Consider them the MVPs of the skincare world.

By Hana Hong
February 18, 2020
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It seems like just when you get familiar with another skincare brand, two more crop up. With so many gimmicky and redundant product launches, distinguishing between what works—and what’s just hype and good marketing—can be daunting. After all, there are only so many products you can slather on your face at once. Well, as a beauty editor, it's my job to swipe and test countless skincare products from brands across the globe. From the dizzying array of serums, creams, toners, and essences I've tried, a few have stood out. To help whittle down what you actually need, I've rounded up six of my top skincare brands⁠ from some of the biggest beauty categories (K-beauty, J-beauty, clean beauty, and more⁠) that you really shouldn’t miss⁠—and the hero products to shop from each.

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1
K-Beauty: Amorepacific

If you haven’t hopped on the K-beauty train by now, you’re really missing out. Even if you haven’t tried it yet, you might have heard of Amorepacific, which is the largest K-beauty conglomerate in the world. The brand's star ingredient does wonders for problematic skin and has helped alleviate my eczema flareups on numerous occasions. It comes from a green tea plant that only grows on South Korea’s Jeju Island; the leaf’s secret sauce is bottled up and delivered in a slew of creams, serums, masks, and essences. If you're not sure where to start, try Amorepacific Time Response Skin Reserve Cream ($150; sephora.com), which is packed with powerful antioxidants to reverse the appearance of aging.

2
J-Beauty: Tatcha

Ever wanted to get the immaculate, poreless skin of a geisha? The Japanese call this look “mochi hada,” which refers to the pure, gleaming, soft quality of a baby’s skin. Tatcha pulls inspiration from these Japanese geishas to create facial cleansers and moisturizers that use traditional ingredients, like finely ground rice powder and licorice root extract, of geishas’ skincare routines past. Products include classic cleansing oils to melt away your makeup, rice polishes to exfoliate dead skin cells, and brightening products to create that covetable glowy complexion. Try: Tatcha The Rice Polish Foaming Enzyme Powder ($65; sephora.com).

3
Science-Based Skincare: Skinceuticals

Looking for no-fuss packaging with easy-to-understand ingredients? Skinceuticals is one of the top leaders in antioxidant-based skincare, and there’s a reason the science-minded brand is one of the most trusted by dermatologists and estheticians alike. Born from decades of skin cancer research, the brand's high-potency serums are concentrated in pure actives and proven to penetrate deep into your skin to correct signs of aging and prevent future damage. If you're prone to pigmentation, try the cult-favorite Skinceuticals C E Ferulic ($166; dermstore.com).

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4
Cosmeceutical Skincare: Sunday Riley

Sunday Riley operates under the notion that you want to see results, fast (which we can definitely appreciate). The brand uses a balancing mixture of botanicals and powerful, fast-acting ingredients like lactic acid, retinol, and turmeric, in its formulas to deliver an instant difference to your skin. Plus, the adorable product names—UFO, Luna, C.E.O. Glow—definitely don't hurt. Sunday Riley Good Genes All-In-One Lactic Acid Treatment ($85; sephora.com) will make your skin look like it was truly blessed with good genes. 

5
Luxury Skincare: YSL

Don’t undercut YSL as a strictly makeup brand. With indulgent textures, glamorous (and shelfie-ready) packaging, and—most importantly—an arsenal of powerful, high-quality ingredients, the brand is really slaying the skincare game and owns some of my favorite skincare products to date. Its latest line, YSL Pure Shots serums ($88 each; sephora.com) delivers a quick and potent dose of skin-renewing effects. 

6
Clean Beauty: Herbivore

If you’re looking to transition into a clean and sustainable beauty routine, Herbivore is the capsule brand you need. The fabulous cosmetic chemists at Herbivore pride themselves on creating natural products that are both accessible and effective for all skin types. Everything they make is natural, chemical-free, non-toxic, and ethically sourced, so you can rest assured knowing that you’re doing good both for your skin and the environment. Its newest product, Herbivore Prism 20% AHA + 5% BHA Exfoliating Glow Facial ($58; sephora.com), will make your face look like the bottle it comes in—maybe not holographic, but definitely very radiant.

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