Our team is dedicated to finding and telling you more about the web’s best products. If you purchase through our links, we may receive a commission. Our editorial team is independent and only endorses products we believe in.
Here at The Quality Edit, we’re dedicated to exactly what our name indicates: testing and curating the best quality products that are actually worth purchasing. While new DTC brands are constantly surfacing for review, it’s almost more difficult to sift through legacy brands that have been around “forever,” or that have an established reputation. What’s actually worth the money, and what’s merely over-hyped?
This question surfaced in our team Slack a few months ago with respect to luxury skincare. Which cult-favorite beauty products have genuinely made a difference for our skin? Three of us (bravely) volunteered to test out a list of the most talked-about products -- including ones that other TQE editors swore had transformed their skin tone or quality. Read on to learn about the contenders (and what we really thought, after testing each for at least two to three weeks).
We’ve rated each product on a scale of 1 to 10 of hype-worthiness.
1: Don’t spend a dollar on this, it made my skin WORSE.
10: Order this now as if money were no object.
Dr. Barbara Sturm: Hyaluronic Serum
Price: $300 per 1oz.
Promise: This serum, like other Hyaluronic products, promises to be a super-hydrator for skin, improving the health, tone, and texture of your complexion over time. The Dr. Sturm Hyaluronic Serum differentiates itself with a few distinct (and critical) ingredients. It’s made with sodium hyaluronate, a water-soluble salt derived from hyaluronic acid that’s not only more stable than HA, but that also penetrates more deeply beneath the skin’s surface. Translation: it’s supposed to hydrate more effectively and maintain its potency for a longer duration of time. Like most other Dr. Sturm products, the serum also contains purslane, a natural plant extract rich in antioxidants and omega-3 fatty acids, intended to fight signs of aging, inflammation, and irritation.
What We Thought
Zoë: This was the first product I tested -- and it scared me how much I loved it after just a few days. This is, by far, the most expensive thing I’ve ever applied to my skin. I had almost hoped it wouldn’t be worth the hype...but it was. I immediately noticed not just the hydrating effect, but also smoother, firmer skin. My complexion had a visible glow, and usual points of redness (on my cheeks, primarily) were completely even-toned. It felt like my skin had been airbrushed, or upgraded (or both). I’m still trying to squeeze out the last drops, even though my supply is long gone. I’m ready for a restock, but that price is daunting.
8.5/10 TL;DR - Definitely a hero product for my skin, although I’ve heard The Ordinary’s HA is a great dupe -- and less than $10. I’ll be testing that before I start saving to repurchase the real deal.
Lauren: This is water in a tiny bottle. It really did not hydrate my face well, but felt nice and gave a slight glow. Considering the steep price for what I felt wasn’t a great value, I would not repurchase.
5/10 It definitely didn’t worsen my skin, but any improvement was subtle -- and not worth the financial investment.
Tiffany: As a hyaluronic acid groupie, I jumped at the opportunity to test Barbara Sturm’s. Her formula is thick and viscous -- my first clue that this top-notch serum, unlike some other brands’ thin, watery counterparts, is truly high-performing and highly concentrated. Even the simple act of applying it feels downright luxurious. Every time I use it, I appear radiant and dewy -- as if my parched skin has just gulped down a long, cold drink of water. Compared to other HA serums I’ve tried, this one’s a little bouncier, leaving a slightly tacky film on my face that makes me feel like using a cream-based moisturizer afterward is unnecessary.
7/10 This is a truly superior HA serum that your skin will drink up. Just be prepared for a slightly sticky consistency -- and a lot of sticker shock!
Vintner’s Daughter: Active Treatment Essence and Active Botanical Serum
Active Treatment Essence - $225 for 50mL
Active Botanical Serum - $185 for 30mL
Promise: We spoke to April, the founder of Vintner’s Daughter, before testing these products, and were so inspired by her story and skincare approach. After struggling with her skin for most of her life, April turned to her family’s winemaking roots to heal her cystic acne and pigmentation. She founded Vintner’s Daughter to bring craftsmanship, quality, and true luxury to skincare -- applying the philosophy of winemaking to beauty. VD begins with whole plants and flowers, spending weeks capturing their nutrition and synthesizing them into just two products to take care of your entire skincare routine.
To give you a sense of the value of these products: it takes 5 weeks to make a bottle of the Treatment Essence, and 3 weeks to make the Serum. Vintner’s Daughter promises that these two products will take over your entire skincare routine, cleaning out the extraneous corners of your beauty cabinet.
What We Thought
Zoë: Wow. A few Editors had suggested we test this product (swearing it had transformed their skin -- you can read about Christine’s love for Vintner’s Daughter in her recent roundup). My skin has never looked brighter, or felt softer -- they make me feel like I’m literally glowing. When I’ve taken a break from these (only to test other products) my skin has been less smooth and radiant. I’m obsessed with these little black bottles. April’s dedication and clear passion for the organic botanicals and essential oils in her products shines when she describes them, and after using them religiously for a few months now, I can say the same for myself. An added bonus? The Serum smells incredible, and makes me feel like I’m at a spa when I apply it in the mornings and before bed.
10/10 I’m rationing these bottles as long as they’ll last, and saving up to re-purchase when I’m out -- they’ve single-handedly taken over (and radically simplified) my beauty routine.
Tiffany: From a packaging perspective, Vintner’s Daughter kills it. The essence and serum are poured into dark violet Miron glass bottles, thoughtfully selected for their ability to allow sunlight that protects and improves product quality, while emitting light that accelerates molecular decay. These sleek vessels help maintain the potency of the formulas -- which, by the way, don’t just look stunning on your vanity, but also work wonders. My favorite is the OG botanical serum. Your skin only needs a few drops of this liquid gold to appear smoothed, soothed, and balanced. Plus, while others have said that the formula smells like kombucha or apple cider vinegar to them, I think it smells like a dream!
8/10 My skin type still requires acids and retinol serums as part of my daily routine, but this brand’s products are a stellar addition I’d love to continue using.
Biologique Recherche: Lotion P50
Price: Around $103 for 8.5oz
Promise: Biologique Recherche, from the outside looking in, feels like more of a lifestyle (or cult) than just one or two products. If you buy into the Biologique promise, it seems like your entire routine consists of BR products, exclusively. This seemed increasingly true in the testing process: in order to even purchase BR, you have to undergo a skincare assessment and thorough “dermo-cosmetic diagnosis” to decide which Lotion P50 is right for you. P50 lotions are essentially gentle chemical exfoliants, designed to balance excess sebum, moisturize, and maintain the skin’s pH. Fans of the brand swear that P50 transformed their skin tone and quality visibly, within days.
What We Thought
Zoë: I expected to have a spiritual experience with P50 -- the cultural buildup was so intense! Not only had I heard it praised by countless friends (and yes, beauty editors and influencers), but the skincare assessment was so scientific and detail-oriented. The first issue I had with P50 was the smell. It’s no secret that the lotion has a strong odor -- it’s often even compared to expired milk or garbage, and it left me with the distinct impression of formaldehyde. I’m someone who prefers all things natural, and really couldn’t get past this scent.
Aside from that, while it definitely made me glow and reduced redness, I didn’t notice much of a positive change. In fact, some days it felt as though my skin tone had gotten worse (a bit more bumpy and prone to breakouts). Maybe I need to try the full BR regimen to fall in love with the brand -- or maybe my skin is just a bit sensitive -- but considering the cost of just P50 alone, I think I’ll choose blissful ignorance.
6/10 I wouldn’t repurchase -- it just didn’t work for my skin! Instead, I’ll continue to use my trusty Moon Juice Acid Potion (a more natural P50 dupe), which, at just $42, is a fraction of the cost.
Lauren: This definitely belongs in the “holy grail” category and should be in the skincare arsenal of anyone looking for “glassy” skin. A liquid exfoliant, P50 tightens, looks to reduce pore size, and exfoliates. I noticed that it balanced my complexion while minimizing the appearance of dark spots and pores. It really is one of the best products I’ve ever tried. You should press and release the product from a cotton ball onto your skin moving up the side of your face. The only downside is that -- like most BR products -- it smells absolutely terrible. Personally, getting the cold shoulder from my husband all night in the name of perfect skin is a sacrifice I’m willing to make.
Augustinus Bader: The Rich Cream
Price: $265 for 50ml
Promise: In just two years since its launch, Augustinus Bader’s The Cream -- a moisturizer developed by a 60-year-old German scientist who had never before worked in the beauty industry -- became a cult-favorite “miracle cream” by word of mouth alone. While that hype practically speaks for itself, The Cream is rooted in research and science. TFC8 (Trigger Factor Complex 8), AB’s proprietary formula of more than 40 ingredients, includes vitamins and amino acids that encourage regeneration and healing. Originally developed to help burn survivors heal quicker, TFC8 supposedly activates stem cells, repairing fine lines, dark spots, and other skin imperfections.
What We Thought
Lauren: This is one of the most luxurious moisturizers I’ve ever used -- and I would probably continue using it if I didn’t care about money at all. It’s extremely rich and creamy. However, it never feels like it fully absorbs into the skin. For the price tag, I expected my complexion to be 100% fully moisturized and plump. I only apply it at night because I find it far too heavy during the day or under makeup, but when I do use it, I feel like I wake up with a glow.
6/10 I think it’s a good moisturizer -- but for the price, I want something better than good. I don’t find it significantly more impressive than many other moisturizers out there for less than half the price.
Shop The Edit:
Let us know your thoughts @thequalityedit. Are these products worth the hype? And which others should our editors test?