We love a good deal. And lucky for us, affordable skincare options have never been more robust. But we’re also not immune to the allure (and efficacy) of luxury beauty. There are few greater indulgences than slathering on a decadent, $165 cream and seeing results nearly overnight. If you can shell out the cash, luxury skincare can feel like an act of self-care, even self-love.
While luxury brands aren’t always better than their less-elite counterparts, they often use cutting-edge science and robust clinical testing that other brands simply can’t afford. For brands who can foot the bill, it’s an obvious leg-up in terms of formulation and efficacy. By and large luxury products do tend to be more thoughtfully created and results-driven than others, but that’s a generalization, not an absolute. And, it’s worth noting, you can easily create a well-balanced, effective skincare routine without breaking the bank.
But if you are looking to splurge, you’ll want to know you’re spending your money right. To save you from buyer’s remorse, we rounded up the best luxury skincare lines, along with our top picks from each.
The beauty industry has a real love-hate relationship with the term “clean” — sure, you can slap the buzzword on any old packaging for a boost in sales, but what does it really mean? Tata Harper is one of the few brands that truly lives and breathes the clean beauty ethos. With plant-based ingredients sourced from its own farm (and onsite formulation and packaging), the luxe brand is a favorite among celebs like Brooke Shields, Kate Hudson, and Rosie Hungtington-Whitely.
Take its Hydrating Floral Mask — beloved by an exhaustive list of A-listers, like Jessica Alba, Gwyneth Paltrow, and Martha Hunt — which features a whopping 39 botanical ingredients to plump, hydrate, soothe, and nurture compromised skin. Or the fast-absorbing Revitalizing Body Oil, which packs a heaping dose of essential vitamins, minerals, and nutrients into a rich, luscious formula that’s so good at banishing fine lines and crepiness, supermodels use it while pregnant.
InStyle favorites include the Superkind Softening Cleanser, a creamy face wash designed for reactive skin and formulated without any potentially irritating ingredients (like vitamins A and C, BHA acids, and physical exfoliators); Crème Riche, a ridiculously luxurious moisturizer featuring 16 sources of hydration, 12 skin-plumping agents, and 15 ingredients for smoothing and softening skin texture; and the Vitamin-Infused Cream Blush, which features an impressive six-color shade range and imparts a radiant, lit-from-within sheen of color in an antioxidant- and nutrient-rich formula.
Known for vampire facials (a Kim Kardashian favorite) and her $300-plus Hyaluronic Serum, German aesthetics doctor and skin therapist to the stars Dr. Barbara Sturm launched her eponymous skincare line back in 2014 — and it’s remained a beauty editor and celeb favorite ever since. So much so that Oprah featured not one, not two, but three of its products in her annual Favorite Things List, crediting the trio for a glow so good she can skip the makeup (the almost-69-year-old also swears they leave her skin as smooth as “a baby’s butt”).
The line is centered around hero ingredient purslane, a plant extract rich in antioxidants and omega-3 fatty acids that, according to the brand, activates the skin’s internal antioxidant system and protects against inflammation and free radicals.
We’re partial to the cult-favorite Glow Drops, perfect for revitalizing tired, dull skin and restoring radiance and glow; the Face Mask, which hydrates and soothes skin, while drawing impurities and toxins out from deep within the pores; and the Face Cream, a deeply nourishing yet pleasantly lightweight moisturizer ideal for everyday use.
La Prairie began in a stunning chalet hidden in the Swiss mountains, where glandular transplant specialist Dr. Paul Neihans developed the brand’s exclusive cellular complex in the 1930s. That complex — which is produced in three separate laboratories to ensure no one chemist will ever know the full formula — remains a staple in the brand’s product range.
The brand’s iconic collections center around luxurious hero ingredients: The White Caviar and Skin Caviar collections harness the power of, you guessed it, caviar; the Pure Gold collection contains a pure-gold infusion fit for a king; and the Platinum Rare collection centers around a firming, wrinkle-reducing platinum peptide.
Even for seasoned luxury skincare lovers like us, applying La Prairie’s precious, elegant formulas feels semi-sacrilegious — every pump, scoop, and swipe of product is filled to the brim with skin-loving ingredients and cutting-edge science, and costs a pretty penny. Still, we have our favorites: The Skin Caviar Harmony L’Extrait, is a hard-working gel-like product that knocks a few years off your face in a matter of weeks, while the White Caviar Essence Extraordinaire increases skin hydration and luminosity via the Equation of Light (we’re not familiar with the math, but we’ll trust the scientists).
Meet U Beauty, the brainchild of Instagram’s OG-fashion-blogger-turned-skincare-founder extraordinaire Tina Craig. Though still relatively new to the skincare scene (it launched its first product in 2019), U Beauty has more than earned its spot among the luxury elite, thanks to its proprietary SIREN capsule technology, top-notch sustainability credentials, and a refreshing focus on simplicity.
The proof is in the pudding: We count five of the eight U Beauty products among our very favorites. The Resurfacing Compound‘s ingredients read more like a laundry list of familiar, favorite actives like retinyl palmitate, stabilized vitamins C and E, glycolic acid, and hyaluronic acid — yet the highly potent combination, somehow, doesn’t wreck the skin barrier and has a fairly low risk of irritation. The SUPER Hydrator delivers long-chain hyaluronic acid deep into the skin for hydration lasting up to 48 hours in a delicious, skin-loving formulation that’s been curated to perfection.
Meanwhile, the PLASMA Lip Compound promises — and fully delivers — plumped, fuller-looking, and hydrated lips while reducing vertical lines in the lip area and imparting a glossy, subtle color. The BARRIER Bioactive Treatment optimizes skin renewal to deliver visibly softer, stronger, more vibrant skin virtually overnight. And last but certainly not least, the SUPER Body Hydrator, inspired by the beloved facial serum, is ultra-hydrating and leaves skin looking glowy without feeling greasy.
Bestsellers: Resurfacing Compound | Price range: $38 to $228 | Cruelty-Free: Yes
Doctor-founded and dermatologist-loved, SkinCeuticals has reigned supreme for more than 25 years. With a strong commitment to science- and research-backed skincare, SkinCeuticals pioneered the advent of cosmeceuticals, according to the brand, which are products considered on the cutting-edge between cosmetics and pharmaceuticals.
Oddly enough, the brand perhaps best known for a legendary, hot dog-smelling product: the C E Ferulic Serum, which is adored by the masses and seriously impressive derms alike. Since its launch in 2005, it continues to top lists as the best vitamin C on the market and has garnered endless awards and accolades for its liquid gold-like formula.
An incredibly close second in terms of accolades and prestige is the Triple Lipid Restore 2:4:2 cream. The name draws on the formula’s chief components — two-percent pure ceramides, four-percent natural cholesterol, and two-percent fatty acids. The legendary moisturizer supports the skin barrier and visibly improves aging skin’s smoothness, pores, and radiance.
Family-owned and so quintessentially French it’s a little intimidating, Sisley-Paris eats, sleeps, and breathes luxury cosmetics. Offerings include skincare, makeup, fragrance, and haircare — all of which carry endless adoration. The brand primarily focuses on putting out the best of plant-based beauty, drawing inspiration from plants’ capacity for regeneration and adaptation.
Leslie Mann is among Sisley’s legions of fans — she’s especially an avid user of the brand’s toning lotions. The brand is perhaps best known, and loved, for its range of masks, which target specific needs like hydration, comfort, balance, radiance, youth, and vitality. Meanwhile, its Black Rose line features seven best-sellers that smooth and plump skin with a luxurious texture and delicate scent.
InStyle picks include the Enzyme Exfoliating Mask, which gently exfoliates skin to boost radiance in just 60 seconds, as well as two ultra-hydrating, soothing overnight treatments: The Velvet Sleeping Mask With Saffron Flowers and Black Rose Cream Mask. We’re also partial to the Black Rose Skin Infusion Cream, which leaves skin plump and glowy.
A recent runaway hit, Eadem is redefining luxury beauty as a more inclusive, thoughtful space. Its Smart Melanin Beauty technology is the first of its kind that keeps darker skin and melanin needs in mind. Founded by women of color, made by women of color chemists, and vetted by women of color dermatologists, Eadem curates science-backed skincare for everyone, but with a melanin-rich skin first approach — and it’s a welcome breath of fresh air in the luxury space.
Frankly, we’re fans of all three products the brand has put out thus far. Its first product, the Milk Marvel Dark Spot Serum, sold out in a matter of weeks. The three-in-one gel quickly fades acne, inflammation, and bug bites in a milky, smooth serum. The fragrance-free formula features a mix of niacinamide, amber algae, and vitamin C to fade dark spots and leave skin feeling soft to the touch.
Meanwhile, the Cloud Cushion Airy Brightening Moisturizer is formulated with an all-star lineup of skincare ingredients to soothe skin, deeply hydrate, and minimize the appearance of pores. And the Dew Dream Hydrating Cleansing Balm melts away any trace of dirt, grime, makeup, and SPF, all without tugging or pulling at the skin. Trust us, this is a luxury brand to watch.
With its most expensive single product coming in at just under $200, Tatcha is (somehow) on the more-affordable end of luxury skincare — though fans (which range from Jennifer Aniston to TikTok’s very own Addison Rae and Hyram Yabro) are quick to point out the brand’s ultra-luxe packaging and hard-working formulas as hallmarks of true luxury.
Tatcha’s promise to “help bring you harmony from skin to soul,” reeks of elegance and luxury (in the best way possible). Founder and CEO Victoria Tsai emphasizes the importance of looking at skincare through not just a physical lens, but also a mental and emotional one, in which skincare acts as the anchor of your own larger well-being rituals. The ethos is evident in every product Tatcha launches.
Our favorites are wide-reaching: From The Rice Wash, a soft cream cleanser that uses Japanese rice powder to softly buff away impurities, to The Silk Sunscreen, a truly weightless mineral sunscreen with SPF 50 protection. Both of Tatcha’s staple moisturizers are Instyle-editor approved: The Dewy Skin Cream offers a deep boost of hydration ideal for normal to dry skin types, while The Water Cream uses a lightweight, fast-absorbing formula to deliver all-day moisture that leaves oily skin feeling fresh, not weighed down.
For many, La Mer is synonymous with luxury beauty — beauty aficionados consider it the crème de la crème of skincare. And for good reason: The brand’s signature Miracle Broth (not a soup), which features a fermentation of sea kelp, vitamins, and minerals that help renew and revitalize skin, took no less than 6,000 experiments and 12 years to perfect.
Created by physicist Dr. Max Huber in an effort to heal the appearance of the scars he suffered during a lab accident, the brand skyrocketed to fame thanks to its deeply hydrating, restorative Crème de la Mer. Suffice to say, to know La Mer is to know high-performance, deeply extravagant skincare.
Our editors are long-time La Mer fans, with one in particular who lovingly referred to The Concentrated Night Balm as her “new boo.” The brand focuses on “the art of fermentation” — after all, its signature broth takes three to four months to reach its greatest form. After years of rigorous handwashing and dry, irritated skin, we find ourselves reaching for its rich Hand Treatment for some extra TLC. Meanwhile, the sumptuous Eye Concentrate hides the dark circles of sleepless nights past.
Bestsellers: Crème de la Mer | Price range: $25 to $790 | Cruelty-Free: No
Pick a celebrity, any celebrity! Hailey Bieber? She’s a fan. Our Barbie-to-be, Margot Robbie? She uses it. Baby-faced Leonardo DiCaprio? Him, too. Augustinus Bader is the gold standard of celeb-loved skincare — and it’s not just the rich and famous (which are apt descriptors for both the brand itself and its loyal fans), beauty editors have sung the brand’s praises, too.
Bader skincare is powered by its patented Trigger Factor Complex technology, which was inspired by over three decades of cutting-edge research on skin healing and tissue repair. There’s not just one product that works, though. The brand has over 20 offerings spanning across skin, hair, and body that are all expert-formulated, expert-tested, and expert-approved.
It’s nearly impossible to mention top picks without including The Cream that started it all, along with its sister iterations: The Rich Cream, which is a particular InStyle favorite, and The Light Cream. The Eye Cream is another notable pick, thanks to its lightweight, serum-like texture that sinks into the skin. To be frank, we’ve yet to hear a single complaint about any of the brand’s products.
Trendy beauty products come and go, but few remain in the zeitgeist as long as SK-II’s famed Pitera Facial Treatment Essence. It’s certainly a staple within the brand’s collection, but it’s not the only fan favorite. And yet, the brand itself might not exist if it hadn’t been for a chance encounter.
Its scientists spent much of the 1970s (unsuccessfully) searching for natural ingredients that made beautiful skin a reality. It was only when they found themselves in a sake brewery in Japan that they discovered the power of yeast. (It’s said that the elderly workers at the sake brewery had wrinkled faces, but extraordinarily soft and youthful-looking hands.) After more research and plenty of time in the labs, SK-II’s team landed on Pitera, a unique yeast strain they believed held the secret to beautiful skin. You’ll find the ingredient in the Essence, of course, but also throughout SK-II’s collection of products.
And it’s not just the beloved Pitera Essence. The Facial Treatment Mask, which costs a whopping $95 for six sheet masks, features an indulgent dose of the brand’s famed Pitera and is perfect to use before a big event (and Kate Hudson is a big fan). Meanwhile, the SKINPOWER Air Milky Lotion features a lightweight texture that absorbs quickly and sits well under makeup. Plus, it’s one of John Legend’s favorite moisturizers.
While Allies of Skin has gained major traction in the skincare community, it’s still relatively under the radar for the general public — making it a real “if you know, you know,” beauty secret among industry experts. Products feature highly concentrated, clinically proven ingredients that deliver clear, radiant skin in just a few steps. For Allies of Skin, formula is key — though founder Nicolas Travis is quick to point out the brand’s not afraid to break the rules of traditional product formulation.
We’ve been fans of the brand from the launch in 2016: Its first and best-selling product, the Peptides & Antioxidants Firming Daily Treatment, offers five benefits in one formula — hydrating, firming, refining, protecting, and brightening skin — and is ideal for both morning and nighttime use.
We also love the Molecular Saviour Probiotics Treatment Mist, which soothes and hydrates stressed-out skin, and features a special anti-evaporation molecule so that it clings to the skin’s surface (rather than simply vanishing away); the Molecular Silk Amino Hydrating Cleanser for gentle cleansing with its rich gel formula; and the Molecular Barrier Recovery Cream, which Travis perfectly describes as, “A formula that functions like a bandage, repairs skin like a balm, and melts like a cream.”
iS Clinical isn’t the buzziest beauty brand around — there’s no celebrity founder, and the packaging is discreet and simple. But sometimes the best brands are the ones we keep to ourselves. Such is the case with iS Clinical, which was founded in 2002 by two biochemists. The brand is built around a four-step approach to skincare (cleanse, treat, hydrate, and protect) and packs highly active, plant-derived extracts into every offering.
When it comes to beloved iS Clinical products, the Active Serum really does shine the brightest. Not only was it a winner of our 2021 Best Beauty Buys, but it’s also garnered thousands of glowing reviews from fans who say the multi-functional serum is truly magical. The potent formula fights visible signs of aging, acne, dullness, and texture with results in just a few days. Many note that it’s especially great for those dealing with acne.
And while the Active Serum has certainly garnered the most public support, it’s not our only favorite from the brand. The Cleansing Complex is a lightweight gel that gently resurfaces and cleanses skin with a mix of centella asiatica, chamomile flower, sugarcane, and white willow bark. Meanwhile, the Hydra-Cool Serum offers a non-oily boost of hydration while soothing and calming skin with its unique cooling effect.
According to its website, Dior skincare “was born from a passion for flowers.” And it tracks: In 1967, Dior launched its first skincare products, which were made (surprise, surprise) from flowers. Today, Dior cultivates its own flowers in seven Dior Gardens around the world and uses its own extraction method to transform the very best of flowers into the very best of skincare. But, of course, it’s not just about flowers. The brand’s scientists have spent the last 50 years studying skin structures and analyzing the latest medical findings to bring them to use in cosmetics.
And with a name as famous as Dior, the brand has garnered more than a few celebrity fans over the years. Selena Gomez is a fan of the Capture Totale Super Potent Age-Defying Intense Serum, which uses patented bio-cellular technology to refine, smooth, and enhance skin suppleness and firmness.
We also love the Capture Totale Super Potent Eye Serum, which targets nine signs of visible aging and features a cooling metal applicator that massages product into the skin to fight eye puffiness. And of course, the Lip Glow Oil is a TikTok-viral product actually worth the hype, price, and search.
Clé de Peau Beauté quite literally means “the key to skin’s beauty,” a promise the brand can actually hold up to. Founded in Japan in 1982, the brand focuses on skin cell science and something it calls “skin intelligence,” which is the concept that skin, much like the mind, is smart and can discern between positive (moisture, sleep, nutrients) and negative (pollution, stress, dryness) stimuli to maintain optimal conditions. Its products are meant to amply this intelligence, using cutting-edge, luxurious formulations to boost skin radiance.
And when we say luxurious, we mean luxurious. At the time of publication, the brand is currently offering a limited edition 40th anniversary version of La Crème for a cool $16,600 — to be fair the creme is housed in an 18-karat gold jewelry box adorned with 40 diamonds and suspended on a 24-karat gold-plated tray.
Equally impressive is the brand’s use of skincare properties in its makeup products, particularly in its foundations and concealers. The $75 Concealer stick has won no less than 15 InStyle beauty awards thanks to its blend of skin-first ingredients that simultaneously conceal and improve problem areas. Did we mention it’s also SPF 27? It’s no wonder it’s a favorite among celebs like Chrissy Teigen, Jennifer Anniston, and Nicole Kidman. We’re also mega fans of the Foundation, which is as luxurious as it is skin-loving.
Any serious skincare lover is familiar with the hot dog water-scented, worth-its-weight-in-gold, cult-favorite Lotion P50 from Biologique Recherche. The French, family-owned skincare brand is synonymous with its high-quality, efficacious formulas loved by celebrities, estheticians, and beauty fans alike. And yet we’d be remiss in ignoring an obvious part of the Biologique appeal: It takes exclusivity to the next level.
Unlike most (read: nearly every) skincare brands, Biologique Recherche is solely available at high-end spas that carry the brand — as well as the brand’s own e-boutique if, and only if, you’re willing to register for a MyBR membership (to be fair, creating an account is free). The hefty price tags serve as yet another barrier to entry, though we’d willingly shell out all the coins for its authentic, balanced, and seriously hard-working formulas. And with 150-plus offerings for the face and body, there’s truly something for everyone. Biologique is meant for the skincare connoisseurs among us — products are no-frills, highly potent, and (like we said) hard to find.
As for our personal favorites? Of course, there’s the one-and-only Lotion P50, a seriously strong exfoliating lotion that’s available in six different iterations depending on your skin type. When it comes to lightening dark spots and skin regeneration, few come close to the ISO-Placenta Serum, which features biomimetic placenta as its star ingredient.
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Danielle Cohen is a freelance beauty writer and editor with more than five years of experience reporting on the beauty industry and testing products. As a member of InStyle’s commerce team, she swatches, sprays, and samples countless beauty products. For this story, she did her due diligence researching the most prestigious luxury skincare brands available. Beyond looking at reviews and celebrity fandom, she tested some of the products out and looked for thoughtful origin stories to find luxury skincare brands that are truly worth every penny.