Founded by MIT grads, Maelove's under-$30 skincare products are on par with many luxury brands I've tried — here's what they're like to use
Maelove is an affordable skincare line founded by MIT grads. Most products, with the exception of the Love 31 face oil ($74.95), are under $30. The cult-favorite $28 vitamin C serum (which customers have pointed out is very similar to SkinCeuticals' $166 version) put the company on the map and is prone to frequent sellouts. I've used eight products from Maelove: the Night Renewer ($28), the Glow Maker ($28), the One Cream ($28), the Eye Enhancer ($28), and more. Across the board, they're budget-friendly hero products for sensitive skin. I try lots of skincare products for my job at Insider Reviews, and Maelove is one of my most recommended brands for its balance of price and efficacy. The company also has a generous return policy: If you're not happy with your purchase, you're able to return it within 100 days for a full refund.
It doesn't take long in a Sephora to realize that plenty of skincare is not affordable. Glossy tubs of La Mer go for $180, and there's an $85 Peter Thomas Roth mask with pure 24-karat gold inside of it. But, if you know where to look, you can find skincare products that perform on par with luxury picks. Companies like Maelove, a startup founded by MIT grads (skincare obsessives, brain and cancer researchers, and chemical engineers), use many of the same ingredients and cosmetics labs as high-end brands but sell products for a fraction of the cost, like a skincare version of Italic. Formulas are based more firmly in exhaustive research than the farm-to-face movement, and each product in the line is listed under $30, with the exception of the Love 31 face oil ($74.95). What's better, though, is the quality for the price. I try a lot of skincare products — both luxury and drugstore — for my job at Insider Reviews, and if I could only recommend one skincare brand to my friends and family, this would probably be it. The products work well, they're not expensive, and the startup rarely disappoints. Like the loophole of buying Differin gel rather than Differin cream to save $200, Maelove is one way to save hundreds on the essentials without making any concessions when it comes to what goes into the products themselves. How Maelove made good skincare cheap: Maelove CEO and cofounder Jackie Kim wanted to cut prices on grooming products, and cofounders Brad Yim and Rishi Khaitan were looking for ways to apply artificial intelligence techniques to unexpected industries. Skincare — with its glamour, subterfuge, and markups — seemed like a natural fit. As industry outsiders, Kim and company were able to pinpoint the norms that needed challenging. "The first oddity of the skincare industry that we noticed was that it's run like the fashion industry," Kim explained. "Marketers create trends and endless product varieties in an attempt to maximize sales. What you end up with is a ton of undifferentiated products hyped by overzealous marketers, which leads to confusion among shoppers." To illustrate her point, Kim points me to the 428 results that pop up for a facial moisturizer on Sephora's site, with prices ranging from $385 to $10. With such variety, how is the average person ever supposed to narrow it down to the best? Not to mention the fact that each sector of skincare seems to have its own never-ending subsets: There's the eye cream, the face cream, the cream for your left elbow, and the cream for your right elbow. But, while trends inherently change, the body doesn't from year to year. "How can there be a 'breakthrough' skincare ingredient every year?" Kim asks. "What worked well for our skin 10 years ago still works well today." The team recruited friends from all disciplines — cancer and brain researchers, chemical engineers, lawyers, and medical doctors — to hone in on the research without the baggage of preconceived notions. In essence, Maelove is one huge — and very successful — science experiment. And it reads like one. First, the team leverages decades of clinical research. "There are abundant and widely accepted published works that show which compounds work well for maintaining skin health. These are the tried-and-true ingredients recommended by every dermatologist and [which] are available in both over-the-counter and prescription strengths (the classic ingredients like retinol, AHA, certain vitamins and peptides, etc)." In short, these are the ingredients that should work. Then, Maelove uses artificial intelligence to scan millions of self-reported product reviews — what Kim refers to as empirical real-world data — to determine which ingredients correlated with success, and which to avoid. These are the ingredients that, according to users (or, self-reported test outcomes, as Kim calls them), do work. Finally, the company finds human volunteers to test the formula to verify that it's effective.
So, instead of building a business around variety for the sake of variety (remember: left elbow creams), Maelove focuses on making one line of stellar skincare that can work for all skin types. What to buy: The Glow Maker serum The Glow Maker ($28) is a vitamin C serum that works to brighten your complexion, evens tone, and lightens dark spots. It's lightweight and sinks in quickly and completely without leaving any tacky residue. And while vitamin C serums can be drying, Maelove's iteration has a botanical blend and hyaluronic acid (which can hold up to 1,000 times its weight in water) to prevent it. Consumers have been quick to note the Glow Maker has a very similar ingredient list to the multi-award-winning C E Ferulic Serum ($166), despite being more than $130 cheaper. Find my full review of The Glow Maker here, including a side-by-side breakdown of the ingredient lists.
The Night Renewer cream The Night Renewer ($28), is one of my favorite products on the market. It uses 10% medical-grade AHA, a blend of soothing ingredients, and hyaluronic acid to gently resurface the skin for better texture and more even tone without being too harsh or drying. It took the company years of research to master something gentle and effective, and they've nailed it here. After one night of use, I notice an improvement to my skin's texture and tone and have noticed it fades dark spots over time. My pores also look a little smaller. Read my full review of the Night Renewer here.
The One Cream daily moisturizer The One Cream ($28) is an everyday moisturizer that will hydrate without clogging pores. It's good for all skin types, and it goes on lightweight and absorbs quickly and completely. When I'm not testing another cream, this is the budget-friendly one I prefer — there's never any irritation to my sensitive skin, and it deals with dry patches well. You can find my full review of The One Cream here.
The Eye Enhancer eye cream The Eye Enhancer ($28) hydrates, tightens, and brightens the delicate skin around the eyes. A little goes a long way, and it absorbs into the skin for an all-day brightness and de-puffing boost. Cold-pressed Robusta Coffee seed extract, which is full of antioxidants and polyphenols, reduces water retention and puffiness, and a botanical complex soothes the thin, sensitive skin around your eyes. But if you're used to a thicker eye cream this may not be for you — it's very lightweight.
The Day Eraser makeup remover and cleanser The Day Eraser ($19) is a thicker, more oily cousin to a great micellar water. Maelove went through over 90 product iterations before landing on this one. It's a two-in-one makeup remover and face cleanser that respects the skin's natural moisture barrier and doesn't leave it feeling stripped or dry. It can remove waterproof makeup and still leave skin feeling smooth and hydrated. I like using it as a makeup remover and first cleanser because it's gentle and silky, but grabs waterproof mascara off my eyelashes without rubbing them. But, sometimes I apply too much. And since I don't wear makeup often, I tend to favor Bioderma Micellar Water for its slightly easier application.
The Deep Exfoliator face polish The Deep Exfoliator ($24) is a good, relatively gentle exfoliant. Its ingredients include BHA (salicylic acid) and pulverized clay to draw out impurities and absorb excess sebum, and niacinamide (Vitamin B3), glycerin, allantoin, and vitamin E to restore moisture. When used a few times a week, it helps resurface your skin for better tone and texture. It works best when combined with another AHA/BHA like the Night Renewer, but it's nice on its own — and especially for sensitive skin types. If you're looking for a stronger exfoliant and don't want to buy both, I recommend buying the Night Renewer.
The NIA 10 Calming Serum The NIA 10 Calming Serum ($27.95) is designed for dry, inflamed, sensitive, acne-prone skin. Niacinamide (vitamin B3), zinc, and white tea extract work to calm the skin and improve redness and tone over time. I noticed it helped calm my blemishes and made my pores look noticeably smaller. In terms of redness, it's helped slightly with steady use, but the results have not been drastic. If redness is your main concern and your skin is too sensitive for vitamin C serums, this is worth checking out as an alternative. Otherwise, the Glow Maker may be better for overall tone correction. Read my full review of the NIA 10 Calming Serum here.
The Refresher face wash The Refresher ($18.95) is a gentle cleanser that helps clean the skin without disrupting its natural moisture barrier, but it can be slightly drying if you're used to other simple, gentle cleansers like Cetaphil. The Refresher uses a blend of AHAs (lactic, malic, and tartaric) to remove dead or dull skin cells, and without a moisturizer after, it can be drying. Personally, I like that the AHAs help calm my breakouts and remove dull skin, but if you're prone to dryness, you may want to stick with Cetaphil. The internal straw also doesn't reach all the way to the bottom of the bottle, so you may have to dig for the last bit of the face wash.
The bottom line: This radically affordable luxury skincare line is the real deal. Maelove makes both some of the best and the cheapest skincare products that I've found. And while I don't often get to stick to my own skincare routine as a product reviewer, I've surprised myself by preferring to use the cheaper Maelove products over luxury skincare I often test for work because they're simple, gentle, and effective. I recommend Maelove to everyone who asks me for recommendations for a new everyday go-to product because it works for all skin types and doesn't cost much, but skincare is also a notoriously subjective experience. What works for me may not work for you — even a skincare line built to cater to every skin type. Luckily, Maelove has a 100-day, 100% money-back guarantee, so you're not risking much if you want to give it a try yourself.
Shop Maelove here.Join the conversation about this story »
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Popular K-beauty retailer Peach & Lily launched its own skincare line — we tried it and found the formulas to be gentle and effective
Summary List Placement Peach & Lily is a popular e-commerce startup that connects online shoppers with...Summary List Placement Peach & Lily is a popular e-commerce startup that connects online shoppers with Asian beauty products. Alicia Yoon — a Harvard Business School graduate, Korean immigrant, and former esthetician — created the $30 million company in 2012. Recently, the company launched its own in-house skincare brand that includes serums, overnight masks, gel cleansers and more for $27-$43. We tried a few of the bestsellers and were impressed with how gentle yet efficient the formulas are. After skincare brand Dr. Jart introduced BB Cream to the US in 2011, K-beauty's popularity exploded. In 2014, for the first time ever, Korea exported more beauty products than it imported — and the trend hasn't changed since. Few were better poised to capitalize on this trend than Alicia Yoon, a Harvard Business School graduate, Korean immigrant, and former esthetician. One year after BB Cream hit the United States, Yoon left her consulting job and launched Peach & Lily — an e-commerce startup that makes it easier to find and buy Asian beauty products online. Yoon developed a $30 million company over the last decade, and her team is quick to add that it was done without institutional funding or influencer marketing. Like its competitor Soko Glam, Peach & Lily leveraged its industry expertise by starting its own supercharged, eponymous in-house Peach & Lily brand. Right now, it includes most of the skincare basics — cleansers, serums, creams, toners, essences, oils, masks, and an eye recovery stick — which you can find at either Ulta or the Peach & Lily website. Prices range from $19 to $43, which isn't exactly cheap, but it's not unusual either. To see how they stack up, a few of us on the Insider Reviews team tested out some of Peach & Lily's bestsellers: the Overnight Star Sleeping Mask ($43), the Power Calm Hydrating Gel Cleanser ($28), and the Cold Brew Eye Recovery Stick ($28; currently out of stock). You'll find more of our thoughts below, but overall, we found Peach & Lily products to be great for everyday use. They're gentle and effective, though you'll need to apply the Recovery Stick with a light hand to avoid buildup. As a bonus, they're also cruelty-free, vegan (with the exception of the K-Beauty Rescue Balm), and don't contain synthetic fragrances. Peach & Lily Power Calm Hydrating Gel Cleanser The Power Calm Hydrating Gel Cleanser ($28) is a gel cleanser that lathers into a foam. Inside, you'll find soothing ingredients like camellia extracts and chamomile, a lack of sulfates, and a 5.5 pH to help maintain the skin's natural moisture barrier. It's a really solid basic — it didn't irritate my temperamental combination skin, and I noticed fewer blemishes while using it, which is unusual in my experience with one-size-fits-all cleansers. If you're wearing makeup, you should plan to double-cleanse, and ideally use it with another moisturizing product. I used the Power Calm Hydrating Gel Cleanser twice in one washing to remove every bit of long-wear foundation, and it left my skin feeling dry and tight. But when I double-cleanse with a micellar water or cleansing balm first, and then use a dime-sized amount of the cleanser, my skin feels clean and balanced — not dry, and not tacky with residue. Overall, this didn't dethrone my all-time favorite cleanser, but it's going to stay in my bathroom cabinet as a safe baseline to use between testing skincare products. If you're just looking for something simple and easy to use every day, then I recommend the Power Calm Hydrating Gel Cleanser. I found it to be more effective at keeping acne at bay than Cetaphil ($11), however, it's probably not worth the extra $17 if your skin isn't as temperamental as mine. — Mara Leighton, senior reporter Peach & Lily Overnight Star Sleeping Mask The Overnight Star Sleeping Mask ($43) has earned a permanent spot in my nightly routine. If you're looking for a morning glow and a way to combat dry, dull skin, this would be your product. Its peptides and antioxidants feed the skin during its reparative mode while we sleep, and its ingredient list includes a slew of the big-name skincare ingredients: a complex of hydrating jojoba, squalane, and macadamia, moisturizing hyaluronic acid, firming acai berry extract and peptides, and a myriad of others like black ginseng extract and niacinamide to brighten the complexion and fight free radical damage. It's a thick blue mask, so you'll want to be careful not to lay on any white pillowcases immediately after putting it on, but it absorbs completely overnight. In the morning, my skin is soft, plump, and well hydrated without any tangible residue. I was surprised and relieved to find that, unlike most thick overnight masks, this one never made me break out. If you can spare the $40-plus, this is a particularly gentle and effective overnight mask. — Mara Leighton, senior reporter Peach & Lily Cold Brew Eye Recovery Stick (currently out of stock) I use the Cold Brew Eye Recovery Stick ($28; currently out of stock) almost every day to brighten my under-eye area and it makes a difference. My advice is not to overdo it on the layering — it can build up and leave a residue. Instead, pat it gently under your eyes. It feels smooth and cool, and my under-eyes both look and feel soothed. I also love that it comes in a stick form since it's more convenient to travel with and apply (you won't lose any product on your fingers). — Connie Chen, senior editor Like Connie, I found the Eye Recovery Stick to lend a brightening effect, though I prefer a thinner formula like Maelove's $28 Eye Enhancer that can be more easily absorbed and is less likely to clog pores. But, the $28 should last you at least six months of use. — Mara Leighton, senior reporter Peach & Lily Glass Skin Serum The Glass Skin Serum ($39) has been getting a lot of hype lately, which I once foolishly believed is because it's the flagship product of Peach & Lily's line. I thought, of course the product the brand talks about most is the one people are going to pay the closest attention to. Turns out the hype is because it works, and it works well. I've been testing and writing about skincare products for almost five years, and I truly think that about 95% of the beauty world is just good marketing. It's the other 5% that I want to make sure our readers know about, and this serum makes the cut. I have rosacea on my cheeks, and since I started using Glass Skin about a month ago, I've seen my redness subside so significantly that I've started skipping even my basic CC cream some days. That's not to say that it's totally gone and my skin is suddenly perfect, but if you deal with redness, you know it can feel nearly impossible to see signs of improvement with new products. Rosacea also causes dryness, a bane that's being soothed well by the ultra-hydrating hyaluronic acid in the serum. I've also found myself breaking out less since I started using the serum, and my skin texture seems to be smoothing out in a way that very few products have ever helped with. My instinct says this is due in part to the inflammation-reducing ingredients, and in part to my simultaneous commitment to eat less dairy. In general, my skin feels plumper and healthier. I'm generally hesitant to laud skincare products in this way because I'm hyper-skeptical of how much crap is out there, but this stuff is the real deal. — Sally Kaplan, senior editor The bottom line Peach & Lily's in-house products are worthwhile if you're looking for gentle, effective everyday products that will work on a variety of skin types. They're cruelty-free, vegan, and don't contain synthetic fragrances. I'll be using the Overnight Star Sleeping Mask ($43) all winter to maintain my skin's moisture without clogging pores, and the Eye Recovery Stick ($28; currently out of stock) has become a staple of Connie's morning routine. Shop all of Peace & Lily's skincare at Ulta or directly from Peach & Lily.Join the conversation about this story »
This $68 self-tanning oil gives me a long-lasting, natural glow, and it never looks orange or streaky — here's why it's worth the price
Tan-Luxe's Wonder Oil features a roller-ball applicator to give you a more even tan. The...Tan-Luxe's Wonder Oil features a roller-ball applicator to give you a more even tan. The oil doesn't feel sticky or uncomfortable. To be honest, I don't think I could ever go back to a mousse because of the sticky, residue-like feeling it leaves behind. While oil tanners can take a bit longer to dry than mousses, in my experience, the glow is well worth it. I was a sophomore in college when my world came screeching to a halt. I hadn't even hit my 20s when doctors found a cancerous mole on my ankle. Growing up in Phoenix, Arizona, people were always telling me to wear sunscreen, but applying sunscreen to protect my ankles never really crossed my mind. I remained awake as two doctors opened up my ankle and dug out the cancer then sewed me up with 17 stitches and left me with an unfading scar. From that moment on, I knew that I had to protect my body. I stayed clear of overexposure to sunlight and always wore sunscreen, but one thing I just couldn't figure out: how to keep the sun-kissed skin tone I'd had for practically a lifetime. I saw women who got spray tans, but sometimes, I couldn't help but think they looked a little … orange. One day I said forget it and grabbed some of the St. Tropez Self Tan Bronzing Mousse that everyone always raves about. It was nice, but for the price I was paying, the glow just didn't last as long I was expecting. Then one day, I saw an advertisement for Tan-Luxe's new Wonder Oil. Priced at $68, it was a little too steep for me, but I splurged anyway to see if it was worth all of the hype. My experience using Tan-Luxe Wonder Oil This bottle isn't like a lot of others on the market. First off, it's a rolling-ball applicator, so you just roll it right onto your skin and then rub it in using your bare hands, a mitt, or even gloves. Because it's an oil, it goes on more evenly, and it's full of ingreditents that are good for your skin, including moisturizing jojoba oil and anti-inflammatory argan oil and caffeine. The oil doesn't feel sticky or uncomfortable. To be honest, I don't think I could ever go back to a mousse because of the sticky, residue-like feeling it leaves behind. I'll admit that my first application was a bit of a mess. I couldn't really tell where I had rubbed in the oil and scratched it off as a loss. Despite this, I was pleasantly surprised that the oil gave me the best glow of my entire life, and even better, it lasted for a solid week and a half, maybe two weeks. Read more: The best self tanners you can buy I went with the light/medium shade and think the medium/dark shade would have been too much for my fair skin tone. What I love most about this product is how natural the color is — I grew up around people with natural tans from the Arizona sun, and this product really replicates that appearance. When it came time to reapply, I went into it knowing what to expect and took a bit more care. I started at my ankles and rolled the applicator ball in a circular motion on my skin, rubbing the oil in as I worked my way up to my arms and chest. Side note: The first time I applied the oil, I used my hands (as directed), and the second time I used a mitt. Both methods worked well, you just have to make sure you wash your hands really well afterward. I don't apply the oil directly to my face, but instead mix two to three drops of it with Tan-Luxe's The Face Illuminating Self-Tan serum and make sure to rub that down my neck. I love using their drops for my face because I feel like the glow is consistent across both products. Post-application Oil tanners can take a bit longer to dry than mousse, but trust me, the glow is well worth it. After I was done applying my tan, I hung out in my bathroom until the oil started to absorb. Then I put on loose-fitting clothing and did some tasks around my house until it felt completely dry. While this product has gotten its fair share of negative reviews regarding its longer drying time, if I'm staying in for the night, this feels negligible. You only need to leave the product on for about four to six hours depending on the glow you're looking to achieve. I've had success applying it at night and rinsing it off in the morning, however. Read more: These $60 concentrated drops turn my daily moisturizer into self-tanner — it's my favorite way to get a sunless summer glow Bottom line I've self-tanned five times with the Tan-Luxe Wonder Oil and have consistently achieved a natural-looking glow for at least a week each time. I've used a quarter of the bottle in this time, which is a lot of product for the steeper price tag. I truly feel like I am getting my money's worth. Now that I have found Tan-Luxe Wonder Oil, looking like I just got back from Hawaii is easy. And I have the assurance of knowing I am keeping my skin safe by staying out of the sun and using a quality sunscreen. Join the conversation about this story »
If you’re still using the same skincare products in June that you were using in January,...If you’re still using the same skincare products in June that you were using in January, consider switching things up a bit: Your skin’s needs change with the seasons—that heavy moisturizer that soothed dry, chapped skin in the winter is going to feel horribly cloying on summer’s sticky, itchy skin. During the hotter…Read more...