Top Skincare Products of 2020

In December, @devsday and I hosted a #top2020skincare challenge on Instagram to share our favorites products from 2020 in various categories. This post combines all of the favorites I shared on my IG page, in one place. Warning–it is a long one! ๐Ÿ˜‰

*This post contains affiliate links. When you purchase something through this link, I make a small commission. That commission goes to pay for new skincare products to review and for time/effort in managing this blog. I appreciate any time you shop through my links, but never feel obligated to do so.

First cleanse:

For me, this is an oil-based cleanser that takes off makeup & SPF at the end of the day.โ €

All of my favorites have similar qualities in that they all:โ €

1) take off eye makeup without stinging my eyesโ €
2) emulsify w/ water (turning milky) & aren’t hard to wash offโ €
3) Don’t leave a film on skinโ €
4) These all happen to be from small businesses

Balm oil cleanser

  • TOP favorite oil cleanser is the cleansing concentrate balm cleanser by @deviantskincare ($41.37/1.7 oz; $24.34 per oz). This cleanser is outstanding. I’ve never had an oil cleanser take off my mascara as well as this does WITHOUT a washcloth. I massage it on dry skin, add water to my fingers & massage over my eyes some more. It demolishes makeup & leaves my skin clean, but never stripped, & it feels nourished (it has an outstanding INCI w/ hemp seed, camellia seed, borage seed & more that are perfect for my acne-prone skin). This one is one the pricier side (but worth every penny) so I like to rotate this with a more affordable option (like Maelove). โ €Note that this is a two-person company (founded by Natalie, a friend of mine in the IG skincare community). So it is a very small business and it is based out of the UK. Natalie sources high quality ingredients, doesn’t cut corners, and also doesn’t mark up prices. But I recognize that after factoring in shipping these cleansers are on the pricier side. Other balm cleansers that I like that are more accessible to those in the US include: Farmacy Green Clean ($34 for 3.2 /$10.63 per oz); Clinique Take the day off ($30 for 3.8 oz /$7.89 per oz)

Liquid Oil Cleanser

  • Enzymatic Cleansing Oil โ€“ ($41.37/3.3 oz; $12.54 per oz). This is a liquid oil-to-milk cleanser that also takes off makeup nicely (although I think the CC does a little better with mascara). It pumps out only a tiny amount with each pump. I’ve found 13 pumps gives me a lush cushiony slip that I love. This has gentle fruit enzymes to provide some mild resurfacing which helps remove any flaking or visible build up on the skin (but is still gentle enough for daily use). I found that when I was using this, I actually had fewer milia on my face! ๐Ÿ™Œ๐Ÿป โ €
  • Maelove skincare The Day Eraser ($18.95/3.9 oz; $4.86 per oz) โ€“ Another liquid oil-to-milk cleanser. Rice bran is the carrier oil which is really nourishing. It has a nice spa-scent, glass bottle (with a pump that isn’t pictured), great price. Just a great option all around. โ €
  • Honorable mention: Tula Kefir Replenishing Cleansing Oil – $32 (4.7 oz; $6.81 per oz).โ €Nice INCI, great slip. No frills but works great. It has a nice pump with a plastic jar (so if you are clumsy and want to avoid glass, this is a good option). Save 15% w/ code GETGLOWING on

2nd Cleanse / Morning Cleanser

Basically, this is what I would use at night after the oil-based cleansers (but TBH I usually don’t always double cleanse at night ๐Ÿ˜ฌ๐Ÿคทโ€โ™€โ€). So primarily this is the cleanser I use every morning. Also, unlike yesterday’s cleansers that I applied on dry skin, I apply these on wet skin. โ €

My criteria for a morning cleanser is that I want it to have a pH between 4.5-5.5, be gentle enough for every day use, not have any annoying packaging quirks, and be affordable.โ €See this post for a bunch of other cleansers that I like that are under $5.

My favorite (& my husbandโ€™s favorite) morning cleanser is theย Jordan Samuel skinย Matinee gel cleanser ($28 for 6 oz; $4.67/oz) – pH 5.26. This cleanser reminds me of the results I got from the iS clinical cleansing complex but for less money and a thicker, silkier gel consistency.

Jordan recently started an affiliate program and I am a part of it–so you can use my code VANESSA to save 15% (it isn’t a one time use code, and it isn’t for new customers only. Yay!)

  • It is no frills but not boring.
  • It is a non-foaming gel cleanser.
  • The beautiful silky cushiony texture, which provides the perfect amount of slip, truly makes me happy.
  • It uses gentle surfactants to cleanse the skin.
  • It is fragrance free, essential oil free.
  • It has cucumber and chamomile and glycerin to calm, soothe and hydrate.
  • Has a touch of salicylic acid to help keep pores clear (but itโ€™s a small enough concentration that I can use it every day & even with Tret)โ €

Honorable mentions:โ €

Spot Treatments

In 2017 I found my holy grail spot treatment & itโ€™s still the reigning champ! Itโ€™s the Peter Thomas Roth official acne clearing gel ๐Ÿ™Œ๐Ÿป

  • I’ve found that my skin does best with a combo of < 2% Salicylic acid PLUS Glycolic acid for spot treating hormonal or inflamed blemishes. My skin also loves sulfur, but we I’ll get to that next. I used to layer a 2 %BHA then an AHA, but that often left my skin red, & flakey (covering up a flakey pimple w/ concealer is hard!!). The PTR combines those 2 ingredients AND, importantly, has hydrating ingredients to prevent cracked, flaky skin around a blemish AND it has aloe, arnica, & licorice root to help fade redness from the spot & soothe inflammation. Truly my ideal INCI. โ €
  • This is particularly effective (for me) at hormonal acne along the jawline & deep painful bumps that form under the surface. I apply it the week before my period along my jaw to prevent cysts from forming. Once a pimple appears, I will apply it a couple times a day (just dabbing on top of makeup if I need to). If I catch a bump early, this will usually flatten it, or it will help it quickly come to a head & then go away. It is also great at helping get rid of stubborn texture (i.e., those hard, little bumps that sit under the surface & never turn into whiteheads).
  • It is clear & absorbs w/o any weird film so it works great under makeup.โ €
  • The bottle is HUGE (3.4 oz) w/ a 2-year shelf life. It is expensive but it lasts forever and you can often find it on sale. Since it is so big I donโ€™t feel bad using this on my back and chest and this is also great for preventing/treating ingrown hairs along bikini line). โ €
  • My fave spot treatment mask is the Clear powdered mask by my friend Liz @wiemagie . This has 12% sulfur & hemp seed, tumeric, matcha powder & green clay. You can mix it with any liquid/gel/cream (โค๏ธthis mixed w/ the Iโ€™m From Honey Mask or PTR Gel). It is great at drawing out or flattening blemishes!

(I also like the Sunday Riley Saturn mask for a pre-mixed option, but if I leave that on over an hour it will actually increase redness around the spot, which never happens w/ the Clear mask)

Face Mists

For skipping a hydrating serum or misting in between skincare layers--especially before oils (tip: skin is more permeable when damp!), my favorite is Jordan Samuel Skin Hydrate Mist* ($29 / 4 oz) — This is similar to the JSS hydrate serum, but in a thinner mist form (which makes it a bit more versatile for me). It’s a slightly syrupy mist bc it is packed with humectants, but bc of that it really helps to plump up the skin. So refreshing.. I love it! โ €
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For misting before I use my LED mask, and before I put on my face mask in the morning and after I take it off at work, I spray the Cleanse & Recovery Spray by @thelightsalon * ($24/ 3.4oz) This is an antibacterial & antimicrobial mist that protects your skin against bacteria & pollution while also balancing oil and not being too drying. It also helps reduce inflammation, assists healing of blemishes & strengthens the skin barrier. It smells like a community pool, but it really works. I keep one at my desk at work so when I get in and take off my face mask, I spray this on. Also, I love that the lid has a locking mechanism so I can put it in my purse. One downside: 3 mth shelf life.โ €
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For refreshing my makeup midday and giving my skin a luminous glow, my favorite is Tula signature glow refreshing & brightening face mist* ($34 / 3.5oz) – When my skin looks a little cakey, this is my go to. Also, this is what I always wanted the Tatcha Dewy Skin Mist to beโ€”it adds a beautiful glow to the skin, but unlike the Tatcha one which is better for dry skin, the Tula mist dries down to a natural finish and doesnโ€™t make me oily! The pearlescent finish is super subtle and gorgeousโ€”I canโ€™t capture it on camera very well unless I apply like 4 layers (& then I am ready for festival season). It is refreshing & smells sweet. I have an affiliate code that will save you 15% at (Code: GETGLOWING)โ €

Vitamin C Serum

Almost every morning I use a Vitamin C serum to help protect against environmental damage & help prevent premature signs of aging–it is definitely a staple in my routines. As with most active ingredients, consistency & patience is key. Usually around 8-12 weeks is when I see the biggest improvements. Also, LAA will oxidize. Itโ€™s inevitable. I buy when Iโ€™m ready to open & use it (no stocking up with LAA!). Once I open it, I use it consistently and liberally and I always finish my bottles before they are badly oxidized (e.g., dark orange). See my Vit c highlights for examples of how dark is too dark IMHO. (Maelove & PC start almost clear. iS clinical is yellow at open)
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I have a SUPER long overdue post about all the vitamin c serums Iโ€™ve tried, but for now I have included a graphic after my top 3 picks that shows all the vitamin C serums I have tried so at least you know what products were in the running. Also, I do have a Vit C highlight were I talk about most of these & I have in depth reviews of lots on my blog (The Tula & Kora ones are newest additions, so I havenโ€™t formed an opinion on those yet). โ €

Ok.. on to the winners.โ €

  • ๐Ÿ†Favorite all-around (balancing efficacy, price, & packaging) is the Paula’s Choice C15 Super Booster. 15% LAA, Ferulic Acid, Vit E, Peptides. This really delivers results for me. Fades pigmentation & evens out skin tone. 1 bottle lasts me 3.5 mths like clockwork. Love the packaging. Often on sale so don’t pay full price. โ €
  • ๐Ÿ†Tied for first (but losing points because of cost) is the iS Clinical Pro Heal Advance + . This is the best Vit C Iโ€™ve tried in terms of not only fading pigmentation, but also reducing ruddiness/redness on my cheeks! The problem is it is so expensive that I wonโ€™t buy this back to back. So instead I plan to rotate this with PC. (Check out @lizalaska post bc it doesnโ€™t work for everyone! YMMV)โ €
  • ๐Ÿ… Maelove skincare Glow Maker โ€“ This is more hydrating & a bit more soothing than PC C15. However, the PC has better packaging & I like that PC has the ideal amount of Ferulic & Vit E. But this is a great affordable option! This bottle lasts me 4.5 mths

Hydrating Serums/Essences

If my skin is dehydrated (like after a night of drinking or sun exposure) I get fine dehydration lines & my skin looks dull. Hyaluronic acid is a large, water-loving molecule that can sit in fine lines, plumping up the skin to fill out those lines (but this effect is temporary). โ €

  • #1 Spot goes to forlled_usa P-Effect Refining Lotion (which I buy at @vickimoravskincare) is truly outstanding. ($88/5 oz; $17.60 per oz). This hydrating lotion has been a staple in my routines for almost 2 years now. I love the silky watery texture and I love how it plumps up my skin & gives it a healthy glow. But it is more than a hydrating essence. The patented Low Molecular Weight Hyaluronic Acid (5nm) also helps to deliver other ingredients (like ionized minerals & amino acids) deeper in the skin (which is also why I love applying this before other serums) & also helps boost cell interaction, strengthen skin & fight oxidative stress. Itโ€™s an incredible product.โ €
  • 2nd place is a long standing favorite –  Jordan Samuel Skin Hydrate Serum – $29/30 mL- Long time favorite that was (somewhat) recently reformulated (I like the new version just as much). Layers great & plumps up skin. Love that it has a couple different humectants, Gluconolactone (aka PHA, which I love to see in ingredient lists) & hexapeptide in it.
  • Honorable mention goes to:โ €Maelove Skincare Hydrator B5* (*press sample)- $27.95/30 mL- This has a great thin texture, bit lighter than JSS, & layers nicely. I really love the addition of resveratrol in this short & sweet ingredient list.

Acid Exfoliators

(There are other acid exfoliators that I really enjoy, but I reached for these the most in 2020). โ €
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๐Ÿฎ-4 ๐˜๐—ถ๐—บ๐—ฒ๐˜€ ๐—ฎ ๐˜„๐—ฒ๐—ฒ๐—ธ ๐—บ๐—ฎ๐—ถ๐—ป๐˜๐—ฒ๐—ป๐—ฎ๐—ป๐—ฐ๐—ฒ ๐—ฒ๐˜…๐—ณ๐—ผ๐—น๐—ถ๐—ฎ๐˜๐—ผ๐—ฟ๐˜€:โ €
I rotate between these based on what I am feeling like that day. โ €

  • When I really want to focus on blackheads & congestion, I reach for Paula’s Choice 2% BHA Daily Pore-Refining Treatment* ($33/3 oz) โ€“ The other AHA/BHA products have <1% BHA so if I really want to address blackheads & whiteheads I reach for this (PC 4% BHA is an honorable mention). I often skip my cheeks which don’t tend to get clogged pores & just apply this around my nose & chin. Sometimes I use this on nose/chin & the Deviant on the rest of my face. โ €
  • When I have active breakouts (especially hormonal ones), I tend to reach for Biologique_Recherche p50 1970 ($70/5.1 oz: ) bc of the antibacterial, antiseptic & skin smoothing properties of sulfur, phenol & burdock root (in addition to the AHA/BHA). This is my favorite version of p50 out of what I’ve tried (pigm400 & p50). I buy my biologique recherche from @vickimoravskincare ๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿปโ €
  • When I want to focus more on fading pigmentation & brightening my skin (or to use something a little gentler than p50), I reach for the Deviant Skincare gentle resurfacing liquid* ($46.95/3.3oz) this is really brightening ingredients & is somehow both potent yet gentle. 

~๐—ง๐˜„๐—ผ ๐˜๐—ถ๐—บ๐—ฒ๐˜€ ๐—ฎ ๐—บ๐—ผ๐—ป๐˜๐—ต ๐˜€๐˜๐—ฟ๐—ผ๐—ป๐—ด๐—ฒ๐—ฟ ๐—ฒ๐˜…๐—ณ๐—ผ๐—น๐—ถ๐—ฎ๐˜๐—ผ๐—ฟ:โ €

  • For a stronger night of AHA exfoliation, I use either the Alpha-H Skincare beauty sleep power peel or @alliesofskin Bright Futures (honorable mention: AOS Mandelic Acid). I like that they both have AHA + a retinoid. Both are great exfoliators that give my skin an amazing glow the next morning (Note: the AOS is currently reformulating Bright Future. You can use my affiliate code VANESSAB20 to save 20% at Tip: If you live in the US, Alpha-H is cheapest at Cultbeauty bc they are a UK-based retailer.


This is one of my favorite categories because I think aside from SPF, this has the largest impact on my skin. Bottom line, as a 38-year-old, a retinoid is nonnegotiable for me. (see my stories for infographics I’ve made on the topic) โ €

My method with retinoids is to try to use some form/strength 6-7 nights a week. In order to do that without my face falling off, I like to rotate between gentle and stronger products. โ €

Here is a previous post with a cheat sheet about retinoids
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Favorite gentle retinoid: Allies of Skin 1A Retinal + Peptides Overnight Mask* – $109 for 1.69 oz ($64.50 per oz) . This is a fabulous multi-purpose product that I have talked about so many times. I love this for vacations, for nights that I’m lazy and I just want to apply one thing, and I love it for any time I still want to use a retinoid but my skin is sensitized. I also like that I can layer with with other retinoid products (or apply it after a retinol mask like the Jan Marini). Itโ€™s a beautiful creamy consistency and I just love using it. (You can use my affiliate code VANESSAB20 to save 20% at
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My โ€œstrongโ€ retinoid night I love to use Paula’s Choice Clinical 1% Retinol Treatment* $58 for 1 oz (never buy this full price because you can almost always find it for 15-20% off) – This has a creamy consistency. This made my skin smoother and fine lines less noticeable. My happy spot was 3 days a week (any more and I got flaking). I used two pumps and then sometimes I followed up with an oil on top. At the end of summer, I this & I started using prescription strength Tretinoin (0.05%) 2 nights a week. That was going well & then beginning of Sept. I started doing a split face with the new Maelove Retinal serum. So right now I do a split face with those two 2 nights a week and I am very pleased with the results I’m seeing (skin is super smooth and soft). I’ll keep folks updated on my final thoughts on those.โ €
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Jan Marini Retinol Plus Mask โ€“ This is like a โ€œweekly retinol bootcampโ€ mask. Itโ€™s enjoyable to wear & I love how my skin looks after. In addition to the 1% retinol it has >1% #salicylicacid to help clear blocked pores. And I love that it has soothing agents other ingredients to moisturize & condition the skinโ€™s barrier

MultiTasking Products

1st place: Defenage Skincare 8-in-1 Bioserum ($165/1oz) This is geared toward more mature skin, but I started using this in 2017 & I havenโ€™t been without it since. As the name suggests, this tackles multiple issues in ! serum: skin firmness/thickness, laxity, skin resilience, redness, pore appearance. Swipe to see why I love it (and I have a longer review of their cream and mask on my blog). (Sadly, this never goes on sale because the company won’t allow coupons to apply to this. But since it’s like multiple serums in one, I have cut out some other serums and I just save for my bottles. You can buy it at @harbenhouse orโ €
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2nd Place: Biopelle Tensage Antioxidant Defense Serum ($125 /1oz; at @skinstore you can use my affiliate code โ€œVANESSAโ€ and get 25% off though). First, I have to say that I love the gel-like texture and application of this. It actually makes me happy to use it. But more importantly I just love how this makes my skin look so healthy and bouncy and bright. Most AOX serum work by preventing damage (so it is often hard to tell if they are working). But this has both ๐—ฐ๐—ผ๐—ฟ๐—ฟ๐—ฒ๐—ฐ๐˜๐—ถ๐˜ƒ๐—ฒ ๐—ฎ๐—ป๐—ฑ ๐—ฟ๐—ฒ๐—ฝ๐—ฎ๐—ถ๐—ฟ๐—ถ๐—ป๐—ด ๐—ฏ๐—ฒ๐—ป๐—ฒ๐—ณ๐—ถ๐˜๐˜€ as well as ๐—ฝ๐—ฟ๐—ผ๐˜๐—ฒ๐—ฐ๐˜๐—ถ๐˜ƒ๐—ฒ ๐—ฏ๐—ฒ๐—ป๐—ฒ๐—ณ๐—ถ๐˜๐˜€. The correction and repair comes from the special secretion from the naturally derived growth factors combined with glycoproteins and antioxidants to help repair, maintain and protect skin from photodamage. The protective benefits come from both Vit C derivative (3-O-Ethyl Ascorbic Acid) and Ferulic Acid as well as Edafence, which helps to ๐ฉ๐ซ๐ž๐ฏ๐ž๐ง๐ญ ๐ƒ๐๐€ ๐๐š๐ฆ๐š๐ ๐ž to the skin and ๐ซ๐ž๐ข๐ง๐Ÿ๐จ๐ซ๐œ๐ž ๐ญ๐ก๐ž ๐ฌ๐ค๐ข๐ง ๐›๐š๐ซ๐ซ๐ข๐ž๐ซ. When I use this my fine lines are less noticeable and my skin has a glow to it. Even though this has a vit c derivative in it, I still use a separate LAA vit c serum because LAA is still what works best for fading my pigmentation and preventing new pigmentation. โ €
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3rd Place: Paula’s Choice 10% Niacinamide Booster ($44/1 oz) See image below to read more of my thoughts. Iโ€™ve gone through three bottles of this and I love it

SOS Products

I have divided up my SOS products in two types of โ€œoh sh!tโ€ situations. โ €
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๐—™๐—ผ๐—ฟ ๐˜„๐—ต๐—ฒ๐—ป ๐—œ’๐˜ƒ๐—ฒ ๐—ฝ๐—ถ๐—ฐ๐—ธ๐—ฒ๐—ฑ ๐—ฎ๐˜ ๐—บ๐˜† ๐˜€๐—ธ๐—ถ๐—ป: โ €

Pimple patches are a must to help prevent further picking & to suck out the remaining pimple. I’m not brand loyal but I prefer the “invisible” ones bc I find they stay on better/longer. Here is my amazon list of pimple patches I have tried.

Then, I ๐˜€๐—ฝ๐—ผ๐˜ ๐˜๐—ฟ๐—ฒ๐—ฎ๐˜ ๐˜๐—ต๐—ฒ ๐—ฝ๐—ผ๐˜€๐˜-๐—ฎ๐—ฐ๐—ป๐—ฒ ๐—ฟ๐—ฒ๐—ฑ ๐—บ๐—ฎ๐—ฟ๐—ธ with a copper tripeptide-1 (GHK-Cu) serum bc it helps speed up the fading/healing process. This year I bought the 3% GHK VIP Luxury Serum bc I also wanted to use it on a fresh appendectomy scar, but I usually go for the 1% (“Super GHK Copper“). Both are from Dr. Pickart’s company (he discovered GHK-Cu in the 70s). His website ( isn’t great, but don’t be deterred (see my copper peptides highlight for more info). I recently bought the Niod Lovinah Skincare GHK-Cu products to try next. โ €

๐…๐จ๐ซ ๐ฐ๐ก๐ž๐ง ๐ฆ๐ฒ ๐ฌ๐ค๐ข๐ง’๐ฌ ๐›๐š๐ซ๐ซ๐ข๐ž๐ซ ๐ข๐ฌ ๐œ๐จ๐ฆ๐ฉ๐ซ๐จ๐ฆ๐ข๐ฌ๐ž๐: โ €

  • Bioderma Matricium ($60-97 for 30 vials depending on where you find it) – This is designed for post-procedure skin recovery, & it really is a skin-healing hero. It helps soothe the skin, calm irritation, tackle dehydration, & helps the skin regenerate. I bought my box in Paris but you can find it online for various prices (; ;;; frenchcosmeticsforless)
  • Zelens Skincare Power D (painfully pricey at ยฃ115 for 1 oz or ยฃ45 for 15ml.. I found mine on sale at Cultbeauty) is great at both preventing irritation & treating it. I have a post on my Instagram talking more about this. โ €
  • When everything that I put on my face stings, ๐Ÿ‘‰๐Ÿป Cerave Healing Ointment. I slather it all over & it helps heal my skin. When I reincorporate acids/retinoids I put the Cerave around my nose/eyes to prevent irritation in sensitive spots. I also love Cicaplast Baume b5 !โ €
  • Other products that are great for when my skin freaks out (but I am talking about them on other days) are:โ €
    • Dermatory Allantoin balm cream – rich texture; super soothing. LOVE this for after retinoids.
    • LED mask – this is fantastic at helping to calm inflammation (I have used the Light Salon and Omnilux and love both. See this post for more info on LED masks)


I was very very sad when my most favorite sunscreen (BeautyRx Solar Defense) was reformulated and COMPLETELY changed. ๐Ÿ˜ญ So Iโ€™ve been on a hunt for a new sunscreen that I love… and I am happy to say I love these 3.

My most favorite right now (bc it is the closest to my former favorite) is the DRMTLGY Anti Aging Clear Face Sunscreen and Facial Moisturizer with Broad Spectrum SPF 45 ($20) I have to credit my friend @ashleyellebeauty bc she sent me a decant of this & I loved it & bought the full size the next day. Itโ€™s funny bc it looks purplish while my husband is applying it (but then it absorbs w/ no white cast) but it doesnโ€™t do that to me! I also like the untinted but that was out of stock so I bought the regular. This one is great bc it helps control oil & is so awesome under makeup. I use 6 pumps.

I also love the Paula’s Choice youth extending daily hydrating* this one & the ISDIN are great for reapplication w/ a Microfiber sponge (I have a video showing the process I learned from @ms_hannah_e linked here) – great additional ingredients (blend of aox & brightening). With this one I skip a moisturizer since it offers enough hydration on its own. I use 3 fingers length.

My 2nd favorite is one that I received from a very kind follower from Spain- Isdin Fusion Water SPF 50 I love it. Checks off all my boxes. I still use a moisturizer with this (which I like bc I like my moisturizers). I use 3 fingers length.

Honorable mention to Image Prevention Daily Matte Moisturizer SPF 32. (*PR) this didnโ€™t make my top 3 bc it isnโ€™t a higher SPF & the banana/tropical scent isnโ€™t my fave. But I love the texture & how it is under makeup (You can save 25% using my affiliate code VANESSA)

I do still need to find a water resistant SPF that I love. I thought the Evy Technology would be it for me … but I just didnโ€™t like the mousse texture as much as I thought I would. I felt like I wasted a lot in between my fingers or falling off my hands. ๐Ÿคท๐Ÿผโ€โ™€๏ธ I learned I prefer a creamy texture (you live you learn).


My most reached for ๐—”๐—  ๐—บ๐—ผ๐—ถ๐˜€๐˜๐˜‚๐—ฟ๐—ถ๐˜‡๐—ฒ๐—ฟ: Jordan Samuel Skin Performance Cream: This has a beautiful satin finish which feels both rich but light. It works perfectly for my oily/combo skin & really helps to balance out my oil production. It has a blend of peptides in it (e.g., two of which focus on relaxing muscle contractions to minimize fine lines and another to diminish DNA damage) along with squalane, green tea water & more. Jordan describes this as a serum disguised as a moisturizer, which I love. โ €
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My most reached for ๐—ฃ๐—  ๐—บ๐—ผ๐—ถ๐˜€๐˜๐˜‚๐—ฟ๐—ถ๐˜‡๐—ฒ๐—ฟ: Dermatory Allantoin Balm Cream (the photo is wrong btw. It should be the balm cream & not the regular cream!)- I love this for after retinoids at night. It has such a nice thick creamy texture. Super soothing and moisturizing due to cica, allantoin, Ceramide NP, Panthenol, olive oil (hey J Lo!). I love the packaging (you can write the date you opened it and I just think that is cute. This is great if my skin stings or feels dry. (Honorable mention to the 10 balm for PM use)โ €
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๐—™๐—ผ๐—ฟ ๐˜„๐—ต๐—ฒ๐—ป ๐—œ’๐—บ ๐—น๐—ฎ๐˜‡๐˜† ๐—ผ๐—ฟ ๐˜€๐—ต๐—ผ๐—ฟ๐˜ ๐—ผ๐—ป ๐˜๐—ถ๐—บ๐—ฒ: Allies of Skin Peptide & Antioxidant Firming Daily Treatment – this is a skin treatment in a bottle that tackles aox protection, brightening, and correcting signs of premature aging. I find it works best in streamlined routines so I like to use this on the weekend with just SPF on top (sometimes I put Vit C underneath). This will sometimes make me a little shiny midday but not enough to bug me. My husband has normal skin and this is his day in, day out moisturizer because it’s like multiple skincare products in one.โ €(You can use my affiliate code VANESSAB20 to save 20% at
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My “๐˜€๐—ฝ๐—ฒ๐—ฐ๐—ถ๐—ฎ๐—น ๐˜๐—ฟ๐—ฒ๐—ฎ๐˜” ๐—บ๐—ผ๐—ถ๐˜€๐˜๐˜‚๐—ฟ๐—ถ๐˜‡๐—ฒ๐—ฟ that my husband & I fight over- Jan Marini Face Transformation Cream (*PR) – Not to get dark on y’all. But there were a lot of nights in 2020 that I didn’t even want to wash my face at night. But this face cream actually made me want to wash my face just so I could put this on. Sure it has great ingredients (like peptides, antioxidants, squalane, sodium PCA), but the reason I adore this is the texture & the smell. It makes my skin soft & legitimately puts a smile on my face.

Here is a post on some other moisturizers that I enjoy that are all under $30 per oz.

Facial Oil

I only like to have one facial oil open at a time, in 2020 I had two open for a couple months (the other was Vintners Daughter) but for the majority of 2020 I just had one open and itโ€™s one that I love (and I even had no desire to try other oils bc I was so happy with this one).

For my oily/combo, acne prone skin I like to find oils that are high in Linoleic acid (see 3rd slide for more info) and I also like to focus on oils with anti inflammatory properties and this oil checks off those boxes!

My favorite in 2020 was The Saint Jane Beauty Luxury Beauty Serum* ($125/30 mL) this is my second bottle of this and I still love it. It is light, fast absorbing, & smells faintly of roses & maybe some other herb/flower.

  • I reach for it whenever I feel like my skin feels tight, looks extra splotchy, or needs some extra nourishment. My skin loves it & when I use it I wake up and my skin is less red & feels more balanced. It is packed with anti-inflammatory ingredients (see 2nd slide for an infographic on anti-inflammatory ingredients in oils) & works GREAT for my oily/combo skin. It seems to help keep oil in check but it still feels moisturizing.
  • It has 500 mg of full-spectrum CBD in a 30 mL bottle…which is one of the highest I have seen! Preliminary evidence suggests that CBD can benefit the skin by providing AOX protection, lots of anti-inflammatory benefits (I can attest to how it is especially soothing after breakouts), and help regulate excess sebum.
  • In the AM, I like to mix a drop in my moisturizer (I mist my face right before applying which helps with absorption). But I tend to love to use it at night as a last step in my routine.


It was HARD to pick bc I have lots that I love. I already talked about 2 during this challenge (e.g., Calm Mask by @Wiemagie for Spot Treating & the Jan Marini Retinol Plus Mask). Here were the 3 I reached for the most (swipe for more info that didn’t fit!) โ €
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๐— ๐˜‚๐—น๐˜๐—ถ๐—ฝ๐˜‚๐—ฟ๐—ฝ๐—ผ๐˜€๐—ฒ ๐—ฆ๐—ผ๐—ผ๐˜๐—ต๐—ถ๐—ป๐—ด/๐—›๐˜†๐—ฑ๐—ฟ๐—ฎ๐˜๐—ถ๐—ป๐—ด/๐—–๐—น๐—ฎ๐—ฟ๐—ถ๐—ณ๐˜†๐—ถ๐—ป๐—ด ๐—บ๐—ฎ๐˜€๐—ธ: I’m From Honey Mask ($38 for 3.9 oz)

  • ๐—ช๐—ต๐˜† ๐—ฑ๐—ผ ๐—œ ๐˜‚๐˜€๐—ฒ ๐—ถ๐˜? I think I used this mask the MOST in 2020. It has nourishing, healing, moisturizing & skin softening properties while also providing antibacterial, anti-septic, anti-inflammatory, and clarifying benefitsโ€”good for both preventing & gently treating acne. I will put this on top of a popped pimple & this will help to suck out the gunk & it even calms redness a bit; it is super soothing & feels healing (especially when I apply it on angry pimples or irritated skin); I love the moisture it provides–if my skin is dry and sensitive from retinoids this also works wonders.โ €
  • Honorable mention (soothing mask): Avene Redness Relief Soothing Repair Maskโ €

๐—˜๐˜…๐—ณ๐—ผ๐—น๐—ถ๐—ฎ๐˜๐—ถ๐—ป๐—ด ๐—บ๐—ฎ๐˜€๐—ธ ๐˜๐—ผ ๐—ถ๐—บ๐—ฝ๐—ฟ๐—ผ๐˜ƒ๐—ฒ ๐˜๐—ผ๐—ป๐—ฒ & ๐˜๐—ฒ๐˜…๐˜๐˜‚๐—ฟ๐—ฒ (๐˜„๐—ผ๐—ฟ๐—ธ๐˜€ ๐—ถ๐—ป <๐Ÿฑ ๐—บ๐—ถ๐—ป): z. bigatti Restoration Impact Fruit Enzyme Facial Mask (@vickimoravskincare sells this product & they sent me this product to try) – $129 for 2 ozโ €

  • ๐—ช๐—ต๐˜† ๐—ฑ๐—ผ ๐—œ ๐˜‚๐˜€๐—ฒ ๐˜๐—ต๐—ถ๐˜€? I use this every 2 weeks to revive dull skin, exfoliate, and improve skin texture & tone, and it leaves my skin silky smooth. It is my favorite wash-off exfoliating mask. This replaced my Drunk Elephant Baby Facial because it does as good a job at exfoliating but it doesnโ€™t leave my skin feeling sensitized for 3 days after (I had the same issue w/ sensitized skin w/ the popular Ordinary AHA/BHA mask.)โ €

๐—ฃ๐—น๐˜‚๐—บ๐—ฝ๐—ถ๐—ป๐—ด & ๐—ต๐˜†๐—ฑ๐—ฟ๐—ฎ๐˜๐—ถ๐—ป๐—ด ๐—บ๐—ฎ๐˜€๐—ธ: Tula Self-Care Sunday Nourishing Face Mask (formerly the Kefir Ultimate Recovery Mask) – $48 for 2.5 ozโ €(GETGLOWING saves 15%)

  • ๐—ช๐—ต๐˜† ๐—ฑ๐—ผ ๐—œ ๐˜‚๐˜€๐—ฒ ๐˜๐—ต๐—ถ๐˜€? I use this before events, parties, or nowadays, important zoom calls to help my skin look plump, bright & hydrated.

Eye Product

My main concern is crepey, hooded lids. My eye area isn’t particularly dry so often I just take my face creams up around eyes, but I am prone to milia so that factors into the creams I use. I don’t typically have dark circles & I am not chronically puffy (when I am really puffy I LOVE my CryoSticks). I get botox by @morgan_kraut_aesthetics to help w/ crows feet (which are pronounced on me bc of high cheek bones). 

Around age 30 I started to hate my eyelids… the thing that blows my mind is that now I don’t & it is bc of the Bioeffect EGF eye serum (FYI: My 1st one was sent in PR but I have bought the others [I’ve always purchased when it’s on sale. Now I get it for 25% off using my affiliate code VANESSA at skinstore] & one was sent from someone that this didn’t work for). I’m not saying this will work for everyone. But it works for me. I have provided lots of photos so you can dissect whether you think there has been an improvement & if you don’t think there has, please keep that to yourself bc that isn’t the nicest thing to hear [yes, it has happened]. Also, please forgive me for forgetting to pluck my brows before the latest picks (SMH!!).

When I feel like I need some added moisture, I have been loving the Defenage 3D radiance eye cream ($95 for 5ml). It has the same active ingredient (defensins) as their 8-in-1 Bioserum so check out the image under “Multitaskers” to learn more about what it can help with. But to be honest, after two tubes I am getting antsy to try something else (#grassisalwaysgreenersyndrome) (Note: For my mom, this wasn’t moisturizing enough for dry patches around eyes. So she prefers Peter Thomas Roth Vital-E Eye [$55]) I have a handful of other eye creams that I like but I’m not tied to. I’ll share some of those honorable mentions in stories! โ €
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For eye masking sessions, I really love the JayJun eye gel patches (affordable & refreshing). I like both the Roselle and Green Tea ones. I also really like the Erno Laszlo Multi-Task Eye Serum Mask (which is. hydrogel eye patch) for when I have dark circles (*PR).

Lip Products

๐—™๐—ฎ๐˜ƒ๐—ผ๐—ฟ๐—ถ๐˜๐—ฒ ๐—ผ๐˜ƒ๐—ฒ๐—ฟ๐—ป๐—ถ๐—ด๐—ต๐˜ ๐—น๐—ถ๐—ฝ ๐—บ๐—ฎ๐˜€๐—ธ: Awake Lip Therapy Lip Mask: $20. I have tried lots of overnight masks (Laneige๐Ÿ‘Ž๐Ÿป, Bite [OG formula], Tatcha๐Ÿคท๐Ÿผโ€โ™€๏ธ, Nuxe๐Ÿ™‚, BR Biokiss๐Ÿ™‚) but this is my FAVORITE๐Ÿ˜. I love the Pillowy texture & how this has a thick but silky texture & lasts all night. **Update: Apparently this is discontinued!!! โ €

๐—™๐—ฎ๐˜ƒ๐—ผ๐—ฟ๐—ถ๐˜๐—ฒ ๐—ฑ๐—ฎ๐˜†๐˜๐—ถ๐—บ๐—ฒ ๐—น๐—ถ๐—ฝ ๐—ฝ๐—ฟ๐—ผ๐—ฑ๐˜‚๐—ฐ๐˜: Image skincare ORMEDIC lip enhancement complex: Super silky. This fills temporarily fills in the creases in lips to the point where I canโ€™t even feel the lines on my lips when I wear it. I like that this is in a tube. (I used to use the Tatcha in the day bc it gives a beautiful shine to lips but it doesnโ€™t last very long for me). โ €
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๐—™๐—ฎ๐˜ƒ๐—ผ๐—ฟ๐—ถ๐˜๐—ฒ ๐—ณ๐—ผ๐—ฟ ๐—ฏ๐—ฒ๐—ถ๐—ป๐—ด ๐—ผ๐˜‚๐˜ ๐—ถ๐—ป ๐˜๐—ต๐—ฒ ๐—ฐ๐—ผ๐—น๐—ฑ (also this is a nostalgic product for me bc for my whole life my dad has always had a tube of Lip Ivo in his pocket๐Ÿฅฐ. When I was a little kid I used to call it Lip Bible๐Ÿ˜‚): This is just a basic B. I wish it had SPF but it is the best at coating & protecting lips. โ €
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๐—™๐—ฎ๐˜ƒ๐—ผ๐—ฟ๐—ถ๐˜๐—ฒ ๐˜€๐—ฒ๐—ฟ๐˜‚๐—บ: Algenist GENIUS Liquid Collagen Lip: $35 I gave this to my mom as a stocking stuffer last year & she really likes it bc she said she saw an improvement in lip lines over time. So then I got on board to using it! It doesnโ€™t taste great so I try to use just a thin layer & then I usually apply a more occlusive lip products on top.โ €
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๐—™๐—ฎ๐˜ƒe ๐—ณ๐—ผ๐—ฟ ๐˜„๐—ต๐—ฒ๐—ป ๐—œ ๐˜„๐—ฎ๐—ป๐˜ ๐—ฎ *๐—ฏ๐—ถ๐˜* ๐—ผ๐—ณ ๐—ฐ๐—ผ๐—น๐—ผ๐—ฟ: I am a sheer gloss or balm kind of girl. But these give a tiny amount of color that I think looks very pretty. โ €
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DIOR Lip Maximizer 001 Pink: $34 Definitely overpriced but I love it. This gives the slightest pink tint that is really pretty. Doesnโ€™t maximize my lips, but I didnโ€™t expect it to.โ €
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Origins Blooming Sheer Lip Balm โ€“ Honey Blush: $20 This + Thrive Mauve is my “event” lip but I love this on its own too. Super creamyโ €
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Thrive High-Shine Reviving Topper (Mauve Shimmer or Crystal shimmer): $24 Just a really nice gloss. Feels silky but not sticky. The shimmer looks scarier in the tube. It just catches the light IRL & is super pretty.

Body Products

I think Iโ€™ve raved enough about the Bioderma Atoderm Shower Oil so yโ€™all to know I adore it. I swapped out my soap based body washes for this & my skin has been SO much happier. It isnโ€™t so itchy & dry & it has helped reduce keratosis pilaris (KP) & even eczema. I get so many messages from people saying this has helped their (or their kids! โ˜บ๏ธ) eczema, psoriasis, itchy skin and KP and those messages make me so happy to hear!โ €
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My husband & I each use ~5 pumps every day so 1 bottle only lasts us just over 2 mths. I know… we go through it quickly, but since I almost always buy it on sale for $13 I don’t mind. โ €
I apply with hands, wash cloth (basically whatever I feel like). Bottom line. Love it. Have 2 backups so I am never without it. โ €**Update: We have since purchased a mesh foaming net thing (that is basically like a mesh shower poof but not shaped like a ball. But now we can just use 2 pumps and it REALLY lathers up and goes a long way. I like that with this you have the option of no lather (with hands or cloth) or lots of lather**
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Jordan Samuel Skin recently sent me his new After Show Body Cleanser – y’all. it is SO GOOD. Such a luxurious treat to use. It’s more moisturizing than the Bioderma so I rotate this in when I feel like I need a little extra oomph. โ €
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Because I am lazy & I don’t have the patience to apply lotion all over my body every day, I fell deeply in love with the TwinLabs NaPCA spray ($10) as my “lazy lotion”.

I found this a couple years ago thanks to @prettyandpaintedkat & I have been hooked ever since. I get out the shower & spray this all over & then I spray dry areas before bed. It has been a life saver in the winter. My nephew loves it too to help with his itchy skin (bonus is that you can spray him quickly which is way easier than applying lotion). โ €
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It works even better under a lotion (if you have a lotion you are disappointed with, buy this & spray this first & it will help a lot). So when I am not being a lazy punk I will spray this on & apply either a lotion or body oil. Current favorites: Bioderma Atoderm Intensive Baum, (use the affiliate code VANESSA to save 25% at Skinstore), the JSS body oil (divine!!), Amlactin, or Paula’s Choice Daily Replenishing Body Cream. โ €
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A couple times a week I apply (using a spray bottle) either Pixi glow tonic or TO 7% Glycolic Toner all over my legs/arms for some exfoliation & then I apply Amlactin on my legs to help with KP (chicken skin).

Favorite Device/Tool

For targeting skin rejuvenation: Winner: The Light Salon Boost LED Mask (*received in PR Nov. 2019 and I used it 3-5 times a week for a year…unheard of! I usually get bored with devices after a couple months.. NuFace, I am looking at you!). The Light Salon Boost LED Mask is the mask I used all of 2020, but I have since been sent the Omnilux Contour LED which is made by the same manufacturer as the Light Salon, but it has a couple small differences that make me prefer it over the Light Salon (I talk about those differences in the post linked below)–but I would still recommend the Light Salon as a great option.
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Click here for an in-depth blog that summarizes the technology behind LED light therapy and an LED mask comparison of 16 masks. I also have different discount codes for some of the masks, including Omnilux and Light Salon.
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Why I love it: โ €

  • It is convenient to use & comfortable to wear. That is huge bc it meant that I stuck w/ this, using it 3 to 5 days a week for the past year! โ €
  • It is a flexible silicone thatโ€™s comfortable to wear, stores flat & is cordless.
  • The flexible designs also makes it possible for me to lay this on my hands, chest, or even an appendectomy scar–a key reason I like the flexible LED masks over the hard ones.
  • After using this for a year, I have noticed less redness (and my skin tone overall has been more even & bright), and my skin looks a bit plumper & healthier overall. (I would say it took about 6 months to start to see firmness in my skin… collagen and elastin building takes times!) And, when I am having a skin reaction, this calms it down quickly (thanks to anti-inflammatory properties).
  • Here is some very basic info about LED mask:
    • LED therapy works by delivering low-level wavelengths of light into our skin where itโ€™s absorbed by our cells. Basically, the light energy helps to fuel the repair & rejuvenation of damaged cells, & it stimulates the production of collagen & elastin, & boosts circulation. It is like it helps our cells function as if they have had a full nightโ€™s sleep & a well-balanced breakfast. Several studies reported effectiveness and safety of LED therapy in photo-aged skin (for review, Sorbellini et al., 2018). โ €โ €

Tool for de-puffying face and giving yourself a facial massage: Cryosticks! Ok so, I wanted the Biologique Recherche cryosticks (Which are over $115) for awhile… I almost caved. AND THEN, someone told me that the exact same thing–like EXACT–was available on Amazon for $40 (and they frequently go on sale for as low as $25). I bought them immediately and LOVE them. I keep mine in the freezer and then before I use it I will apply a facial oil, or a creamy mask, or I wear a sheet mask to give them some slip. I love how the shape forms to my eye socket. They are amazing for massaging your jaw area if you happen to clench your jaw like I do. Also, they are great for when I get migraines. Sometimes I just press and hold the sticks at the base of my neck or gently do circles around my eyes and temples. Oh, and if de-puffying, destressing, and helping with tension and headaches isn’t enough, you can also use them to chill your wine (cleaning them first of course)! haha. But seriously, William Sonoma sells wine chillers that are almost identical except the handle is much more curved (which I think would be hard to hold during the facial massage so I would stick with the Amazon ones).