Trust us, we love a bargain just as much as the next beauty lover. But when it comes to skincare, we’re also willing to splurge a bit more for that special something. It might be an incredible eye serum with outstanding clinical trial results, a body butter that carries a scent so uplifting, it lifts us out of an up-before-dawn funk or a non-drying acne mask that feels elegant enough to have been designed by Regina King’s esthetician (you know, because it was). Luckily the best Nordstrom skincare of 2021 has all of this and so much more.
For these special purchases, we head to Nordstrom, a beauty destination that features a tight edit of science-backed formulations and indulgent, luxury products, along with cult favorites and top-of-the-line picks from the most promising indie brands in skincare. Ahead, see our selects for the very best of skincare that Nordstrom has to offer—and get ready to treat your skin like you never have before.
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54 Thrones Ugandan Vanilla + Ethiopian Honey Beauty Butter
This is the shea butter for legit shea butter heads. Sourced from East and West African cooperatives, this ultra-rich butter isn’t watered down (a dab covers a lot of real estate on the body or hair) or overly fragranced (though it does contain notes of vanilla and honey, the shea butter’s nutty scent still shines through). Pro tip: kneading the tube a bit before squeezing it more easily dispenses the thick butter inside.
Révive Defensif Environment Antioxidant Booster
We admit it: when the pandemic set in, we were suckered into thinking that indoor living would mean exposing our skin to fewer free radicals, pollutants and damaging light. The reality? Indoors, the concentrations of some pollutants are often two to five times higher than when typically found outdoors, according to EPA reports. Factor in endless Zoom calls (seriously, when will they end?)—and blue light that comes with the screen time—and shielding our skin from environmental aggressors seems more important than ever. That’s where this booster comes in: just a few drops added to an AM moisturizer application helps skin better protect itself against free radicals and pollutants (thanks to loads of antioxidants inside, including enzymes; green tea; vitamins A, C, E) and blue light (courtesy of fermented ingredients like pea extract).
Kypris Cerulean Soothing Hydration Recovery Mask
Nutrient-filled sea plants—like algae, plankton and seaweed—have a way of disarming skin cells diminishing free radicals while also delivering a serious shot of hydration to the skin. It’s something that makes this pricey mask totally worth it, especially post-treatment (or sunburn), when skin needs the most gentle of nutritive boosts.
Osea Vagus Nerve Oil
Skincare meets mental health care in this oil geared to soften skin and tap the vagus nerve, the longest and most complex cranial nerve that’s responsible for activating the body’s relaxation response. The stress-regulating nerve is also in charge of bailing the body and mind out of the non-stop fight-or-flight pattern that can be kicked up by simply reading the news and ushering them in a more balanced state of being. After rubbing the oil between our hands and deep breathing the scent before applying it to the base of our neck, we did notice a certain mental exhale (and reflexive jaw unclenching).
La Prairie Platinum Rare Haute-Rejuvenation Eye Elixir
If you want to use this year’s tax return to indulge, may we suggest getting your hands on opalescent eye serum, designed to undo the cellular damage done by time and too many hours toiling away at a high-stress job? Within the formula is some pretty heavy-duty science backed by clinical studies: signaling molecules work as growth factors to create new tissue and regenerate the extracellular matrix (AKA, the scaffolding that gives skin its bounce, lift and smooth texture). In a few weeks’ time, we’ve noticed a brightening effect that’s so compelling, we’ve started to use the stuff elsewhere on the face as well.
Kate Somerville Lifting Eye Cream
After a year in which even Kate Somerville’s A-list clientele hasn’t been able to make it to her LA skin clinic, the renowned esthetician has brought the clinic to us, with this eye cream, which delivers an A-list of its own: proven skincare actives like a peptide complex (to firm skin), red and brown algae (to lift hyperpigmentation) hyaluronic acid (to plump) and vitamin C (to brighten).
Eve Lom Cleanser
The original balm cleanser is still one of the best. To start, its scent (courtesy of four plant-based oils) proves the quickest way to turn the chore of washing your face into a spa experience. But luxury moments aside, the balm and accompanying muslin cloth do a tremendous job of melting away no-budge 36-hour eyeliner and de-gunking pores without drying out skin.
True Botanicals Chebula Active Immunity Serum
This liquid gel serum is a delight to use. It sinks into the skin quickly and smells like freshly cut white blooms, thanks to a naturally-derived preservative inside. Its namesake antioxidant boasts some pretty impressive credentials: Chebula, a plant-extracted ingredient that has been shown in the brand’s tests to be highly bioactive (at 60 percent) also is thought to reduce inflammation and maintain hydration. What’s more, chebula is known as a cascading antioxidant: instead of absorbing free radicals once, this ingredient fights off a free radical, then morphs into a fresh form that can fight another free radical—and continue with this process again and again.
U Beauty The Resurfacing Compound Skin Care Treatment
A favorite of celebrity esthetician Melanie Grant, this resurfacing treatment contains a cool proprietary technology that attracts and neutralizes cell-damaging free radicals while better optimizing ingredient delivery. Though hard to see the technology in action, we feel its effects: with each use, our skin becomes smoother (and without the irritation that comes with many exfoliators).
ZitSticka Hyperfade Microdart Blur Patch for Dark Spots
Our hangup with facial serums designed to fade dark spots? We end up treating the whole face for hyperpigmentation instead of targeting our skin’s melanocytes (the pigment-producing cells that show as dark spots). These patches are loaded with pigment-busting and pigment-fading niacinamide, arbutin, logic acid, tranexamic acid and licorice root extract and feature a prickly texture akin to a microneedling wand in order to better drive actives into the skin.
Elemis Superfood Cica Calm Hydration Juice Gel Moisturizer
With 75 percent aloe, redness-calming cica, and organic cucumber, this gel moisturizer is designed to gently hydrate the skin, but we can’t get over the cooling effect it delivers on contact. It’s a sensation that feels something like the cool blast of a facialist’s oxygen wand—and is just the pick-me-up our skin and soul need on sluggish mornings.
Nécessaire The Body Serum
For days in which you just don’t have time to wait for an ultra-rich body moisturizer to absorb into the skin (which face it, is most days), this fragrance-free serum serves as an excellent standing for neck-to-toe hydration.
Dior Capture Totale Firming & Wrinkle-Correcting Eye Cream
With its Capture Totale line, Dior has done something many heritage luxury beauty brands haven’t: moved to plant-driven formulations. The result is formulations that feel elegant while harnessing stem cell research and peony, white lily and jasmine blooms homegrown in the brand’s own gardens.
Arcona Tea Tree Mask
If only we knew about this mask back when we were in middle school and haphazardly applying harsh tea tree astringents and essential oils to our skin. Created by the esthetician responsible for Regina King’s glow, the formula elevates its star exponentially, by managing to deep clean our complexion without drying it out.
Sunday Riley Good Genes All-in-One Lactic Acid Exfoliating Face Treatment
This cult-classic exfoliating treatment remains a winner, thanks to its use of gentle lactic acid, brightening skin-brightening licorice and a cocktail of other plant-based ingredients.
Pause Collagen Boosting Moisturizer
Sure, this moisturizer may have been designed for more advanced skin, but we love its no BS lineage: it’s lightweight and absorbs in a snap without leaving skin feeling tacky; it works seamlessly with makeup; and most importantly, leaves skin with noticeable bounce, but not a shred of shine.
PCA Skin Sheer Tint Broad Spectrum SPF 45 Sunscreen
Our holy grail sunscreen earns its stripes with a sheer tint that doesn’t look or feel like makeup; a near-liquid consistency that melts into skin; mineral actives that block UVA and UVB rays; and a dewy finish that mimics a faint sun-kissed glow (even if we haven’t been exposed to anything but artificial light for days).
Chanel Hydra Beauty Camellia Repair Mask Multi-Use Hydrating Comfort Mask
When our skin feels dry and generally abused by life, this is the mask we use to deliver much-needed TLC. Its unique consistency, an occlusive balm, wraps our skin in a big hug of hydration. The smallest amount is needed to get the job done, rendering it way more affordable than you’d think. Plus, it carries the most nurturing, faintly floral scent.
Dr. Loretta Gentle Hydrating Cleanser
When it comes to finding a facial cleanser so gentle that it maintains moisture levels as it cleanses, we trust the version made by a dermatologist who’s spent 40-plus years studying the effects of environmental aggressors on our skin.
Dr. Dennis Gross Skincare Alpha Beta Exfoliating Body Treatment
At last, Dr. Dennis Gross’s famous peel system has been formulated to brighten the thicker skin on the body. A hearty dose of enzymes exfoliate the skin, while bakuchiol (a gentle, plant-based beta retinol) helps further brighten and even skin tone. Use it to calm smooth bumpy ingrown hairs, keratosis pilaris or body blemishes—all without tingle or sting.
Neom Great Day Magnesium Body Butter
When thinking about skincare, it’s easy to forget about the real estate below the neck. This cream doesn’t just carry a bright scent designed to lift spirits, it contains the rich hydrators often found in body butters (think shea butter, mango seed butter and coconut oil) but formulated in with a lighter, whipped consistency.
BeautyStat Universal C Skin Refiner Serum
All skin types have been known to tolerate this 20 percent pure vitamin C well, probably due to the addition of squalane to hydrate sensitive skin.