At some point recently, we all agreed on one thing: A skincare routine wasn't just good hygiene—it was a point of thoughtful self-care. So we started investigating different lotions, creams, and serums, finding ever more tips and tricks to perfect our regimens, and soon enough, we came across retinol. Then we all agreed on something else: We needed it.
"A retinol signals your body to produce collagen and cell renewal, allowing for smoother skin while also reducing hyperpigmentation and clogged pores," says Jenna Queller, MD, FAAD, a Beverly Hills dermatologist. Jenna describes retinol, which is a derivative of vitamin A, as having all the benefits of a must-have skincare product. It's a type of antioxidant, so it can reverse premature signs of aging, diminish wrinkles, and lessen the appearance of sunspots. Basically, it's something all skin types can benefit from as part of a nightly process—as long as your skin can take it.
"I always recommend that my patients apply a very small amount and wait three to four days to see if they have any irritation," Jenna says, noting that some patients have seen this side effect along with dryness. "It is still beneficial to use a retinol two to three times a week if an individual cannot tolerate it on a daily basis."
So which retinol products should you put into rotation? Jenna recommends the 10 best retinol serums out there, making it easy to figure out which one is best for you.
"Oily and acne-prone skin types can achieve clear, smooth skin using Differin Gel, which was recently converted from prescription to over-the-counter," she says. "The Differin gel is oil-free and fragrance-free, so aside from it being a retinoid, it does not have any other irritants, which helps those with sensitive skin."
"RoC developed a retinol that combines the retinoid with oxygen and antioxidants to make it safe and mild enough for everyday use," Jenna says.
"This is a brand that prides itself on its consumer honesty and has prices that cannot be beat," Jenna says. "This retinoid has had great results improving signs of aging and leaves very little irritation on the skin."
"This is enriched with pure retinol, so you will notice a reduction in fine lines, uneven skin tone, and dark spots," she says. "This one may only be tolerated twice a week until your skin gets used to it."
"I have never had anyone complain about any skin irritations or reactions with this retinol," Jenna notes. "It is also a great price point."
"I love this line because it has a step up program with serum concentrations of 1, 2, 3, and 4 to allow your skin to get used to a retinol and build up to the higher concentrations without causing irritation," she says. "These serums also contain Vitamin A, C, and E as well as antioxidants and peptides to aid in the appearance of more youthful looking skin."
"This retinol cream is a richer than others," Jenna says. "It comes with a 'buffer cream' to make it more tolerable for those with sensitive skin. If you don't experience any irritation, you can slowly wean yourself off of the added cream."
"This serum also features green tea polyphenols to neutralize free radical damage, diminish dark spots, and protect skin from further damage," Jenna says.
"Besides having a high concentration of vitamin A, this cream also contains a pro-elastin peptide that can help firm and fill in fine lines and wrinkles," Jenna notes.
"This cream contains 0.3% retinol and is great for sensitive skin types as it contains no preservatives, fragrance, colourants, or parabens," she says.
Up next: This anti-aging serum is apparently like "Botox in a bottle."