Best Skin Care Products in Canada (2020 Reviews)


Maya Adivi

Last Updated:

Beauty
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Quick overview

Skin care is one of the largest growing markets, and these days Canadians have more products to choose from than ever. If you’re a big fan of skin care this sounds awesome, since there are so many products to play around with!

If your experience has been more akin to standing at the drugstore, looking at a massive wall of bottles and jars with confusion, then we’re here to make it easy, with a selection of the best skin care products available in Canada under each of the must-have product categories.

In selecting these products, we focused on items that do an amazing job and that will work for a wide range of skin types and conditions. Skin care is not one-size-fits-all, but these products are as close as it gets. 

Best skin care products of 2020

Our research

8

Research Sources

35

Products Evaluated

22k+

Reviews Considered

18

Hours of Research

Best skin care products comparison

CeraVe HydratingComplex 15 Daily Face CreamBiore UV Aqua RichCosRX AHAThe Ordinary NiacinamideBenzagelTimeless Vitamin C
BestCleanserMoisturizerSunscreenExfoliantBeginner serumAcne treatmentAnti-ageing
PurposeClean skin without dryingMoisturize and softenProtect from the sunRemove dead skinFade acne, control sebum, brighten, antioxidant protectionReduce and prevent acne breakoutsbrightening, anti-ageing
Skin typeAllAllAllAllAllAllAll
Key ingredientsCeramides, hyaluronic acidGlycerin, squalane, caprylic/capric triglycerideJapanese UV-blockers, hyaluronic acidGlycolic acid, butylene glycolNiacinamide, Zinc PCABenzoyl peroxideVitamin C, ferulic acid
Vegan or cruelty-freeNoNoNoYes and yesYes and yesNoYes and yes
Total reviews11,5133051,8291,1416,903530353
Aggregate rating4.54.54.64.34.34.24.3

Best cleanser – CeraVe Hydrating Facial Cleanser

  • Purpose: Cleanse the skin while keeping it hydrated
  • Skin Type: All skin types
  • Key Ingredients: Ceramides, hyaluronic acid 
  • Other details: Fragrance-free 
  • Vegan or cruelty-free: No

Pros

  • Gentle, moisturizing cleanser that removes debris without drying out the skin
  • Fragrance-free formula perfect for very sensitive skin 
  • Gender-neutral packaging will appeal to everyone in your family

Cons

  • Not a great makeup remover

Efficacy

For a cleanser to be effective it should do two things: it needs to adequately clean your skin from oils, sweat, debris, and sunscreen, and it also needs to keep your skin in good shape without causing dryness. It’s often very difficult to find a cleanser that strikes the balance, so we’re very impressed with this one for delivering.

It’s a fantastic daily face wash that gets the skin feeling very clean, but includes ingredients like hyaluronic acid and ceramides that help keep the skin hydrated and supple. After using it, the skin feels refreshed and plump, without any tightness or residue. 

We love that it’s mild and appropriate for all skin types, so even those with extremely sensitive or temperamental skin conditions can use it. 

If you wear a full face of makeup on a regular basis, this cleanser alone won’t be enough. It is safe to use around the eyes and can break down some eye makeup, but to thoroughly get rid of everything we suggest using an oil-based cleanser or makeup remover first.    

Cosmetic elegance

It has a light, semi-transparent lotion texture that glides easily, especially when applied to dry skin. Once you add water it turns more opaque, and you can rinse it away easily. It doesn’t become foamy or sudsy, which might be weird if you’re used to traditional gel cleansers, but we think it’s a sign of just how gentle it is. 

It is totally fragrance-free, so the only smell is of the ingredients themselves which isn’t particularly pleasant but is a small price to pay for a formula that is less likely to irritate sensitive skin.  

Value

This cleanser is a steal, especially for those who like to buy larger sizes to keep costs and environmental impact low. 

Best moisturizer – Complex 15 Daily Face Cream

  • Purpose: Moisturize and soften
  • Skin Type: All skin types
  • Key Ingredients: Glycerin, squalane, caprylic/capric triglyceride
  • Other details: Fragrance-free and non-comedogenic 
  • Vegan or cruelty-free: No

Pros

  • Moisturizes and softens the skin
  • Very gentle and non-irritating
  • Leaves the skin hydrated yet matte

Cons

  • May be too light for those with dry skin
  • Mild, simple formula doesn’t offer added benefits

Efficacy

This moisturizer is formulated to do no more and no less than to saturate the skin with moisture. It contains proven water-binders like glycerin, along with skin conditioning agents like squalane that help to keep moisture trapped in the skin. We find that it leaves the skin feeling soft and thoroughly hydrated for hours after use, especially for those with normal, combination, and oily skin. 

The other benefit is that the formula is non-comedogenic, which means that if you have acne-prone skin, this moisturizer is not likely to break you out! Those with dry skin may prefer a slightly thicker and richer moisturizer, especially during winter, while those with more specific skin concerns may want a more specialized daily moisturizer.   

Cosmetic elegance

This is the criterion in which this moisturizer excels. The lightweight formula has a marvellous skin feel that is quick to sink into the skin. If you have oily skin and find that most creams are too greasy, this moisturizer will put your mind at ease. 

Value

Coming in at under $10 for 100 ml, this is one of the most affordable products on our list. 

Best sunscreen – Biore UV Aqua Rich Watery Essence SPF 50+ PA++++

  • Purpose: Protect skin from the sun 
  • Skin Type: All skin types
  • Key Ingredients: Japanese UV-blockers, hyaluronic acid
  • Other details: Great for oily skin or under makeup
  • Vegan or cruelty-free: No

Pros

  • Very high and thorough UVA/UVB protection
  • Japanese sunscreen ingredients are very gentle 
  • Light texture leaves behind no residue or whitecast

Cons

  • Contains alcohol which can be irritating for some

Efficacy

This was one of the sunscreens to start an international obsession with Japanese SPF products. This sunscreen offers really powerful protection against both UVB and UVA rays, with a blend of active ingredients that haven’t been approved for use in sunscreens in the USA yet and are only now getting the okay from Health Canada but have been accepted by European regulators for years.

What makes the sunscreen ingredients here unique is that they are unlikely to irritate the skin or harm the environment, are extremely lightweight and pleasant to use, and they offer more thorough protection against UVA rays when compared to North American sunscreens. 

Cosmetic elegance

This sunscreen is so light that it’s hard to believe. The skin is quick to absorb it, and it leaves behind zero shine, grease, or a white cast. Part of this is because it contains a lot of alcohol, which makes it more fluid and better able to penetrate into the skin. Alcohol can be very drying, but Biore got around that by adding hyaluronic acid and xylitol to the formula which help hydrate the skin.

Sunscreens are often difficult to wear under makeup because of their greasiness or because they don’t mix well with complexion products, but this one doesn’t cause any issues and actually allows foundation to glide over the skin nicely. 

Value

The cost of this sunscreen is higher than low-end but still more affordable than most high-end sunscreens. Considering the effectiveness of the ingredients and incredible texture we think it offers very good value — there are no cheaper sunscreens available in Canada that offer better results.

Best exfoliant – CosRx AHA 7 Whitehead Power Liquid

  • Purpose: Remove dead skin cells
  • Skin Type: All skin types
  • Key Ingredients: Glycolic acid, butylene glycol
  • Other details: Must be used with sunscreen
  • Vegan or cruelty-free: Yes and yes

Pros

  • Gentle yet thorough exfoliation with glycolic acid has a wide range of skin benefits
  • Formula reinforced with butylene glycol to keep skin hydrated
  • Simple texture that will work for all skin types

Cons

  • Overuse can lead to irritation and over-exfoliation 
  • Those dealing with acne may experience an initial “purge” as below the skin breakouts come to the surface because of exfoliation

Efficacy

This K-beauty product is a glycolic acid-based exfoliant that promotes the shedding of dead skin cells, giving a thorough yet fairly gentle exfoliation. Glycolic acid is one of the most well-researched cosmetic ingredients, and it is formulated in this product in a way that could work well for all skin types except for those who are sensitive to chemical exfoliants. 

Regular exfoliation with this kind of toner can have major benefits, and while CosRx focuses on the benefits to those with blemishes and whiteheads, it can also help reduce and prevent signs of ageing and sun-damage, and improve overall skin texture.

This toner also includes butylene glycol to hydrate the skin, and niacinamide which has a variety of anti-acne, brightening, and anti-ageing effects. 

Cosmetic elegance

Since it’s a lightweight liquid, even those with oily skin wouldn’t be opposed to using it. It does raise the question whether it’s best to apply with a cotton pad or with the hands — using a cotton pad will lose you a lot of product, while using the hands to splash it on can be a little awkward. We lean towards carefully applying it with the hands, which is less wasteful. 

Value

While this isn’t the cheapest product on this list, when compared to other chemical exfoliants available on the market it’s definitely on the affordable end.

Best beginner serum – The Ordinary Niacinamide 10% + Zinc 1%

  • Purpose: Fade acne, decongest pores, brighten, hydrate, control sebum, anti-ageing
  • Skin Type: All skin types
  • Key Ingredients: Niacinamide, Zinc PCA
  • Vegan or cruelty-free: Yes and yes

Pros

  • Serum with a massive range of benefits
  • Gentle formula that is appropriate for all skin types
  • Extremely affordable 
  • Made in Canada

Cons

  • Can be too mattifying for those with dry skin

Efficacy

This gentle serum has a very extensive range of effects despite its gentleness. The Ordinary focuses on the ability of niacinamide to improve the look of blemished or acne-prone skin, but we think it can do a lot more. Those with oily skin will benefit from its extremely unique ability to regulate sebum (the oil human skin secretes) in a way that can help reduce breakouts and mattify the skin.  

This ingredient has many other well-researched benefits, including antioxidant effects which help prevent and reduce the appearance of premature-ageing, skin-soothing effects to reduce redness, brightening effects to target hyperpigmentation, and even the ability to improve ceramide synthesis in the skin to prevent dehydration and moisture loss. 

All of these effects are relatively mild, especially when compared to very strong skincare ingredients like retinol or benzoyl peroxide, but as a result, niacinamide is less likely to irritate the skin so it can truly work for all skin types as well as for beginners to skincare. It also plays nicely with strong ingredients, so you can introduce it into nearly any beauty routine.

Cosmetic elegance

This niacinamide serum has a light and fluid texture that disappears into the skin. It even leaves the skin feeling a little mattified, which those with oily skin will surely appreciate. Those with dry skin can still use it by mixing it with a moisturizer or hydrating serum, so as not to feel dry.  

It comes in a durable and recyclable glass bottle that you can repurpose once you finish the serum. Once you’re done, Deciem stores in Toronto, Mississauga, and Vancouver will take back empties not only of The Ordinary/Deciem products but of any clean cosmetic containers, as part of their collaboration with Terracycle

Value

Paying less than $6 for a serum with so many effects is nearly unheard of, so we give The Ordinary a ton of credit for changing consumer understanding of how much good skincare should cost. 

Best acne treatment – Benzagel 5 Acne Gel

  • Purpose: Fade and prevent acne 
  • Skin Type: All skin types
  • Key Ingredients: Benzoyl peroxide
  • Other details: Must be used with sunscreen
  • Vegan or cruelty-free: No

Pros

  • Effective and highly-researched anti-acne medication
  • Disappears into the skin quickly without leaving behind residue
  • Made in Canada

Cons

  • Can irritate the skin if overused
  • Slightly gritty texture

Efficacy

This is one of the most effective acne treatments you can get without a prescription, and it works to both fade existing breakouts as well as to prevent new ones from popping up. This gel relies on a medicinal ingredient called benzoyl peroxide, which is an antibacterial agent that research suggests works by suppressing the acne bacteria as well as by calming down inflammation.

The chances that a product will irritate the skin often corresponds with how dramatic a result it can give, and that definitely applies to benzoyl peroxide. It’s better to start using it slowly, just a few times a week, and then to increase frequency. Those with dry or sensitive acne-prone skin can apply it after moisturizer in order to reduce chances of irritation.  

Cosmetic elegance

This gel seems creamy and a little gritty at first, but once you massage it in it leave behind a smooth, matte finish. The tube it comes in is easy and convenient, and It has a mild, medicinal smell.    

Value

At around $7 for 30 grams, this product is reasonably priced, especially considering just how little of it is necessary. When applied daily, a single tube can last for over 5 months.

Best anti-ageing serum – Timeless Skin Care 20% Vitamin C + E Ferulic Acid Serum

  • Purpose: brightening, anti-ageing
  • Skin Type: All skin types
  • Key Ingredients: Vitamin C, ferulic acid
  • Other details: Must be used with sunscreen
  • Vegan or cruelty-free: Yes and yes

Pros

  • Helps reduce visible signs of aging by promoting collagen production
  • Vitamin C fades dark spots and hyperpigmentation
  • Highly stable formula keeps vitamin C potent for longer

Cons

  • May not work for sensitive skin

Efficacy

Vitamin C, especially in the form of L-ascorbic acid, is an exceptional and well-researched antioxidant that can lighten dark spots and promote collagen production, to make the skin appear more firm and youthful. The problem is that it’s very unstable unless very carefully formulated. 

Timeless got around the issue by adding ferulic acid, which is the best ingredient for stabilizing vitamin C and increasing its ability to rejuvenate the skin, making this the most effective vitamin C serum at this price point, and one of the best non-prescription anti-ageing products.  

They also recently introduced it in an airless pump package, which has really bumped up its stability to make it more long-lasting than it was in the past. 

Cosmetic elegance

This serum is extremely light and fluid — so fluid that it borders on being an essence. We actually would prefer if it was a little thicker since it can slide off the hands before you get a chance to apply it. That said, this light texture makes it a wonderful choice for all skin types including the very oily. 

Value

This serum is often compared to a similar one from SkinCeuticals that costs around $180, so while at around $40 it’s not cheap, it is by far the most affordable vitamin C serum that exists at this level of effectiveness, stability, and elegance.

Also on: Best Vitamin C Serums in Canada

Bottom line

CeraVe HydratingComplex 15 Daily Face CreamBiore UV Aqua RichCosRX AHAThe Ordinary NiacinamideBenzagelTimeless Vitamin C
Efficacy4.54.555555
Cosmetic Elegance4.5554.554.54.7
Value554.54.5554.5
Cansumer Rating4.74.84.84.754.84.7

What to consider when looking for a skin care product

Efficacy

Efficacy, simply put, is how well a product does its job. Different skin care products have different jobs to do, and how well they do it is the most important criterion to take into account. 

We judge efficacy based on the claims that a brand makes about its products as well as based on what the specific product category is usually supposed to do. So for instance, an effective cleanser will do a great job of cleansing the skin, while an anti-ageing serum should do a great job of reducing the visible signs of ageing. 

If a brand presents their serum or moisturizer as simply hydrating and moisturizing, then that’s the claim by which we will rate its efficacy, but if they present it as wrinkle-fading or brightening, which are bigger claims that are much more difficult to prove, then that’s how we’ll judge it, and as a result, it’s likelier to score lower. Sometimes (although it’s quite rare), a product will under-promise and over-deliver, in which case we will definitely rate it highly. 

Cosmetic elegance

Cosmetics need to be both easy and pleasant to use, a concept that we call “cosmetic elegance.” This has to do with the texture of the product, its scent, and even its packaging. After all, no one wants to use something that feels gloopy, smells bad, or comes in an annoying container.

Since we’re covering a broad range of skincare products, cosmetic elegance also depends on the purpose of the product. For example, for a moisturizer to be cosmetically elegant it has to have a pleasant texture and it needs to sink into the skin readily. However, we wouldn’t have the same expectation of an overnight mask or an occlusive balm which are meant to leave a bit of a film or residue over the skin. 

Value

Great skincare doesn’t have to be expensive, so we made it a point to choose products that offer the most significant effect at the lowest cost. For simple products like cleansers and moisturizers that can be very affordable, while products with more targeted effects and impressive ingredients can cost a little bit more. We find that more often than not the expensive luxury products are not really worth the price. 

How to introduce new skincare products safely?

We’ve suggested a lot of products today, but we don’t recommend you rush out, buy them all, and slap them on your face immediately! Even the gentlest cosmetics can cause irritation, breakouts, or an allergic reaction, and it’s nearly impossible to predict who will react to what. 

So how to prevent disaster? Simple, by following some skincare safety best practices.

To check for contact dermatitis, apply new products to a small patch of skin behind your ear or on your forearm for a few days in a row, or as directed in the case of products that are meant to be washed off or only used every few days. If no adverse reaction pops up then you can try it on your face next.

For acne, do the same thing, but apply the product to a region of your face where you would normally break out instead. If no unusual breakouts pop up then it is likely going to be okay for you.

Additionally, don’t start a whole new skincare routine in one go, even if you’re patch testing. Instead, introduce one new product at a time, and use it on your face consistently for two weeks before adding another product. This way, if you do develop some sort of reaction, you’ll know immediately which product it was, instead of having to guess from three or four new products. 

What to read next

Over to you

Which of these products are you going to try? Did we miss out on your “holy grail” skin care product? Comment and let us know!

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