A little disclaimer before we get started: Despite the fact that my job involves testing hundreds of beauty products each year to decipher which ones are genuinely good and which are a case of the emperor’s new clothes, I am still not immune to the buzz surrounding a trending beauty product. In fact, one of the biggest joys of my job is getting to test out the most talked-about new beauty launches—you know, the ones that are currently saturating your Instagram feed—to find out whether they actually work. However, while there are plenty of beauty products that are, undoubtedly, worth the hype (Drunk Elephant’s T.L.C. Sukari Babyfacial, I’m looking at you), there are plenty more instances when a new release turns out to be a whole lot of nice packaging and not much else.
If you ask any dermatologist which buzzy beauty products you should be incorporating into your skincare routine, they’ll be pretty unanimous in their response—forget them. Instead, there are a whole host of basic products that skin experts consistently recommend for healthy skin. Yes, they might seem a little boring in comparison to the glittery face masks and colourful under-eye patches dominating your TikTok feed, but trust me. These products always work.
Ahead, I've rounded up the 18 skincare products that dermatologists always recommend to me when I ask for their expert tips. We're focusing on the three key products that you need for healthy skin—cleanser, moisturiser, and SPF—as your active ingredients and fancy serums can be layered in once you've got the fundamentals in place. To make things a little easier, I've separated each product into sensitive, normal-to-dry, and combination-to-oily categories so you can find what works for you. Keep scrolling for the best basic skincare shopping list. (Your skin can thank me later.)
Turns out, a lot of recommendations on this list will come courtesy of French skincare brands like La Roche-Posay because those across the Channel excel in hard-working, pharmacy-led products. When experiencing any skin issues, dermatologists always recommend that you go right back to basics with your products, and this cleanser fits the bill. Containing just a few ingredients, it gently cleanses and removes makeup without causing discomfort or dryness.
It might not look particularly exciting, but this is the cleanser that I am most consistently recommended by dermatologists. It's totally free from soap and fragrance—two common skin irritants—and it works to match your skin's natural pH level to keep it healthy and calm.
A deeply hydrating cleanser is a great option, and this one contains a combination of ceramides and hyaluronic acid to leave skin soothed and protected.
This gently foaming cleanser contains apricot kernel oil and vitamin E to moisturise and soften the skin.
We live in a world where everyone wants glowy skin, and as such, gel cleansers are often dismissed as being too mattifying or stripping for the skin. However, as an oily-skinned person, I can personally attest to the fact that every single time I've visited a dermatologist they have always recommended that I use a gel formulation to cleanse. This one from French brand Avène leaves skin purified without feeling stripped.
This gel cleanser gently exfoliates the skin while cleansing—ideal for those with oilier skin types who want to encourage skin cell turnover and prevent congestion and blocked pores.
This basic daily moisturiser is gentle and actually helps to reduce skin sensitivity over time and with continued use.
Dermatologists consistently recommend this moisturiser for occasions when your skin barrier might have been compromised. I personally reach for this when I've been overusing exfoliating treatments and acids, as it's so soothing.
This hydration-rich moisturiser is like a glass of water for dry skin. It locks in hydration without any hint of greasiness and is loved by derms and beauty editors alike.
We often look to France for our basic skincare products, but Neutrogena is an overlooked brand that dermatologists recommend if you're seeking budget-friendly products. This moisturiser has a lovely, lightweight texture that keeps skin quenched throughout the day.
Paula's Choice is a brand often recommended by dermatologists for its active ingredients, but this lightweight moisturising fluid contains vitamin-rich plant extracts to gently hydrate oilier complexions without clogging pores.
A couple of years ago, I was prescribed a retinoid treatment for my acne, and the dermatologist recommended that I use this moisturiser alongside it. It's specially designed to offset any imbalances that your skin might experience short-term from harsher skin treatments like retinoids or Roaccutane.
Not only is this SPF created especially for sensitive skin, but it also contains microencapsulated pigments that release on application to add a little glow to your complexion.
Science-led brand SkinCeuticals is loved by dermatologists, and this high broad-spectrum SPF is a brilliant option for all skin types.
Skip a step and use this basic product as your moisturiser and SPF.
I'm guilty of skipping SPF for many years due to traditional formulations clogging my pores and exacerbating breakouts. A dermatologist recommended me this oil-control version a few years ago, and I've never looked back.
This SPF is so lightweight in texture that you won't even realise you have any on. I love it for layering beneath makeup.