Like fashion, beauty has its own separate cool club of statement pieces—the iconic, famous, celeb-, esthetician-, dermatologist-, editor-, makeup artist–loved products virtually everyone has tried, promptly purchased, and consistently restocked. Regardless of how many new launches we see and test every year (believe us, that number is in the hundreds), there are certain products that will forever live in infamy—formulas that are so good they simply can't be beaten. "Cult classics," "holy grail," "sent from heaven's beauty gods"—whatever you want to call them, they exist, and they're the statement-making investment pieces every beauty and fashion girl covets to outfit and accessorize their beauty wardrobe.
As we continue to build out Who What Wear Beauty, it was obvious we needed to dedicate an in-depth ode to the market's most-wanted and beloved beauty picks shoppers consistently scramble to get their hands on. So here lies our user-friendly formula: 28 showstopping, complexion-minded masterpieces we think you should most definitely try (and own) in your lifetime, broken down by cost per wear. Most products will last you around three months, so we'll divide the price by 90, noting any exceptions to the rule.
Yes, some of these are pretty splurge-worthy, but the cost-per-wear angle serves as a reminder that many of these formulas will last you a long, long time, and when used on the regular, that initial sticker shock totally pays off—literally. That said, some of our favorite holy-grail skincare products are a total steal and come in under $10. Either way, these 28 formulas are the dime-piece skincare products that play a starring role in the most elite of skincare routines. Excited? Same. Ahead, 28 holy-grail skincare products to instantly lend an edge to your skin game. Keep scrolling!
PS: Several of the skincare items in this story are part of Dermstore's 20th Anniversary Sale, which the retailer is celebrating with a site relaunch and up to 25% off going on now through August 25. Happy shopping!
1. Biologique Recherche Lotion P50
Warning: This famous French toner smells like garbage. But, it's totally supposed to and it's actually part of the formula's magic. It's impressively expensive for a toner and very limited in distribution within the United States, but both celebrities and beauty editors have sworn to its skin-transforming prowess. That said, if you have sensitive skin, this exfoliating bottle of dynamite might be a bit too intense.
The cost breakdown: $230 ÷ 90 wears (three months, just at night) = $2.56 per wear
Note: Prices for this product are available as noted on Rescue Spa.
2. La Mer Crème de la Mer
If you're going to own one amazing face cream in your life, let this iconic pot do the honors. It contains the brand's signature ingredient, Miracle Broth, which smooths, plumps, and calms every skin type.
The cost breakdown: $335 ÷ 180 wears (three months, morning and night) = $1.86 per wear
Name a more iconic cleanser. We'll wait. Cheekiness aside, this botanical-infused multitasking cleanser is probably the most famous (and well-loved by editors) money can buy. If a formula that simultaneously decongests, exfoliates, tones, soothes, and purges away impurities and makeup sounds tempting, we recommend the dive.
The cost breakdown: $108 ÷ 90 wears (three months, just at night) = $1.20 per wear
4. Shani Darden Texture Reform Gentle Resurfacing Serum
A staple in too many celebrity skincare routines to count, this retinol was formulated by the A-list esthetician to present a milder gateway to the world of retinol. (Its sister is the equally popular Retinol Reform.) Used nightly, this serum improves uneven texture and dullness so you're left with a brighter glow over time.
The cost breakdown: $95 ÷ 90 wears (three months, just at night) = $1.06 per wear
5. Vintner's Daughter Active Botanical Serum
The one and only product from the brand (breaking news, there's actually an exciting new launch come March), this active botanical–rich serum is beloved and pressed into many a celebrity complexions. Tracee Ellis Ross is a known fan. It sells out often, so get your hands on it sooner rather than later.
The cost breakdown: $185 ÷ 180 wears (three months, morning and night) = $1.03 per wear
6. SkinCeuticals C E Ferulic
Hello, and may we introduce you to the most well-known and popular skincare staple ever? The go-to vitamin C and E serum of everyone we know, SkinCeuticals' formula adds an extra kick of ferulic acid so your skin can reap the clear and radiant halo it deserves.
The cost breakdown: $166 ÷ 90 wears (three months, just in the morning) = $1.84 per wear
7. IS Clinical Active Serum
Virtually every dermatologist, celebrity, and esthetician we chat with mentions and swears by IS Clinical. If you're looking for a starting point, this brightening, anti-aging, and anti-acne elixir is the brand's persistent best seller.
The cost breakdown: $135 ÷ 90 wears (three months, once daily) = $1.50 per wear
8. La Prairie Skin Caviar Luxe Eye Lift Cream
If you saw the price of this super-luxe eye cream and promptly fainted, we don't blame you. But it's one of the most coveted holy-grail skincare products on the market and belongs on your vanity at some point in your life. Plus, with regular use, you'll never have to sleep again. JK, you definitely should, but your previously shadowy under-eyes will never deceive you again either way.
The cost breakdown: $365 ÷ 180 wears (three months, just at night) = $2.03 per wear
9. Tatcha Luminous Dewy Skin Mist
To be honest, the jury is still out on how truly effective mists are when it comes to blessing a dehydrated complexion with some extra love and moisture. That said, the dewy fresh finish we get with this one from Tatcha is hard to dispute. Plus, the packaging is gorgeous.
The cost breakdown: $48 ÷ 180 wears (three months, twice daily or as needed) = $0.27 per wear
10. Skyn Iceland Hydro Cool Firming Eye Gels
To be totally transparent, eye masks can veer a bit gimmicky, and for the most part, we'll choose a high-quality eye cream over the idea any day. Except for these guys from Skyn Iceland. We see them all over the 'gram during award season to help de-puff celebs' eyes pre-makeup and remarkably diminish the look of lines and dark circles alike.
The cost breakdown: $24 per pack ÷ 8 pairs = $3 per wear
11. Bioderma Sensibio H20
This French drugstore staple is a favorite for a reason—it gets the job done and is a less-frightening option for your wallet, to boot. Since it's super-gentle, it's naturally a great option for those with sensitive skin and easily knocks out makeup and other debris that builds up on the skin as your day wears on.
The cost breakdown: $11 ÷ 90 wears (three months, just at night) = $0.12 per wear
12. Tata Harper Regenerating Cleanser
When it comes to clean and organic formulas, Tata Harper is one of our favorite, go-to skincare brands. And while we love everything from the green glass–encased line, we steer everyone to this three-in-one cleanser first and foremost. It plays nicely with all skin types and leaves skin balanced, detoxified, and radiant—instantly.
The cost breakdown: $84 ÷ 90 wears (three months, once daily) = $0.93 per wear
13. GlamGlow Supermud Clearing Treatment
No matter how many new and exciting launches Glamglow gifts our vanities with, when it comes to banishing blackheads and breakouts in record-breaking time, we reach for this iconic white and silver jar. It's been in our arsenal since around high school, and honestly, we'll probably use it until the day we die. (Morbid, but true.)
The cost breakdown: $20 ÷ 12 wears (three months, once weekly) = $1.67 per wear
14. SK-II Facial Treatment Essence
SK-II's signature essence has been legendary (and unchanged formula-wise) for a whopping 35 years. Yes, it's an investment, but it boasts 90% pitera—the brand's iconic bio-ingredient—to dramatically improve the texture, tone, and finish of the complexion. Alongside Biologique Recherche's iconic formula, it's the toner of all toners.
The cost breakdown: $185 ÷ 180 wears (three months, twice daily) = $1.03 per wear
15. Sunday Riley Good Genes All-In-One-Lactic Acid Treatment
Sunday Riley has its fair share of magic skincare treasures, and we're sure there's potential for feisty quarrels when it comes to determining the brand's most loved item. However, according to our personal research, this lactic acid–enriched exfoliating elixir is about as majestic as they come if you're looking for clear, sparkly skin.
The cost breakdown: $126 ÷ 90 wears (three months, just at night) = $1.40 per wear
16. Dr. Barbara Sturm Hyaluronic Serum
No skincare routine is complete without an amazing hyaluronic acid serum. It's the best for adding extra hydration to the skin, and quite simply no formula has made our skin as insanely luminous as Dr. Sturm's. (Just give your credit card a pep talk prior to purchase.)
The cost breakdown: $300 ÷ 90 wears (three months, just at night) = $3.33 per wear
17. Embryolisse Lait Creme Concentre
Skin-gifted models like Paloma Elsesser swear by this French drugstore moisturizer, which honestly feels like it could be about five times its actual price. It's infused with antioxidants and other skin-improving skin fares so your skin is left looking and feeling far more nourished post-application. Prediction: You won't ever leave home without it.
The cost breakdown: $21 ÷ 180 wears (three months, morning and night) = $0.12 per wear
18. Dr. Dennis Gross Skincare Alpha Beta Extra Strength Daily Peel
For fast and easy exfoliation (a must for clearing away inevitable gunk and debris), these handy pads from Dr. Dennis Gross Skincare are always at the top of our re-stock list. Plus, they're gentle enough to use daily.
The cost breakdown: $70 ÷ 90 wears (three months, just at night) = $0.78 per wear
19. Mario Badescu Drying Lotion
Aside from Clearasil, we'd argue there isn't a more well-known miracle worker when it comes to banishing an annoying pimple. Why didn't we go with Clearasil? Sorry, but we deem this concoction of sulfur, salicylic acid, calamine, and zinc oxide way more effective. This product will last forever (since you literally only need a dab) and since everyone gets pimples at different rates, the below breakdown is a very rough guestimation.
The cost breakdown: $17 ÷ 180 wears (six months, just at night) = $0.09 per wear
20. Aquaphor Healing Ointment
Perhaps the cheapest and most multifunctional holy-grail skincare product in the bunch, we're hard-pressed to think of a fellow friend or co-worker who doesn't keep a tube or tub of this stuff on hand. It's a drugstore favorite and can effortlessly mend cracked lips and cuticles alike.
The cost breakdown: $5 ÷ 90 wears (three months, just at night) = $0.05 per wear
21. Weleda Skin Food
This lesser-known cult classic (we realize that's kind of an oxymoron but trust us) is a true gift from the Swiss skin gods. It's rich, it's luxurious, it's budget-friendly, and quite honestly, there's nothing our skin craves more during the cold and skin-chapping months of winter. You can use it anywhere and as often as you want, so again, the cost per wear will vary a lot here.
The cost breakdown: $14 ÷ 30 wears (one month, once daily) = $0.47 per wear
22. EltaMD UV Clear Broad-Spectrum SPF 46
It's not hard to understand why this is one of the most popular sunscreen formulas in all the land—it's oil-free, lightweight, and infused with things like lactic acid and hyaluronic acid to improve your skin while it simultaneously protects it.
The cost breakdown: $35 ÷ 90 wears (three months, just in the morning) = $0.39 per wear
23. Augustinus Bader The Cream
Everyone from Victoria Beckham to Kim Kardashian West swears by this stem-cell-infused industry-changing moisturizer. As far as the holy grail club, it's the new kid on the block but has already amassed more street cred than other formulas that have been around far, far longer.
The cost breakdown: $265 ÷ 180 wears (three months, morning and night) = $1.47 per wear
24. Sisley Paris Black Rose Skin Infusion Cream
In addition to its breathtaking packaging and scent, this floral home-run from French skincare darling Sisley Paris will plump, hydrate, and brighten your face to perfection. (We know so many fellow beauty editors who are obsessed with it.)
The cost breakdown: $195 ÷ 180 wears (three months, morning and night) = $1.08 per wear
25. May Lindstrom The Blue Cocoon
This dreamy cerulean-hued balm is pretty much the stuff of fairies. The smell is intoxicatingly pretty, and we're prone to melting it into our skin everywhere and anywhere in need of some supple hydration. The magic comes from the formula's starring ingredient, blue tansy. Beware: It's addicting AF.
The cost breakdown: $180 ÷ 90 wears (three months, once daily) = $2.00 per wear
26. Charlotte Tilbury
The name doesn't lie. If your skin has been looking drab, dull, and dehydrated, this anti-aging and moisture-flooding face cream will reawaken your complexion in about two-seconds time thanks to flower and plant extracts, aplenty.
The cost breakdown: $100 ÷ 90 wears (three months, just at night) = $1.11 per wear
27. Drunk Elephant Virgin Marula Luxury Facial Oil
Drunk Elephant is another one of those brands where it's almost impossible to pick out one singular holy-grail product. People have lots of favorites and opinions, but it's the virgin marula potion of skin magic we think is the product most worth trying. If, you know, we have to choose a favorite. Plus, unlike so many face oils on the market, all skin types can use it without having to fret over potential acne or congestion. We love using it as the last step in our skincare routine for a cherry-on-top moment, but you can use it anywhere on your body—including parched strands!
The cost breakdown: $72 ÷ 90 wears (three months, just at night) = $0.80 per wear
28. Ole Henriksen Banana Bright Eye Créme
Last but not least, the one and only eye cream the masses unanimously go bananas for. Saturated in brightening vitamin C, application of this helpful little pot instantly makes you look more bright-eyed and bushy-tailed and less like a long lost member of the Cullen coven.
The cost breakdown: $38 ÷ 90 wears (three months, just in the morning) = $0.42 per wear