I Wanted Smoother Skin in 2022—The 26 Products That (Already) Freaking Did It

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I had smooth, clear, practically pimple-proof skin all through middle school and high school. And, while my complexion did start to experience more turbulence in college, I still considered myself pretty lucky in the skin health department. But then, a few years post-graduation once I hit my mid-twenties (and began to deal with some hormone imbalances) everything went haywire.

I’ve been dealing on and off with stubborn bouts of acne (and more recently, a random perioral dermatiitis flare, just to keep me I’m on my toes), for years, but by early 2022, things had calmed down, and my skin was staying relatively clear. So, I decided to dig a little deeper and zero in on the texture of my skin since whiteheads, acne scars, dryness, milia, even some new little wrinkles were still very much a thing, and annoying me more than I’d like to admit. 

I started to call upon all of the advice and product recommendations the best skin experts in the world have been extolling to me for the past five years and put them into effect. I became more diligent about chemical and physical exfoliation (while making sure not to over-exfoliate which will damage the skin barrier), I dusted off my skin-boosting tools and devices, I reached for lightweight hydrating and plumping products, and I re-arrranged my makeup routine. My end goal? To have smoother, softer skin by the end of the year. The plot twist? The products and routines I implemented were so effective, my face has done a 180 in nearly half of the projected time. So, I thought I’d share! Below, 26 products I’ve been using this year to get the baby-smooth skin I’ve always wanted. Keep scrolling!

This little bottle of wizardry has been an important member of my product arsenal for years—an automatic go-to whenever I’m dealing with some extra bumps or texture issues. It’s been recommended to me by three different celebrity estheticians on separate occasions (Shani Darden, Melanie Grant, and Candace Marino), and the holy-grail blend of glycolic acid, lactic acid, salicylic acid, arbutin, and mushroom extract basically steamroll uneven texture in just one application. (Feel your skin the next morning, and you’ll know I’m not being dramatic.) Marino says you can actually use this formula nightly, but since I have some other active products I like to alternate it with, I typically only apply this once a week or so.

I’ll use anything celebrity facialist Shani Darden creates, but this serum, in particular—a hyper-effective mix of an AHA, PHA, plus hyaluronic acid, aloe, and green tea to calm—is the product my skin seems to love best. It’s gentle enough to use every night and visibly improves dullness, breakouts, and bumps. Again, I like to rotate my actives, so I’ll apply two pumps every few nights or so.

I live and die by these cutting-edge sheet masks from ZitSticka which are about as technologically advanced as something as basic as a sheet mask can get! I love instant gratification, and smoothing one of these no-slip hydrogel masks on my skin at night really flattens anything uneven or bumpy happening on my face. Fun fact: This mask uses graphene technology, which essentially syncs with your body heat so that your skin is better able to accept and absorb the complexion-improving ingredients like salicylic acid, glycolic acid, lactic acid, niacinamide, allantoin, and hyaluronic acid.

I let this new toner sit in my “products to try” cabinet for weeks before I finally gave it a go last week, and let me just say, I looked like I’d had a skin transplant after just one use. If your skin is sensitive to actives and acids, this formula’s plush blend of gentle exfoliators and barrier-supporters (think prickly pear extract, peptides, and niacinamide) will help smooth rocky texture sans irritation.

While I love the above collection of chemical exfoliators, a little bit of physical exfoliation is also paramount for super-smooth skin. Celeb facialist Renée Rouleau is a trusted friend and skin expert, and this luxurious and refreshing facial scrub is the yummiest and most skin-loving on the market. The natural, more environmentally-friendly jojoba beads polish away dead skin cells and uneven skin texture, while the creme de menthe base with vitamin E and peppermint oil re-awaken dull, parched skin. I have a once-per week sandwiching ritual of applying Rouleau’s iconic Triple Berry Smoothing Peel ($89) rinsing, using this scrub, rinsing, and then lathering on this glittering-gold gel mask ($66) for the ultimate skin detox. 

I saw Sydney Sweeney use this here, and because I instantly need anything the actress wears or uses, I bought it. But oh, what a savvy purchase it turned out to be! Natural volcanic sand microbeads, grape water, and cooling menthol does instantaneous legwork to iron out any kinks happening with my skin’s texture.

If I had the time and money to spend all day, every day ontop of the LED bed at Shani Darden’s LA spa, I 100% would. That said, I’ve been trying to recreate the skin healing LED effect at home (it’s great for everything, including plumping and smoothing), so I’ve been using facialist Angela Caglia’s flexible medical-grade silicone LED mask with great results. It features both anti-aging red (630nm) and acne-nixing blue (465nm) LED treatment wavelengths, along with rose quartz crystals, to minimize the look of fine lines, wrinkles, and inflammation while boosting elasticity and collagen (very key for a smooth and supple complexion.)

By far, at-home dermaplaning has become one of the most important steps for achieving the smoothest skin of my life this year. I use this tool from Versed once a month, and the quick and easy process painlessly removes skin-dulling dead skin cells and peach fuzz for immediate brightness and smooth-to-the-touch skin. Your other products will be able to penetrate your skin more effectively, any makeup you apply will lay flawlessly, and while there are lots of tools like this on the market, I swear on my life that Versed’s is the best.

Believe it or not you don’t have to spend hundreds of dollars on expensive facial cleansing devices. I got this $4 antimicrobial face scrubbie from master skin expert Vanessa Lee at her skin boutique, The Things We Do, and it’s the easiest and quickest way to get the most bang for your smoothing buck whilst cleansing your face. 

I’m a huge fan of high-quality microcurrent devices—the key word being “high-quality.” There are lots of flukes out there, but when I’m consistent with my ZIIP device, I notice very real, very quick results in practically every area: tone, brightness, smoothness, firmness, clarity, the list goes on and on. I’m fully aware it’s quite the investment, but when used properly and often, it can really replace even spendier things like facials and other procedures. I’m a stan.

I dedicated an entire (ultra-gushy) article to this dreamy little Hydrating Serum, and I highly recommend you read the whole thing. In a nutshell, this stuff is amazing and helped quickly clear a bad case of acne and dermatitis I was dealing with. It’s only $16, it’s available at Target, and the milky ceramide- and squalene-rich formula makes your skin looks so plump, healthy, and dewy. (Which has the bonus effect of making everything look and feel velvety-smooth.) No matter your skin type or skin concerns, I’d bet one million dollars you’ll be completely in love with this serum. It’s living proof you don’t have to spend a fortune to get high-quality, effective skincare. Thank me later!

Everyone from derms to Karrueche Tran to my *now* 74-year-old mom to editors live and die by the skin-perfecting perks of this super-charged serum from Tatcha. It’s a three-in-one miracle product that smooths the look of fine lines and texture thanks to Hadasei-3-derived lactic acid, plumps your skin to the heavens thanks to hyaluronic acid, and last but not least, locks in dewy moisture thanks to squalane.

Paris Hilton and I are both big fans of this transformative treatment from U Beauty which you can wear like an overnight treatment mask in lieu of your normal moisturizer. I could write a novel about the ins and outs of its cutting edge formula, but essentially, it’s inspired by the Turritopsis Dohrrii, (aka—”immortal jellyfish,”) which has the rather insane ability to turn adult, damaged, and aging cells into healthy stem cells. This treatment was designed to recreate that same process by utilizing U Beauty’s signature technology, the Immortal Sire Capsule delivery system. Combined with active ingredients like salicylic acid, hyaluronic acid, vitamin B6, fruit-derived AHAs, urea, and shea butter, it’s the ultimate smoothing and resurfacing detox which has the added benefit of making your skin look like glass. 

I’m newly obsessed with this moisture mask from ClearStem which I essentially use as a nighttime moisturizer whenever my skin is feeling and looking worse for the wear. Specifically designed for acne-prone skin, it helps to repair a damaged skin barrier while re-juicing the skin with moisture for maximum plumpness and smoothness. 

If you buy Tatcha’s Dewy Skin Serum, you might as well go full throttle and buy a jar of this all-star cream as well. Together, they make dynamic duo that blast, dull, uneven, and thirsty skin into oblivion. I always layer the pair when I travel to keep my skin looking and feeling healthy, and I’ve quite literally had strangers at the airport stop me to compliment my “glowing skin.”

Augustinus Bader’s Benjamin Button-like face creams will go down in infamy as some of the greatest skincare products of all-time. Sadly, however, both of the OG formulas are a little too heavy and rich for my finicky, breakout prone skin. This brand new, ultra-light version still has all of the smoothing and anti-aging perks of its sisters, sans oiliness. (For me at least.) 

Lots of deeply hydrating moisturizes make me feel oily, cause congestion, or are a total disaster under makeup. This one, created by iconic French makeup artist Violette_FR is the antithesis to all of the above. It’s magic under makeup, features 98% naturally-derived ingredients, hydrates, protects, and leaves a luxurious-looking velvet finish on the skin. 

Holy crap is this stuff good, and to be honest, I’m still wrapping my head around the $22 price tag. If you’re worried about your under-eyes, this pretty little tube smooths, brightens, and de-puffs in one fell swoop. 

Joshua Zeichner, MD, FAAD, is the go-to dermatologist amongst beauty editors, so you can imagine the collected excitement when he and his wife Cori Zeichner created their own skincare line starring two ance-busting powerhouses: a Daily Leave-On Treatment Mask ($52) and this completely transparent, ultra-silky primer.  If you’re after clear, super-smooth skin, this will be your new favorite product. It’s great bare-faced or under makeup, it minimizes shine and oil, it blurs imperfections, and it helps treat existing breakouts while preventing future ones from occurring. 

When I finally tried InnBeauty Project’s highly beloved (and often sold out) Face Glaze, I quite literally shrieked “Holy shit!” I’m a glowy-skin fan, but as I’ve gotten older, I steer clear of the ultra-sparkly highlight powders that were a hallmark of my early 20s. Instead, I prioritize multitasking primers or highlighting gels (many of which feature loads of amazing skin-boosting ingredients, too) that give my skin a natural hit of luminosity, smoothness, and glow without it actually looking like I have anything on my face. Filled with ceramides, squalane, and hyaluronic acid, InnBeauty’s Face Glaze smooths, brightens, and helps subtly camouflage any and all ills. I’m obsessed.

Let me just say that in general, I’m really not a minimal makeup person. I often go barefaced, so if I am wearing makeup, I want some legitimate coverage—it’s just a personal preference. That said, the way this serum-like skin tint effortlessly blends and sinks into your skin (while delivering a subtle yet dreamy skin-blurring effect) is pretty exceptional.

I like to add a few drops of this bronzing oil to the (above) skin tint before applyin to my face for even more glow and skin-smoothing benefits. 

I’m annoyingly picky about makeup primers, and there are only a few I’ve ever legitimately loved and used regular. This is one of them. It’s a one-stop shop for smoothing, absorbing shine, and blurring the skin pre-makeup. Your makeup will look completely flawless and airbrushed, so if that’s the aesthetic you’re after, I highly recommend picking this primer up.

I’m super impressed with this new foundation from Hourglass, and it’s one of the best I’ve ever tried if you’re looking for a silky, practically pore-less result. I wore it for a full workday in my 90-degree apartment, and by the time I looked in the bathroom mirror at 5 p.m., it looked the same (if not better!) as it did in the morning. It blends easily, but where it really excels is how lightweight it feels and how airbrushed and filtered it makes your skin look. I’m shamelessly addicted to the Paris filter on IG, but when I posted a selfie wearing this foundation, I didn’t even feel the need.

Oh, and if you buy the foundation above, I also highly recommend grabbing this coordinating brush. I’m not generally a brush person when it comes to foundation—I prefer my fingers and a Beautyblender—but this one is uniquely designed to mimic the delicate and precise control of your fingertips, which probably explains why it speaks to me so much. It’s proved itself as a necessity within my routine, and because it feels like velvet, just the act of applying foundation feels like a self-care ritual.

Up next, I Only Wear Glitter Eye Shadow, But It Can’t Look Tacky—15 That Pass the Test

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