Retinol Anti-Aging Serums & Creams

When it comes to retinol, you probably fall into one of two camps. Half of us, it seems, are true experts, slathering on just the right amount of this super-charged skincare ingredient with all the confidence of a trained dermatologist. Others are still (understandably) entirely confused by it all. But don’t worry, we’ve distilled the retinol rulebook below.

What is Retinol?

Retinol, or vitamin A, is the most researched and proven active ingredient in skincare. Working at a deep cellular level, it increases the rate of skin cell turnover, which means you see fresher, newer cells on your skin’s surface at a faster rate. This comes with several welcome benefits: pigmentation is faded, fine lines are plumped up, pores are clearer (good news for acne-prone skin) and rough texture is smoothed. Plus, retinol even helps prevent the breakdown of collagen and elastin, helping to keep your skin firm.

This is where it gets a bit complicated: there are several different derivatives of vitamin A, and they all have a slightly different action on the skin. Pure retinoic acid, which is ready to be absorbed and used by the skin, is only available in prescription formulas such as Accutane. Over-the-counter products contain retinoid derivatives that need to be converted to retinoic acid once on the skin. Retinol is the best known, while retinyl esters, retinaldehyde and retinyl palmitate are also gaining popularity. Each of these ingredients varies in strength and how long it takes to work on the skin. Going too hard too fast is how irritation and flaky dryness occur.

A good daily SPF is absolutely non-negotiable, as your retinol can make you more susceptible to sun damage. After all, you don’t want to use up all those lovely fresh skin cells.

What are the best retinol products?

Finding the best retinol for you largely depends on your experience with the ingredient. If you are new to retinoids, choose a low dose in a nourishing product, and apply it one evening per week for the first few weeks. Once you’ve developed a tolerance, gradually increase to every two or three nights.

If you’re new to retinoids, choose a low dose in a nourishing product (we’ll get to that later) and apply it one night a week for the first few weeks. Once you’ve developed a tolerance, gradually increase to every two or three nights.

The Best Retinol Products for All Skin Types and Concerns

With so many retinol products on the market, it can be difficult to determine which retinol serum or cream is the one that will meet your specific desires. Well, we’ve done the legwork for you.

To make it easier to navigate the shelves, we’ve compiled our verdict on the best retinol products, including who should use them and how…


Best Retinol Products: Best Retinol Face Oil

A-Gloei Maretinol Oil

drunk elephant


When Drunk Elephant finally crossed the pond in 2019, we couldn’t wait to get our hands on it. This month, the fashionable brand launched its innovative A-Gloei Maretinol; a lightweight, antioxidant-rich retinol oil, instead of the usual serums or creams. The oils may seem intimidating, but their consistency is silky – not greasy – softening and protecting the skin barrier while the retinol works its magic. For dry and rough-textured skin, it is ideal.


Best Retinol Products: Best Retinol Serum

Retinol Serum

The list of keys


Inkey List’s Retinol proves that you don’t have to break the bank to get a hard-working product. It contains 1% retistar retinol (equivalent to 0.05% retinoic acid) combined with 0.5% granactive retinoid (a synthetic but milder derivative), all balanced with super hydrating squalane. Designed to release slowly into skin cells, it’s gentle on your complexion and won’t cause the irritation or flaking that so many lesser quality formulas can.


Best Retinol Products: Best Retinol Serum

nocturnal feeling

Trinny London


Skincare enthusiast Trinny Woodall has just released two new retinol serums as part of her growing Trinny London skincare collection. Our pick is the Overnight Sensation Retinal+ Serum: a powerful formula containing a combination of gentle yet effective retinoids, which firm the skin while tackling fine lines and age spots. Essentially, you’ll get all the results of the most potent retinoids without the flaking and irritation. Bonus points for refillable packaging too.


Best Retinol Products: Best Retinol Serum

Revitalift Laser Deep Anti-Wrinkle Night Serum with Pure Retinol

L’Oreal Paris


L’Oréal Paris Affordable Retinol Serum does not disappoint. The ultra-light milky formula contains 0.2% retinol, which is stabilized using innovative technology to ensure it stays potent until it hits the skin. Glycerin and hyaluronic acid compensate for the drying effects.

The results? A noticeable reduction not only of fine surface lines, but also of deeper wrinkles.


Best Retinol Products: Best Retinol Serum

Super Retinol Ceramide-Boost Anti-Aging Face Serum

Pie Beauty


Beauty Pie has used clever encapsulation technology in its highly acclaimed Retinol Serum, which means the active ingredient is gradually released into the cells over a long period of time – good news for anyone with sensitive skin. In addition, a good dose of ceramides neutralizes any redness.


Best Retinol Products: Best Retinol Serum

3TR Retinol Serum



Recognized by many beauty editors, the clinical brand Medik8 makes a handful of retinol products, all in varying formulas, strengths, and price points. While the expensive R-Retinoate Cream is indeed amazing, the more moderately priced Retinol 3TR Serum is also very effective. Start with this one, then upgrade to the more powerful 6TR. (While you’re at it, try the brand’s Gentle Shine Cleanser, too.)


The Best Retinol Products

Luna Sleeping Night Oil

There are two great retinol products on facialist Sunday Riley’s list: This is the milder one. Perfect for newcomers, this deeply nourishing oil feels surprisingly soothing on the skin – these will be the avocado and chia oils – and is so hydrating you won’t need to layer it with anything else.

For something a little stronger (if you’ve developed a tolerance to retinoids), try the brand’s potent A+ High Dose Retinoid Serum.


Best Retinol Products: Best Retinol Capsules

Ceramide Retinol Night Serum 30 Capsules

Elizabeth Arden


Praise abounds for these smart pods, and we can confirm that they are truly brilliant. Each twist-open capsule contains a precision-poured dose of milky serum, which means the retinol inside stays as fresh and potent as possible, until it meets your skin.


Best Retinol Products: Best Retinol Serum

Treat the dye



If you’re going to venture into triple-digit territory, do it for a product as carefully formulated as this.

This filler-free serum – created by a GP specializing in dermatology – not only contains a perfect dose of retinol, but also hyaluronic acid and stem cells. Think of it as a cocktail of treatments in one.


Best Retinol Products: Best Retinol Moisturizer

Ferulic and Retinol Anti-Aging Moisturizer

Dr Denis Gross


Dr. Dennis Gross has been in the skincare business for years and has worked on many top facials. Her eponymous brand truly delivers clinical-grade results — that moisturizer included. It contains a clever fusion of retinol and ferulic acid: the latter is a powerful antioxidant that helps keep retinol active and encourages skin to repair itself.


Best Retinol Products: Best Retinol Eye Cream

Redermal [R] Retinol eye cream

La Roche-Posay


There are few retinols designed for use under the eyes, due to the delicate nature of the skin, but La Roche-Posay has them under control. This gentle yet effective eye cream contains a low dose of retinol to blur fine lines, as well as caffeine to displace those puffy puffiness. It is ideal for first-time users, as well as retinol regulars.


The Best Retinol Products

Retinol Cream 0.3%



Skinceuticals is a true authority on expert strength skincare, and its retinol products are especially effective.

Containing a moderate to strong level of retinol, this cream will start showing results within a few weeks. Use alone once or twice a week to boost cell regeneration, unclog pores and fade fine lines, switching to nighttime use if your skin responds well.


The Best Retinol Products

1% Retinol Anti-Aging Booster

This is an exceptional retinol formula for anyone who prefers performance over care. It’s fragrance-free and completely filler-free, which means you’re getting premium ingredients at a great price.

Apply directly to cleansed skin or mix one pump into your favorite moisturizer.


Best Retinol Products: Best Retinol Hand Cream

Time Retreat Hand Treatment

Your hands are just as exposed to UV rays and pollution as your face, so it makes sense to upgrade your hand cream. Eve Lom’s hard-working formula contains retinol alongside niacinamide to help lighten dark spots and keep your hands supple. It’s more than just a great moisturizer (although it certainly does that too).

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