The 6 best drugstore skin care products that actually work

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Drugstore skin care products can sometimes get a bad rep. Some may think they’re not as effective, or because they’re a bit more affordable and accessible, they must not use quality ingredients. But that can’t be further from the truth.

As a licensed esthetician, I always discuss the importance of understanding ingredients and what they do for your skin. If you’re clear on your skin concerns and understand the corresponding active ingredients that help treat and target those concerns, you’ll know how to decipher whether a product will work for you, regardless of where you buy it.

Also, as I’ve previously explained, it’s easy figuring out if a product is worth your money — especially if shopping at a drug store retailer. It comes down to the active ingredients’ levels and potency and understanding what ingredient works for the skin concern you’re looking to target (such as retinol increases cell turnover, which helps minimize lines and wrinkles). Sometimes you won’t know until you use the product. Patience is key in your skin journey as it can usually take a few months to evaluate whether a product is improving the appearance of your skin—and you’ll know right away if your skin isn’t reacting well to a product.

With all of this in mind, here are some of the best drugstore skin care products I professionally recommend. Keep in mind that these products are widely available at popular drug stores like CVS, Walgreens, Duane Reade, Rite Aid and more, but are also on Amazon (all linked below).

Best Retinol for Hyperpigmentation:
Retinol Serum for Post-Acne Marks and Skin Texture, $15.12 (Orig. $21.99)

Retinol Serum for Post-Acne Marks and Skin Texture

Retinol that’s efficacious and affordable? Sign me up. I personally use CeraVe’s retinol every night, as retinol is a must ingredient to use as our skin ages. This retinol is unique as it’s specifically formulated with licorice root and niacinamide to target hyperpigmentation while reducing the look of lines and wrinkles. 

Expert Tip: If you’re new to using retinol, start one to two times a week and then work up to using it every night, as it can increase your skin’s sensitivity. And make sure you’re wearing and reapplying your sunscreen each day.

Go-To Serum for Uneven Texture:
Bubble Day Dream Tone and Texture Serum, $17

Bubble Day Dream Tone and Texture Serum

This serum uses niacinamide and vitamin C. And if this isn’t your first time reading my articles, then you know I always talk about the importance of using vitamin C every day. It’s your go-to antioxidant that helps brighten your skin tone and fights free radical damage from UV rays and pollution. This serum is an all-around effective and affordable product for a smoother, more even-looking complexion.

Must-Have Cleanser for Oily Skin:
CeraVe Foaming Facial Cleanser, $19.13

CeraVe Foaming Facial Cleanser

If you have oily skin, you may feel the urge to over-cleanse and wash the “oils” away. Don’t do this! Your skin still needs moisture, no matter how oily it may feel. I’ve been using this cleanser for years, and it’s a must-have for combination and oily skin as it’s non-stripping and formulated with hyaluronic acid to hydrate (without clogging pores) and ceramides for skin barrier support.

Best All-Around Eye Cream:
e.l.f. Holy Hydration! Eye Cream, $10

e.l.f. Holy Hydration! Eye Cream

Did you know dehydrated skin causes fine lines that can occur underneath and around your eyes? This replenishing eye cream is infused with purified water and cucumber to hydrate, vitamin E, shea butter and jojoba to moisturize and green tea to energize for more awake-looking eyes.

Most-Love Pimple Patch:
Hero Cosmetics Mighty Patch Invisible+ Acne Patch, $21.49

Hero Cosmetics Mighty Patch Invisible+ Acne Patch

The best pimple patch for those pesky breakouts. When your pimple is red, inflamed or white underneath the skin, apply these patches and watch it disappear. The secret ingredient is the hydrocolloid which promotes healing, absorbs fluid from the blemish and protects your skin from infection all at the same time. And this one was made to be more incognito than the original, so you can wear it all day without it being so noticeable.

Top Hydrating Moisturizer:
Neutrogena Hydro Boost Gel Moisturizer, $26.99

Neutrogena Hydro Boost Gel Moisturizer

A drugstore classic, this oil-free moisturizer has two main ingredients: Hyaluronic acid to plump skin and help your skin retain moisture and water for all-around hydration and replenishment. Many gel-based moisturizers absorb quickly, leaving your skin feeling instantly dry. But with this one, you’ll get long-lasting hydration without feeling oily or greasy.

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