A 12-Step Routine Is So Last Year! Simplify Your Skincare With These All-In-One Sets

Level up by stripping back.

By Caitlin Clark
retinol night cream

It’s a golden age for the skincare-obsessed. The scene is packed with thoughtful, effective brands at every price, and social media makes information on everything from anti-aging advice to at-home rosacea cures as accessible as ever. (Though it should be said: the internet can never replace the value of a good dermatologist.) With so much to choose from, it’s natural to cherry-pick hero products from the best brands, but that might lead to overlooking one of the industry’s greatest gifts: skincare sets.  

Now, if the idea of skincare sets evokes medicinal-looking ’90s advertisements for Clinique, that’s fair. But that would also be counting out a few fresh kits that could be a game-changer for your routine. Maybe you’re looking to do a complete overhaul in one fell swoop, want a more economical way to fine-tune your regimen, or just need a solid lineup to travel with—either way, a good skincare set is your friend.

“The benefit of buying a set is that it’s often an affordable way to try out different products before commuting to buying the full-sized version,” says board-certified dermatologist Dr. Elizabeth Geddes-Bruce. “Also, you’ll know the products have been formulated to complement each other and layer properly.”

We spoke with Dr. Geddes-Bruce and Karen Fernandez, lead aesthetician at SkinSpirit, for more on finding your perfect skincare set match.

Featured image by Michelle Nash.

The Ingredients Found in All Great Anti-Aging Skincare Kits

According to Dr. Geddes-Bruce, a good anti-aging skincare set should, at the very least, include a cleanser, moisturizer, sunscreen, and night cream with active ingredients like retinol, bakuchiol [a natural retinol alternative], and peptides. “Bonus points if the kit includes an antioxidant like vitamin C or E as well,” she adds.

Retinol/Bakuchiol — This cell-turnover-promoting ingredient is the gold standard of any anti-aging skincare regimen. “It’s important to use a formulation that is medical-grade and in a high-quality base, otherwise it can be ineffective and even irritating,” explains Fernandez.

Peptides — “Peptides are like jumper cables that ignite specific functions of the skin, keeping those functions turned on and active,” Fernandez says. “For example, some peptides will upregulate your collagen production while others will regulate or slow down the reproduction of things like melanocytes, which are the root of hyperpigmentation.”

Antioxidants and SPF — “This duo is the first thing every person should incorporate into their skincare regime,” Fernandez shares. “Antioxidants support the skin internally and promote cellular regeneration, while SPF protects skin from the top down.”

Fernandez adds one more great anti-aging ingredient to look for. “For the savvy buyers willing to invest in doing the absolute best for their skin, look for growth factors,” the aesthetician explains. “Human-derived growth factors are super safe and effective in encouraging the skin to reproduce at the highest possible quality, mimicking skin that is young and in its prime performance. Retinol encourages faster reproduction, while growth factors encourage better reproduction. The combined effect is magic!”

Photo by Michelle Nash

The Benefits of an All-In-One Skincare Set

Though both women are fans of cherry-picking great products (particularly when they are all medical-grade), buying products in a set does have unique advantages.

“Sets can be beneficial because the product ingredients should be similar and work well together,” Fernandez says. “The products are also all spelled out for you, which may be the encouragement you need to actually do your skincare!”

Both Bruce-Geddes and Fernandez also like the idea of a set that targets a specific concern, like hyperpigmentation. And for frequent travelers, a streamlined, easy-to-pack set might be the only way they can keep up with their skincare routine.

The Best Anti-Aging Skincare Sets

ZO Skin Health Anti-Aging Program

Fernandez is a fan of ZO Skin Health’s targeted kits. The medical-grade brand’s thorough skincare set includes a cleanser and antioxidant, as well as a growth factor serum and exfoliating pads.

ZO Skin Health Anti-Aging Program, $213

Obagi Nu-Derm Fx® System – Normal to Dry

Dr. Geddes-Bruce loves Obagi’s skincare sets. This detailed kit includes all the elements of a great anti-aging skincare routine, as well as arbutin for brighter, more youthful skin.

Obagi Nu-Derm Fx® System – Normal to Dry, $458.50

Macrene Actives The Experience Set

Featuring a cleanser, cream, and decolletage treatment, this gorgeous set serves as a solid foundation for a hardworking anti-aging skincare routine.

Macrene Actives The Experience Set, $275

SkinMedica Everyday Essentials System with TNS® Advanced+ Serum

This high-quality skincare set from SkinMedica (a Dr. Geddes-Bruce favorite) features growth factors, retinol, and a mineral SPF—powerful ingredients and protection.

SkinMedica Everyday Essentials System with TNS® Advanced+ Serum, $436.50

Furtuna Skin Rituale Luminoso Transformation Set

The kit features just three bottles, but they’re a strong, versatile trio. Known for carefully crafting beautiful formulations, Furtuna products make your skin feel as fresh and lovely as the brand’s aesthetic.

Furtuna Skin Rituale Luminoso Transformation Set, $225

Charlotte Tilbury Mini Magic Secrets Skincare Set

Featuring the brand’s cult-loved Magic Cream (featuring hyaluronic acid and vitamin C), this peptide-packed skincare system is perfect for traveling.

Charlotte Tilbury Mini Magic Secrets Skincare Set, $62

Dermalogica Age Defense Kit

Another streamlined set that’s perfect for travelers, Dermalogica’s hardworking trio fights hard against environmental stressers. Key ingredients include peptides, vitamin C, AHA, and niacinamide.

Dermalogica Age Defense Kit, $58

SkinCeuticals Replenishing Anti-Aging Regimen

In SkinCeutical’s we—and almost every derm we’ve spoken to—always trust. The set includes three of the brand’s best-sellers that focus on restoring elasticity and strengthening your skin.

SkinCeuticals Replenishing Anti-Aging Regimen, $292

Docent Subscription Sets

If you’re looking for guidance on the right anti-aging skincare set for you, consider Docent, a new customized skincare prescription service that virtually connects you with a licensed dermatologist. Our deputy editor, Sacha Strebe has been testing out their prescription tretinoin and hasn’t experienced any irritation thanks to their customized and gradual approach that starts from a low concentration of tretinoin then slowly increases the percentage as your skin adjusts.

Docent Subscription Sets, Prices Vary

Photo by Kristen Kilpatrick

And Finally, a Few Anti-Aging Skincare Words of Wisdom

Consistency Is Key — It can be tempting to use a certain product sporadically or when it’s needed, but Fernandez stresses the importance of using your products regularly.

Everybody’s Free to Wear Sunscreen — And they absolutely should. “Sunscreen is the least glamorous and most important step of a good anti-aging skincare regimen,” Dr. Bruce-Geddes stresses.

On the Daily — Being consistent with your products also means being consistent with your regimen. “Daily care is as important—if not more so—than corrective treatments,” Fernandez explains. “As I say to my clients, ‘It is what you do to your skin daily that affects it the most, so the use of great skincare is your best investment. It’s like working out—we can’t go to the gym once and expect to see changes. It’s the daily training that keeps us in shape.”

These Ingredients Are Your Friends: Dr. Bruce-Geddes’ go-to anti-aging heroes: hyaluronic acid, niacinamide, vitamin C, vitamin E, alpha hydroxy acids, green tea extract, soy, allantoin, retinol, and bakuchiol.