Top 20 Skincare Products of 2020
Updated: Sep 19
There are thousands of skincare products on the market - literally thousands. Amazon and companies like Wish and YesStyle have given us access to products from all over the world - skincare we wouldn't have dreamed of trying even ten years ago.
My (happy) job is to determine which of those are worth your time. I always start with the 'ingredient deck' - what's on the back of the tube/bottle/box says a lot more about what's inside than the promises in the companies' marketing. I'd estimate that only about 10% get pass that phase (believe it or not, there are as many 'baddie' ingredients out there as 'goodie' ones - and sometimes just one bad apple can risk spoiling the whole cart!!
In the end, I guess that I try between 100 and 120 skincare products a year. Typically I like most of these (after all, my initial screening is pretty tough!) But it takes a really special combination of formulations and packaging (and ultimately, efficacy!) for me to say 'WOW'.
Well, the list below is my set of 2020 WOW products. Many of these things have been in existence since before 2020, but I've only discovered them in the last year (I don't pay too much time paying attention to the PR companies 'new releases'.)
I've really enjoyed putting this list together - I hope you enjoy having a look through!!
(1 through 10 are in rank order, after that they're all just generally great!)
*Penn Smith Skincare is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate program. Many links are affiliate links, meaning I am compensated when you shop through these at no extra fee to you.
Without a doubt, my favorite skincare product for 2020 is Emepelle. Emepelle is formulated for perimenopausal, menopausal and post menopausal skin (women roughly ages 40-65+.) Emepelle contains a patented ingredient called MEP which, while not a hormone, acts like a hormone on the skin, binding to the oestrogen receptors and encourages the skin to behave as if the estrogen were still there. Because MEP doesn’t add oestrogen to the body it is safe for women who cannot or will not take hormone replacement therapy. Effectively it helps skin cells work the way they did before menopause, when they were being stimulated by estrogen (collagen drops off slowly as we approach menopause and a whopping 30% in the first five years post menopause. At 47, I’m beyond thrilled that I have Emepelle on my side to offset this massive drop. Emepelle comes in both a Night Cream and a Serum - they're both fantastic but if I had to choose only one, I'd chose the night cream. Learn more about Emepelle in my blog about Estrogen Deficient Skin.
Empelle Night Cream https://amzn.to/3d5hGas
Empelle Serum https://amzn.to/3wKKa0E
2. Queen 7-in-1 Brightening Serum.
I discovered this about five months ago. It has such an impressive array of brightening ingredients, staring my latest obsession; glutathione. I’m always looking for products that will help me address pigmentation. Pigmentation issues are oftentimes stubborn and require a multi-pronged, consistent and contest approach. What I love about Queen 7-in-1 is that it’s both effective AND gentle (most brightening serums are one, or the other, but not both!) This one is absolutely a keeper and I’m so happy to be able to share it with you.
3. Bradceuticals Gold Serum.
If you’ve not yet looked into Growth Factors, I strongly encourage you to investigate Bradceuticals. This is another very small business that just got it right. Their formulation is excellent - and holds up to the much more expensive AnteAge that I’ve been using in the treatment room for years. My favorite way to use this serum is after Cosmetic Microneedling as needling helps to infuse the ingredients, giving their collagen and elastin building properties an extra punch. But I also love as a calming and healing serum to use whenever you’ve over done it or have sensitive skin (think too much tretinoin, wind burn, post chemical peel, etc)
https://amzn.to/39XQh7c (Currently not available)
4. NIOD Superoxide Dismutase Saccaride Mist
I have loved this product since I tried it nearly a year ago - and there hasn’t been a period where I was willing to give it a break. This is such a fantastic antioxidant and hydrator that is as gorgeous to use as it is to look at on display on your bathroom shelf.
5. Perricone Eyelid Lift Serum.
First of all, I need to be clear that this has NOT lifted my eyelids. However it HAS made a major difference to the skin around my eyes. I’ve seen rejuvenation in the skin under my eyes, a brightening of pigmentation (thank you glutathione!!) and even a subtle softening of crow’s feet. Honestly this product was such a pleasant surprise for me - I’ve not historically been a fan of eye creams. But Perricone Eyelid Lift Serum is the real deal.
6. Bonajour Green Tea Water Bomb
You’ve likely heard me talking about this ‘bomb’. It has a gel/cream consistence that gently soaks into your skin but leaves just the right amount of moisture on top. Makeup applies so beautifully on top of this. Green Tea Water Bomb is like his is a ‘drink of water’ for your skin. I love the price point too!!
7. Isntree Hyaluronic Water Essence
I use this product EVERY SINGLE DAY. I layer this into my skincare routine for added hydration. I almost always apply this before I use my microcurrent devices. It is my all time fav HA for everyday use AND for use for ‘slip’ when Cosmetic Needling. It’s glorious!!
The Pharmaceutical grade pressed green rooibos used in this serum is so incredibly powerful that it beats most other antioxidants out there. The ingredient deck in Maysama is faultless and so Impressive. For me it is such a pleasure to see a small company grow quickly due to a combination of outstanding vision, stellar formulation and smart packaging. I know the owner of Maysama personally and I couldn’t be more delighted to support a small, female owned business who is paving the way in skincare innovation.
9. Derma-e Firming DMAE Serum
DMAE is such an interesting ingredient - do have a look at the video I devoted to this interesting ingredient. It helps my skin look firmer and healthier. It’s an ingredient that has a regular place in my skincare regime. The Derma-e DMAE is my preferred product (I’ve tried six different DMAE options!!) AND the most reasonably priced. (note that it does contain lavender so steer clear if this isn't for you)
10. NIOD CAIS
You may have heard me mention before that this is my absolute favorite Copper Peptide. It promotes collagen, is anti-inflammatory and helps with skin texture - I really notice the difference when I use this copper peptide vs. some of the less expensive ones in the marketplace. NIOD’s packaging is gorgeous; CAIS comes in two vials (an activator and a serum) that you combine before using the first time to ensure maximum freshness.
The 10 remaining GREAT products of 2020!
Le Mieux 0(2) Calming Gel
I love the Le Mieux gel to use as conductor of my microcurrent and radio frequency devices. Note - this is NOT your ordinary conductive gel. It is PACKED with amazing ingredients including green tea. I tend to use a liberal coat of this gel before I use my devices and then spritz with water to keep it fresh for the duration of my microcurrent/radio frequency session. I love knowing that the ingredients in the Calming Gel get gently infused during the treatment.
Drmtlgy Peptide Night Cream.
This feels like (a much less expensive) version of Protini from Drunk Elephant.. this is a multi peptide cream that is full of amazing ingredients. I find that Drmtlgy’s Peptide Night Cream wears well under makeup and sunscreen but also an amazing night cream.
https://www.drmtlgy.com/products/peptide-night-cream (use code M9HH1 for 20% off)
Isntree Green Tea Fresh Toner
I love using Isntree Green Tea Toner with compressed masks and seal it all in with a silicone mask. I sometimes leave this on for an hour or more in the evening when my skin needs to be soothed and I want an infusion of antioxidants.
Glowbiotics MD Advanced Vitamin C
I love this because it contains more gentle and stable Vitamin C derivatives. It also contains other brightening ingredients, including glutathione. Vitamin C is such a tremendous antioxidant - this is my favorite Vitamin C of the year.
Drmtlgy Microdermabrasion Scrub
I love this as a manual scrub. Normally I’m not a fan of physical exfoliants but the super fine teeny-tiny grains in Drmtlgy’s Microdermabrasion scrub are really gently and effective - you really feel like you’re getting a ‘manual microermabrasion’. I’d describe it as a very gentle ‘sanding’ to exfoliate off that dead surface layer.
These have been around for a while but the discovery of the dark spot variation has been really exciting for me this year (so often pimples leave behind hyperpigmentaiton - so the dark spot version gives a 2-for-1 punch. The small adhesive spots actually have ‘micro darts’ on the underside that just barely penetrate the epidemis, infusing the ingredients. They’ve really revolutionised my ability to treat blemishes. I’ve found them so useful to help me deal with ‘maskne’ - they really reduce the time to healing.
https://amzn.to/3sMkoav (Currently Unavailable)
This is the home version of the product I’d been using for years in the salon. It rebuilds hair bonds, strengthens and protects the hair’s integrity. Honestly, there Is nothing out on the market like it. I use this alongside my Olaplex N(0) 3 Hair Perfector. I’m so pleased this is now available for home use - especially as so many of us are finding it difficult (or impossible) to get to salons.
Secret Deodorant No. 25 Bergamot and Orange Blossom
This smells exactly like of of my all time favourite fragrances: Jo Malone Orange Blossom Cologne. It may sound funny but I love that it doesn’t conflict with my fragrance! It’s just really pretty and makes me happy (and reminds me of spring!!!)
(I had to find this IN STORE at Target)
I neglected to mention these last two in my video. Why you might ask? Because after setting them out to film, I grabbed them back into my bathroom to use them.. and then forgot to film them (yes, really I did this 🙃). Anyway, here they are:
Livon Labs Vitamin C:
CeraVe Tinted SPF 30: