Your complexion has simple needs: a gentle cleanser to rinse away dirt and makeup and a moisturizer (ideally with SPF) to shield it from the elements. Skin care only gets complicated when you're trying to treat acne, sun damage, premature wrinkling, extreme dryness or oiliness with an over-the-counter product. With so many to choose from, each touting their unique benefits and groundbreaking ingredients, how's a girl without a degree in chemistry supposed to pick the best one?
Before you hit the stores (or the Web) to stock up on skin care, check out the following charts, which list top eye creams, facial cleansers, moisturizers and masks according to a survey of makeup artists, dermatologists and beauty editors conducted by 2glow.com, a Web site that posts top-10 rankings of beauty products along with shopping links. There's also a glossary of some of the most commonly used - and sometimes controversial - ingredients in face care, in which a leading dermatologist answers the question: What really works?
Creams of the crop
They're hardly household words, but these eye creams, cleansers, moisturizers and masks have helped hundreds of women reach complexion nirvana - or so say hundreds of industry experts and road testers surveyed by 2glow.com. But since we suspect many of you would rather spend $125 on a facial and massage than a face cream, we've also included Shape's No. 1 picks for $25-and-under products that have a similar purpose or ingredients.
The dream cream: Osmotics Kinetin Intensive Eye Repair ($75)
Ingredients at work: Kinetin, a natural plant substance, can help smooth wrinkles and blotchiness, say University of California, Irvine, researchers.
Best for: Mitigating the effects of sun damage and age
$25-and-under pick: RoC Retinol Actif Pur Eye Contour Cream ($17) with retinol, a vitamin-A derivative
The dream cream: La Mer The Eye Balm ($95)
Ingredients at work: Triple concentrations of a sea-kelp-based "broth" (invented by a NASA scientist) and malachite, a mineral that helps diminish redness.
Best for: De-puffing the eye area and minimizing fine lines and dark circles
$25-and-under pick: Clinique All About Eyes ($25), smooths the appearance of undereye circles and fine lines with caffeine and particles that scatter light.
The dream cream: Caudalie Grapeseed Eye Contour Cream ($43)
Ingredients at work: Grapeseed extracts (aka polyphenols) moisturize and may protect against environmental assaults on the skin like sun and pollution.
Best for: Reducing puffiness and lessening the appearance of sun-related fine lines and dark patches
$25-and-under pick: Avon Eye Block Environmental Protection Cream ($9.50) with Parsol 1789, which protects against UVA and UVB sun rays
The dream cream: Eve Lom Cleansing Cream ($65)
Ingredients at work: Essential-oil base of chamomile, clove, eucalyptus and hops cleans and soothes skin; muslin cloth (included) exfoliates gently.
Best for: All skin types looking for gentle, deep cleansing with exfoliation
$25-and-under pick: Olay Daily Facials Cleansing Cloths ($7.30) are textured so they also exfoliate while wiping away dirt and makeup.
The dream cream: La Mer The Cleansing Lotion ($65)
Ingredients at work: Tourmaline, a magnetized mineral, draws away impurities; rose offers an irresistible scent.
Best for: Normal to dry skin that craves a little extra pampering
$25-and-under pick: Weleda Rose Soap ($8) imparts naturally clean skin without dryness - and a rose scent that's soothing.
The dream cream: Yon-Ka Gel Nettoyant ($26)
Ingredients at work: May Chang tree extracts have antiseptic properties; algae extracts make it moisturizing; iris florentina helps balance oil production.
Best for: All skin types, particularly those prone to breakouts
$25-and-under pick: Neutrogena Fresh Foaming Cleanser ($6), an oil- and alcohol-free cleanser that's good for all skin types
The dream cream: La Mer Crème de la Mer ($155)
Ingredients at work: A legendary sea-kelp-based broth created by a NASA scientist who said it healed his scars from a chemical accident.
Best for: Revitalizing extremely dry skin - or keeping it grom getting that way
$25-and-under pick: The Body Shop Super Charged Sea Minerals Intense Moisture Cream ($16), with sea kelp and aloe vera
The dream cream: Kinetin - Osmotics Kinetin Cellular Renewal Serum ($78)
Ingredients at work: Kinetin - a natural plant substance that keeps leaves from dying - is used here to keep skin looking young and radiant.
Best for: All skin types, especially oily, but dry needs an additional moisturizer
$25-and-under pick: Origins Starting Over ($22.50) contains AHAs and vitamin A to revitalize unevenly textured skin.
The dream cream: Cellex-C skin Firming Cream Plus ($105)
Ingredients at work: A patented vitamin-C complex that helps create the appearance of firmer skin.
Best for: Mature skin types that are also dry
$25-and-under pick: Skinplicity Age Fighting Mositurizer ($15) contains vitamin C, alpha-hydroxy acids and SPF 15.
The dream cream: Eve Lom Rescue Mask ($37)
Ingredients at work: Camphor immediately cools and soothes the skin.
Best for: All skin types, especially oily. Perfect after air travel, when skin needs extra pampering
$25-and-under pick: Joey New York Pure Pores Masque and Blemish Treatment ($12) with clay to absorb excess oil.
The dream cream: Astara Golden Flame Hydration Mask ($36)
Ingredients at work: Aloe gel acts as a powerful humectant that hydrates and protects against damage from the sun and the environment.
Best for: Hydrating and reviving weather-parched skin
$25-and-under pick: Kiss My Face Organic Lemongrass Souffle Masque ($10) has aloe, lemon-grass and rose extracts to leave skin well hydrated.
The dream cream: Samuel Par Revitalizing Mask ($45)
Ingredients at work: Sea extracts add moisture; botanicals aim to boost the natural functioning of the skin.
Best for: All skin types, particularly dry or mature
$25-and-under pick: Zia Ultimate Hydrating Mask ($25) with sea extracts and essential oils.