Best retinol products have long been regarded as the gold standard in anti-aging ingredients. It’s an all-in-one cosmetic product that can treat anything from pigmentation and uneven texture to wrinkles and acne. There is, of course, a “but”: best retinol products are famously irritating. It’s a potent, efficient chemical, but the negative consequence of all that wonderful work is that it can cause skin flaking, redness, and sensitization. Typically, these unfavorable side effects are transient.
Top 15 Best Retinol Products For Every Skin Type In 2021
As the skin begins to acclimatize to the retinol, it calms down, but this is why typical best retinol products require a low and moderate approach: low percentages and restricted usage, building up over time. With the best retinol products being such a skincare superhero, it’s no surprise that manufacturers wanted to be able to provide its advantages to their customers without the drawbacks. And they have delivered.
Check out our list of the top 15 best over-the-counter best retinol products 2021 available right now, as well as best retinol products 2021 buying and application advice from board-certified dermatologist Joshua Zeichner, MD.
What to Look for in the Best Retinol Products 2021
Ingredients that hydrate
The first thing Zeichner suggests searching for in an over-the-counter retinol product is a hydrating composition.
“Because we know that retinol may cause skin irritation during the first two to four weeks of usage,” he explains, “it’s vital to seek for a product that’s also moisturizing.” Look for products with humectants like hyaluronic acid or oil-based emollients to truly hydrate dry skin.
Aside from hydration, Zeichner suggests looking for products that maintain and improve the skin’s natural moisture barrier, as irritation is an indication of a weakened barrier. Look for products that have elements that are both soothing and strengthening, such as ceramides, fatty acids, niacinamide, and probiotics.
A Stabilized Formula
Retinol is infamous for being an unstable skincare component, which means that it may be deactivated and rendered ineffective by exposure to sunshine, air, and heat.
While it’s critical to keep any retinol cream or serum correctly (i.e., in a cold, dry spot away from direct sunlight), Zeichner also suggests looking for products that include stable forms of retinol, such as encapsulated retinol. These may end up being more expensive products, but they’re worth it because they’ll be more effective and have a longer shelf life.
1. Best retinol products recommended by dermatologists: Peter Thomas Roth Retinol Fusion PM Night Serum
This serum is one of the most well-known best retinol products recommended by dermatologists on the market. It contains 1.5 percent microencapsulated retinol, which differs from typical retinol serums. Instead of freeform retinol, this lab-created version encloses retinol molecules in a capsule, which is then supposed to distribute evenly across your skin and penetrate more effectively with less irritation.
Vitamins C and E are put into hydrate and keep your skin smooth and healthy. It’s meant to be used at night so that the retinol may absorb into your skin as you sleep.
2. Best retinol for hyperpigmentation: RoC Retinol Correxion Deep Wrinkle Night Cream
This is one of the best drugstore retinol creams available. It’s cheap yet effective, promising to reduce the appearance of wrinkles and fine lines after just 12 weeks of constant application. However, because it contains less retinol than some prestige items, it is better suited to first-timers who want to test the retinol waters before committing to a high-priced product.
3. Best retinol products Day Cream: Neutrogena Rapid Wrinkle Repair Daily Face Moisturizer with SPF 30 + Hyaluronic Acid
While most retinol products are only used at night to avoid sun sensitivity, this one may be used throughout the day. This is due to the fact that it contains broad-spectrum SPF 30 to protect against dangerous UV rays while targeting stubborn lines and wrinkles and evening out the face.
The retinol SA in the recipe is increased by a glucose complex, which helps to accelerate effects, and it also includes skin-plumping hyaluronic acid, which binds moisture to the face and provides lightweight hydration.
3. Best retinol products for Body: Paula’s Choice Retinol Skin-Smoothing Body Treatment
It’s a must-have for the price and adaptability. Paula’s Choice put all of the retinol goodness found in facial products into a body lotion, which is wonderful news because retinol has been proved to enhance the appearance of cellulite and stretch marks.
4. Best retinol products Drugstore: Olay Regenerist Retinol24 Night Face Moisturizer
This treatment can provide an all-over glow by moisturizing your skin with shea butter and smoothing it with retinol and antioxidants. It’s also fragrance-free and cruelty-free.
5. Best retinol products for Beginners: First Aid Beauty FAB Skin Lab Retinol Serum 0.25% Pure Concentrate
If you like drugstore wrinkle creams, the small red container of Olay Regenerist’s Micro-Sculpting Cream has most likely won a permanent home on your vanity. Now, the same company is giving you a potent retinol night lotion that’s already garnering rave reviews.
6. Best retinol cream for beginners: Drunk Elephant A-Passioni Retinol Cream
If you’re new to the world of retinol, this First Aid Beauty serum is a great place to start. This product contains 0.25 percent retinol (a relatively low but effective concentration), peptides to assist promote collagen formation, and the brand’s unique Skin Saver Complex (a blend of hyaluronic acid, colloidal oatmeal, allantoin, aloe, ceramides, and vitamins C and E). It’s also fragrance-free, making it suitable for sensitive skin.
7. Best retinol cream for acne: COSMEDIX Clarity Skin-Clarifying Serum
If you’re looking for vegan beauty products, this Drunk Elephant best retinol cream for acne should be at the top of your list. Its revolutionary recipe contains a high amount of plant-derived retinol that promises to balance out tone and texture while decreasing the appearance of lines and wrinkles, while a triple-peptide combination promises to firm, fortify, and increase retinol’s youth-boosting properties. It also includes vitamin F, which is used to moisturize, nourish, and keep skin supple and smooth. In other words, your skin will appreciate it.
8. Best retinol night cream: Murad Retinol Youth Renewal Night Cream
Do you have blemish-prone skin? This retinol serum may be beneficial. Salicylic acid, a potent acne fighter, acts to cleanse, exfoliate, and unclog pores5, while L-retinol A promotes cell turnover while smoothing and leveling out the face. What’s the best part? It also contains calming components like willowherb, tea tree oil, and aloe vera to soothe and calm troubled skin, which is a bonus. Coming soon: a clearer, calmer complexion.
9. Best for Deep Wrinkles: Estée Lauder Perfectionist Pro Rapid Renewal Retinol Treatment
Murad’s tri-active retinol blend is one of the market’s most innovative and sophisticated compositions. They’ve blended fast-acting retinol, time-released retinol, and a retinol boost to offer you maximum benefits with the least amount of aggravation.
Using this at night, when your skin is most likely to mend itself, let the retinol perform its work uninterrupted. Also noteworthy is the presence of niacinamide in the composition, which soothes the skin while preserving its natural protective barrier.
10. Best retinol products Capsules: Elizabeth Arden Retinol Ceramide Capsules Line Erasing Night Serum
Estée Lauder’s serum, formulated with a strong mix of hyaluronic acid, vitamins C and E, and algae extract, keeps your face hydrated and happy while the encapsulated retinol gets to work. If your skin is extremely sensitive, use it every other night for the first two weeks before incorporating it nightly into your routine.
11. Best retinol serum 2021: Epi.Logic Double Feature Retinol + AHA Overnight Facial
Elizabeth Arden states that by encapsulating the best retinol serum in single-use capsules, the substance is maintained active and won’t decay before you get a chance to use it. Ceramides aid to strengthen your skin’s natural protective barrier, reducing the possibility of irritation.
According to the manufacturer, using one capsule every day for a maximum smoothing effect will result in decreased lines and wrinkles, enhanced texture and tone, and a more youthful appearance in just one month.
12. Best Clinical Strength: Obagi Retinol 1.0
This multipurpose overnight serum has everything you need to wake up with brighter, smoother, and more radiant skin. It was developed by a board-certified cosmetic surgeon to convert even the most retinol-phobic people into retinol lovers. It employs gradual-release technology to gently resurface and encourage cell turnover without causing redness or irritation.
Furthermore, it includes lactic acid and glycolic acid for exfoliation, as well as algae extract and squalane to moisturize and nourish the skin. What’s the finest aspect of it? Even people with sensitive skin might benefit from its glow-boosting properties.
13. Best retinol serum 2021: ROSE Ingleton MD Retexturizing Booster
Products containing a concentration of 1 percent pure retinol — indicating that it’s one of the strongest retinol products available over the counter — are typically reserved for retinol veterans who have properly conditioned their skin to handle a high concentration of this potent ingredient.
However, because Obagi Medical’s cream employs a novel encapsulated retinol delivery mechanism that gradually releases it over time, it claims to pack a significant punch while causing minimum discomfort.
14. Best Face Oil: Dermalogica Retinol Acne Clearing Oil
This retinol serum is very concentrated while being non-irritating, and it smells excellent without the addition of any scents. In fact, it has no extra substances that you should avoid, like sulfates, mineral oils, or synthetic colors. Instead, it contains Ingleton’s unique Jamaican Superfruit Blend, a complex of orange, lemon, bilberry, sugarcane, and sugar maple syrup fruit extracts.
They are designed to work together to increase cell turnover and resurface the skin while addressing fine lines, wrinkles, and uneven texture. You may anticipate a bright, silky complexion with prolonged usage. What’s even better? The formula is cruelty-free and vegan.
15. Best Gentle: Eve Lom Time Retreat Face Treatment
If you want face oils that do more than simply hydrate, Dermalogica’s skin-smoothing and acne-clearing retinol face oil are for you. It promises to smooth lines and wrinkles, enhance skin suppleness, and minimize hyperpigmentation while you sleep, using a time-released version of retinol.
It also has a 2% salicylic acid content, which exfoliates and minimizes breakouts and blackheads, making it an excellent choice for acne-prone skin.
The Peter Thomas Roth Retinol Fusion PM Night Serum is the cream of the crop when it comes to over-the-counter retinol. It’s significantly less irritating than your regular retinol treatment, thanks to its microencapsulated retinol technology, but it’s still pretty potent. It’s also infused with skin-loving vitamins C and E, which will keep your skin hydrated and smooth.
When it comes to an effective treatment that won’t break the budget, the RoC Retinol Correxion Deep Wrinkle Night Cream is a no-brainer. It promises to reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles in only 12 weeks for less than $20. If you have sensitive skin or are new to retinol, the First Aid Beauty FAB Skin Lab Retinol Serum 0.25 percent Pure Concentrate is the product for you.
It’s made with a low yet effective dosage of retinol (making it less irritating), as well as peptides and soothing components like colloidal oatmeal, aloe, and ceramides.
What is the highest retinol concentration available over the counter?
Most over-the-counter retinol products, according to Zeichner, do not contain more than 1% retinol, but he has seen a handful that has up to 2%. It’s also vital to remember that the retinol concentrations are below.25 percent are ineffective.
“Companies aren’t obligated to reveal the retinol content in products, and many keep this information private as part of the formula’s trade secret,” he notes. However, if a company does not indicate the concentration, you should contact them directly to guarantee the product is effective.
Is it safe to take retinol when pregnant?
According to certain research, topical retinoids may be detrimental during pregnancy. As a result, experts, including Zeichner, do not advise pregnant women to use topical retinol. Instead, he suggests using bakuchiol products.
“It’s commonly referred to as nature’s retinol,” he explains, “and while it’s chemically a different molecule and functions through other receptors, it does have a comparable collagen-stimulating impact.”
Is it safe to take retinol while breastfeeding?
In addition to retinol not being suggested for usage by pregnant women, Zeichner says that people who are breastfeeding should avoid vitamin A products as well. Again, he suggests using topical bakuchiol instead.