Smoothing Retinol Serums to Sandwich Between Your Cleanser and Night Cream

Smoothing Retinol Serums to Sandwich Between Your Cleanser and Night Cream
Photo: Cierra Miller/STYLECASTER.

There is no one way to go about getting the skin of your dreams, but I think most of us agree that the best retinol serum will get you there a whole lot faster. Retinol is the head honcho of exfoliating skincare ingredients and undisputed champion of anti-aging routines. Though its star benefit is a face that feels smooth to the touch, its pros are far more wide-ranging and include upgrading a dull complexion, correcting uneven tone and plumper-looking (and feeling) skin due to a boost in collagen production.

The time it takes to incorporate a retinol product into your routine really depends on your general tolerance. For those with resilient skin, starting retinol can feel no different than experimenting with your run-of-the-mill moisturizer. It’s usually a different story for sensitive skin types who need to ease their way in with weekly use and a gentle formula that could also be an equally effective retinol alternative.

But for the most part, a retinol serum used in between your nightly cleanser and moisturizer is the easiest straight forward way to accelerate the journey to a healthy and glowy complexion. Ahead, some of my favorite options for both budget spending and a not-so-random splurge.



Beautybio The Nightly Peptide Serum


BeautyBio The Nightly Moduline Peptide Filling Sphere Serum

A multitasking night treatment infused with time-release retinol, a firming peptide complex and volumizing hyaluronic acid spheres for targeting fine lines.

Biossance Squalane Phyto-Retinol Serum


Biossance Squalane + Phyto-Retinol Serum

A lightweight squalane-based face serum made with bakuchiol, the most popular plant-based retinol alternative.

FAB Skin Lab Retinol Serum

First Aid Beauty.

FAB Skin Lab Retinol Serum

Made specifically for retinol beginners, this sensitive skin-friendly serum is comprised of a super gentle 0.25% concentrate that includes retinol as well as the brand’s signature calming ingredient, colloidal oatmeal.

Honest Honestly Pure Retinol Serum


Honest Honestly Pure Retinol Serum

Honest’s serum stands out for a formula comprised of retinol, hyaluronic acid, niacinamide and squalane that is just as hydrating as it is exfoliating.

Neutrogena Deep Wrinkle Serum


Neutrogena Ageless Intensives Deep Wrinkle Serum

An affordable drugstore serum formulated with multiple vitamins and retinol to improve the skin beyond increased smoothness and balanced tone.

Olay Retinol24 Night Serum


Olay Retinol24 Night Serum

Combine this serum with the matching, fragrance-free moisturizer to maximize the benefits of the brand’s exclusive time-release retinol and vitamin B3 complex.

PCA Skin Intense Brightening Treatment Retinol

PCA Skin.

PCA Skin Intense Brightening Treatment: 0.5% Pure Retinol Night

A powerful pro-level retinol serum that also targets improving brightness with niacinamide, vitamin E and more.

Pixi Collagen and Retinol Serum

Pixi by Petra.

Pixi Collagen & Retinol Serum

A standout budget-friendly serum that combines retinol and acacia collagen to diminish fine lines, improve texture and plump the skin.

RoC Deep Wrinkle Serum


RoC Retinol Correxion Deep Wrinkle Serum

A derm-approved addition to RoC’s iconic retinol range, meant to visibly reduce the appearance of fine lines, dark spots and more in just 8 weeks.

The Ordinary Retinol 0.5 Squalane

The Ordinary.

The Ordinary Retinol 0.5% in Squalane

A stable, water-free formula to apply before heavier skincare treatments for repairing photodamage and general skin aging.

The Organic Pharmacy Retinol Night Serum

The Ordinary Pharmacy.

The Organic Pharmacy Retinol Night Serum

This certified organic and hypoallergic serum is ideal for any skin type and formulated with retinol, hyaluronic acid and witch hazel to smooth, hydrate and balance oil production without drying out the skin.

Versed Press Restart Gentle Retinol Serum


Versed Press Restart Gentle Retinol Serum

A creamy vegan and fragrance-free serum made with encapsulated retinol and gentle retinol alternatives for a best-of-both-worlds skincare treatment.

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