Although we're adamantly not "anti" aging here at MyDomaine, we've been known to seek out products that promise brighter, glowier, firmer skin. In our pursuit of more flawless complexions, we've discovered that there's one holy-grail ingredient that makes any anti-aging product truly top shelf–worthy: retinol.
"Retinol, sometimes referred to by the brand name, Retin-A, helps rejuvenate the skin when applied topically by increasing skin cell turnover," explains Parvaneh Rafaeloff, MD, of Le Jolie Medi Spa. "When applied and used consistently, research has found that retinol products help alleviate acne symptoms, diminish wrinkles, and yield a more youthful appearance overall."
Meet the Expert
Parvaneh Rafaeloff, MD, is the owner and medical director of Le Jolie Medi Spa in Beverly Hills, California. She has been one of the region's most respected physicians for more than 18 years, specializing in cosmetic surgery.
Ahead, dermatologists share the best retinols on Amazon, including a $15 cream that'll "reduce the appearance of fine wrinkles," according to one board-certified professional. Honestly, they're so good they'll make you want to splurge on a Prime membership.
"This product contains retinol and alpha-hydroxyl acid, both of which have been shown to reduce the appearance of fine wrinkles," says Gary Goldenberg, MD, of Goldenberg Dermatology. "This product is non-comedogenic as well, so it won't cause acne."
"While retinol helps skin cells grow more normally, ferulic acid is a potent anti-oxidant that can repair any sun-damaged cells," reveals to Goldenberg. "Both improve skin appearance, texture, and shine."
"I love the new Ceramide Retinol Capsules from Elizabeth Arden," says Dendy Engelman, MD, of Medical Dermatology & Cosmetic Surgery Centers in New York. "The capsule form ensures that each capsule is one usage, and because they're individually packaged, the product can retain its potency."
"If you ask any dermatologist, they will tell you that a retinoid is the absolute backbone of treating acne," explains Engelman. "There is actually one retinoid that doesn't break down in the sun, and it is called adapalene. This retinoid was specifically designed to treat acne; it is not photo-sensitive, meaning the molecule will not break down under light."
"For a nightly regimen, I favor Nature Bissē's Essential Shock Intense Retinol Fluid for its other active ingredients—amino acids, mushroom extract, and soy proteins, among others—as these critical ingredients deeply hydrate and protect the skin as the retinol helps to repair and resurface," recommends Parvaneh Rafaeloff, MD, of Le Jolie Medi Spa.
"When using any type of retinol product, your skin will inevitably become more sensitive, especially to sun exposure," explains Rafaeloff. "Always make sure to completely remove your stronger retinol products in the morning by cleansing thoroughly and then applying ample amounts of sunscreen," she recommends. "I love this Philosophy multi-rejuvenating cream as it contains broad-spectrum SPF 30 to safeguard against any sun sensitivity and overexposure one might experience while using retinol."
"This product has been formulated in a way to allow for the combination of a retinol with glycolic acid, for an enhanced benefit in skin texture," recommends Jeremy Brauer, MD, of Jeremy Brauer, MD.
"Baebody's retinol cream contains soothing ingredients that will quell any potential irritation of the retinol," endorses Yoon-Soo Cindy Bae, MD, of the Laser and Skin Surgery Center of New York.
"This was a prescription product, now over the counter, so the efficacy is unquestionable," says Bae.
"Just short of a prescription strength retinoid, [this cream is] effective at targeting fine lines," according to Jennifer Herrmann, MD, FAAD, of Moy, Fincher, Chipps Dermatology. "Unlike less tested brands, it's active ingredient retinol is stabilized to be effective in daylight. This day product also contains hyaluronic acid to help keep skin plump and irritation-free."
"The retinol in this product is specifically formulated to maximally penetrate the stratum corneum (our outer layer of dead skin cells) to better reach the dermis where it acts to promote cell turnover and collagen synthesis," explains Herrmann. "It also contains hydrating hyaluronic acid and SPF, so it's a perfect choice for morning users."
"Skin around the eye is more sensitive than other areas on the face, and traditional retinols may be too irritating for this area," says Herrmann. "This Olay product contains retinyl propionate, a more gentle form of vitamin A that is converted into retinol once it's in the skin. It also contains niacinamide, which can calm skin and reduce redness."
Zasada M, Budzisz E. Retinoids: active molecules influencing skin structure formation in cosmetic and dermatological treatments. Postepy Dermatol Alergol. 2019;36(4):392-397. doi:10.5114/ada.2019.87443
Tran D, Townley JP, Barnes TM, Greive KA. An antiaging skin care system containing alpha hydroxy acids and vitamins improves the biomechanical parameters of facial skin. Clin Cosmet Investig Dermatol. 2015;8:9-17. doi:10.2147/CCID.S75439
Murray JC, Burch JA, Streilein RD, Iannacchione MA, Hall RP, Pinnell SR. A topical antioxidant solution containing vitamins C and E stabilized by ferulic acid provides protection for human skin against damage caused by ultraviolet irradiation. J Am Acad Dermatol. 2008;59(3):418-25. doi:10.1016/j.jaad.2008.05.004