist-tested product that’s available in drugstores nationwide, we’re happy to know that this pick is only $12. Well worth our money if you ask us.