For years, shoppers for skin-care products were convinced by marketers that they needed to buy a different concoction for every little problem. They spent hundreds of dollars and slathered on layers and layers of creams and cleansers. It only led to confusion and clogged pores.
“There has been a skyrocketing number of dermic allergies,” says New York-based dermatologist Dr. Dhaval Bhanusali. “Patients say, ‘I just started breaking out for the first time in my life,’ and you hear that three times a day, because they’re using four exfoliators and a Clarisonic [cleansing brush] three times a week.”
As a result, brands are taking a streamlined, efficacious approach to skin care by offering multitasking creams and serums that address a variety of concerns, from dry skin to wrinkles to age spots.
A gentle cleanser and sunscreen are daily essentials, but is a one-size-fits-all moisturizer possible? According to biochemist Michael Ingrassia of Biocogent LLC, a service provider for the personal-care and cosmetics industries, it depends on the person. “What if a person is looking for hydration but periodically suffers from acne? You’re not going to want to use something with salicylic acid all year round,” Ingrassia says. “You may need more than one product if you have rosacea as well.”
However, many experts agree that a well-balanced concoction of peptides, hyaluronic acid, antioxidants, and retinol (if tolerated) can work for uncomplicated skin types.
“An advantage of using a multitasking product is that you know that the combination of active ingredients is stable, as opposed to combining multiple products and not knowing whether they potentially inactivate or block penetration of each other,” says Dr. Joshua Zeichner, director of cosmetic and clinical research at Mount Sinai Hospital.
Our panel of tired, wizened journalists tried out more than a dozen products and found the best.