College Beauty Awards: The Skincare Heroes of 2020

ICYMI, college women and their particularly glowy visages are serious about skincare. They love to wax poetic about the toner that banished adult acne, and the best mask for TLC after a tough week. (Actually, if you’re here to tell us that your skincare routine still consists of water and body lotion, we need to have a talk.)

It’s only natural that we kick off the fall semester with a massive roundup of our students’ favorite products from the past year, re: our much-anticipated College Beauty Awards official skincare winners. Tune in for silky eye creams, bouncy moisturizers, super fine exfoliating scrubs and all the other recs you can’t miss below.

CeraVe Hydrating Cream-to-Foam Cleanser

CeraVe, cerave.com, $14.99; shop now

This cream-to-foam cleanser will add a little excitement to your beauty routine. The rich cream transforms into a lathering foam and removes dirt, sweat, makeup and oil — all while maintaining skin’s natural moisture. How did dermatologists help to develop one cleanser that can work all this magic? Well, it features three essential ceramides to help restore and maintain the skin’s natural barrier, plus hyaluronic acid to attract hydration to the skin’s surface.

Superfood Antioxidant Cleanser

Youth to the People, sephora.com, $36; shop now

Kale, spinach and green tea are skincare now. (Which, tbh, is a more desirable way to get in your daily dose of greens.) It’s all these unique ingredients that somehow make for such a wonderful cleanser, one that expertly dissolves makeup and other buildup, and supports your skin’s overall health.  

Papaya Sorbet Smoothing Enzyme Cleansing Balm

Glow Recipe, sephora.com, $32; shop now

Has there ever been a more enticing product description than “papaya sorbet”? While it’s less dessert and more powerhouse skincare, this cleansing balm is irresistible indeed. It melts away thick mascara and greasy sunscreen, removing the most hard-to-dissolve parts of your makeup. And if you’re a double-cleansing aficionado, just follow-up with your fave water-based cleanser to feel truly ~renewed~.

Rose Quartz + Charcoal Gentle Pore Refining Scrub

Bioré, walmart.com, $7; shop now

In addition to a gentle gel or foam cleanser, you want to be using a physical scrub to help exfoliate and unearth soft, bright skin. But the ingredients! That’s what we really love about this guy. Charcoal does the most to lift impurities out of your pores, and the rose quartz crystals minimize the look of them.

Vitamin Micellar Wipes

Pond's, walmart.com, $5; shop now

Word on the street is that these micellar wipes are a game-changer. We already fangirled micellar water before — and now it’s packed into an easy-to-use wipe? Your crusty, end-of-day makeup (even the waterproof stuff) is not ready for this cleansing power.

Hyaluronic Acid 2% + B5

The Ordinary, sephora.com, $7; shop now

In the name of simple things that make you feel good, we can’t get enough of this affordable and results-focused acid. It’s friendly to all skin types, and it gives elevated hydration without ever feeling thick — actually, it’s as if you’re just pressing water directly into your face. One student swears this is her secret weapon on airplanes. You’re welcome for the tip.

Glass Skin Refining Serum

Peach & Lily, ulta.com, $39; shop now

If you’re anything like us, all the extra inside time this year has left skin feeling gray and fatigued. To combat this general dullness, it’s super important to start incorporating products with ingredients like niacinamide and hyaluronic acid into your routine. Luckily, this little bottle has all the essential ingredients — plus, way more K-beauty staples — to keep your skin's appearance healthy.  

Ultra Repair Cream Intense Hydration

First Aid Beauty, sephora.com, $34; shop now

While this moisturizer is great for everyday use, we mainly here to highlight its potent impact on eczema, irritation and other skin conditions. If you have dry and distressed skin, then brace yourself for this heavyweight dose of healing hydration. Bonus fun fact: FAB is using a portion of the sales of this cream to help pay off student loans, so when you buy a tub, you’re helping other college kiddos live debt free!

Complete Daily Moisturizer for Sensitive Skin

Olay, walmart.com, $8; shop now

Those of us in the sensitive skin club need a daily moisturizer that checks off key care factors: hydration and sun protection, minus the fragrance. Well, Olay is doing the lord’s work with this formula, one so good you’ll want to use it in your twenties — and forever and ever after that.

Ultra Facial Cream

Kiehl's, sephora.com, $32; shop now

In need of a lightweight everyday moisturizer? You’ll be riding the Ultra Facial Cream train soon enough. It’s moisturizing and almost fluffy. But it also has a barely-there feel for gorgeous bare skin. Potato, patato — you’re gonna love it no matter what.

100% Organic Cold-Pressed Rose Hip Seed Oil

The Ordinary, sephora.com, $10; shop now

Dewy skin. In this economy? Yeah. We love to see it. Rosehip is an essential ingredient because it targets a bunch of issues — dryness, acne, dull complexion, you name it — for a budget-friendly price. Simply rub in two drops of this oil after you apply moisturizer, go to sleep, and wake up with skin that’s damn near perfect.

Ginzing Refreshing Eye Cream

Origins, sephora.com, $32; shop now

This eye cream will turn you into your best *and* worst self. Best in the sense that your under-eyes look flawless, worst in the sense that you’ll never be able to tolerate the sight of a single dark circle again. Most eye creams are in the “hydration” category, while this one sits solidly in the “get rid of ghastly undereye shadows forever” category.

Creamy Eye Treatment with Avocado

Kiehl's, sephora.com, $32; shop now

Someone say “avocado skincare”? Oh, yeah. Kiehl’s did. Treat your eye bags to this luxury cream that saturates deep into that thin crepey skin for a much brighter appearance. Even better, use this as a primer to help grip concealer and foundation on an area where it's typically hard to hold coverage. 

Vitamin B3 Niacinamide Brightening Face Mask

Neutrogena, walmart.com, $6; shop now

No time for your full morning routine? Skip the 10 steps and give your skin some extra zhuzh with this quick brightening treatment instead. The hydrogel mask (one glorious step up from a sheet mask), soaks your skin in serum for about ~15 minutes, so you can get glowing hands-free.

Refreshing Oat Face Mask with Cucumber & Seaweed

Aveeno, cvs.com, $12; shop now

We’re not here to tell you what to do, but if you want to be told what to do, we recommend pouring yourself a cup of tea, putting on your coziest robe, and lazing around in this extra hydrating mask. It refreshes exhausted skin (and your overall exhausted self) for a true moment of TLC.

Papaya Bright Face Mask

Golde, golde.co, $32; shop now

Golde really did that for us when it introduced a mask made entirely of superfoods. (Would like to eat, but will settle for using as skincare.) Beyond smelling like a tropical vacation, the fun thing about this formula is that it’s powder-to-gel, so you get to mix it up on your own. This gives you a ton of control over how much or how little to use; you can either do a full face or a multi-masking treatment.

Green Tea Wonder Clarifying Overnight Gel Mask

Bliss, walmart.com, $21; shop now

Meet the magical mask the absorbs oil out of your skin while you sleep. The secret ingredient is azelaic acid which sloughs off dead skin cells, so you can wake up wearing a pore-less, clear glow without ever lifting a finger. The power that this has!

Skin Perfecting 2% BHA Liquid Exfoliant

Paula's Choice, dermstore.com, $30; shop now

Exfoliating every day, wbu? This essential acid tackles all sorts of complexion issues, including blemishes, redness and large pores. It also protects your skin against “free radical damage,” which is just a fancy way to say it keeps the damage from air pollution and UV radiation at bay — especially helpful if you spend a lot of time commuting or walking around your city.

Drink Up Intensive Overnight Hydrating Mask with Avocado & Swiss Glacier Water

Origins, sephora.com, $26; shop now

This mask does it all, and by “it all” we mean drenching skin in hydration and recharging your face while you sleep. It’s so powerful that you only need to use it twice a week. The hydration will last about 72 hours, so it’s perf for students who prefer a hands-off skincare routine.

Baggage Claim Eye Masks

Wander Beauty, sephora.com, $25; shop now

Eye masks are the new black. Get it? They’re just the moment. These gold foil eye masks in particular are 1) cute as hell and 2) seriously effective at brightening dark circles and hydrating tired bags. (They also feel good after a hard cry, throwing that out there for fun.)

Lip Sleeping Mask

Laneige, sephora.com, $22; shop now

For us, there’s nothing chicer than overly glossed lips. The Laneige Lip Sleeping mask is a cult favorite at this point for its thicker, creamier lip balm feel, but every day we’re still discovering new ways to use it besides just as an overnight lip treatment. May we suggest applying it under a matte lipstick to combat flakiness or wearing it as a gloss for a plump look?

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