Last updated: September 26, 2020

How we pick our products

21Products analyzed

17Hours invested

8Studies researched

86Comments collected

If you want clear, radiant skin (and who doesn’t?) then it’s time you learn about a groundbreaking product, retinol! While there are several products out there that promise glowing skin, retinol is one of the few ingredients that has been proven to actually work.

Retinol has the ability to impressively decrease wrinkles, but there are several miraculous benefits to this great product. Retinol also comes highly recommended by dermatologists for its ability to clear up acne. Dermatologists use products like these with high concentrations of vitamin A.

Key Facts

  • Retinol is a vitamin A derivative capable of stimulating the renewal of the most superficial layer of the skin.
  • This product reduces fine lines and wrinkles, and also helps prevent them from forming
  • The main side effects of retinol are inflammation, redness, and scaling of the skin. These unpleasant symptoms may appear if your skin is particularly sensitive or if you make excessive use of this product.

The best retinol products in the market

There are several products available on the U.S. market when it comes to retinol. Although they all are meant for the same purpose, not all products are the same. Each come with their own set of characteristics and are designed for different skin types. So how do you choose which one is the best for you? To make the decision easier, we have gathered a list of the 5 best retinol products available on the market based on user reviews, features, prices, and more.

Radha Beauty Retinol Moisturizer Miracle Cream

This cream by Radha Beauty contains 2.5% active Retinol, Hyaluronic Acid, Vitamin E, and Green Tea. All of these are great active ingredients for your skin, and fight signs of aging. Together, this combination supports natural collagen production and helps treat hyper-pigmentation.

If you’re looking for a product for your sensitive skin, then this product is safe for you. The brand claims this cream is safe for all skin types and is free of fragrances, dyes, and parabens. Use this cream in the morning and at night and pair with other skin care products.

Tree of Life Retinol Serum for Face and Skin

This serum also includes other active ingredients besides retinol. It has 20% vitamin C, clinical strength retinol, and moisturizing hyaluronic acid. This product also contains other skin loving ingredients such as vitamin E, jojoba oil, green tea, and witch hazel.

Ellyn Davis created Tree of Life Beauty, and she is a scientist at heart with a masters in biology and a doctorate in microbiology. She is committed to creating powerful anti aging products that women will love. Keep in mind, this product only has 2% retinol, so if you are looking for a product with a lower concentration, then this is a great option for you.

Yeouth Retinol Serum

This serum is made to be worn at night only. This product claims to aid dermal cell healing, lessen irritation and reduce redness, while helping restore skin tone on the face. This is great product for those needing more moisture in their skin, as it has aloe vera and pure vitamin E to soothe the skin through daily treatment. Simply spritz your face!

For only $20, this product should last one month if applied daily at night. Many past customers have rated this product very highly and have said it works great for clearing acne. Most saw a difference within the first few weeks.

Body Merry Retinol Face Moisturizer Cream

Body Merry Retinol Surge Moisturizer is ideal for most skin types. It’s a great product for anyone looking to diminish fine lines, wrinkles, acne, or for anyone who wants to improve overall skin tone and texture. Use this product on a nightly basis.
This retinol moisturizer is also full of other natural ingredients like green tea, organic jojoba oil, and aloe, which are packed with antioxidants and nutrients to help hydrate and nourish you skin. This is a larger bottle, so you will be able to use this product for much longer than others in our ranking, and it still has a low price of $20.

LilyAna Naturals Retinol Cream Moisturizer

This retinol cream can be used both in the morning and at night. It contains 2.5% of retinol, so it is also great for those looking for a cream with a lower concentration. It also has some organic ingredients for your face such as hyaluronic acid, vitamin E, green tea, shea butter and jojoba oil.

This product is great for men and women with all skin types. This product is very gentle, and can be sued on sensitive skin and around the eye area helping with dark circles, milia and under eye bags. With plenty of happy customers, its no surprise that this product is rated very highly!

Shopping Guide: Everything you should know about retinol

This derivative of vitamin A has been used in the cosmetic industry since 1984. As well as its wrinkle-erasing promises, retinol can also help with uneven skin tone, texture and pore size. Retinol reduces fine lines and wrinkles by increasing the production of collagen. It also stimulate the production of new blood vessels in the skin, which improves skin color and texture.

Woman using retinol

Retinol serums improve the appearance of skin for men and women alike.
(Source: Mandrikova: 51170131/

What is retinol exactly?

Made from vitamin A, many creams include retinol. It boosts the amount of collagen your body makes and plumps out skin, reducing fine lines and wrinkles. It also improves skin tone and color and reduces patchiness. It’s the #1 dermatologist-recommended non-prescription skin-aging solution for its ability to improve the appearance of collagen-depleted skin, speed up skin renewal and minimize the signs of aging.

Up until your early-30s, your cells turn over every 28 days, creating a fresh layer of untouched, pristine skin,” says dermatologist Mona Gohara, M.D., associate clinical professor at Yale University. “But after you hit your mid-30s, your cell regeneration slows down, turning over every 50, 60, or 70 days.” Vitamin A can penetrate your cells and stimulate their metabolism, making them act as young cells.

By adding a retinol serum to your skincare routine, you can alleviate the signs of aging; your skin will appear refreshed, hydrated and healthy. You wont see results overnight, as it will take at least 3 months of consistent use to really see the difference.

What is the difference between retinol and other vitamin A derivatives?

Retinol is actually one of the many different types of retinoids (the umbrella term for all vitamin-A derivatives, including retinol) that are on the market.

We believe that it is important for you to know the main differences so that you can make an informed decision when choosing the serum best suited for your skin.

  • Retinyl palmitate: This weak retinoid is more affordable than other vitamin A derivatives. The palmitic acid found inside means that its effect is mostly moisturizing. Its impact on wrinkles, blemishes and acne are somewhat limited, but it rarely causes irritation of the skin. We recommend it for sensitive skin.
  • Retinol: The potency of this product is moderate. It is sold over the counter. The reputation of the manufacturer’s brand tends to affect the price of the product. Its most common side effects are redness and scaling. It improves the aesthetic appearance of your skin by producing microscopic changes in its structure.
  • Tretinoin: Tretinoin is medication used for the treatment of acne and acute promyelocytic leukemia. For acne, it is applied to the skin as a cream or ointment. For leukemia, it is taken by mouth for up to three months.
  • Isotretinoin: Like tretinoin, this molecule is used for the treatment of more severe acne. Presenting very uncomfortable side effects, this product requires a prescription and medical monitoring for proper use.
  • Tazarotene: Tazarotene is a topical retinoid sold as a cream, gel, or foam. This medication is also used for the treatment of psoriasis, acne, and sun damaged skin.

We’ve created the table below to give you a more visual idea of the differences between retinol and other vitamin A derivatives:

Derivative Potency Side effects Price Over-the-counter sale
Retinyl palmitate Weak Very mild Low Yes
Retinol Medium Average  Variable Yes
Tretinoin High Severe Average No
Isotretinoin High Severe Average No
Tazarotene Very high Severe High No

For whom are retinol products tailored?

Dermatologists recommend adding retinol serums to your beauty routine from the age of 30 onwards. This is when collagen synthesis and new cell turnover starts decreasing. Vitamin A serums can help keep your skin looking young for longer. Retinol is commonly used to treat:

  • Wrinkles and expression lines
  • Sunspots
  • Marks and scars from acne
  • Acne, blemishes and blackheads
  • Irregular skin texture

Who should refrain from using retinol products?

If skin is damaged in its later years, undoing the damage becomes much harder and more complicated. That being said, you don’t want to start too early and that’s why it is recommended to begin adding retinol to your regimen in your late 20s.

Highly-concentrated products can have their fair share of side effects. If you fall into the “sensitive skin” category, we strongly encourage you to start with a product presenting the lowest possible concentration of retinol. Go for a trial period and gradually increase the potency of your product if no side effects appear.

Add retinol to your beauty routine around the age of 30.

How can I benefit from retinol serums?

Retinol works to neutralize free radicals, stimulate collagen production and accelerate skin turnover, smoothing fine lines and wrinkles and blurring acne marks and other blemishes in the process. This product can cause your skin to dry out and sometimes turn red, so it’s best to talk to your dermatologist before starting a retinoid regimen.

Aging reduces the thickness of your skin.. Retinol combats this slimming and restores the elasticity, hydration and freshness of your skin. Both men and women can benefit from the use of retinoid products.

Oil retinol

Don’t let your serum degrade by avoiding it coming into contact with air.
(Source: Kappatou: 67315405/

What is the price range of retinol products?

The cost will vary depending on which brand you go with. The cost generally ranges between 5 to over 200 dollars. Note that more expensive products are not always the best for your skin type.

Retinol should always be the main component of the product you purchase, so look closely at its ingredients. Some retinol products have a lower concentration, and you should try these first and see how your skin reacts before moving to higher concentrations. And yes, you can definitely find great retinol products that won’t drill a hole in your budget.

How should I apply my retinol serum?

As effective as retinol is when it comes to reversing damage, application plays a big part, because applying too much or too often can have the opposite effect and actually cause more damage. Apply at night on a clean and dry skin. Avoid any use during the day, as sunlight quickly deteriorates all retinoids and you’ll end up wasting your product. You also need to make sure to have a very dry skin before applying your retinol treatment.

You should apply a small amount of retinol to your face, neck and cleavage. You’ll notice that a pea-sized quantity will be enough for gel and cream serums. For products in the form of oil, 4 drops should be plenty. We encourage you to stick to recommended amounts so as to avoid potential irritation, scaling or redness.

Should I put sunscreen on when using retinol?

Yes, definitely! You should use sunscreen with a sun protection factor of at least 30. Don’t forget that sun exposure is the main agent responsible for skin ageing. So put sunscreen on every day, not only when you head for a day at the beach or in the mountains.

“Retinol increases sensitivity to ultraviolet light, which increases the susceptibility for burning, so it’s incredibly important to always apply liberal amounts of sunscreen each morning ,” says Rachel Nazarian, M.D., at Schweiger Dermatology Group.

Dr. Adam FriedmanMedical Doctor, Dermatology Specialist (USA)
“You don’t actually have to avoid sun exposure. Simply use protective measures, such as using sunscreen everyday on the areas where you apply retinol.”

What are the potential side effects of using retinol?

Because retinol causes skin to shed cells faster than normal, you’ll likely experience a few weeks of flakiness, dryness, irritation, and/or breakouts, until your skin gets through the adjustment period. While these effects can be quite annoying, they are actually harmless and will improve over time. Of course, if you experience extreme irritation or swelling, it is always best to stop using a product that is highly irritation your skin.

As we’ve said before, our recommendation is to start with low concentrations of retinol, one night a week for one month. Depending on how your skin tolerates the product, you can gradually increase the amount and concentrations you use. Here’s a tip from us to you: apply moisturizer ten minutes before your serum if you have particularly sensitive skin.

We’ve summed up side effects of retinol use and their solutions in the table below:

Side effect Solution
Skin redness Sunscreen. Moisturizing before applying retinol.
Irritation Sunscreen. Moisturizing before applying retinol. Spread out applications of serum.
Scaling Sunscreen. Use cleansers and creams for sensitive skin. Moisturize thoroughly.
Dry skin Sunscreen. Moisturizing (masks, day creams).
Pain, allergic reactions, severe or continuous irritation Stop using the product, and seek immediate medical attention.

Can I use retinol products during my pregnancy?

Despite the low risks, experts still suggest pregnant women should avoid applying vitamin A-based formulations to their skin during early pregnancy. However, if you have used a cosmetic containing retinol or a similar vitamin A-like compound during pregnancy, there’s no need to panic.

The use of retinol is contraindicated for pregnant and lactating women.

Serums containing vitamin C, glycolic acid or lactic acid are safe alternatives for your fetus.

Dr. Hanna BrowneGynaecology Specialist
“Nowadays, we recommend stopping all use of retinoids one month before you try to get pregnant.”

Shopping Criteria

In the next section, we will go over a few key factors that you should consider when purchasing a retinol product. Analyze these factors to get the best option for your skin:

  • Desired effect
  • Skin type
  • Formulation
  • Type of packaging
  • Value for money

Desired effect

What issue are you trying to combat? Low retinol concentration will do just fine if you’re trying to improve your skin’s appearance. On the other hand, you’ll have to go for more powerful products if you’re worried about acne and wrinkles. Unfortunately, manufacturers have no obligation to reveal the exact amount of retinol present in their serums.

While certain products advertise very high concentrations of retinol, they actually present a small quantity diluted in oils and moisturizers. Choose a quality brand with a formulation that uses retinol as its main ingredient. And don’t forget: you should always read the product’s composition before buying it.

Skin type

Before we dive in, you should know that there are three levels of retinoids: pure retinoic acid, which is the strongest and prescription-only; retinol, which is sold over the counter and is weaker and less irritating than the pure stuff; and retinol derivatives, which sell over the counter and are more gentle than retinol.

Otherwise, practically all skin types (dry, oily, combination) can benefit from retinol and its effects. You’ll want to opt for a lighter serum if you have oily or combination skin. You can go for thicker oils if your skin is dry. Regardless of your skin type, it is essential that you put sunscreen on everyday while using retinoids.

Face cream bottle isolated on white

A container with a dispenser will prevent your product from degrading when it comes into contact with air.
(Source: Starikov: 37935466/


You will find serums free of parabens and silicones on the market, as well as products respectful of nature and the environment. You’ll also be as happy as we are to know that more and more cosmetics companies are being compassionate and refusing to test their products on animals. If that is the case, your serum will display this on the bottle as proof that its manufacturer does not experiment with animals.

Type of packaging

We’ve mentioned before that retinol deteriorates on contact with air and light. This is why it is essential that you buy products with opaque containers, and don’t forget to store it away from direct sunlight.

We strongly encourage you to buy products in tube or with a dispenser. You’ll better preserve your serum by only letting the amount of product you use immediately come into contact with air.

Value for money

Retinol products tend to offer great bang for your buck. You’ll only need a small amount of retinol to improve your skin’s appearance if you use it consistently. You can save some money by choosing a serum with a composition focusing on retinol and with fewer additional ingredients.


“I don’t know a single dermatologist who doesn’t use a retinol product on their skin,” says Heather Rogers, MD, a Seattle-based dermatologist and clinical assistant dermatology professor at the University of Washington. “We’ve all read the studies and we all use it.”

We hope this guide will help you choose the retinol product that’s most suitable for your skin. Always read carefully each product’s formulation before making your purchase, and don’t let yourself be fooled by percentages and concentrations. Remember that patience is key: you’ll have a young and beautiful skin in a matter of months!

If you liked our guide on retinol, feel free to leave a comment in the section below, and share this article on your social media!

(Source of featured image: Mandrikova: 51170131/

Why you can trust me?