The Insider Picks team writes about stuff we think you’ll like. Business Insider has affiliate partnerships, so we get a share of the revenue from your purchase.
- Maelove is a radically affordable skin-care line priced entirely under $30 and founded by MIT grads.
- Their cult-favorite $28 vitamin c serum (which consumers have pointed out is very similar to SkinCeuticals’ $166 version) put the company on the map, and is prone to frequent sellouts.
- I’ve tried four products from Maelove: the Day Eraser ($18.95), the Glow Maker ($28), the One Cream ($27.95), and the Eye Enhancer ($27.95). Across the board, they’re each hero products – and they’re unbelievably affordable.
- I try lots of skin-care products for my job at Insider Picks, and Maelove is the startup I am most excited about.
- Try the line here. The company also has a 100 day, 100% money-back guarantee.
It doesn’t take long in a Sephora to realize that luxury skin care is not affordable. Glossy tubs of La Mer go for $325, and there’s an $80 Peter Thomas Roth mask with pure 24-karat gold inside of it.
But, if you know where to look, you can find luxury skin-care products made in the same premium cosmetics labs for a fraction of the cost.
Take Maelove, for instance. The company was founded by MIT grads (skin-care obsessives, brain and cancer researchers, and chemical engineers) to democratize high-end skin care. Formulas are based more firmly in exhaustive research than the farm-to-face movement, and each product in the line is listed under $30.
It’s remarkably cheap.
What’s better, though, is the quality for the price. I try a lot of skin care products – both expensive and cheap -for my job at Insider Picks, and if I could only buy skin care from one line for the rest of my life, this is the one that I would pick right now. The products work well, they’re not expensive, and the startup hasn’t been wrong yet. 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 skin care cheap:
Longtime skin-care obsessive Jackie Kim wanted to make skin care more accessible, and co-founders and friends Brad and Rishi were looking for ways to apply artificial intelligence techniques to unexpected industries. Skin care – with its glamour, subterfuge, and markups – seemed like a natural fit.
As 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 $390 to $16. 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 neverending 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 ($28) is a vitamin c serum that brightens 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. You can find a full review here, including a side-by-side breakdown of the ingredient lists.
The One Cream ($27.95) is an everyday moisturizer that will deeply 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 one I prefer – there’s never any irritation to my sensitive skin, and it deals with dry patches well. You can find a full review here.
The Eye Enhancer ($27.95) hydrates, tightens, and brightens the delicate skin around your 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 polypehnols, reduces water retention and puffiness, and a botanical complex soothes the thin, sensitive skin around your eyes.
The Day Eraser ($18.95) 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. Unlike most oil cleansers, it shouldn’t leave a film behind or clog up pores. Personally, I use it as a makeup remover and a pre-cleanser before applying my face wash. It’s gentle, silky, and doesn’t irritate my sensitive skin.
And while I haven’t personally tried the Night Renewer ($27.95), it has nearly 400 reviews and a five-star composite rating. After years of research, the company was able to make a Glycolic Acid cream that was safe and effective for sensitive skin. It improves skin texture, fades dark spots, and diminishes the appearance of fine lines, wrinkles, and pores. This formula also has 10% medical-grade AHA, a blend of soothing ingredients, and Hyaluronic Acid for hydration.
Tip: Use the code “TEN” at checkout for 10% off any purchase of two or more products for a limited time.
The bottom line:
This radically affordable luxury skin-care line is the real deal. Maelove makes both some of the best and the cheapest skin-care products that I’ve found. And while I don’t often get to stick to my own skin-care routine as a product reviewer, I’ve surprised myself by preferring to use the cheaper Maelove products over luxury skin care I often test for work.
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 skin care is also a notoriously subjective experience. What works for me may not work for you – even a skin care 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.