The 10 Best Retinol Creams

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This wiki has been updated 31 times since it was first published in October of 2016. Claiming a whole host of benefits, including stimulation of both collagen and elastin production, protection from sun exposure, and the elimination of wrinkles and dark spots, one of these retinol creams may be a welcome addition to your daily beauty regimen. Most are suitable for all skin types and might give you glowing results within just a few weeks. They come in at a range of prices. When users buy our independently chosen editorial recommendations, we may earn commissions to help fund the Wiki.

1. Baebody Beauty Ultimate

2. InstaNatural Youth Restoring

3. Kleem Organics Advanced

Editor's Notes

July 09, 2021:

Not all creams or supplements live up to their billing, but real scientific studies support the effectiveness of retinol for preventing and treating wrinkles. It's worth noting that overuse can cause skin irritation, so if you experience any rashes or other issues, consult with your dermatologist. There are alternative treatments that doctors can prescribe that have notably less risk of irritation. For this round of updates, we're confident in our current selection and so we haven't added or removed anything.

March 12, 2020:

For years now, retinol has been considered the most effective over-the-counter treatment for aging skin. It's said to improve firmness, lessen acne, and diminish the appearance of fine lines. Plus, it's incredibly popular among women (and in increasing numbers, men!) in the over-30 set. Essentially, retinol is a synthetic version of vitamin A that happens to react with skin cells, often positively, according to users.

It is, however, important to note that retinol-based products are by no means miracle workers, and their effects will certainly vary from user to user. By using products with this ingredient you may be risking developing dry patches or rashes, particularly if you have dry or flaky skin by nature. For something a little bit gentler, consider a shea butter lotion. On the other hand, if you're looking to aggressively address signs of aging, a chemical peel might be just what you need.

Olay Regenerist and BeautyRx Brightening have been added to the list, chosen for their popularity and effectiveness across skin types. By contrast, PureBiology Enhanced and Tree Of Life Flawless have been removed due to complaints concerning irritation and consistency. Baebody Beauty Ultimate now occupies the number one slot because of its high quality, nourishing ingredients, and glowing reviews.

Special Honors

The Ordinary Squalene This dropper bottle contains 30 milliliters of 1% retinol serum. It must be stored in a cool, dry place. Not only is it free of alcohol, silicone, nut, gluten, and soy, it's also free of water, so you know you're receiving a super-concentrated product.

Glossier Super Bounce Even though the brand has received tons of over-the-top hype doesn't mean you have to blow them off. In fact, Glossier made its name in skincare. Super Bounce is formulated not to leave any uncomfortable waxiness behind, and it's hypoallergenic to boot.

Drunk Elephant A-Passioni If you're dedicated to a vegan lifestyle, this product does not contain animal by-products and is also cruelty-free. And, while you may consider skincare to be a woman's game, A-Passioni has actually received the Grooming Award from Men's Health magazine.

4. LilyAna Naturals Premium

5. Body Merry Surge

6. Poppy Austin Green Tea

7. Amara Beauty 2.5%

8. Olay Regenerist

9. Roc Correxion

10. BeautyRx Brightening

What Is Retinol And How Does It Work?

It also decreases the breakdown of collagen to prevent wrinkles from forming.

You've probably already seen Retinol used as a key ingredient in everything from over-the-counter wrinkle reducers to prescription acne creams. Retinol is essentially a fancier name for Vitamin A, and is a gentler form of Retinoid. Don't confuse it with Retin-A or Tazorac though, which are both topical retinoids used primarily to treat acne and are only available in prescription form.

Retinol was born as a way to provide the general public with the same benefits as retinoid, but without the need to see a doctor and obtain a prescription. This less aggressive form of Retinoid changed the game for the skin care industry and quickly became the ultimate anti-aging solution.

If you're looking for a simple way to slow down the aging process and improve your skin's overall health, retinol creams and serums may be the answer. When this highly-reactive molecule comes in contact with your skin, it helps to turn over and shed surface cells quickly. By doing so, it stimulates the production of new skin cells underneath. This increase in cell turnover produces revitalizing effects that help fade discoloration, stimulate collagen, even out skin tone, and hydrate the skin. It also decreases the breakdown of collagen to prevent wrinkles from forming. Your complexion is left smooth and glowing with a more youthful appearance. It is a powerful tool that can be used for both young and old as a preventative or restorative measure.

Which Retinol Product Is Best For My Skin?

Retinol has become the go-to skin care product to tackle just about every complexion issue out there, including acne, wrinkles, and hyperpigmented skin. With a myriad of choices available, though, it may be hard to decipher which one is best for your skin type. It all depends on your needs, concerns, and level of tolerance, which can only be discovered through experimentation. From low- to high-strength over-the-counter products, they all provide the amazing benefits of retinoic acid, with considerably less chance of irritation. Everyone reacts differently to retinol, so consider how sensitive your skin is in general to cosmetics before picking out a product.

It is the last step before opting for a prescription grade retinoid.

Those with sensitive skin should start off by trying a brand with lower levels of retinoic acid. If you are in this group of individuals, you may be happy to learn that less potency does not mean it won't be effective. It just may take a little more time to see results. There are studies that have shown concentrations as little as 0.01 percent retinol can improve overall skin health and appearance. Moderate strength variations, with retinol levels between 0.04 and 0.1 percent, are the next step up if you're not seeing results as quickly as you'd like. When applied three times a week for a period of six months, most will start to see a noticeable difference in their skin condition. For those with more advanced skin issues, formulas with a higher concentration of retinol, between 0.5 and 1 percent, may be the way to go. It is the last step before opting for a prescription grade retinoid.

There are also different consistencies to consider. Retinol can come in a cream or serum form. Creams function more as surface level treatments that are gentle enough for sensitive skin. Serums penetrate deep within the epidermis, which is better for more targeted skin issues. Choosing the correct type and strength will be the best way to ensure the retinol cream you are buying meets your needs and can effectively be worked into your daily beauty routine.

Stop Believing The Myths

Despite hearing about the many miraculous benefits of retinol, some people are still nervous about trying it out. Here are some common myths about retinol that should be debunked.

It may take two to three weeks for your skin to adjust to retinoic acid use.

Many people think they need to stay out of the sun when using retinol, but this is actually false. While it is true that it works best at night, that doesn't mean you need to stay indoors all of the time. Research has shown that retinol is still effective and works quite well under SPF-rated products. It even helps to prevent the rise of collagenase after being exposed to UV rays. Just be sure to apply sunscreen before heading out to the beach. It is an essential step that shouldn't be skipped.

Another misconception is that you shouldn't use the product around your eyes. The skin around your eyes is delicate, but it is not necessarily more prone to skin redness and flakiness from retinol. It is however, an area that usually shows early signs of aging and sun damage first, so using a retinol product liberally may offer the best results to prevent crow's feet.

Another myth, and one which might have you scratching your head when you find out it is actually a myth, is that you should stop using the product if irritation occurs. With any other product, this may be true, but retinol is in a league of its own. If you experience some minor irritation, it is actually simply part of the process. It may take two to three weeks for your skin to adjust to retinoic acid use. To prevent any severe reactions, though, it is still best to start with a low dosage and work your way up. Always check with your doctor if you have concerns.

If you haven't jumped on the Retinol bandwagon because you've heard it isn't effective after six months, then you have been mistaken. Studies have shown that you'll continue to see the smoothing effects of this miracle worker over a twelve month period. After the year is up, if you do start to notice a decrease in results, it may be time to switch to a more potent product.

Retinol may not be for everyone, but knowing the facts versus the myths can help you decide whether or not this ingredient is advantageous to your daily beauty regimen.

Taber Koeghan
Last updated by Taber Koeghan

Taber is a writer from Santa Monica, CA, with a bachelor of arts in political science from the University of California, San Diego. After completing her degree, she began writing and editing copy for a host of high-traffic e-commerce websites. Her areas of expertise include the beauty, style, pet, and home products categories, and she has plenty of experience covering literature and art, too. Her personal interests in crafting and decorating inform her writing and -- she hopes -- add a good bit of insight to her work. Outside of copywriting, she is a reporter and columnist at a Los Angeles community newspaper and is currently pursuing a master of fine arts in creative writing.

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