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The Best Skin-Care Essentials of the Year

Our editors’ picks for game-changing face and body products.

A photograph of Omnilux Contour FACE mask Shop at Omnilux

AFTER MY FIRST daughter was born, I developed all sorts of strange symptoms on the skin on my face. It became sensitive and red, very dry but also prone to breakouts. None of the (admittedly nominal) tools I knew of seemed to fix it. I was lucky enough to be introduced to a wonderful facialist (early in her career then, much more well known now). Over time and under her guidance, my skin began to improve. But what also happened is that when I came to see her, I rested. As a new mother this was not just physical, but also emotionally healing, lying quietly for an hour while someone cared for me. In the many years since, I have come to see skin care as one of my most important forms of self-care. I struggle with my daily meditation practice, find baths boring, and hate working out. But what I do every day is wash my face, and afterwards apply products that smell good — and hopefully also make me look like I’ve gotten some rest.

Shop at Joanna Vargas

Joanna Vargas Super Nova Serum

Joanna Vargas provided my entrée into the world of adult skin care, and I will listen to anything she has to say about how to care for your skin. Her products, made with powerful, natural ingredients, are so integral to my routine that it was a challenge to pick just one for this list; but her Super Nova Serum is a strong contender. This hydrating retinol serum is effective and, like everything she makes, smells delightful. SHOP NOW

Shop at Aesop

Aesop Primrose Facial Cleansing Masque

Who doesn’t love Aesop? Every time I step into a hotel room that has their products, I feel excited. This clay mask is a favorite of our deputy editor (who wrote an entire ode to his love of the Australian brand). He says this clay concoction gives the tingling sensation of something that magically leeches all the toxins from the face, leaving the skin feeling toned, tightened, and remarkably renewed. SHOP NOW

Shop at Costa Brazil

Costa Brazil Sabonete Líquido Body Wash

If possible, I would bathe every day in a vat of Costa Brazil products. I might eat them if I could. (Disclaimer: Neither Departures nor I endorse eating your bath products. But if you were going to, you might be tempted to start with these.) Since neither of the above is actually possible, I do the next best thing: use them as intended on my body. The smell reminds me of summer in the Mexican jungle, which makes some sense, as the products are made of naturally harvested ingredients from the Brazilian rainforest. And the packaging for the line, the newest venture of former Calvin Klein creative director Francisco Costa, is just as beautiful and simple as you would hope it to be. SHOP NOW

Shop at Everyday Oil

Everyday Oil

While caring for our faces we must not forget the rest of our bodies. Although this is by far the least expensive item on this list, it is also the one I absolutely could not be without. This soothing blend of oils is almost entirely organic (the only ingredient that isn’t, palo santo, is wild harvested) and smells like a dream. I use it on myself and my children, just as the name suggests: every day. SHOP NOW

Shop at Irene Forte

Irene Forte Hibiscus Serum

By this point you may have picked up on how important smell is to me when choosing products. Irene Forte does make products that smell great, but, unusually, she also conducts and publishes research studies on their efficacy. This serum has been proven to visibly reduce forehead wrinkles, according to her communications, “in the same way as injectables” — quite a statement. I also really love that the packaging is sustainable, with glass bottles designed to be refilled with small inserts. SHOP NOW

Shop at La Maison Valmont

Valmont “Holidays in Neverland” Advent Calendar Gift Box

Skin-care products can be challenging to gift, even to those who love them. They seem so personal, and the good ones are no small investment, so you want to get it right. This charming advent calendar from Valmont offers a solution. With 12 little doors, each stocked with one of the cult Swiss brand’s products, there is bound to be something for everyone, wrapped up in a suitably festive package. SHOP NOW

Shop at Therabody

TheraFace PRO

I have test-driven a range of Thera products, and am an enthusiastic fan of the brand. New to their line is the TheraFace PRO, a facial device that offers eight different treatments, from the percussive therapy that the brand built their name on, to hot and cold therapy, as well as my personal favorite, microcurrent, an effective treatment I have only experienced in a salon before this. SHOP NOW

Shop at Omnilux

Omnilux Contour FACE mask

Speaking of treatments I previously had to go to a salon to experience, this LED face mask has become a mainstay of my routine. Originally developed by NASA to grow plants in space, LED light therapy is now used by the military in their hospitals to promote wound healing, as well as in salons to promote collagen regeneration. It is usually delivered via a giant bed, similar to one used for tanning, but this mask is an effective alternative (for those who don’t have the space at home for a tanning bed). SHOP NOW

Shop at Ouronyx

Ouronyx Skin Consultation

It must be said when speaking of skin care that all products have their limits in terms of what they can achieve. For those looking to step it up a notch from topical care, Ouronyx offers the next level of options in a chic, spa-like setting. During their personalized consultations, this London- and Dubai-based aesthetics clinic offers state-of-the-art 3D visualizations to understand the state of your skin, and then creates bespoke treatment plans that include injectables, microneedling, and even hair-loss prevention. While it might not stop time entirely, it could come close. SHOP NOW


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Our Contributors

Skye Parrott

Skye Parrott is the editor-in-chief of Departures. A magazine editor, photographer, writer, and creative consultant, she was previously a founder of the arts and culture journal Dossier, and editor-in-chief for the relaunch of Playgirl as a modern, feminist publication.

Ahonen & Lamberg Illustrator

Ahonen & Lamberg is a multidisciplinary design studio based in Paris. Founded in 2006 by Finnish designers Anna Ahonen and Katariina Lamberg, the studio concentrates on art direction, creative consultancy, and graphic design.

Departures and American Express do not provide, endorse, or guarantee any of the items, and the sale of such items is governed by the third-party seller’s policies, terms, and conditions.

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