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While there may not be an industry standard for how the term “clean beauty” is defined, that doesn't mean that the concept is irrelevant or better off disregarded. While yes, it’s definitely up for debate whether or not every product you own needs to fall under the clean beauty category, it doesn’t hurt to take into consideration what exactly you’re putting on our skin. However, it’s only getting harder to decipher what various skincare ingredients actually do, and more importantly, whether or not we should be using them.
According to Dr. Julie Russak, an award-winning Board Certified Dermatologist and founder of Russak+ Aesthetic Center, it’s best to start by looking for vegan and hypoallergenic products that are designed for sensitive skin. Always make sure that they are fragrance-, sulfate-, paraben-, phthalate-, synthetic dye- and silicone-free (!) as well. Additionally, Dr. Russak recommends avoiding any products that contain SLS (Sodium Lauryl Sulfate). In other words, it may be more important to be aware of the ingredients we shouldn’t be putting on our skin, as opposed to the ones we should be.
With all of this in mind, it becomes easier to decipher what makes a product “clean.” Dr. Russak recommends seeking high-quality ingredients, but that doesn't mean that skincare needs to be overcomplicated or overpriced. Antioxidants, such as a Vitamin C serum, and a retinol or retinol-alternative, such as Bakuchiol, serve to “respect the function of the skin as a protective barrier.”
That may seem like a lot of boxes to check, but luckily there are plenty of great products out there — and I’ve already done the work for you. Find my top skincare recommendations with dermatologist-approved ingredients below.
1. Covey ($122-$209)
It feels appropriate to start this list off with Covey — the skincare company that Dr. Russak serves as the founding dermatologist for. Covey is a performance-driven skincare line (that I happen to love) and, to no surprise, it checks all of the boxes that Dr. Russak mentions. It is designed as a three- to five-step system that includes everything from your daily cleanser to nightly Bakuchiol Serum. It is encouragingly easy to maintain, and every product goes on as smooth as butter. For a more in-depth review of Covey, read my take here.
2. Facile ($12-$38)
Facile is your one-stop shop for all of your skincare needs (including lip treatments)! What sets Facile apart from other skincare lines is that each product is formulated by a dermatologist, not just dermatologist-approved or consulted. Facile also focuses on the individuality of skin, and has products designed to address your skin’s specific needs. I personally love the Destress Serum which is deemed “a chill pill for the skin” and feels like just that. Facile uses “feel-good” ingredients that are non-irritating, non-toxic, and most importantly, effective.
3. Monastery ($29-$168)
The heart of Monastery consists of high-quality, plant-derived ingredients, with an emphasis on healing the skin naturally. It’s basically nature in a bottle, in the best possible way. Each product is dermatologist-tested and made in small batches, which gives Monastery the ability to source only the finest ingredients from around the world. The serums and moisturizers are packed with vitamins and antioxidants that help to replenish, nourish and protect the skin barrier — plus, they smell amazing. I particularly love the Gold Botanical Oil Serum, which is considered a “multivitamin for your skin” and always leaves my skin feeling hydrated throughout the day.
4. Dr. Loretta ($5-$110)
Dr. Loretta is a complete skincare line designed by namesake dermatologist Dr. Loretta Ciraldo. The line has an emphasis on individuality and simplicity, and offers a wide range of products to fit your skin’s needs. Dr. Loretta’s approach is centered around “the four factors” that lead to aging skin (pollution, light, climate and irritants) so each product is designed to address these influences. It goes without saying that these dermatologist-formulated products are 100% safe for the skin and will leave you feeling cleansed, refreshed and most certainly hydrated. The Intense Replenishing Serum is a personal favorite of mine. As someone who lives in New York, I am no stranger to pollution, and this product is great at combating the NYC elements.
5. OneSkin ($45-$120)
If there’s any line that knows the science behind skincare and aging, it’s OneSkin. For OneSkin, the focus isn’t solely on the skin — it’s on longevity. Their products contain the first peptide that has been proven to reverse the signs of aging on a molecular level, all while sticking with vegan, fragrance-free and non-toxic ingredients. The products have been rigorously tested in terms of safety and passed with flying colors, so this is a skincare line that will not only help you age gracefully, but provide comfort knowing that every ingredient is safe for your skin. Their Daily Peptide Moisturizer is a personal favorite and when you use it, you just know you’re doing something good for your skin.
6. Vacation Mineral Sunscreen ($18-$22)
Sunscreen has been a hot topic these days (recent studies have found toxic chemicals in certain sunscreens), so Dr. Russak recommends using a mineral-based sunscreen that reflects the sun and does not absorb UV radiation. I love the Vacation Mineral Lotion — it’s an SPF 30 “Zinc-Only” sunscreen that is fragrance-, paraben- and cruelty-free, in addition to being dermatologist-tested. It goes on super smooth without leaving a sticky residue, which is exactly what you want when you’re spending time in the sun (and you can’t beat the nostalgic branding!)
7. KaramMD ($40-$260)
Not many skincare lines can compare to the KaramMD Trifecta, which consists of the three key products your skin needs for healthy aging. I’ve been a fan of KaramMD for a while now, and can attest to its effectiveness. The line was formulated and founded by Dr. Amir Karam, a renowned Facial Plastic Surgeon, who knows what it takes to have healthy, glowing skin from within. The Trifecta addresses all of the common signs of aging (think sagging, lines, wrinkles), and Illuminate, the all-in-one moisturizer, contains the perfect amount of retinol so that even those with sensitive skin can reap the benefits without irritation. Click here for an in-depth interview with Dr. Karam himself.
No matter what your budget is, your skin is in good hands with any of these dermatologist-tested and approved skincare lines. But like anything, consistency is key — so what are you waiting for?