How An Editor Tests Over Hundreds of Sunscreens, Eye Creams, and Moisturizers for Best of Beauty

Unlike, say, a futuristic gadget or a swipe of mascara, there’s something inherently ritualistic about applying skin care. It’s often a subtle cue that we’re about to finish our day — or start a new one with a clean slate. So crowning an Allure Best of Beauty winner doesn’t just mean finding the most exciting or even the most effective products on the market. Editors also take into account a moisturizer’s texture, an essence’s smell, or the way a serum sinks in; it’s everything that tickles (or turns off) our senses.

Last year, for example, MELE’s No Shade Sunscreen Oil SPF 30 won for the way it sinks into skin quickly, leaving a non-greasy dewiness and effective sun protection — all without leaving behind an unsightly white cast. Meanwhile, Pond’s Rejuveness Lifting & Brightening Eye Cream, another 2021 Best of Beauty winner, doesn’t just call to mind the traditions of our mothers at their vanities — its creamy, luxe texture visibly hydrates, improves skin elasticity, and boasts a subtle, refreshing scent.

Yes, at first glance, testing skin care products for our Best of Beauty Awards sounds like a dream gig — until you realize rashes, breakouts, and days-long irritation can come with the job. Luckily, this isn’t editor Talia Gutierrez’s first rodeo. Here’s an inside peek at her strategies for evaluating the competition.

1. Get Organized

“In my apartment I have a big shelving unit that I treat as a beauty closet, and right before Best of Beauty testing starts, I do a big clean out using my own organization system. To avoid getting overwhelmed by all the products, I arrange everything by category: essences, moisturizers, sunscreen, face mists — you get the picture.”

2. Stay True to Your Skin

“My skin type is quite sensitive and dry. It gets red really easily, especially around my laugh lines and under my eyes. I’m looking for really hydrating categories: thick night treatments, moisturizing essences, and restorative eye creams, like last year’s Pond’s Rejuveness Lifting & Brightening Eye Cream. Rookies always make the mistake of signing up for retinol, but this was a gentle formula that blended easily into my nighttime routine.”

3. Test Before You Test

“Last year I tested more than 100 products across skin care categories. I start by vetting products at the office. The first two things I’m looking for are scent and texture. Then I’ll do a patch test and see if the product reacts with my skin. I learned this the hard way. My first year doing Best of Beauty, I was testing a face mask and flew to California the next day. My skin started to flare up and get bumpy. I figured the flight was just dry, but the next day I woke up with tiny little bumps all over my skin. It took a few days for the rash to finally go away. Since then, if a product doesn’t pass the pre-test, I don’t bring it home.”

4. Set Clear Expectations

“I have olive-toned skin, so if a sunscreen leaves a white cast, it’s not going to get the green light from me. Best of Beauty winner MELE No Shade Sunscreen Oil SPF 30 immediately drew my curiosity as I knew there would be no issues with a white cast. The convenient dropper connected to this sunscreen oil’s lid, allows me to pump just the right amount of sun protection onto my skin every time. (One full dropper does the trick.) After a few seconds of gently rubbing the oil across my skin, all that’s left is a dewy complexion, without feeling the least bit greasy or film-like.”

“I also hate products that are really sticky on my skin — especially if I’m laying in bed and I feel my face or body sticking to my pillow. These are just examples of things that are important to me when I’m testing. User-friendliness is another: Sometimes a product is really hard to open — or looks like it might explode in my suitcase when I’m traveling. Not a good look. I also appreciate MELE’s frosted bottle; being able to see how much product is left reminds me to pick up another bottle when I’m running low.”

5. Take It Slow, and Take Notes

“I really enjoy my nighttime skin care routine, so that’s usually when I test this category. First, I see if I like the application process. Then when I wake up, I wash my face and pat it dry. Before putting on any other products, I check my skin for any dry patches, irritation, or red marks. Did it do what it was supposed to do? If it passes the overnight test, I test it with my daytime routine too.

“I try to examine my skin throughout the workday. When I get home from the office, I wash my face and check to see how the product worked, or if my skin looks any different. If so, I note those changes so I can recall them when I’m making my final decisions.”