We talk a lot about the beauty products recommended by our editors and by celebrities because it’s important to know whether or not the products you’re testing (likely on your face) are actually worth the hype. Who wants to order a $100 cream before they know how to use it, what the texture is like, or how often it should be applied? But there’s something to be said about skincare products loved by the experts we all look to for advice: dermatologists.
After watching about a dozen TikToks about drugstore skincare recommendations, I needed to know what the experts had to say. What are dermatologists telling their patients to pick up when they head to the drugstore? We scoped out the long list of skincare products available at CVS to find which ones were actually worth the price, according to doctors.
If you can’t make it to a dermatologist or are afraid to try tretinoin, Differin is the next best thing. It’s an adapalene gel, meaning it’s a gentler, over-the-counter alternative to tretinoin and is known as one of the best ways to treat acne without seeing a doctor. Dr. Fatima Fahs, board-certified dermatologist in Michigan and creator of the Dermy Doc Box, said this gel is great for comedonal acne, the small bumps you might get on your forehead or chin that never seem to go away.
Regardless of your skin type, incorporating vitamin C into your skincare routine should be high on your priority list, and this one from Neutrogena (a brand loved by dermatologists for their effective, tested, and inexpensive products) rivals high-end formulas without the price tag. These come in capsules that you break open and apply to your skin, resulting in a smooth, bright, clear complexion in just a few uses.
There’s a reason you can’t get out of a dermatologist’s office without hearing someone utter the words “gentle cleanser.” Especially when you’re using actives like retinol and AHAs, opting for a gentle, basic cleanser like this loved one from Cetaphil ensures you don’t over-exfoliate your skin. “It hydrates while cleansing the skin and also strengthens the skin’s moisture barrier. I like that it is fragrance-free, hypoallergenic, and does not clog your pores,” said Dr. Marina Peredo, a board-certified dermatologist in New York.
When you need a good facial moisturizer, you can always count on CeraVe. This moisturizing cream is thick without feeling heavy, so it’s great for many skin types, but especially great for dry and very dry skin. Dermatologists recommend using this with retinol to keep your skin hydrated and plump.
Finding a sunscreen for dark and deep skin tones at the drugstore can be a struggle, but this tinted one from La Roche-Posay ranks quite high. It’s a mineral formula, so you don’t have to worry if you have acne-prone or sensitive skin, and the extra tint adds a physical protection against UVA/UVB rays. It has a matte finish that doesn’t disturb anything else you put on your face, so it’s ideal for long days when you know you’ll need to reapply.
Classic Aquaphor is one of the best products to have in your arsenal if you deal with dry skin, eczema, rosacea, and other skin conditions that make you feel itchy and irritated. You can use it on your lips, elbows, heels, knees, cuts, scrapes, and even on your face as a highlighter. “Aquaphor’s Healing Ointment is ideal for those who suffer from dry, cracked skin,” Dr. Peredo said. “It helps restore the skin to be smooth and healthy.”
If you’re on the hunt for a moisturizing body cream with some exfoliating ingredients, look no further. This one contains lactic acid to gently exfoliate away dead skin and leave your skin feeling soft and smooth. “I love this for keratosis pilaris (chicken skin) on the arms, rough elbows, knees, and heels,” Dr. Fahs said.
If you bring home samples from your dermatologist, you can bet some Aveeno moisturizers will be in there. Dermatologists swear by the minimal ingredient list and love that the product is fragrance-free and non-comedogenic. It’s also light and not greasy. Apply it after you shower when your skin is still damp for soft skin that doesn’t feel sticky.
According to Dr. Fahs, “this is one of the strongest over-the-counter eye creams formulated with retinol and a great addition to a routine looking to target fine lines and discoloration under the eyes.”
“This is the most underrated drugstore brand that truly has amazing products all around,” Dr. Fahs said. “Their gentle facial cleanser is one of my favorite nighttime cleansers. Simple, effective, and won’t leave your skin super dry.”