I Tried the Under-$100 Skincare Line the Kardashians and Megan Fox Vouch For

A fun fact about me: While I very much enjoy the star-studded sightings that occur regularly here in L.A. (I’ve spotted everyone from Reese Witherspoon to Jonah Hill at my nearest grocery store), I’m significantly giddier when I get to meet one-on-one with the experts who enhance our fave celeb’s god-given beauty—whether its an A-list makeup artist, facialist, or, most recently, the cosmetic dermatologist for Hollywood’s elite, Simon Ourian, MD. (And yes, if the name sounds familiar, you’ve likely already met him via episodes of Keeping Up With the Kardashians.)

Although Ourian caters to some of the most recognized faces in the industry (the Kardashians and Jenners, Megan Fox, Sofía Vergara, Jasmine Tookes, Olivia Culpo… the list goes on) and his cosmetic services are justifiably pricey, I was intrigued to find out that his just-launched line of skincare, MDO Skin, is surprisingly affordable, with every individual product, excluding the kits, sliding in at the under-$100 mark. What’s more, his elite clientele use and swear by the line. Obviously, I needed to learn more, right?

In a definite pinch-me moment, I had the opportunity to meet with Ourian himself at his stunning clinic, Epione Beverly Hills, where he A) introduced me to his innovative in-clinic treatments (he uniquely approaches each client with the eye of an artist and the mindset of a scientist) and B) walked me through his line while providing context as to why he created his own collection in the first place. In a nutshell, he wanted to be able to provide his clients with high-quality products they (and he!) could trust to maintain and enhance their skin from the comfort of their own homes. Ourian explained to me that he believes everyone is born with beautiful skin, and his goal with MDO is to enhance the natural beauty that’s already there. 

“MDO is committed to providing solutions for specific skincare concerns,” the brand details on its website. “We enable anyone to achieve professional results safely and easily in the comfort of their own homes, with the ultimate goal of enhancing natural beauty. Results and client satisfaction lies at the core of MDO and Simon Ourian M.D.’s philosophy.”

My one and only question was could products so affordably priced within a sea of ultra-expensive alternatives actually grant the noticeable and immediate results they’re touted to? After weeks and weeks of testing, I can say yes with a capital Y, and my 100% unfiltered before and after photos below serve as undeniable proof.

As you can see from the photos above, using the MDO products drastically improved practically every aspect of my skin—instantly and long-term (the ultimate jackpot when it comes to worthwhile skincare investments if you ask me!). Not only did a few stubborn zits and acne scars improve, but my dark circles lessened, my dark spots and pigmentation practically disappeared, and my skin looked and felt brighter, healthier, and more hydrated and even. Honestly, I wasn’t expecting the difference to be this major, and I’m still kind of in shock! Whenever I discover anything this good as a product-jaded editor, I just have to share the magic, so keep scrolling to find out which products I used, loved the most, and have become irreplaceable mainstays within my routine. 

Prick up your ears: As a beauty editor who has been in the industry for about five years now and who has tried practically every moisturizer under the sun (with price points ranging from $5 to $900), this is one of my favorites of all time. I knew it was special when I first sampled it on the back of my hand in Ourian’s office, and based on how velvety soft and even it instantly made my skin look, I knew it was going to be a complete game changer for my finicky complexion. I’m naturally acne-prone and sensitive, and more often than not, I commit the cardinal sin of forgoing sunscreen on my face (I know, I know) and have the spots and pigmentation to show for it. I kid you not, this potent moisturizer not only resurrected my dry, dull skin from the dead, but it staved off new breakouts (which *usually* occur when I switch to a rich moisturizer) and toned down all of my spots and blotches. Since it is on the heavier side, I’ve just been using it a few times a week to top up my skin’s dew point, and I reach for something a little lighter on the days in between, but nothing can beat Ourian’s brilliant melding of hyaluronic acid filling spheres, duo hyaluronic acid, hexapeptide-8, vitamin E, and a slew of natural oils at this price or beyond. Plus, a little goes a super-long way, which makes the investment all the more worth it. 

Testing and swapping new products in and out of my routine is an integral part of my job. So when I tell you I’ve used this multitasking skin tint every day since I got my hands on it more than a month ago, that’s a huge freaking deal. You know that scene in Legally Blonde when Elle is watching a sappy romance movie in bed and shouts “LIAR” at the top of her lungs whilst showering the TV in half-eaten chocolates? Yeah, that’s kind of the internal reaction I have when any product claims to have filter-esque blurring capabilities. Except, plot twist, this one from MDO actually succeeds (which, let’s be honest, shouldn’t be all that surprising considering he caters to the faces of the Kardashian-and-Jenner clan, Megan Fox, and pretty much every other notable star in Hollywood). Not only does this skin tint do an amazing job of blurring the skin to make it look healthier and more even, but also Ourian strategically infused it with great ingredients like vitamin A, vitamin C, hyaluronic acid, salicylic acid, and jojoba oil so it will help your complexion look better in the long-term too. Another perk? This is the one makeup product he says you don’t have to hate yourself for falling asleep in. It’s light, easy, and the perfect product for your summer beauty MO.

As much as I try not to freak out about aging, I do, at times, freak out about aging. (Hey, I’m only human!) I work hard to embrace the changes I’ve already started to see in my (still young, I know) 29-year-old complexion, but I try to be as proactive as possible to preserve my skin’s youthfulness. And incorporating EGF—aka epidermal growth factors—into my skin routine has made a huge difference and is something basically any industry expert will advise. I love the convenience of these potent ampoules, which are specially designed to be extra concentrated and efficacious in order to noticeably counteract signs of aging while helping to lift, contour, and, in my case, brighten the eff out of your face. I love any product that delivers a tightened, radiant, glass-skin effect, and these high-dose ampoules 110% deliver. Plus, any type of product that grants instant and long-term results is a winner in my book! Each ampoule contains an elixir of tetrapeptides-9 and -11, which activate the skin’s essential epidermal growth factors and regenerative mechanisms, thus boosting collagen and elastin production (resulting in plumped-up fine lines and wrinkles). Lipo-dipeptide tag-teams to fend off sagging and loss of firmness, and last but not least, an all-star peptide complex that boasts two matrikines (oligopeptide and tetrapeptide-7) helps to regulate the skin’s cell activity by interacting with specific receptors to renew skin’s extracellular matrix and cell proliferation, both of which start to lag as we age. 

I have gadgets and gizmos aplenty (just call me Ariel), and if done correctly, I think high-quality facial tools can have a dramatic impact on the way our skin looks and feels. In fact, some of my favorites have truly changed the shape of my face; they’re just that effective at tightening everything up and firming. Are there other beauty tools that look almost identical to this chic little wand? Yeah. Are they as effective and affordable? Not usually! This facial-sculpting hack has become a mainstay on my vanity and within my self-care routine. It uses innovative nanometer technology to spike blood circulation and therefore gives the complexion a healthy, fresh-looking flush. You know that “I just worked out for an hour” glow you get after the gym? This tool does that from the comfort of your couch. It produces 6000 vibrations per minute, and all you have to do is cleanse, apply your ampoule or serum of choice (or a bit of moisturizer) and then, starting at your jawline, lightly push the wand upward along your cheekbones and temples. Keep repeating that upward motion (never go downward, which nixes the lifting magic) all over your complexion until the product you applied is completely absorbed. I guarantee you’ll be astonished by the results. 

Whether I had one too many skinny margs the night before or haven’t been sleeping as well as I want to, sometimes my skin is just begging for a 15-minute miracle. And this complexion-rescuing sheet mask (which has been likened by beauty lovers to just-as-good or better alternatives two to three times the price) is just that. MDO actually makes two great sheet masks, but if I had to choose my fave, it would be this one. (But fear not: I’ll get to the other one in a second!) Unlike a lot of sheet masks out there, I love that this one is free of fragrances and safe for all skin types. It’s drenched in a skin-enriching serum featuring a unique concoction of herbal extracts and active ingredients specifically added to protect skin from UVA damage while also hydrating the inner layer of the epidermis for an uncanny brightening effect. It’s like an $11 facial you can do yourself anytime, anywhere. 

As someone who has gotten quite a few pricks of filler in my life (and isn’t shy to talk about it), I take issue with a lot of products that claim filler-like results. That said, I trust professionals, like Ourian, who administer filler daily to make good on lofty claims and deliver at-home products that do, indeed, grant in-office-caliber results. And these skin-quenching, line-filling ampoules succeed! Again, I love the ampoule design because it helps ensure potency and efficacy, and this particular formula features an impressive combination of four different types of hyaluronic acid that visibly plump your facial contours for an instantly younger-looking finish. But it doesn’t stop there. Then, a hyaluronic acid–boosting tripeptide swoops in to enhance your results by triggering the skin’s natural hyaluronic synthesis so you get long-term skin perks, too.

I’m always leary of new vitamin C products (and strong serums, in particular) simply because there has only been one, yes one, I’ve tried in my entire life that hasn’t sent my skin into an eruption of redness and pimples. This was something I expressed to Ourian when I was talking to him at his clinic, so I was intrigued, albeit nervous, to take his formula for a spin. Now, in complete and utter honesty, I’m still going to remain monogamous with my all-time fave C serum, SkinCeuticals Silymarin CF ($169), but I will say if SC ever discontinues it, this is the product I’d defer to. To my huge relief, I used all seven ampoules for a week straight and had zero issues with inflammation or acne flares. (That said, I did follow Ourian’s instructions for those with sensitive skin and used them solo followed by a little bit of MDO’s moisturizer—I didn’t want to play with fire by layering in other actives or products while I was testing.) . So why didn’t this particular C formula cause me issues? I’m guessing it has to do with its category-leading 20% stable form of C, which, according to the brand, works on three levels of the skin to deliver next-level radiance and improved tone to the skin. Do you see how much less blotchy and more even my skin looks in my before-and-after? I think this product played a huge part in that. 

If anything and everything anti-aging is your prerogative, I recommend opting for these collagen-boosting sheet masks above all others. They hit a sweet spot in terms of pricing, and the expert blend of herbal extracts and active ingredients wields a ton of great skin benefits like improved skin elasticity, fewer fine lines, and an uptick in your skin’s own ability to produce collagen, which annoyingly goes into slo-mo as we get older. In fact, if we want to get technical here, the brand reports that regular use can increase skin elasticity by over 20% while lessening skin redness and reducing wrinkles over a period of four weeks. Again, you’re essentially spending $11 per treatment, which is an insanely good deal. 

Let me just say that while technically this cool little tool is coming in last within my ranking of favorite MDO Skin products, I still really love it! And without pointing fingers, it’s a way less expensive alternative to similar products on the market. I mean, at $45 it feels like a no-brainer! I found myself using the facial-sculpting wand more often just because I easily get addicted to anything I feel is tightening and lifting my face, but I love the idea of this palm-size misting device, which uses a super-advanced technology to transform water into a special hydro mist that delivers superior hydration to thirsty skin. I’ve never been a huge face-mist person, so the fact that I actually felt compelled to test and continue to use this one speaks volumes. I didn’t notice any super-dramatic differences as far as my skin looked, per se, but my skin definitely felt more hydrated and less tight and cranky. Follow the directions, fill the twist-off tank with water, and let your skin bask in an oasis of refreshing moisture. It’s definitely a pool- or beachside necessity; just be sure to charge it up before you leave.

This gentle yet effective waterless cleanser doesn’t contain any irritation-causing fragrance or sulphates and effortlessly detoxifies the skin while soothing and removing every last impurity. It’s the ultimate way to wake up and wind down. 

Believe it or not, you don’t have to spend hundreds of dollars on an all-star serum. You can use MDO’s in the morning and at night for firmer, smoother, glowier-looking skin. Key ingredients include hyaluronic acid, niacinamide (aka vitamin B3), wakame extract, and calming aloe vera.

If you want instant gratification in the brightening and smoothing departments, opt for this $55 exfoliant in lieu of a pricey in-office peel. It utilizes 10% AHA to lift away dulling dead skin cells while evening out skin tone and reducing stubborn dark spots and/or pigmentation. 

Craving all three of the above? This aptly named Skin Transforming Kit is the way to go and is a better deal than buying The Cleanser, The Serum, and the Exfoliant individually. 

Worth $310, this savvy bundle includes Ourian’s Intense Hydrating Moisturizer, and all three sets of skin-boosting ampoules: Intense Hyaluronic Filler, Powerful EGF (Lifting), and Vitamin C Glow. 

Pick up both of Ourian’s powerful sheet masks, and save.

If you’re not quite ready to take the plunge into a handful of full-size products, Ourian’s Boost Discovery Kit is a strategic alternative that still lets you experience the magic before diving in headfirst. I mean, I guarantee you don’t have a better way to spend $29 when it comes to your beauty budget. 

Your skincare routine doesn’t have to be long and complicated in order to be effective. In fact, it shouldn’t be! This is one of the things Ourian impressed upon me when he was telling me about the line (and why he created it!) in person. This smart set covers all of your bases via the brand’s top-notch cleanser, serum, and moisturizer. Consider anything else you layer in extra credit.

Up next, Even My Thriftiest Friends Splurge on These 38 Beauty Items

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