The 17 Best Retinol Products of All Time

Take a trip down the beauty aisle at your local pharmacy and you’ll find that every cream, serum, and cleanser claims to be the product that will radicalize your at-home skin care regimen. It’s a tall order for most, but when it comes to retinol, experts say it’s actually quite true.

“[Retinols] are among the most effective therapeutic topical products that really work, as opposed to lotions and potions that almost work,” says Gerald Imber, M.D., a plastic surgeon and the director of New York-based Youth Corridor Clinic.

So what is retinol? Retinol is a vitamin A derivative which helps to promote cell turnover and exfoliation to “help with acne, brown spots, sun damage as well as fine lines, wrinkles, and textured skin,” says esthetician and co-founder of Glo Spa, Aishe Demirovic.

While retinol is primarily known for its anti-aging properties, it’s also incredibly effective in treating other skin ailments, like uneven skin texture and acne, according to Demirovic.

“As we age, our collagen begins to break down, and [retinol] encourages collagen production,” says Demirovic. “But it can also help people suffering from acne and clogged pores because it reduces oil production. Sun damage can also be brightened with retinol as well because of sped up cell turnover.”

RELATED: This Ingredient Might Be the Natural Alternative to Retinol

It’s reason enough to give the ingredient the green light, but Dr. Imber says there’s one thing you’ll want to watch for when choosing a retinol product: it can be irritating to the skin at first. That’s why Demirovic highly suggests taking it slow and building up your skin’s tolerance.

Scroll through for the best over-the-counter retinol creams and serums to achieve clearer, brighter, and refreshed skin.

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Obagi Retinol 0.5

Demirovic swears by this low dosage retinol cream that will smooth texture and refine the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. It’s also a great choice if you’re just staring out because you can “slowly get your skin acclimated with this vitamin, allowing you to build a tolerance safely without irritation,” says Demirovic. “From there you can gradually begin to increase the strength if you desire.”

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iS Clinical Youth Serum

This blend of peptides, antioxidants, and vitamins A, C, E  will tighten, brighten, and clear skin all in one. The serum promotes cell turnover to diminish wrinkles, deep lines, and blemishes, while using wheat and soy proteins to replenish moisturize, even out complexion, and nip irritation in the bud.

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Sunday Riley Luna Retinol Sleeping Oil

If you’re new to the retinol game, this is the perfect treatment to ease your skin into it. Blue Tansy and German chamomile soothe any redness, so that even sensitive skin can build up a tolerance quickly and  you can fight fine lines and breakouts without dryness and irritation.

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Dr. Dennis Gross Ferulic Acid + Retinol Brightening Solution

If you’re looking for a smooth and even complexion, void of deep lines and blemishes, then look no further. This brightening solution combines ferulic acid and retinol to help retexture the skin to reveal a fresher and younger looking complexion. Plus, licorice root extract and bearberry extract work to treat sun spots, wrinkles, and surface imperfections.

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Drunk Elephant A-Passioni Retinol Cream

Cult-favorite millennial brand Drunk Elephant finally released a retinol cream back in 2018 – and it was worth the wait. Along with gentle 1% vegan retinol, it contains ingredients like passionfruit, apricot, marula, and jojoba oils to nourish and moisturize skin while fighting fine lines, wrinkles, and sun damage. 

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Neutrogena Rapid Wrinkle Repair Face Moisturizer

Scoop this Neutrogena pick at your local drugstore and you’ll start to see benefits in a week. Anti-aging retinol and hyaluronic acid work together to plump and moisturize skin, reducing the look of deep wrinkles, including pesky crow’s feet.

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OLAY Regenerist Retinol 24 Night Serum

Relying on a blend of vitamin B3 and retinol, this night serum works to reduce fine lines and wrinkles, dark spots, and enlarged pores – and it keeps skin hydrated for 24 hours (hence the name). One reviewer, who said she’s been using Olay products since she was 14, noted that the product is “like fine wine.” She added: “Olay has tapped into the Fountain of Youth with this new line.”

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Verso Night Cream

If you’re down with the latest trends in retinol, then you may have heard of retinyl retinoate, an alternative to retinol that is said to boast the same benefits as its older sister (like increased collagen production and a reduction in fine lines and wrinkles) minus the skin irritation. Verso’s rich night cream also contains antioxidants, like vitamins C and E, as well as hyaluronlic acid and jojoba.

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Dr. Brandt Skincare 24/7 Retinol Eye Cream

If you’re looking for a brightening and anti-aging eye cream you can use morning or night, this one might just be your new go-to. It contains light-reflecting particles to instantly soften the look of dark circles and keeps fine lines around the eyes in check with time-released retinol.

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SkinCeuticals Retinol 1.0 Maximum Strength Refining Night Cream

If you’ve been using a product with .5% retinol and you’re looking for a little more oomph, consider this night cream from SkinCeuticals, which contains 1% retinol – plus ultra-soothing chamomile, frankincense, and shea butter. “The difference is amazing,” one reviewer, who has used the product for over a year, wrote. “At 62, my skin looks better than three years ago. My sun damage is gone.”

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Naturopathica Argan & Retinol Wrinkle Repair Night Cream 

If you’re looking to target fine lines and wrinkles but are prone to irritation, try this retinol night cream from Naturopathica. It uses encapsulated retinol plus argan plant stem cells and castor oil for a natural dose of moisture. 

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Jordan Samuel Skin Retinol Treatment Oil

Thanks to the addition of soothing and hydrating marula oil, this retinol treatment oil works as a moisturizer, too – so you can apply as the last step in your skincare routine and call it a night.

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Skinbetter AlphaRet Overnight Cream

If you have sensitive or dry skin but want to start using a retinol cream, then this formula may be a match made in heaven for you. Not only does it address wrinkles, dullness, and dark spots, but it also serves as a skin-soothing moisturizer thanks to the addition of lactic acid, an exfoliant and humectant. 

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The Ordinary Advanced Retinol 2%

It’s hard to beat The Ordinary when it comes to an affordable and non-irritating retinol serum. The formula was created without parabens, sulfates, or phthalates and uses two forms of retinol known to cause less redness and irritation.

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LilyAna Naturals Retinol Cream Moisturizer

This budget-friendly cream is Amazon’s “most wished for” moisturizer, which really just means one thing – you need to get your hands on it STAT. And with no oily residue and the ability to reduce fine lines and wrinkles, there’s really no reason not to place an order.

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RoC Retinol Correxion Anti-Aging Eye Cream Treatment

A roundup of retinol products really wouldn’t be complete without this drugstore staple. The RoC formula targets fine lines and wrinkles in the eye area and helps improve the appearance of dark circles and undereye puffiness in as little as four weeks.

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La Roche-Posay Redermic R Anti-Aging Retinol Serum

If you like the lightweight feel of a serum, then this retinol treatment might be the pick for you. The topical treatment also includes lipo-hydroxy acid which acts as an exfoliator and visibly reduces wrinkles, fine lines, and crow’s feet. One reviewer said she has noticed overall smoother skin and fewer breakouts after using the product for a month.

She added: “I’ve had a record number of mornings in the last month where I’ve looked in the mirror and thought, ‘Yeah, I look good today.'”

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