The Best Retinol Serums Recommended By Dermatologists
Ask a dermatologist one of the most effective ingredients found in skincare and chances are you'll be answered with retinol. The ingredient can be your skin's best friend as it helps in smoothing fine lines and wrinkles, brightening, and reducing the appearance of scarring. That's why some of the best retinol serums can be your secret weapon for achieving a gorgeous complexion.
"Simply put, retinol is a topical form of vitamin A which belongs to the family of retinoids," Dr. Hope Mitchell, M.D., FAAD, the founder and CEO of Mitchell Dermatology in Perrysburg, Ohio, tells TZR. She says when it's applied to the skin, it's converted to retinoic acid, the most active form of vitamin A. Products that are formulated with retinol help fight the signs of aging by promoting collagen growth, and supporting cellular turnover and exfoliation. "Because they are so effective at turning over the skin — which is removing old skin cells to make way for fresh new ones — they are used to treat acne, blackheads, and are perfect for reducing fine lines and large pores, improving skin texture and evening out skin tone."
Dr. Mitchell says to give your retinol at least 12 weeks before you decide if it's working or not. "Some of the first signs that your retinol may be working are less oiliness and fewer acne formations along with smoother textured skin," she says. "Some people notice less dullness especially if their retinol product also contains niacinamide, vitamin C, or hyaluronic acid." And, after six to nine months, you might see improvements in fine lines. When you're beginning to incorporate retinol into your regimen, Dr. Michell ensures it's okay to start out low. If you don't use the products daily or consistently, Dr. Mitchell says results may vary.
Cosmetic dermatologist Dr. Michele Green notes that retinol can also be helpful in treating mild to moderate acne. "Retinols accelerate cellular turnover preventing sebum and dead skin from clogging the pores," she explains. "Due to the exfoliating properties of retinol, it keeps the pores clean, preventing acne breakout."
If you aren't currently using a retinol serum, consider trying one out. Below, TZR consulted with dermatologists to find the best options on the market.
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The Best Retinol Serums For Sensitive Skin
"ISDIN's Melatonik has bakuchiol, which is a plant-derived alternative to retinol that delivers the same collagen-boosting effects, but without the irritation," Dr. Jessie Cheung, a board-certified dermatologist in New York City, tells TZR. "It also has melatonin, which helps your skin generate glutathione, a potent anti-oxidant to help protect and repair your skin."
ROSE Ingleton MD's Retexturizing Booster is a non-irritating (ideal for those with sensitive skin) retinol serum. With the combination of retinol and the brand's signature Jamaican Blend, this serum treats fine lines and wrinkles.
Dr. Mitchell says LaRoche-Posay's Retinol B3 Pure Retinol Serum is great for those with sensitive skin. "The blend of retinol and niacinamide, which increases hydration, is perfect for patients with rosacea, dry skin, or even sensitive skin, leaving the skin not only hydrated, but renewed and with a smoother texture," she says.
The Best Retinol Serums For Dry Skin
"First Aid Beauty's FAB Skin Lab Retinol Serum combines retinol with soothing aloe and oatmeal, ceramides to replenish the skin, and hyaluronic acid, which holds up to 1000 times its weight in water to hold moisture in the skin," Dr. Cheung explains.
Dr. Mitchell's favorite retinol serum for dry skin is CeraVe's Skin Renewing Retinol Serum. "I recommend this product because it contains retinol with hyaluronic acid, niacinamide, and ceramides, which help the skin retain moisture," she says. "The addition of niacinamide and ceramides calm the skin while providing protection of the skin barrier."
The Best Retinol Serums For Oily Skin
"SENTÉ 's Bio Complete Serum is a sustained release retinol and retinyl safflowerate with heparin sulfate analog, a different form of hyaluronic acid," Dr. Diane Madfes, M.D., FAAD, a New York City-based dermatologist, tells TZR. She says it works by hydrating deeper under the skin.
Containing retinol to improve texture, vitamin C and vitamin E for antioxidant benefits, and squalane to hydrate, Peter Thomas Roth's Retinol Fusion PM Night Serum does it all.
The Best Retinol Serums For Combination Skin
Dr. Cheung says Olay Regenerist Regenerating Serum has niacinamide, which helps to brighten and even skin tone.
This retinol serum from Murad works for combination, dry, and oily skin types. Its product description claims it works to improve the appearance of fine line and wrinkles in as little as two weeks.
The Best Retinol Serums For Acne-Prone Skin
Dr. Cheung says Differin Gel 0.1% is a topical retinoid that was previously only accessible with a prescription to treat acne, but now you can get it over the counter.
Dr. Mitchell recommends Neutrogena's Rapid Repair Serum because it's made with retinol and hylauronic acid, which hydrate the skin while helping it retain moisture.
The Best Retinol Serums For Acne Scars
"iS Clinical's Pro-Heal Serum Advance Plus is packed with antioxidants and botanicals, including kojic acid to diminish blemishes," Dr. Cheung explains.
Ringing in at under $10, Dr. Mitchell says TheInkeyList's Retinol is made with squalane, which provides hydration to the skin.
It's no surprise that Shani Darden's Retinol Reform is adored by the beauty industry. With 2.2 percent encapsulated retinol (providing anti-aging benefits) and 2 percent lactic acid (to brighten and smooth complexion), what's not to love?
The Best Retinol Serums For Mature Skin
Ounce of Nature's Anti-Aging Serum is formulated with retinol and collagen booster. As the name implies, slather on your skin and say goodbye to wrinkles.
"Alastin Renewal Retinol has encapsulated retinol to improve delivery while lessening irritation, combined with silver mushroom for hydration, oat extract to calm the skin, and hydroxymethoxyphenyl decanone, an antioxidant and hyularonic acid booster," Dr. Cheung says.