One of the reasons serums are so effective is that they are formulated to target specific issues. Retinol, otherwise known as vitamin A, is one of the most effective, powerful skincare ingredients around. Put retinol in a serum and you’ve got one seriously effective skincare product! In this article, we’re discussing what retinol is and how to use it. Plus, we're dishing on our top picks for the 5 Best Retinol Serums. From bargains to bakuchiol (we’ll explain that in a bit), we’ve got a great retinol serum for everyone!
What Is Retinol?
Retinols are a type of retinoid whose atomic structure is somewhat altered from traditional retinoids; this form of vitamin A is more readily accessible and often used in over the counter skincare formulas. It is one of the most used and most well-studied anti-aging ingredients on the market.
Originally marketed as an anti-acne treatment in the 70s because it is very effective at keeping pores unclogged, retinoids also quickly proved to have considerable anti-aging effects. It can increase collagen production and cell turnover, which results in firmer, smoother skin. When applied consistently, retinol helps clear away dull and dead skin, revealing a brighter and more even skin tone.
How to use Retinol
That said, retinol is so effective that it often takes some time to adjust. For that reason, we recommend using it either just once a day or every other day, especially if you have sensitive skin. Have a little patience as your skin might go through a period of adjustment as it gets used to the exfoliating action of retinol. Because you are exposing new skin, we recommend always following with a nourishing moisturizer-- and always apply sunscreen during the day! In general, it is best to avoid retinol during the day, as it can make your skin photosensitive.
Now that you know why you need a retinol serum in your routine and how to use it, here is our list of the best retinol serums:
1. Best Overall Retinol Serum
Fleur & Bee: 'A' Game Retinol Serum
Looking for a beginner-friendly retinol serum with a powerful punch? Level up your skincare regimen with 'A' Game. In addition to retinol, this vegan serum includes ingredients like organic rosehip oil to help even out skin tone, glycolic acid to exfoliate the skin, and ubiquinone (also known as coenzyme Q10) to help tighten the skin. Together, they work to effectively reduce the appearance of fine lines, wrinkles and dark spots. If you want brighter, more youthful-looking skin overall, get bring on your 'A' Game!
2. Best Budget Retinol Serum
Versed: Press Restart
Effective skincare doesn't have to be pricey. Case in point: Versed's retinol serum that combines non-drying encapsulated retinol and bakuchiol, a natural retinol alternative, to smooth the appearance of fine lines and uneven texture. Use it nightly to keep your pores clear and support healthy skin function. It's formulated for sensitive skin, so if you're feeling iffy about using retinol, this is a great start.
3. Best Drugstore Retinol Serum
The Honest Company: Honestly Pure Retinol Serum
Another great budget find is this serum from Honest Company, which you can find at a drugstore (or Target) near you. Made with retinol, hyaluronic acid, and tapioca, it’s known for its ability to smooth the texture of the skin, even skin’s tone, and reduce the appearance of fine lines. Interestingly, the retinol in this product is time released, which means it’s gentle on the skin. It also contains mica, a group of minerals that help give skin a dewy glow. (Vegans take note: although this product is cruelty free, it does contain beeswax.)
4. Best High-Potency Retinol Serum
Dermalogica: Dynamic Skin Retinol Serum
This lightweight, high-dose retinoid serum claims to visibly reduce the 4 signs of skin aging (pore size, texture, tone, and wrinkles) in just 2 weeks. Combining 3.5% retinoid complex with squalane, it works to reduce smooth your skin without the usual irritation that comes in retinols, and also helps to preserve your skin's natural protective barrier.
5. Best Retinol Alternative Serum
Biossance: Squalane + Phyto-Retinol Serum
If you’re concerned about using retinol or are not currently a good candidate for retinol use (e.g., pregnant or breastfeeding), this phyto-retinol serum is a good alternative. It is formulated with bakuchiol, a plant-based ingredient that offers similar benefits to retinol. A powerful antioxidant, bakuchiol helps the skin fight environmental stressors and works to reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. In addition, squalane and niacinamide will balance, calm, and smooth the skin.
We hope that inspires you to give retinol serum a try. When used properly and consistently, you’ll find it’s an extraordinarily effective part of a great skincare routine.
Things you buy through our links may earn us a commission.