Ranking Reddit’s Top Skincare Products

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How to cite: Wong M. Ranking Reddit’s Top Skincare Products. Lab Muffin Beauty Science. January 5, 2023. Accessed September 27, 2023. https://labmuffin.com/ranking-reddits-top-skincare-products/

I tried to put Reddit’s most discussed skincare products on /r/skincareaddiction into a (highly subjective) tier list. I thought this would be a fun, quick chatty video but it turned into a bit of a rabbit hole! (That seems to happen a lot…)

The video is here, keep scrolling for a brief summary of the products…

top reddit skincare products

The usual disclaimer: my skin is not your skin, don’t stop using a product because I didn’t like it for a reason that’s not relevant to you!

1: CeraVe Hydrating Cleanser

Buy: CeraVe Hydrating Facial Cleanser

  • Unsurprising that CeraVe is so high – it’s /r/skincareaddiction’s favourite skincare brand
  • Their brand fits with the demographics well (large female in their 20s, US-based, lots of people end up there because of skin issues especially acne, many looking for budget-friendly options that are likely to work for many people)
  • CeraVe are a good, safe recommendation, even if I personally find them a bit boring
  • I think the hydrating cleanser ended up high because of the myth that foaming cleansers strip and dry out your skin – this isn’t true for newer formulas but the myth persists

Related post: Are You Washing Your Face Wrong? Busting Cleanser Myths (with video)

  • Also because it’s CeraVe’s recommendation for dry skin (lots of Redditors are using drying treatments like benzoyl peroxide, isotretinoin etc.)
  • The name CeraVe comes from “ceramides” and “multivesicular technology”. The vesicles sit on your skin and provide prolonged moisturisation, although I don’t know how well that works in a cleanser, but it has a lot of hydrating ingredients which will help regardless
  • I prefer foaming cleansers, although I do like the pump

Ranking: SOLID CHOICE

2: CeraVe Moisturizing Cream

Buy: CeraVe Moisturizing Cream

  • Also known as “CeraVe in the tub” – CeraVe have a lot of moisturizers with similar names and colour coding, so there’s some confusion
  • Again, for dry skin which fits the /r/skincareaddiction demographic
  • Formula hasn’t changed much, aside from removing parabens in 2020 for marketing reasons (people kept freaking out about their dermatologists telling them to use Literal Poison) – this is just a myth

Related post: Clean Beauty Is Wrong and Won’t Give Us Safer Products

  • Nice mix of moisturizing ingredients:
    • Humectants: glycerin, 
    • Occlusives: petrolatum, dimethicone
    • Barrier-restoring emollients: ceramides, phytosphingosine, cholesterol
  • Some people get closed comedones (clogged pores) with this, possibly because of fatty alcohols

Related post: Fact-check Feature: How to choose a moisturiser

Ranking: SOLID CHOICE

3: CeraVe Foaming Facial Cleanser

Buy: CeraVe Foaming Facial Cleanser

  • Good for oily skin, quite hydrating
  • A few different versions of this exist – AU/EU version has coco-betaine as the first surfactant, US/UK version has cocamidopropyl hydroxysultaine as the first surfactant (the Australian CeraVe site got confused as well, they have a bunch of US reviews on there), I’m discussing the AU/EU version
  • Has gentle surfactants: coco-betaine, sodium cocoyl glycinate
  • Standard CeraVe moisturising ingredients: glycerin, ceramides, hyaluronic acid
  • I don’t like the way it smells – it smells “like chemicals” (that artificial, slightly plastic smell)

Ranking: SOLID CHOICE

4: CeraVe Daily Moisturizing Lotion

5: CeraVe PM Facial Moisturizing

Ranking: NO OPINION (I haven’t tried them – but they’d probably be ok in SOLID CHOICE)

6: Paula’s Choice 2% BHA Liquid

Buy: Paula’s Choice 2% BHA Liquid

  • To no one’s surprise, this is a holy grail product for me
  • I’ve been using it since 2009 and haven’t stopped – it’s been popular since before 2009, I bought it due to rave reviews from places like MakeupAlley
  • Really good salicylic product – I’ve tried so many products on the market and I still haven’t found a salicylic acid product that works as well as this on my skin

Related post: Paula’s Choice Skincare: Best Products (with video)

  • If you have large pores, blackheads, oily skin or acne, this is probably going to help your skin
  • Probably a bit less budget friendly than your standard /r/skincareaddiction product, but per mL it’s actually really good value and this bottle just does not run out
  • Paula’s Choice philosophy matches well with /r/skincareaddiction

Ranking: HOLY GRAIL

7: The Ordinary Niacinamide 10% + Zinc 1%

Buy: The Ordinary Niacinamide 10% + Zinc 1%

  • Top seller from The Ordinary
  • Another really /r/skincareaddiction friendly brand
  • Budget-friendly, appeal to people who care about ingredients
  • The Ordinary were really important in getting people to care about the science behind skincare products because they have these really technical names front and centre

Related post: Impressively Bad Skincare Science: Matter of Fact (with Video)

  • Tends to be good for people with acne, but also does break some people out and scare people away from niacinamide
  • I would recommend trying more products with niacinamide if this doesn’t work for you – it was unimpressive on my skin, but it turns out my skin does like niacinamide in other products

Related post: Best and Worst of The Ordinary Part 1 (with video)

  • Could be solid choice, but leaning more towards meh because it doesn’t work for a good proportion of people

Ranking: MEH

8: CeraVe Smoothing SA Cleanser

Buy: CeraVe Smoothing SA Cleanser

  • The “Smoothing” UK/EU/AU version looks very similar to the “Renewing” US version
  • Good product for people whose skin maybe can’t quite tolerate salicylic acid (e.g. using a lot of drying or irritating ingredients already)
  • Too drying as a cleanser for everyday use for most people, even on my oily skin
  • Strong-ish smell
  • Didn’t do much on my skin, probably because I use so much Paula’s Choice 2% BHA Liquid already
  • But it’s a useful product for a lot of people

Ranking: SOLID CHOICE

9: Neutrogena Hydro Boost Water Gel

Buy: Neutrogena Hydro Boost Water Gel

  • Neutrogena’s Hydro Boost range was really exciting when it launched, because there weren’t many lightweight gel moisturisers on the market (but they were common in Asian skincare)
  • Gel textures are really hydrating without feeling heavy
  • Particularly good for oily skin
  • Stronger fragrance than I prefer (US products tend to be more heavy-handed with fragrance than Australian)
  • Water gel doesn’t come in fragrance-free as far as I know (although the Gel Cream does)

Ranking: SOLID CHOICE (unless you can’t handle fragrance)

10: Cosrx Advanced Snail 96 Mucin Power Essence

Buy: Cosrx Advanced Snail 96 Mucin Power Essence

  • I’m surprised this is so high, but not that surprised since /r/skincareaddiction’s sister subreddit is /r/asianbeauty – there’s a lot of crossover between users
  • This has been a classic for a really long time – launched around 2014 or 2015, pretty much an immediate hit
  • Reviewed in the Reviewing Top Korean Skincare Favourites post
  • Really good, lots of people love it, some people react to it (but not many)

Ranking: HOLY GRAIL

11: La Roche-Posay Cicaplast Baume B5

Buy: La Roche-Posay Cicaplast Baume B5

  • My go-to product for whenever my skin is really irritated
  • Really thick balm product
  • Lots of soothing ingredients: panthenol (vitamin B5), madecassoside (Centella asiatica derivative)

Related post: Skincare Ingredient Spotlight: Centella Asiatica

  • I use it when my skin is irritated and can’t really handle much else e.g. when I have a lot of chafing around my nose
  • I often just slather this onto irritated skin, go to bed, and the next day my skin will just be a lot happier
  • A little goes a long way, haven’t finished a tube yet, so does end up being pretty good value

Ranking: HOLY GRAIL

12: Cetaphil Gentle Skin Cleanser

Buy: Cetaphil Gentle Skin Cleanser

  • This is the new version that replaced an older version that had been around for decades
  • The old version had a really short ingredients list, but it was easy to pick on because most ingredients were demonised by various groups:
    • Sodium lauryl sulfate: a surfactant that tends to be a bit harsher
    • Fatty alcohols: some people think these break them out
    • Propylene glycol: sounds a lot like ethylene glycol (antifreeze)
    • Parabens: the premier “toxic” ingredient according to clean beauty proponents

Related post: What Are Propylene and Butylene Glycol, and Are They Safe?

  • There were a lot of infographics from clean beauty fans and estheticians saying Cetaphil is toxic sludge (it isn’t)
  • The formula is a bit old-school, but lots of people did like it and there was probably a big outcry when they finally reformulated it to this current version
  • The new version is a bit of a marketing dream at the moment I think, it has a whole bunch of ingredients that everyone likes:
    • Trendy actives: panthenol (vitamin B5), niacinamide (vitamin B3), glycerin, pantolactone
    • Short ingredients list = less intimidating
  • Very inoffensive formula, non-foaming
  • Very similar to CeraVe Hydrating Cleanser (these two are probably competing against each other)
  • Not a joy to use for me, but it’s really good

Ranking: SOLID CHOICE

13: The Ordinary Hyaluronic Acid 2% + B5

Buy: The Ordinary Hyaluronic Acid 2% + B5

  • Hyaluronic acid has been trending for a long time in Western skincare
  • It’s a humectant moisturizer that holds onto water and keeps it on your skin
  • Most people probably don’t need a separate hyaluronic acid product
  • It’s a bit of a boring humectant – there are lots of other humectants that can do more like glycerin (which is in so many things already) and snail essence, which is a much more impressive humectant
  • I don’t hate it, but I probably wouldn’t recommend it – if you’re using it I’m not going to knock it out of your hand

Ranking: MEH

14: The Ordinary Glycolic Acid 7% Toning Solution

Buy: The Ordinary Glycolic Acid 7% Toning Solution

  • I have mixed feelings on this
  • This is a bit strong – it says 7% but it feels like a higher concentration
  • I think a lot of people end up using too much of this and overexfoliating their skin
  • But I think it is really good for people who want a stronger chemical exfoliant, and it’s really good value
  • I’ve actually been using this on other parts of my body – underarms as a deodorant, some people use it to exfoliate their scalp 

Related post: Chemical Exfoliants as Deodorant? The Science of Smelly Armpits

  • Originally SOLID CHOICE, but bumped up to HOLY GRAIL because there isn’t another chemical exfoliant that comes anywhere near this good value on the market

Ranking: HOLY GRAIL (as long as you’re using it properly and you’re not yeah drowning your face in it)

15: CeraVe Healing Ointment

Buy: CeraVe Healing Ointment

  • Not officially available in Australia
  • Popular for “slugging” – covering your face in a thick layer of occlusive balm overnight
  • Back in 2015, covering your face in Vaseline overnight became really popular on Reddit, and there were some posts about becoming a slug (people were into snail at the time as well) – that seems to be the origin of “slugging”, although people have been doing this for a much longer time
  • Tiara Willis (esthetician, most active on Twitter) popularised the term “glazed donut” which I think sounds nicer than slugging
  • This is the main product for “glazed donuting” 
  • Main ingredient is petroleum jelly (gold standard occlusive ingredient)
  • Has CeraVe’s standard ceramides and hyaluronic acid
  • Other occlusives mixed in, probably to make it more spreadable
  • I’m not a huge fan of slugging for my own skin (too messy for my pillowcase) and I have other products that I prefer for this (La Roche-Posay Cicaplast Baume B5)

Ranking: SOLID CHOICE

As you’d expect, nothing ended up in the lowest “Not for Anyone” tier, since these are the most popular 15 products on a really big website!

What did you think of these products and my rankings? Was I really unfair to The Ordinary’s Niacinamide? (Probably the ranking I agonised over the longest…)

The list from Looria is here.

Some products were probably provided for editorial consideration a long time ago, although I can’t remember which ones. This post contains affiliate links – if you decide to click through and support Lab Muffin financially (at no extra cost to you), thank you! For more information, see Disclosure Policy.


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1 thought on “Ranking Reddit’s Top Skincare Products”

  1. Hi Michelle – love your blog, am a longtime lurker! Just popped in to say that I am also a diehard PC BHA fan (and miss the days when it was like 16 bucks??) and Cerave PM is elite. Thank you for all that you do!

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