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When it comes to our skincare, there are a few ingredients we cannot get enough of—chief among them retinols.
Retinols (and their prescription-only sisters, retinoids) are active forms of Vitamin A. Though both boost collagen production, brighten skin, reduce visible signs of aging (bye bye, fine lines and sun damage!) and reduce the size of pores, retinol is considerably less irritating to skin. And the best part? In a world where we’re promised miracles in every jar of cream, even over-the-counter retinols have been shown over and over again to actually work. So if you’re wondering whether or not you should incorporate a retinol into your skincare routine, the answer is yes.
But there are just so many retinols out there now! How do you know which ones are worth it? Naturally, we have the answers. Here are the 7 best retinol creams and serums on the market; you’re definitely going to find one that works for your skin (and your budget).
If you want an amazing retinol at a reasonable price, RoC is the brand to look to. Unlike other drugstore brands that use less effective retinol derivatives like retinyl acetate and retinyl linoleate, this luxurious cream uses actual retinol. It also includes shea butter to minimise redness and peeling. We love how gentle, yet effective this cream is—applying it every other night is enough to give us results without the pain or peeling of more hardcore formulas.
This bright yellow cream (that also comes in .50 and 1.0 strengths) is genuinely amazing, giving results with near prescription-level speed. Since retinol gives better results the longer you use it, the fact that SkinMedica has three concentrations means that your skin will always be getting the intensity it needs. A word of warning, though: SkinMedica’s products WILL make your skin amazing, but you do need to get your complexion used to the retinol formulas. Starting with the lower concentration and working your way up is essential to avoid unfortunate peeling.
This is a cult classic for a reason: it’s actually brilliant. Containing hyaluronic acid for added moisture, this water-based serum contains ZERO oil and is perfect for people with sensitive or acne-prone skin. We’ve noticed that it’s especially good at reducing the look of sunspots; after three weeks of use, even our darkest freckles had been considerably lightened.
If you have dry skin that you’re worried about retinol making drier, this is the product for you. Incredibly lightweight (and containing Vichy’s famous therma spa waters), it sinks into your skin immediately and leaves it feeling hydrated and smooth. Thought it does take a little longer to see results, it’s far more gentle; we didn’t have any redness or peeling while using it, which is a miracle unto itself.
Containing the one-two punch of retinol AND retinyl linoleate, this thick and gorgeous cream is great at delivering targeted results. If you have enlarged pores or minor acne scarring, after a couple of weeks of Redermic will help to smooth them out. This cream does have a smell, though, which can be difficult for fragrance-sensitive people to deal with; we say that dramatic results with no peeling or sensitivity is well worth a slightly medicinal aroma.
One of the side-effects of retinols is that they make your skin more sensitive to the sun—which is why a truly effective cream with a built-in SPF is totally genius. Suitable for use during the day or at night, this cream not only protects your skin as it refreshes it, it also provides a wonderfully smooth base for your makeup to go on top of. Revolutionary.
When it comes to eliminating lines while we sleep, this Kate Somerville night cream is truly the best. Containing hyularonic acid and soothing botanical extracts like jojoba, lavender and mango, it ensures that this is just as good a night cream as it is a retinol. Soothing and moisturizing our skin as it gently exfoliates and smooths, it’s literally everything we could ask for. What could be better than something that makes us more gorgeous while we dream? Exactly.
More from Daily Makeover: The Benefits of Adding a Serum to Your Skincare Routine.