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Skin care is a constantly evolving, innovation-driven industry. And as the OG, established companies try to figure out how on Earth to get millennials to invest in their fanciest face creams, there's a whole crop of brands out there that are, quite frankly, killing it. These savvy brands rely on legit, research-based formulas, innovative ingredients and — shocker — social media-focused marketing tactics. 

With their minimalist packaging and Insta-bait sensibilities, these are the brands I constantly hear beauty editors raving about — but what about the rest of the world? Sometimes feel like I should make a PSA urging everyone to forget about the acne-fighting face lotion they've been using since ninth grade and explore everything else the category has to offer. There's a whole world of skin-care possibilities out there! So consider this a wake-up call, direct from me to you. You don't want to sleep on these brands anymore. Read on to get acquainted with 11 of our favorites on the market right now.

Drunk Elephant

Why it's cool: Tiffany Masterson founded Drunk Elephant in 2013 after realizing how much she loved marula oil, and how few products showcased the ingredient in Western skin care. In just a few short years, the streamlined collection of moisturizers, serums and treatments has garnered a cult-like following among beauty editors and Sephora addicts, the result of a perfect storm of effective formulas, Instagram-friendly packaging and an increase in the number of consumers looking for "clean" beauty options. From a business perspective, things are going well for Drunk Elephant, too: In March, the company got a major investment from a private equity firm (and Man Repeller's Leandra Medine.)

Stand-out products to try: 
T.L.C. Sukari Babyfacial, $80, available at Sephora.
C-Firma Day Serum, $80, available at Sephora.
Lala Retro Whipped Cream, $60, available at Sephora.

Saturday Skin

Why it's cool: Saturday Skin made our list of favorite new K-beauty brands of 2017, and not just because of its sweet Tumblr Pink packaging (though we definitely don't hate that). The brand created a (now trademarked) peptide called Cha-7 es Complex, which helps to boost collagen production and elasticity while keeping dark spots from forming. The products themselves are super-simple to use, with lightweight formulas that won't irritate sensitive skin, so you really can't go wrong. 

Stand-out products to try:
Featherweight Daily Moisturizing Cream, $49, available at Peach & Lily.
Wide Awake Brightening Eye Cream, $46, available at Peach & Lily.
Quench Intense Hydration Mask, $6, available at Peach & Lily


Why it's cool: Lano (formerly known as Lanolips) gets its name from its star ingredient — lanolin, a common moisturizer derived from shorn wool. The brand's founder, Kirsten Carriol, used the ingredient while growing up in Australia. She brought it to the U.S. via a tightly edited collection of hand creams, lip balms and multipurpose salves housed in pleasant pastel packaging. 

Stand-out products to try:
Lips 101 Ointment Strawberry Multi-Balm, $13.50, available at Ulta.
Hands Rose Hand Cream, $14.95, available at Ulta.
All Over Everywhere Multi-Cream, $16.95, available at Ulta.

The Ordinary

Why it's cool: "Clinical formulations with integrity" is The Ordinary's slogan, and it's one the brand adheres to strictly. Which is to say: These formulas — refreshingly simple, featuring potent concentrations of scientifically backed ingredients — are legit. What's more, they're shockingly inexpensive, ranging from $4.90 for a salicylic acid serum to a maximum of $17.80 for an intensive antioxidant treatment. Game changing.

Stand-out products to try:
Advanced Retinoid 2%, $9.80, available at
Hyaluronic Acid 2% + B5, $6.80, available at
AHA 30% + BHA 2% Peeling Solution, $7.20, available at

Pestle & Mortar

Why it's cool: Pestle & Mortar was created by Sonia Deasy, a mother of five, and her photographer husband, Padriac Deasy, when the duo found that the market seemed to be lacking in simple, effective products to meet Sonia's own needs. The brand's products are held to high purity standards and focus on isolated active ingredients, meaning you can use the full line in conjunction. And like the products in the collection itself, the packaging is also a minimalist's dream.

Stand-out products to try:
Superstar Retinol Night Oil, $109, available at
Hydrate Lightweight Moisturizer, $74, available at
Pure Hyaluronic Acid Serum, $60, available at

Dr. Barbara Sturm

Why it's cool: With clinics in Düsseldorf and Munich, Dr. Barbara Sturm is a practicing physician who specializes in "aesthetic, non-surgical treatments" and launched her own line when she struggled to find products to recommend to patients. She's also known for advocating a technique that uses an individual's own blood to formulate a customized face cream, but for those that aren't able to make it to Germany (or drop $950 on a jar of moisturizer), the serums, treatments and lotions available online at Net-A-Porter and Violet Grey more than suffice. 

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Stand-out products to try:
Eye Cream, $140, available at Net-A-Porter.
Hyaluronic Serum, $300, available at Net-A-Porter.
Deep Hydrating Face Mask, $130, available at Net-A-Porter

Allies of Skin

Why it's cool: This Singaporean brand launched last October in the U.S., and in the time since, its products have been so in-demand that they're quickly selling out. Like many of the aforementioned brands, Allies of Skin focused on creating a streamlined set of products that are hydrating and ward off signs of aging without being overly complicated or time-consuming to use. 

Stand-out products to try:
Molecular Savior Toner Mist, $55, available at Net-A-Porter.
1A Overnight Mask, $109, available at Net-A-Porter.

Susanne Kaufmann

Why it's cool: It's 2017, and natural beauty products can, indeed, be chic. This eponymous line from Austrian spa veteran Susanne Kaufmann drives that point home in the form of an impressive range of body and face products that are equal parts luxurious, innovative and effective. Sold in the U.S. at Net-A-Porter, the brand isn't exactly for the budget-conscious, but its fancy bath oils and body creams make for stellar gifts.

Stand-out products to try:
Balancing Face Oil, $73, available at Net-A-Porter.
Body Butter, $81, available at Net-A-Porter
Essential Bath Oil For The Senses, $106, available at Net-A-Porter.


Why it's cool: Though it's technically a makeup brand, Make's recent launches in the skin-care realm are what put it on this list. The Succulent Skin Gel, inspired by (shocker!) succulent plants, somehow manages to be simultaneously quenching and balm-like, but also lightweight and non-greasy. The multipurpose Marine Salve, which includes actual algae, is like Aquaphor on steroids.

Make is also socially conscious, donating 10 percent of its sales to the We See Beauty Foundation (which "supports women-led, worker-owned cooperative businesses") and recently ran a promotion to encourage customers to support Standing Rock and defend against the Dakota Access Pipeline.

Stand-out products to try:
Succulent Skin Gel, $25, available at
Marine Salve, $20, available at


Why it's cool: H2O+ technically isn't new — in fact, it's been around for more than 25 years. But in 2016, it underwent a full-scale overhaul, re-branding to better target (you guessed it!) millennial consumers. By shifting to a focus on digital (the company shut down its brick-and-mortar retail stores) and social relevance through inherently shareable products (for example, a bright-green peel-off mask), the brand is building a dedicated younger following. With refreshed packaging, fun delivery systems (the body butter sticks allow you to swipe on moisturizer like you would deodorant) and appealing scents (Teak Rose, Lemongrass Vetiver), there's a lot to love about the new H2O+.

Stand-out products to try:
Aquadefense Refining Matcha Detox Mask, $38, available at
Teak Rose On The Move Body Oil, $18, available at
Aquadefense Shielding Matcha Facial Essence, $42, available at

Uma Oils

Why it's cool: Uma's natural oils were used for years by other beauty companies like Estée Lauder. When founder Shrankhla Holecek moved from her native India to Beverly Hills, she grew frustrated by what she saw as "misappropriations of the Indian rituals and Ayurvedic practices she had grown up with," so she created a line of accessible face, body and hair oils based on ancient traditions. Now sold by retailers like Bloomingdale's and Anthropologie, Uma Oils has cultivated a reputation for being healing, not harsh.

Stand-out products to try:
Absolute Anti-Aging Face Oil, $175, available at Bloomingdale's.
Ultimate Brightening Face Oil, $150, available at Bloomingdale's

Homepage photo: courtesy of Saturday Skin

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