We Tried $3,338 Worth Of Skin Care — & This Was The Best Of 2018

If 2018 turned out anything like '80s science fiction promised, we'd have immersive computer-generated realities and robot law enforcement instead of Fortnite and mini drones you can buy at Kohl's. But here we are, approaching 2019, with nothing to show for it but 3D printers and hoverboards you can't even ride on public property in case they catch fire.
But we shouldn't lose hope for the future — at least, not where innovations in beauty are concerned. Nobody can really predict what the hell is going to happen in the next few years, good or bad, but every day brings us a new skin-care product that we would've thought impossible five years ago. A resurfacing serum that leaves you practically baby-skinned overnight. A moisturizer that feels like nothing on your face, but hydrates as well as a heavy cream. Stickers that suck the life out of pimples but disappear into skin, so you can go about your life like you don't have a whitehead the size of a planet on which we may someday live.
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So, until the real future arrives (and it will eventually, right?), we'll take the major skin-care advances that the beauty world brought us this year. We tried $3,338 worth of moisturizers, acne cure-alls, face masks, cleansers, and eye creams, and even products that claimed to bring us one step closer to the IRL Fountain of Youth, all in the name of tracking down the best of the best of what 2018 had to offer for our Beauty Innovator Awards. Ahead, the skin-care products we wouldn't board a spaceship without — because if you're facing off against the future, why not do it with the best skin of your life?
At Refinery29, we’re here to help you navigate this overwhelming world of stuff. All of our market picks are independently selected and curated by the editorial team. If you buy something we link to on our site, Refinery29 may earn commission.
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We can’t even with this gel, which locks in moisture without suffocating skin thanks to an unbelievably light, hyaluronic acid-rich water-jelly formula even the oily-skinned will die over. (How's that for drama?) A high concentration of cucumber extract makes it especially soothing, so don't let the weightless texture fool you — even dry skin types will see healthier, more hydrated results. "Putting this moisturizer on is the best part of my night routine," says R29 news and politics reporter Andrea González-Ramírez. "For a minute it feels like the world isn't ending."
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Whip skin into shape with this highly addictive all-in-one, which uses lactic acid, aloe, and a mild retinoid for instant results you won’t want to quit — and don't have to, considering it's gentle enough to use nightly. "Resurfacing serums tend to do one of two things to my skin, either leaving it pink and sensitive while smoothing and evening, or nothing at all," says R29 senior beauty editor Lexy Lebsack. "This one bridges the gap by being gentle enough for every day with no redness, dryness, or irritation, and creates brighter, borderline glowing skin after just a few uses."
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These whisper-thin acne patches draw out pus like no other and disappear completely under a dot of concealer. "These are basically miracle products that will turn a bump flat overnight, in my experience," says R29 lifestyle editor Cait Munro. "I get anxiety when I don't have at least a full sheet of them in my possession." A true hero — Enrique Iglesias could never.
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Lazy, hungover Sunday at home or 17-hour transatlantic flight to Sydney — either way, you’re going to want this minty moisturizing mask, which is packed with vitamins and nourishing shea butter, at your side. Needless to say, its cult-favorite reputation and frequently sold-out status are well-deserved; our testers called the thick, hydrating leave-on formula "life-changing," "a game-changer," and "actually perfect."
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By combining gently exfoliating alpha- and beta-hydroxy acids with aloe and green-tea extract, the celebrity go-to dermatologist created the rare deep cleanser that's potent enough to help kick hormonal breakouts, but gentle enough to wash away eye makeup without making anyone cry. "The scent-free gel goes on super smooth, doesn't lather too much, and always leaves me with hydrated skin that feels perfectly clean," says R29 senior beauty writer Rachel Lubitz.
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Supercharged with vitamins C and E, caffeine, and hyaluronic acid, this potent eye cream sends dark circles and fine lines running at the sight of it, and strengthens the delicate skin in that area over the longterm. "This eye cream is so lightweight, and I love that I'm getting even more vitamin C under my eyes, where my dark circles need it the most," says R29 deputy beauty director Jessica Cruel.
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30 minutes with this skin-cooling, deeply-quenching gel mask, and you’ll finally understand why those women in the Neutrogena ads are always smiling like that. "For $3, hyaluronic acid in a face mask is impressive," says R29 beauty writer Thatiana Diaz. "This one makes my skin look like I just got a facial, without having to spend any money on the real thing."
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