Note: Scroll to the bottom to see photo galleries of the best products in various categories.
If skin care is the engine that fuels the beauty industry — who knows it better than the people in the driver’s seat? So when Beauty Inc decided to create the definitive list of the top treatment products of all time, we knew the only way to compile it would be to ask the founders, marketers, retailers, influencers, analysts, artists and C-suite types who comprise the industry to weigh in.
In early January, we sent ballots to more than 300 industry insiders, then tabulated their answers. The response was overwhelming: Promised confidentiality, many of beauty’s biggest names participated in the process.
The resulting list of 100 products is a fascinating microcosm of skin care today. There are newcomers and classics alike. Moisturizers, by far, garnered the most number of votes, but clinical, ingredient-driven products — vitamin C, retinol, peels and acids, whether alpha hydroxy or hyaluronic — are also heavily represented. Based on the votes received, we have identified the top 10 skin care products; the remaining 90 are listed alphabetically.
Other key insights: Clean is a definite truth today — over 25 percent of the top 100 meet the definition of clean as established by a major retailer. Geographically, French pharmacy products were number one, with K-beauty not far behind. Over one-third of the brands on the list have female founders, and many are relative newcomers to the scene — including the largest vote getter, Augustinus Bader’s The Cream and The Rich Cream. Here, the greatest 100 skin care products as voted on by the beauty industry.
The Top 10
Augustinus Bader The Cream and The Rich Cream
With a well-connected cofounder on the one hand, and a brilliant scientist on the other, Augustinus Bader’s The Cream and The Rich Cream have shot to the skin care stratosphere in record time. Said one elector, “It’s the combination of right product launched at the right time in the right way. It does what it says it’s going to do.” Consumers seem to agree. Sales tripled in 2020, from $24 million the year before to $70 million in 2020.
Fun Fact: Despite the difficulties of the pandemic, sales tripled in 2020, from $24 million in 2019 before to $70 million in 2020.
La Mer The Moisturizing Cream
The cult classic with the most compelling creation story in the business is as popular with industry insiders as it is with consumers. Under parent company the Estée Lauder Cos., it has blossomed into billion-dollar plus brand status.
Fun Fact: Each jar of Crème de la Mer is hand-filled within eight hours of formula completion, with the room’s temperature constantly controlled. The time-intensive method insures that the active ingredients are suspended in the cream’s unique emulsion.
Estée Lauder Advanced Night Repair Synchronized Multi-Recover Complex
Since its launch almost 40 years ago, when it was one of the first products to target nighttime repair, ANR has been updated four times, most recently in 2020. It remains a global bestseller for Lauder, equally as popular in the East and West with a cross-generational consumer base.
Fun Fact: In 2019, approximately 22 bottles per minute were sold globally.
Dr. Dennis Gross Alpha Beta Universal Daily Peel
Peels are super hot right now — and this OG patented two-step version remains as relevant today as when it launched more than 15 years ago.
Fun Fact: One Peel is sold every three seconds globally.
SkinCeuticals C + E Ferulic Serum
“I’ve tried every vitamin C product out there and this is hands down the best,” wrote one elector, echoing the sentiments of many voters.
Fun Fact: In 2018, SkinCeuticals sold 2,893 serums per day, 120 per hour, two per minute.
Supergoop! Unseen Sunscreen
Supergoop! founder Holly Thaggard is on a mission to make sunscreen an everyday essential — and with this weightless, scentless, invisible product, she has succeeded in the eyes of the beauty industry.
Fun Fact: The top-selling sunscreen at Sephora, three Unseen Sunscreens are sold every minute.
Biologique Recherche Lotion P50
P50, to those in the know, is the cultiest of cult products. After taking on new strategic partners in 2019 and getting an infusion of cash, the brand is expanding its purview — and popularity.
Fun Fact: P50’s name comes from the effectiveness of the product: P refers to its peeling action, while 50 corresponds to the two epidermal cycles (between 21 and 28 days each) necessary to achieve optimal results.
SK-II Facial Treatment Essence
The naturally derived essence with more than 90 percent of the hero ingredient, pitera, was discovered by sake-making Japanese monks. Today, it’s equally as popular with beauty insiders.
Fun Fact: One bottle is sold every two seconds.
Clinique Dramatically Different Moisturizing Lotion +
The heart of Clinique’s trademark three-step skin care system remains as iconic today as when it launched more than 50 years ago, thanks to a refresh in 2013 that increased its hydrating properties by more than 50 percent.
Fun Fact: Clinique tested more than 100 formulas over a six-and-a-half year period when coming up with the supercharged formula that became DDML+. Globally, one sells every 7.54 seconds.
Drunk Elephant C-Firma Day Serum
Drunk Elephant was instrumental in ushering in the age of clean, clinical skin care, and its signature vitamin C serum is a standout with cosmetics experts.
Fun Fact: One serum sells every two minutes globally.
11 to 100, organized alphabetically:
Alchimie Forever Kantic Brightening Mask, $60. The brand’s top seller was first developed as a post-procedural treatment for pulsed-dye laser patients.
Algenist Liquid Collagen, $115. Contains more than 13,000 bubbles of microalgae oil per bottle.
Aquaphor Healing Ointment, $8.69 for 3.5-oz. The multipurpose salve is the most recommended panacea by dermatologists.
BeautyStat Universal C Refiner, $80. Featuring three different patents, more than 250,000 units have sold since launch.
Belif The True Cream Aqua Bomb, $38. Belif has sold more than 4 million Aqua Bombs, and its sister product, Moisturizing Bomb, since launch.
Bio-Oil Specialist Skincare Oil, $12.99 for 2.-oz. Created by a German doctor and sold first in South Africa, this is the top-selling scar and stretch mark product in 18 countries.
Bioderma Sensibio Micellar Water, $14.90. One bottle is sold every two seconds.
Biossance Squalane + Vitamin C Rose Oil, $72. One bottle was sold every three minutes globally in 2020.
Boiron Homéoplasmine, $5.75. This plant-based remedy, which is sold in 16 countries, has had the same formula since 1932.
Burt’s Bees Beeswax Lip Balm, $3.59. About 500,000 balms are manufactured every day.
Carol’s Daughter Face Butter Nourishing Cream, $12. Meant as an alternative to petroleum jelly, founder Lisa Price conceived of the moisturizer as a product her whole family could use.
Caudalie Beauty Elixir, $49 for 100-ml. A French pharmacy staple, one is sold once every 30 seconds globally.
CeraVe Moisturizing Cream, $15.49 for 12-oz. Social media stardom helped sales grow 82 percent in the first nine months of 2020 alone — with analysts predicting billion-dollar brand status is imminent.
Cetaphil Gentle Skin Cleanser, $9.50. Cetaphil’s first product has become a drugstore mainstay, selling once a minute.
Chanel Sublimage La Crème, $400. This took 10 years to formulate, and requires a special extraction method of its hero ingredient, vanilla from Madagascar.
Chantecaille Pure Rosewater, $74. Each bottle contains more than 4,000 petals of roses.
Clarins Double Serum, $127. A favorite around the world, one sells every 4.5 seconds.
Clark’s Botanicals Smoothing Marine Cream, $105. Founder Francisco Clark formulated this by accident, after mixing a resurfacing serum with a moisturizer during a moment of distraction.
Coola Classic Face Organic Sunscreen Lotion SPF 50, $32. As popular with consumers as insiders — this is the top-selling product in Coola’s portfolio.
Darphin Intral Daily Rescue Serum, $130. This redness-fighting treatment is said to penetrate 18 layers of skin.
Dior Capture Totale Dreamskin Care & Perfect, $120. One of these luxe creams is sold every 10 minutes.
Dove Beauty Bar, $3.08. Dove’s most recognizable product still literally flies off the shelves, with more than 26 bars sold per second.
Dr. Barbara Sturm Hyaluronic Serum, $300. Barbara Sturm’s first serum is now sold in 260 countries.
Dr. Jart+ Cicapair Tiger Grass Color Correcting Treatment, $52. This redness-reducer posted a 446 percent sales increase following a viral TikTok trend in November 2020.
Dr. PawPaw Original Multi-Purpose Soothing Balm, $8. The head-to-toe salve sells at a clip of one per minute.
Elemis Pro-Collagen Marine Cream, $128. Garnering more than 50 awards since launch, one sells every 20 seconds.
Elizabeth Arden Eight Hour Cream Skin Protectant, $24. Elizabeth Arden gave her bestseller its moniker after a client used it on a child’s skinned knee, which healed eight hours later.
Elta MD UV Clear Broad Spectrum SPF 46, $36. More than 15,000 ratings on Amazon have catapulted this to bestseller status.
Embryolisse Lait-crème Concentré, $28. A favorite in France, this sells once every 10 seconds globally.
Erno Laszlo Sea Mud Deep Cleansing Bar, $38. The soap, whose fans include Audrey Hepburn and John F. Kennedy, has sold more than 50 million bars since launch.
Eve Lom Balm Cleanser, $80. Eve Lom’s moisturizing cleanser varies in color from batch to batch, depending on the harvest of Egyptian chamomile.
First Aid Beauty Ultra Repair Cream, $36. The head-to-toe moisturizer is sold once every 20 seconds globally.
Fresh Soy Facial Cleanser, $38. One of the first products to feature soy, Fresh’s cleanser sells one a minute in the U.S. and Canada.
Garnier SkinActive Micellar Water, $8.99. A must-have for proponents of the double-cleanse, every four seconds a bottle is sold.
Giorgio Armani Crema Nera Supreme Reviving Cream, $400. More than 350 resurrection plants were screened before formulators ultimately chose the Phoenix plant.
GlamGlow Supermud Clearing Treatment, $60. A consistent bestseller at Sephora, this broke sales records within six weeks of its launch.
Glow Recipe Watermelon Glow Sleeping Mask, $45. More than 50 watermelons per day are required to produce the formula.
GoopGlow Microdermabrasion Exfoliating Mask, $125. Goop’s bestselling core product — in only just a year — relies on both physical and chemical exfoliation.
Indie Lee Brightening Cleanser, $34. The mask, makeup remover and cleanser hybrid sells once every seven minutes.
It Cosmetics Confidence in a Cream, $49. Every hour, more than 50 of these are sold.
Josie Maran 100% Pure Argan Oil, $49. An early arriver to the face oil craze, this has sold 12 million bottles since launch.
Kate Somerville ExfoliKate Intensive Exfoliating Treatment, $85. This sold out within six minutes of its launch on QVC and still posts double-digit growth a decade later.
Kiehls Ultra Facial Cream, $55. The classic that sells 18 jars a minute.
Kopari Beauty 100% Organic Coconut Melt, $28. The celeb favorite doubles as a cleanser, moisturizer, shave cream and bath treatment.
La Prairie Skin Caviar Luxe Cream, $510. A top-three bestseller for the brand for the last five years.
La Roche-Posay Effaclar Duo Acne Spot Treatment, $29.99. The French pharmacy brand sells 1,122 units of Effaclar Duo Acne Spot Treatment per day.
Laboratoires Filorga Time Filler Eyes, $59. A sleeper hit, this has been the brand’s third bestselling product since 2019.
Lancôme BiFacil Double Action Eye- Makeup Remover, $15-40. Sold enough units in 2020 to fill 100,000 Champagne bottles.
Lancôme Advanced Génifique Face Serum, $105 for 1.7-oz. Enough bottles were sold in 2020 for every woman in the U.S. to have at least one on her shelf.
Laneige Lip Sleeping Mask, $22. The little pink jar sells one lip mask per minute in the U.S.
L’Oréal Paris Derm Intensives 1.5% Pure Hyaluronic Acid Serum, $29. This is said to be the bestselling serum in the U.S., with consumers buying one every minute.
Mario Badescu Drying Lotion, $17. Drying Lotion has been Mario Badescu’s top seller every year since launch except once.
Natura Bisse Diamond Extreme Cream, $385. Natura Bisse’s global bestseller.
Neutrogena Hydro Boost Water Gel Moisturizer, $17.99. More than 11 million ounces of this have been sold, enough to fill four swimming pools.
Neutrogena Makeup Remover Cleansing Towelettes, $6.49 for 25. The most used makeup remover amongst professional makeup artists, according to the brand.
Nivea Creme, $1.29 to $7.49. 2.8 units were sold every second in 2020.
Nuxe Huile Prodigieuse, $42. France’s bestselling oil.
Olay Regenerist Whip, $28.99. The technology that gives this cream its namesake texture can hold more than 1,000 times its weight in active ingredients.
Origins Clear Improvement Charcoal Mask, $27. Origins’ cult-favorite mask is still its bestseller in North America.
Patchology Flashpatch Rejuvenating Eye Gels, $35. The patch format speeds up the absorption of the eye gels’ hero actives, caffeine and hydrolyzed collagen.
Peace Out Acne Healing Dots, $19. Peace Out’s founder Enrico Frezza was denied by 65 labs in his quest to make these dots, which are the only patent-pending hydrocolloid patches for acne.
Peach & Lily Glass Skin Refining Serum, $39. With 12 sold-out batches and a 25,000-person waitlist after launch, this jumpstarted the glass skin movement.
Philosophy The Microdelivery Exfoliating Facial Wash, $29. This has more than 2,000 five-star reviews on ulta.com.
Pixi Glow Tonic, $15 for 100-ml. Part of Pixi’s debut skin care collection, the toner’s appeal endures, with one bottle selling every minute online at Boots.
ProActiv Renewing Cleanser. Part of ProActiv’s famous three-step regimen, this is the brand’s bestselling standalone product at Sephora.
RoC Retinol Correxion Eye Cream, $24.99. This purports to be the top-selling eye cream in the U. S.
Shani Darden Retinol Reform, $88. After generating a waitlist of 5,000 people at launch, Retinol Reform catapulted Shani Darden from esteemed aesthetician to skin care mogul.
Shiseido Ultimune Power Infusing Concentrate, $110. After winning 179 awards globally, one serum sells every seven seconds.
Sisley-Paris Black Rose Cream Mask, $166. France’s top-selling mask, with one sold every minute worldwide.
SkinFix Triple Lipid Peptide Cream, $50. A favorite of influencer Hyram Yarbro, the cream is reputedly one of Sephora’s top-selling moisturizers.
Skyn Iceland Hydro Cool Firming Eye Gels, $33. A set of these sells every 12 seconds.
St. Tropez Self Tan Express Advanced Bronzing Mousse, $44. This customizable self-tanner sells once per minute.
Summer Fridays Jet Lag Mask, $48. This flew off shelves, selling out two weeks after launch.
Sunday Riley Good Genes All-in-One Lactic Acid Treatment, $85. Sunday Riley went through 15,000 formula iterations before hitting on the winning one for Good Genes.
Tammy Fender Holistic Skin Care Epi-Peel, $80. This blends ingredients from three continents: rich starch from Thailand, rosemary from Morocco and kaolin clay from France.
Tata Harper Resurfacing Mask, $65. Almost 1,000 five-star reviews on Harper’s website alone have made this a brand bestseller.
Tatcha The Dewy Skin Cream, $68. Originally created for makeup artist Mario Dedivanovic.
Tatcha The Rice Polish, $65. An endorsement from Meghan Markle catapulted this cult favorite to top-selling status.
Thayers Witch Hazel Toner, $10.95. Amazon’s bestselling toner, and the newest member of the L’Oréal group of brands.
The Ordinary AHA 28% + BHA 2% Peeling Solution, $7.20. Production will double this year to almost 15 million units to keep up with rising demand.
Then I Met You Cleansing Balm, $38. This has won eight awards since its launch.
True Botanicals Repair Serum, $140. The brand’s number-two selling product for the past four years running.
Tula Glow & Get It Cooling & Brightening Eye Balm, $28. Tula has sold enough eye balms to reach the top of the Empire State Building and back — 89 times.
U Beauty Resurfacing Compound, $148. Tina Craig’s buzzy product sold out globally within two days of launch.
Urban Skin RX Even Tone Cleansing Bar, $24. A viral TikTok video led to a 220 percent sales increase in 2020.
Vaseline Intensive Care Advanced Repair, $3.49-$5.99. Clinical studies show one use maintains hydration for a full 72 hours.
Vichy Minéral 89 Hyaluronic Acid Face Moisturizer, $29.50. More than 2.8 million bottles have sold worldwide since launch.
Vintner’s Daughter Active Botanical Serum, $185. Each batch takes three weeks to make.
Weleda Skin Food Original Ultra-Rich Cream, 18.99. One tube is sold every 23 seconds.
Youth to the People Superfood Antioxidant Cleanser, $36. The top-selling facial cleanser at Sephora, according to brand execs.
Click on the photos to view products in each category.
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