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Best Retinol Creams & Serums of 2023

By: Christina Davies
Updated on: July 09, 2023

If you want to keep your skin looking young, there’s one ingredient that should be non-negotiable in your routine: Retinol.

Retinol, a vitamin A derivative, is one of the most effective skincare ingredients on the market. In addition to targeting wrinkles and fine lines, it lightens dark spots, improves skin texture, minimizes large pores, and regulates oily skin to prevent breakouts.

When applied to the skin, retinol speeds up cellular turnover and collagen production. These two vital functions both naturally slow as we age. In addition to maintaining skin’s elasticity and youthful glow, retinol also mildly exfoliates—which improves its texture and tone.

But, all retinols are not created equal. Some formats can be harsh or irritating, so it’s important to understand the ingredients within products you chose.

Whether you’re 25 or 60, there are many benefits that come with incorporating retinol into your skincare regimen. Keep reading to learn about some of the best retinol products on the market, categorized by skin type and concern.

The Best Retinol Creams & Serums of 2023

Best for Dry Skin

Retinol can be tricky for those with dry skin, as it has the potential to be drying. However, there are ways to use retinol while maintaining your skin’s moisture—it just requires using the right product!

The StriVectin-AR Advanced Retinol Intensive Night Moisturizer supports the four essential building blocks of the skin: micronutrients, proteins, lipids, and water. The retinol in this formula works to keep skin looking youthful, while it protects the skin from sensitivity to retinol.

This formula also includes plant lipids, copper tripeptides, and hyaluronic acid to keep the skin hydrated and protected from the environment. All of these factors make this a great product for those with dry or sensitive skin.

Best for Oily Skin

If you have oily skin, retinol can be your new best friend! Retinol helps to treat large pores caused by oily skin and can help to prevent excess sebum production.

Most retinol serums and creams will work with this skin type, but the Retinol B3 Serum by La Roche-Posay is particularly great for oily skin because of its lightweight texture. Formulated with retinol and vitamin B3, this fast-absorbing serum penetrates the skin, leaving it feeling hydrated, smooth, and renewed.

Best for Sensitive Skin
Photo: Avene USA

Avène is known for its line of sensitive-skin friendly products. The RetrinAL 0.1 Intensive Cream is a great product for those looking to ramp up their anti-aging regimen without using ingredients that have the potential to harm the skin.

This formula includes a unique lineup of ingredients that work together to plump the skin, protect it against free radicals, and reduce the appearance of wrinkles and fine lines. Retinaldehyde brightens the skin and targets signs of aging, relastide plumps and firms the skin, and pre-tocopheryl provides powerful antioxidant protection.

Avène’s signature thermal spring water is also included in this formula, which softens, soothes, and calms the skin.

Best for Acne-Prone Skin

Retinol has long been recommended by dermatologists as a treatment and preventative measure for acne. Retinol serums and creams can be applied all over the face to help combat acne, and higher concentrations of retinol can also be used as a spot treatment.

The Differin Adapalene Gel 0.1% Acne Treatment is the first over-the-counter Rx-strength retinoid. This potent formula regulates cell turnover and fights inflammation to treat and prevent breakouts. It can be used as a spot treatment, but is also gentle enough to be applied all over the face. Whether you have active breakouts or not, this is an amazing product to use to keep your skin clear.

Best Luxury Serum

If you’ve tried scrubs, masks, and peels to treat uneven skin texture but have had no luck, it might be time to try a retinol serum. The Shani Darden Skin Care Texture Reform uses retinol and lactic acid to reduce wrinkles and fine lines, brighten, and smooth the skin.

This gentle serum uses a mild retinoid, which helps to smooth uneven texture and target dark spots and acne scars. Meanwhile, lactic acid exfoliates the skin to keep it looking clear, bright, and youthful. Reviewers rave that this product provides all of the benefits of a retinol serum, without being too harsh on the skin.

Best for Young Skin

Retinol might seem like an ingredient that should be used only once your skin starts to show signs of aging, but this couldn’t be further from the truth. Using a retinol serum or cream can be an amazing way to prevent wrinkles and fine lines from forming in the first place!

First Aid Beauty’s FAB Skin Lab Retinol Serum is specifically formulated for sensitive skin and those using retinol for the first time. If you’re in your 20s or early 30s and are looking for a product to ease your way into the world of retinol, this gentle formula is a great choice. In addition to retinol, this product contains peptides and a Skin Saver Complex, which helps to protect skin from the irritation that comes with some retinol-based products.

Best for Mature Skin

On the other end of the spectrum, if you’re an experienced retinol user or have mature skin and are looking for a more potent formula, consider Sunday Riley’s A+ High-Dose Retinoid Serum.

This is an advanced-strength retinoid serum that offers a 6.5% solution of retinoid and retinol alternatives. This retinol blend penetrates deep into the skin to target signs of aging, while CoQ10 works to reverse damage caused by aging or UV exposure.

With this product, a little goes a long way—so be sure to start with a small amount and work your way up to avoid irritation or dryness.

Best for Daytime

Retinol has the potential to make your skin more sensitive to the sun, which is why it’s often recommended for nighttime use. However, retinol can be used during the day—but only when paired with a quality sunscreen that will protect the skin.

The Neutrogena Rapid Wrinkle Repair Moisturizer with SPF 30 is a powerful anti-aging product that combines retinol and hyaluronic acid to fight signs of aging and nourish the skin. This formula also includes SPF 30, making it safe for daytime use.

If you do decide to use a retinol product like this during the day, be sure to reapply a sunscreen throughout the day to keep your skin protected. The last thing you want is to cause further damage to the skin!

Best for Nighttime

RoC is a skincare line known for their amazing retinol products. The Retinol Correxion Deep Wrinkle Night Cream is a fan favorite, and for a good reason!

This anti-aging cream is designed to be applied at night to support the skin during the regeneration process. In addition to retinol, this formula includes an exclusive mineral complex to hydrate the skin upon application. With consistent use over time, this cream promises to deliver smoother, firmer, and more radiant-looking skin.

In addition, this product is just $25 and is available at many drugstores!

Best Natural Product

If you’re hesitant about using retinol or your skin doesn’t seem to agree with the ingredient, know that there are a variety of alternatives out there. One of them is Bakuchiol, a plant extract that offers similar benefits to retinol without the potential side effects.

There are a variety of products out there formulated with this natural ingredient, including the Herbivore Bakuchiol Retinol Alternative Smoothing Serum. This beautiful purple serum smooths wrinkles and fine lines and refines the skin’s overall appearance.

In addition to Bakuchiol, this product contains polyhydroxy acids, which resurface the skin, and tremella mushroom, which deeply hydrates the skin for a plump, youthful glow.

Best for Eyes

Last but certainly not least, it’s important to not neglect the eye area! The eyes are often the first place we start to notice signs of aging, so it’s important to give them plenty of TLC.

While applying a general retinol serum or cream to the eye area can be effective, eye creams are specifically formulated for the delicate skin around your eyes. Eye creams can be quite expensive, but there are a variety of affordable options, like The INKEY List Retinol Eye Cream.

This nighttime eye cream uses a slow-release formula that prevents irritation and makes this product gentle enough to be used around the eyes. This product is designed to reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles while nourishing the delicate skin around your eyes.

That concludes this list of the best retinol creams and serums for 2023! We hope this is a helpful guide as you shop for a retinol product to add to your routine.


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