Beauty Awards: Our best skincare buys of the year

We warmly welcome our annual Beauty Awards that shine a light on the best products, lotions and potions money can buy. This month we celebrate all things skincare. (Diary date for next month, when magnificent makeup takes a bow) Written by Alice Ryan and Lisa Millard


WINNER: AlumierMD Eyeconic, £110,

A two-stage application, gel then cream, Eyeconic is the mother of all eyecare. Dosing skin not only with Vitamin A - from which retinol is derived - but also B3 and E, the Retinol Eye Gel boosts firmness and smooths texture and tone. AluminEye Brightening Eye Cream then gets to work on wrinkles, puffiness and dark circles, deploying everything from reparative peptides and protective antioxidants to eye-tricking ‘soft focus light reflectors’. Like all AlumierMD formulas, both gel and cream are medical grade and mean business but are pleasingly pampering to use, too. AR

Highly Commended: Inlight Eye Serum, £110, Pure Source, Bridge Street, Cambridge and

I am fast becoming evangelical about Inlight, the Cornish skincare brand which combines results-driven, active-packed formulas with being handmade and 100% organic. This light-as-a-feather eye serum is the brand’s calling card: featuring a super-concentrated fusion of antioxidant plant oils (cherry, prickly pear, argan, rose), it instantly hydrates and comforts, while also working behind the scenes to encourage elastin production over time. Staring at a screen all day leaves my eye area seriously thirsty; I pat this on at nighttime and the skin visibly plumps. It’s a gem (literally: said to promote balance, there’s a teeny ruby, sapphire and zircon at the bottom of the bottle). AR

Highly Commended: Environ Youth EssentiA Vita Peptide Eye Gel, £59,

My under-eyes were the first to go on my road to ageing. Tricky area this, as the skin is paper thin and overloading it with product can make matters worse and lead to puffiness. Environ’s formula is lightweight and easily absorbed but packed with peptides, vitamins and antioxidants to feed skin and take the edge off fine lines and wrinkles. I’d even say my under eyes look better now than when I was younger. LM


WINNER: Creature of Habit Cleansing Balm, £34, Pure Source, Bridge Street, Cambridge and

If you often have that ‘tight face’ feeling post-cleanse, this Creature of Habit balm is a game-changer: containing safflower oil to hydrate, squalane to soften and glycerine to lock in moisture, it cossets skin as well as leaving it squeaky. Though it’s gentle on skin, it removes muck and dissolves make-up - even longwear liner and mascara - like a boss. A textured balm that turns to oil (on application) then milk (when you add water), it’s also lovely to use. AR

Highly Commended: Evolve Kalahari Dream Cleansing Oil, £20,

Another cleanser which cares for skin while it cleans - thanks to ingredients high in antioxidants, fatty acids and Vitamin E, selected for their combined abilities to boost moisture levels, cell regeneration and barrier repair - this oil feels gorgeous on the skin (rich without being greasy) and efficiently removes any and all makeup (a splash of warm water turns it into a lovely lather). Handmade in small batches in Evolve’s wind-powered Hertfordshire studio, it’s natural and organic. And did I mention that it smells like a sweetie shop, too? Fruity, nostalgic, scrumptious. AR

Highly Commended: The Inkey List Oat Cleansing Balm, £9.99, Boots stores and

Luxurious to use at a worth-a-try price, this oat-rich cleanser melts on contact to lift make-up (including the eyes – hurrah) without stripping skin. Oats have a calming effect, so this formula is good for sensitive skin too and the oily balm is super-moisturising. I sometimes use this as a face mask, enjoying a soak in the bath, and simply remove with warm water. It’s vegan too btw. LM

Face Mask

WINNER: Tata Harper Superkind Radiance Mask, £57, Pure Source, Bridge Street, Cambridge and

If you’ve only got the time/patience/pennies to slot a single mask into your skincare routine, Tata Harper’s Radiance Mask is The One. Containing 14 big-hitting botanical extracts, the organic, vegan, derm-tested, hypoallergenic formula does it all: exfoliates (super-gently, thanks to self-neutralising AHAs), balances (courtesy of microbiome-boosting sugar prebiotics) and hydrates (via a sugar carbohydrate complex). A luxe-feeling gel cream, which you massage into face and neck until it turns white, leave for 20 minutes then rinse away, it’s a treat to use and results are unfailingly impressive. AR

Highly Commended: Kypris Cerulean Soothing Hydration Recovery Mask, £121, Pure Source, Bridge Street, Cambridge and

Loaded with thalassic ingredients chosen for their powers to soothe, hydrate and give glow - extracts of algae and seaweed, sea holly stem cells - this mask is the skincare equivalent of drinking a tall glass of iced-and-sliced water on a parched summer’s day. Spending the majority of its time bathed in blue laptop light, my face is prone to looking and feeling both drab and dry by the end of the week; 20 minutes of this mask, which smells like the sea in the best way and has a cool liquid-gel texture, leaves it calmed, comforted and refreshed. AR

Highly Commended: Espa Tri-Active™ Regenerating Phyto-Collagen Plumping Mask, £60, John Lewis & Partners, Grand Arcade, Cambridge and

Some Sundays I find a moment for a little TLC and am quite taken by this facemask. I tried it over a few weeks in the depths of winter when my skin (like me) was dull, tired and centrally-heated – and it made a difference. Hero anti-ageing ingredients include bio-retinol and hyaluronic acid presented in a creamy mask that only needs 10 minutes of your time. Simply remove the excess from face, neck and décolleté and skin feels gratefully hydrated and looks refreshed and radiant. LM


WINNER: Freshly Cosmetics Phoenix Aura Well-ageing Serum, £39,

Powered by Freshly’s vegan encapsulation technology - which delivers actives deep down into the dermis, increasing their efficacy by a reported 10 times - this 99.8% natural formula is a skin cell’s new best friend, working both to stave off degradation and stimulate production. Hero ingredients include extract of kangaroo paw, deployed to buoy collagen, and bakuchiol, a plant-based alternative to retinol, to increase elasticity and firmness. Though anti-ageing is the main aim, the (deliciously scented: it smells of fruits and flowers) serum is singularly hydrating, too, making skin look and feel perkier from first application. It can be used morning and/or night. AR

Highly Commended: Bamford Vitamin C Serum, £60, Pure Source, Bridge Street, Cambridge and

Using it first thing to banish tired, pillow-crumpled skin, I think of this serum as a Vitamin C-loaded wake-up call for my face. Like all Bamford formulas, it is both high-performance (a generous 10% Vitamin C, which evens and brightens skin tone, is accompanied by antioxidant-rich fruit extracts, to help reduce free radical damage at cellular level) and planet-friendly (it’s 99% natural and 20% organic). A moisture-filled milky texture, it sinks seamlessly into skin and leaves it smoother, more supple and with a subtle sheen, too. AR

Highly Commended: Juice Beauty Stem Cellular Anti-Wrinkle Booster Serum, £80, Pure Source, Bridge Street, Cambridge and

A clean beauty brand developed by one woman on a mission to find effective products without using any nasties, Juice Beauty has risen in the ranks. I only have praise for this serum that boasts a fruit stem cell cocktail of juices that sound good enough to drink (but let’s not). The ultra-light and fragrance-free gel delivers a healthy hit of ‘skin food’ that nourishes and enhances texture – sets my face up nicely for the day. LM

Day Cream

WINNER: Tata Harper Crème Riche Velvet Moisturising Cream, £183, Pure Source, Bridge Street, Cambridge and

If your skin is showing signs of age and/or is prone to dryness - I’m raising my hand here - this hard-working, gentle-wearing cream is nigh-on impossible to beat. Containing a constellation of star ingredients, including vitamin, mineral and antioxidant-rich beetroot and green algae extracts to soothe, hydrate and fight fine lines and pigmentation, it provides both an instant pick-me-up and longer term benefits (not to brag, but a friend told me I had the skin of a 30-something this week; for a 40-something, that’s nice to hear). It’s pricey, yes, but a little goes a long way and the velvety texture is a treat. AR

Highly Commended: Clarins Nutri-Lumiere Revive Day Cream, £91, John Lewis & Partners, Grand Arcade, Cambridge and

Designed with mature skin in mind, this luscious cream-to-oil formula unites eight plant extracts, including shea, jojoba and horse chestnut flower, to tick off a whole wish list of anti-ageing actions, from boosting tone and tightness to supporting collagen synthesis. The true breakthrough, though, is in targeting discolouration - the yellowing or browning of skin caused by sugar build-up or glycation - with kaki, a superfruit high in Vitamin C and minerals which gets to work behind the scenes, along with violet pearls, which colour-correct skin at the surface. On badly sleep-deprived days, it’s a real face-saver. AR

Highly Commended: Katherine Daniels Dry Skin Rich cream, £49,

A fabulous friend to dry skin, this really is a rich cream that provides an instant hit. While rich, the cream does not cling to the surface of your skin but works its wonder (aided by regenerating peptides, red algae and blue micro algae and Vitamin E) to leave skin feeling relieved, supple and pleasantly plumped. LM


WINNER: IMAGE Skincare PREVENTION+ Daily Ultimate Protection Moisturiser SPF 50, £59,

I’m fickle with most steps in my skincare routine - as a beauty journalist, constantly trying new products comes with the territory - but this has been my ride-or-die SPF for years now. Formulated with zinc oxide, a mineral UV blocker, and hydrolyzed pea protein, believed to shield skin from the ageing effects of blue light, it forms a physical barrier to protect your skin rather than doing so via chemical reaction. That means it goes on white like a classic sunblock. But it absorbs so swiftly and leaves skin so smooth, you can get right on with your make-up: impressive. AR

Highly Commended: AlumierMD Sheer Hydration Broad Spectrum SPF40, £40,

Already award-winning and rightly so, Alumier’s Sheer Hydration is a moisturiser with SPF40 but silky and light as a feather. Given a moment the cream – containing antioxidants vitamin C, resveratrol (skin- smoothing), grape seed extract (improves tone), and glutathione (brightening) – disappears into skin without creating that tell-tale white pallor that some SPFs leave in their wake. You really don’t know you are wearing an SPF. LM

Highly Commended: Bamford SPF 50 Sunscreen, £31, Pure Source, Bridge Street, Cambridge and

Yet another honourable mention in this year’s awards for Bamford which - a bonafide trailblazer in the world of sustainable beauty founded on a Cotswolds farm - is fast becoming one of my favourite skincare brands. Containing a complex of antioxidant golden seaweed and calming swiss pine extracts, like the other SPFs on our list it provides mineral protection against UVA and B rays without giving skin a chalky cast. It’s the texture which really marks this one out, though: it’s on the milkier side of cream and, silky to apply and matte in finish, makes for a splendid makeup base. AR

Night Care

WINNER: Bamford Nourishing Sleep Mask, £60, Pure Source, Bridge Street, Cambridge and

I discovered this mask over winter, when my sensitive skin is always at its most prickly, and it proved a game-changer. Formulated with soy cells and hyaluronic acid, to enhance lipid and moisture levels respectively, it delivers unrivalled hydration: apply a thin layer over face, neck and decolletage at bedtime and wake to tangibly plumper and comfier skin. Made with 97% natural and 66% organic ingredients, I use it two/three times a week to top up moisture levels. AR

Highly Commended: Skin Proud Recharge Overnight 0.5% Retinol Serum, £9.30, Boots stores and

Delivering impressive beauty bang for your buck, like all Skin Proud products this overnight serum combines good eco and ethical credentials (it’s vegan, PETA-certified, paraben-free and comes in recyclable packaging) with a science-led formula (uniting hyaluronic acid, rosehip oil and retinol to even skin tone, promote cell renewal and slough off dead skin cells) for a purse-friendly price. Add it into your nighttime routine for a radiance boost. AR

Highly Commended: Romilly Wilde Night Duty Face Cream, £140,

Developed to lock in moisture and enable active ingredients to be absorbed, Romilly Wilde’s clean beauty products avoid synthetic bulkers in favour of sustainable plant-sourced technology. Just

one pump of this gorgeously rich night cream will cover face and neck and get to work while you sleep. A luxury product, certainly, but it does deliver results come morning. LM


WINNER: Holifrog Shasta AHA Acid Wash, £34, Pure Source, Bridge Street, Cambridge and

Containing five different AHAs - water-soluble acids made from sugary fruits, which peel away the surface of skin to encourage regeneration, even out pigmentation and improve texture - this exfoliating cleanser has a cult following and for good reason. The clever combination of acids results in unrivalled cleaning and clearing of skin, while any potential irritation is staved off by a cosseting complex of tamanu nut oil, rosehip oil and aloe vera. Super-effective and super-kind, too. AR

Highly Commended: Dermalogica Daily Microfoliant, £55,

A powder complex, this exfoliator creates a creamy paste when mixed with water-covered hands, or it can be added to your cleanser. Containing salicylic acid (known for deep-cleansing pores), the soothing formula polishes skin to leave it brighter – and is gentle enough to use every day. LM

Highly Commended: CeraVe SA Smoothing Cleanser with Salicylic, £12, Boots stores and

A face wash consistency, this exfoliating cleanser is from an award-winning, well-priced and active skincare range developed by dermatologists to target a variety of skin problems. Particularly good for when skin feels rough and run down, this cleanser removes oil, dirt and make-up and leaves skin smoother. LM


WINNER: IMAGE AGELESS Total Anti-Ageing Serum, £92,

Described as ‘running interference’ on signs of ageing, this serum is formulated to improve the appearance of everything from tone, texture and tightness to fine lines and full-on wrinkles. And boy, is it a class act. Headline actives - encapsulated to travel deep into skin and release gradually over 48 hours - include collagen-boosting peptides and surface-refining AHAs, notably glycolic acid, which works to minimise dark spots and lining as well as sloughing away dead skin cells. I was introduced by a sample in a Christmas gift set and within a week saw a visible boost in both smoothness and radiance; I now swear by it. AR

Highly Commended: Biotherm Life Plankton Elixir, £61.30,

If fine lines are your focal concern, this is the anti-ageing product for you. Delivering hyaluronic acid in two molecular forms - one larger to smooth at surface level and the other smaller to penetrate the dermis and plump from beneath - it minimises lines by hydrating the skin with a strategic pincer movement. It also contains Biotherm’s signature Life Plankton probiotic extract, a blend of 35 nutrients to target every other sign of ageing, including loss of firmness and radiance. Use morning and night for a week and I’m placing a bet lines will be diminished. AR

Highly Commended: Doctors Cosmeceutical Dragon’s Blood Sensitive Wrinkle Reducer, £99,

It may sound a bit Harry Potter, but fear not – the ‘Dragon’s Blood’ is actually plant-based (from the Croton Lechleri tree) and the resin, which has repairing properties, is red in colour. The serum is pricey I know, but rather lovely to use and the antioxidant ingredients are effective and results are impressive. LM


Winner: Frances Prescott Tri-balm, £49,

The OG of multi-tasking skincare, Tri-balm is a true beauty icon. It cleanses (wheatgerm and calendula melt away makeup), exfoliates (pumpkin seed enzymes slough off dead skin cells) and moisturises (hyaluronic acid and carrot and blackcurrant seed oils boost and retain hydration) in one. You can apply the twist-up stick directly to dry skin, massage and rinse or, for the just-had-a-facial effect, leave it on as a 10-minute mask. Thanks to geranium and mandarin essential oils, Tri-balm kick-starts cell renewal, too. AR

Highly Commended: Juice Beauty Instant Flash Facial, £52, Pure Source, Bridge Street, Cambridge and

Delivering exactly what it says on the tube, Instant Flash Facial gives you everything you’d want from a facial in just one product. Along with a three-pronged exfoliation - plant beads, tartaric acid and lime caviar slough away dirt and dead cells - it doses the dermis with Prebiotix, Juice Beauty’s signature complex of lactobacillus ferment and fruit, flower and seed extracts, designed to balance and smooth. The result is skin which feels hydrated and happy and looks radiant and refined. Generating heat as it works, Instant Flash even gives you that hot-towel sensation - amazing. AR

Highly Commended: Skin Proud Everything Balm, £7.95, Boots

Joining the no-frills skincare ranges that offer effective ingredients at affordable price points, everything in Skin Proud comes in at under £15 – and boasts pretty pink packaging . This multi-use balm that is vegan and eco-friendly is meltingly moisturising and will sort chapped lips, sore cuticles

and areas of dry or rough skin. An excellent all-rounder. LM

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