Most Innovative Beauty & Skin CareProducts

Every year since 2014, we've celebrated the most beloved K-beauty products known for making a meaningful difference in your skin care routines. These brands are winners because they have proven to be innovative and challenge the skin care industry.

This year, we took the criteria to a new level by turning to a particularly esteemed panel of industry experts - you, our community. You voted for your favorites in 10 categories from Best Vegan Beauty to your most trusted Holy Grail to your favorite Newcomer and told us how these products have transformed your skin and your routines.

We couldn't be more excited to announce them as our 2021 Best Of K-Beauty® Award Winners.

19 luxurious beauty products worth buying in 2022

Whether we’re covering expert-recommended beauty tools under $25 or the best foundations under $20, we’re no strangers to the fact that high-quality beauty doesn’t always have to break the bank.

That being said, sometimes a little splurge can make a world of a difference. “Affordable drugstore makeup can be really amazing,” shares London-based makeup artist Jenny Coombs. “But I would definitely invest in high-quality foundations and concealers, considering they’re applied to your entire face.”

Mia Jones, a makeup artist based in New York who’s worked with celebs like Gigi Hadid and Mariah Carey, echoes that sentiment. “Skin care and complexion products are always worth the splurge,” she says. “What you use every day and what comes into direct contact with your skin should be as quality as possible.”

Whether you’re looking to treat yourself to a game-changing skin care tool, gift someone a truly luxurious makeup item or invest in skin care made from only the best ingredients, we’ve rounded up 19 splurge-worthy beauty and skin care goodies for you to choose from. All of these have been recommended by makeup artists, hairstylists and “skinfluencers,” or they’ve been researched and tested by us.

$339 at Amazon and NuFace

“I love getting microcurrent facials like the one at the Joanna Vargas salon,” shares Molly Greenwald, an LA-based makeup artist. She recommends using a handheld device at home to achieve similar results. “They really work in lifting and filling the facial muscles and skin instantly as well as cumulatively over time.”

Greenwald specifically calls out the NuFace Trinity Facial Trainer Device, a microcurrent treatment device that helps to rejuvenate your skin. For a little background on how this actually works, our body’s natural current starts to slow as we age, which leads to many skin concerns associated with aging, like sagging and wrinkles. The microcurrents in this device mimic the natural current of our bodies, which when activated work to tone facial muscles, resulting in bouncier, firmer skin.

Dr. Barbara Sturm Hyaluronic Serum Sephora

This hyaluronic acid from Barbara Sturm is our beauty editor Sophie Shaw’s absolute favorite beauty splurge. “This hyaluronic acid serum is a staple in my skin care routine,” she says. “It is intensely hydrating yet lightweight. When I feel like my skin is being stressed out by other products I’m testing, I’ll simplify my routine to rebalance my skin and just use this and a moisturizer, and I’ll be back to normal within a couple of days.”

$141 at Dermstore

iS Clinical Active Serum Dermstore

“I don’t know a person that has tried it that isn’t in love with this multibeneficial serum,” shares Greenwald. “It helps with wrinkles, acne and the appearance of pores while also soothing and evening the skin tone.”

While many serums boast specific ingredients that help with specific skin concerns like dullness, acne or dryness, this one is a self-proclaimed “multitasking face serum” with benefits that range from anti-aging to brightening and even acne prevention.

From $85 at Sephora

Sunday Riley Good Genes Lactic Acid Treatment Sephora

This lactic acid treatment from Sunday Riley is a fan favorite and Underscored editor favorite, particularly when it comes to plumping and brightening. Lactic acid is one of the most hydrating alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs), which just means that in addition to exfoliating your skin to reveal a smoother complexion (fighting dead skin cells that lead to a range of skin concerns like bumps, dullness and acne), the active ingredient also moisturizes your skin, keeping it luminous and bouncy.

The addition of licorice as an ingredient (and its associated brightening properties) can enhance your skin’s radiance and lead to the reduction of spots and discoloration, something reviewers love about this treatment. One reviewer writes that “active exfoliants have been dismal because most of them irritate my sensitive skin. Good Genes has turned that all around! It hydrates and gently exfoliates without irritating.”

$75 at Sephora and Nordstrom

La Mer The Lip Balm Sephora

You’re probably thinking what we’re thinking — a lip balm that costs $75? That can’t be serious. But if you’re familiar with the luxury skin care brand La Mer, the price tag may come as less of a surprise. This mint-scented and velvety soft lip balm calms and conditions your lips while supporting their natural moisture barrier and helping to protect against environmental damage.

It’s free of sulfates, parabens and tons of other less than ideal ingredients, and it boasts La Mer’s signature Miracle Broth — a formulation that aims to help restore your skin to its healthiest and most radiant form.

Reviewers acknowledge the steep price tag but are convinced that despite the cost, it’s worth every penny. One person writes that they have “tried every form of lip moisturizer on the planet, and this blows everything else out of the water.”

$70 at Sephora and Amazon

Tatcha Violet-C Radiance Mask Sephora

Tatcha is known for creating some of the most effective skin care on the market, and this creamy vitamin C mask is no exception. Mireya Rios, an actress and content creator with over 3.8 million followers on TikTok, where she shares the best of beauty, credits this mask for keeping her skin glowing, noting its luxurious texture and super-hydrating benefits.

Formulation-wise, it’s packed with rich, high-quality ingredients, from two different types of vitamin C to an AHA complex derived from seven different fruit extracts, and the brand’s signature Hadasei-3 Complex, a proprietary blend of “double-fermented Uji green tea, Akita rice and Mozuku algae.” All of this works together, resulting in a mask that leaves your skin instantly softer, smoother and more radiant. There are also some more long-term effects — the vitamin C helps to prevent signs of aging, while the AHA complex works to improve overall skin texture over time.

From $44 at Sephora

Gisou Honey-Infused Hair Perfume Sephora

A hair perfume may not be in everyone’s beauty rotation, but this option might just convince you that it should be. “This honey-infused perfume is ethically sourced,” shares Sabrina Yamani Yamga, an award-winning hairstylist based in Chicago, and draws on ingredients from Gisou founder Negin Mirsalehi’s father’s bee gardens. “The combination of minerals, vitamins and antioxidants assist in maintaining your hair’s moisture while also leaving behind a beautiful floral scent.”

Simply spray on your hair after styling for a summer-perfect scent that will linger throughout the day, and of course provide your hair with those benefits Yamga mentions. Just be sure to use a light hand, since a little goes a long way.

$75 at Nordstrom

Clé de Peau Beauté Concealer SPF 27 Nordstrom

“This tiny little stick is really all you need in a pinch when it comes to complexion,” shares Greenwald. “The high-quality pigments cover and smooth even the most challenging areas and can be buffed out on the entirety of the skin for a soft focus foundation.”

And she acknowledges that while it’s a big price for what seems like a really small product, anyone who has tried it would attest that it’s well worth its price. Not only do reviewers love the full coverage effect of this concealer, they also love how moisturizing it is. Concealers are notorious for looking cakey or emphasizing dryness, especially throughout the day — but not this product. Because a little goes a long way, the small amount actually lasts quite a while (one reviewer notes up to a year). And the formulation includes SPF 25, which is always a big bonus in our book.

From $29 at Nordstrom and Sephora

Kiehl's Midnight Recovery Concentrate Face Oil Sephora

“I use this lightweight oil at night,” shares Rios, “and wake up with my skin looking fresh and dewy.” The Kiehl’s Midnight Recovery Concentrate Face Oil is one of our all-time favorite skin care products as well, because it’s so simple yet so effective. With ingredients like lavender essential oil and evening primrose oil, the formula works to restore your skin overnight so you wake up with visibly brighter, radiant and, of course, moisturized skin.

If you’re wondering how that actually works, it turns out our skin actually repairs itself while we sleep. Targeting our skin with a beneficial, high-quality oil like this one while it’s already going through those natural restorative functions only helps it along that process.

$599.99 at Dyson and Sephora

Dyson Airwrap Complete Styler Dyson

Yamga is a big fan of the Dyson Airwrap, which we’ve reviewed in its entirety here. “This little device comes with so many attachments that work fast,” she shares, “and uses intelligent heat control technology to give you that salon blowout look without having to leave home.”

While the price tag is high, this product truly performs in a way that no other product on the market does. To start, you’re not styling your hair with the same type of heat as a standard iron or hair dryer, which means that you’re doing way less damage to your hair. The other noteworthy feature, and something that Yamga calls out, is the number and variety of attachments. This product isn’t just a fancy hair curler — it comes with two different sized curling barrels, three different brushes for that easy blowout look and a prestyling dryer, an attachment that achieves a similar result to that of the equally if not more popular Dyson Supersonic.

If you consider the price of all those products combined, the cost of this one product seems a bit less daunting. In addition to all those features, the Dyson Airwrap is just a joy to use — you don’t have to worry about burning your fingers, it’s much lighter than other hair dryers and stylist tools, and the process of doing your hair is just way more comfortable overall.

$87 at Nordstrom

Trish McEvoy Beauty Balm Instant Solutions BB Cream SPF 35 Nordstrom

We’re big fans of an all-in-one product, and this BB cream from Trish McEvoy does it all. It primes your skin, evens out its tone and simultaneously hydrates your skin while controlling oil. Like many luxury makeup products, the skin care benefits of this product are built in — peptides in the formulation help to improve your skin’s texture, while SPF coverage helps to prevent skin damage and aging caused by UVA and UVB rays.

Unlike other similar creams, this option provides much more coverage than a tinted moisturizer, and it’s definitely buildable for anywhere from a medium to full coverage.

$60 at Dermstore

By Terry Baume de Rose Lip Care Dermstore

“I’ve been using this for years,” shares Rios. “It’s expensive, but it keeps my lips hydrated, and it smells amazing too.”

This rich lip balm features a suite of nourishing and reparative ingredients, from essential rose wax, which works to soothe and restructure your lips, to floral oils that help nourish and moisturize them, to bio-ceramides, which smooth the skin while providing anti-aging benefits. While it’s perfect as an everyday lip balm, its formulation is also aimed at helping your lips bounce back from periods of dryness or damage.

$215 at Dermstore

Luzern Laboratories Serum Absolut V15 Dermstore

“Vitamin C is an integral part of skin care,” shares Jones. “It reverses sun damage, brightens [and] reduces pigmentation.”

She recommends this serum specifically, which features pure vitamin C in addition to a ton of other vitamins and minerals, including vitamins E, A, B3, B12 and D3. Marketed as a multivitamin serum, the blend of goodies in this serum helps to address a whole range of skin goals, from assisting in the production of collagen to reducing inflammation and improving skin elasticity.

“It is so worth the splurge,” Jones raves, calling it “a miracle product.”

$169 at Dermstore

Skinceuticals C E Ferulic With 15% L-Ascorbic Acid Dermstore

It can be tough when a life-changing product is a pricey one. This vitamin C serum boasts a combination of its namesake ingredient, in addition to vitamin E and ferulic acid, which specifically enhances your skin’s protection against environmental damage that can cause skin damage and aging — whether UVA/UVB rays, ozone pollution or diesel engine exhaust.

In addition to that protection, you’ll reap all the other benefits that come with a high-quality serum formulated with prime ingredients, like firmer, brighter and more even skin. It’s been called “life-changing” by one of our editors, who’s grappling with the fact that this serum is totally worth its high price tag.

$105 at Tatcha

Tatcha The Essence Tatcha

While essences are massively popular in other parts of the world, they’re still not as common in American skin care routines. But if you’ve ever heard of one, it was probably this option from Tatcha. Made from 100% Hadasei-3 — the brand’s proprietary trio of Japanese superfoods — this product is all skin care goodness and nothing else.

Simply splash a bit of the product into your palms and gently press it into your skin. The formulation helps to prep your skin for all steps of your skin care routine while boosting your skin’s own bounciness, texture and radiance.

$89 at Nordstrom

Tom Ford Eye Color Quad Eye Shadow Palette Nordstrom

Jones calls these eye shadow palettes her favorite splurge. “The presentation of the quad and pigment in the powders are just stunning,” she shares. There are tons of different color and finish combinations to choose from — it’s admittedly hard to choose just one. However, Jones shares that she absolutely loves every palette, so whichever one you decide on is sure to be a great choice.

While people love the matte shades, reviewers go wild for the super-sophisticated, luxurious-looking and eye-catching shimmery shades. Apply them dry for a softer look, or wet for maximum impact — just be prepared for people to ask you about what you’re wearing.

$65 at Amazon

Beautyblender The Crown Jewels Blender Essentials Kit Amazon

“Beautyblender is the holy grail of makeup sponges and so worth the price,” shares Jones.

While you may be familiar with the standard-size Beautyblender sponge, Jones is also a fan of the different sizes the brand offers for different parts of your face. The smaller sponge in particular is really perfect for blending product into smaller crevices of your face, like along your hairline or on your nose. It can also be used to precisely apply cream or liquid highlighter or blush.

One piece of advice Jones shares is to keep them clean for optimal performance. Fortunately, this kit also comes with mini cleansers.

$68 at Sephora

Westman Atelier Vital Skin Foundation Stick Sephora

“I love this multitasking foundation,” shares Coombs. “It’s super easy to apply and build — with a brush, sponge or your fingertips — and works great as a blemish and under-eye concealer.”

This foundation stick from Westman Atelier is super luxurious. The container is heavy, the magnetic cap is amazing and the whole thing just feels expensive. Probably not enough reason to buy the product, but when paired with a high-quality foundation, it’s the cherry on top.

“The silicone-free formula contains many skin-friendly ingredients to hydrate and soothe,” Coombs says. The result is a “luminous, natural finish” that falls in the medium coverage range. However, it’s super buildable and great for targeting any troublesome spots.

$195 at Nordstrom

Vintner's Daughter Active Botanical Serum Nordstrom

If you’re sensing a theme here, it’s that serums are often totally worth a splurge. This option from Vintner’s Daughter boasts a stunning blend of 22 natural, multiperforming ingredients that balance, nourish, protect and revitalize all different skin types.

“The oil texture smells incredible, absorbs into the skin beautifully and is a great base under makeup,” shares Coombs. The core of the formulation is the brand’s “proprietary Phyto Radiance Infusion,” a 21-day process in which the nutrients from whole plants are infused into the serum’s formula, at which point additional and essential oils are added.

If it sounds a little bit like witchcraft to you, it does to us too. But the result isn’t just an incredible facial serum — it’s also one with responsibly sourced and highly sustainable ingredients.

Skincare 101: The Basics

This is the first in an ongoing series on caring for your skin.

The skincare section of any store can seem overwhelming – from what kind of cleanser to use to which is serum is right to address your skin concern. We asked Kim Chang, licensed aesthetician with the Aesthetics Studio at Baylor Medicine, for tips on how to create a simple skincare routine, what items should you add in and more.

Q: What makes up a simple skincare routine?

A: The basic three: cleanse, moisturize and protect with sunscreen. It’s super simple but gets the job done. In the morning, cleanse your skin to start the day then put on a moisturizing sunscreen. At night, cleanse your skin again to remove any residual makeup and sweat from the day then finish with a moisturizer. That’s only two products in the morning, and two products at night. Simple!

Q: What is something you would recommend adding to your routine?

A: Depending on your goal, such as reducing dark spots or acne flare-ups, adding an exfoliator at least three times a week to your regimen would be beneficial. Exfoliators with lactic acid, glycolic acid or even Retin-A are great. Different from just cleansing and protecting, exfoliating will cause actual change in your skin. I would also recommend a vitamin C serum, which is an antioxidant that helps prevent damage from free radicals in the skin that can cause premature aging. Before starting something new, take an unfiltered photo outside in natural light. Then take another picture three months later in the same location and lighting to see if the products are working for your skin.

Q: Are there certain products you should use depending on the time of day?

A: Everyone should be wearing sunscreen during the day, and some people who work at night, such as nurses, may even want to consider it to protect themselves from blue light in their workplace. Acids like lactic, glycolic and Retin-A should be reserved for nighttime use as they can cause skin sensitivity when exposed to the sun. Using vitamin C serum during the day is most beneficial. Remember, we’re using vitamin C serum to neutralize from free radicals that sun, ultraviolet rays and air pollution can trigger.

Q: You see many people online touting multistep skincare routines. Will that same routine work for my skin?

A: There’s really no “one-size fits all” routine. We all have our own specific skincare goals, and your routine should be customized to meet those goals.

Q: Can you give us a rundown of your own skincare regimen?

A: It changes, but right now due to weather and some breakouts, this is what I’m doing:



Vitamin C serum

Stem cell serum

Hyaluronic acid (HA) serum for specific areas

Eye cream over the whole eye – under and over

Spot treat with salicylic acid over some breakouts

Gel moisturizer

Tinted SPF


Double cleanse


Nighttime antioxidant with resveratrol

Stem cell serum

HA serum

Eye cream

Neck cream


I also exfoliate 3-4 times a week at night and use a mask after exfoliating before enjoying the rest of my skincare routine.

Q: If you can do nothing else, what is the one step you should do every day for your skin?

A: Cleanse your skin! Even if you didn’t wear makeup or go to the gym, your skin is still secreting oils that can grab bacteria from hands or pollutants in the air.

Additional Resources

Learn more about the Aesthetics Studio at Baylor Medicine. To schedule an appointment, email Kim Chang.

-By Anna Kiappes

Maryan Barbara
Maryan Barbara

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