The Best Retinols On Amazon
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It’s no exaggeration to say that retinol is the most effective skin care ingredient in existence — which is why, when you’re shopping for a retinol product (be it a serum, a cream, or even an oil), you want to be discerning. Perhaps surprisingly, many of the best retinols can be found right on Amazon — though even among the best retinols on Amazon, you’ve got a lot of options to consider, since retinols are not one size fits all. According to dermatologist Dr. Lindsey Zubritsky, oily, combination, and acne-prone skin types can use more concentrated formulas such as a retinol gel, while dry and sensitive skin types should opt for a retinol that's included in a moisturizer.
For a quick refresh, Dr. Zubritsky explains that retinols are "king" when it comes to skin care because they accelerate skin cell turnover. "They help to improve skin texture, brighten skin, and fade pigmentation — especially discoloration caused by sun damage," she says of a few of the most notable benefits. For anyone confused about the difference between a retinol and a retinoid, Dr. Zubritsky notes that they're both forms of vitamin A, but because retinoids are stronger, they're typically only available through a prescription and can be more drying and irritating than retinols.
As for finding your right retinol, Dr. Zubritsky says that almost all skin types can use a retinol product, but there are some people who should steer clear of the ingredient. "I do not recommend retinols for those who are pregnant, breastfeeding, or trying to conceive, or if you are undergoing certain cosmetic procedures or have open wounds on your skin,” she cautions.
Either way, "low and slow is the game," Dr. Zubritsky says, since there’s always the risk of retinization (the redness, dryness, and flaking that can occur when using a new retinol or retinoid). "I recommend only using [a retinol] two to three times a week at first, then bumping up frequency as tolerated," she advises. "I also recommend pairing retinols with a moisturizer," she says, suggesting "the sandwich" method. "The sandwich method involves applying a moisturizer, then applying your retinol, then sandwich it with another layer of moisturizer," she explains. "It’s always best to apply retinol to dry skin (instead of damp) to avoid excess absorption and thus dryness and irritation. Also, avoid using retinols with other irritating active ingredients like AHAs, BHAs, or other peels," she warns. And don’t forget to be extra diligent about applying SPF in the morning, as retinol can make your skin more sensitive to the sun (this is also why you should stick to applying your retinol at night, only).
With all those very important tips in mind, scroll on to shop the best retinols on Amazon, including Dr. Zubritsky's top pick.
1. Best Over-The-Counter Retinoid
Technically, Differin Adapalene Gel is a retinoid, but that's exactly why it's Dr. Zubritsky's number-one recommendation. "This is one of the only products available over-the-counter that contains retinoids," she says. "Retinoids are great because not only can they help with improving skin texture and tone, but they also are FDA-approved to treat and prevent acne," Dr. Zubritsky explains. The key active ingredient in here is 0.1% adapalene, which once required a prescription, but is now available OTC. This fragrance-free gel also comes in a bottle with a pump-top dispenser, if you prefer that delivery method.
2. Best Retinol Serum
If you follow dermatologist Dr. Shereene Idriss on Instagram, you're likely already familiar with this L’Oreal Revitalift night serum (and if you don't follow Dr. Idriss yet, what are you waiting for?). It contains 0.3% pure retinol, and because it's been combined with hydrating ingredients like glycerin and hyaluronic acid, there’s less of a risk of retinization. The serum is fragrance-free, and L’Oréal uses their own patent-pending Retinol Guard technology to reduce the degradation of the active ingredient and give the product more efficacy, since exposure to air, light, and heat can destabilize retinol.
3. Best Retinol Capsules
Not only do Elizabeth Arden’s pearlescent pink capsules hold a pre-measured dose of your retinol serum (something that especially comes in handy when traveling), but the encapsulation helps the retinol maintain its potency by blocking out light and air. In addition to retinol, each capsule contains ceramides, avocado oil, and sunflower seed oil to moisturize your skin and counteract any dryness, as well as peptides, which offer plenty of other impressive benefits.
4. Best Retinol Night Cream
For skin that's prone to dryness, this RoC Retinol Correxion Night Cream pairs retinol with moisturizing ingredients like glycerin, squalane, and shea butter. Despite the extra hydration, you'll still want to follow Dr. Zubritsky's recommendation of starting out with applying the retinol cream two to three times a week and increasing your usage as your skin acclimates. RoC’s retinol cream is also one of the highest-rated and most budget-friendly retinol picks on Amazon, with over 9,000 five-star ratings and counting.
5. Best Retinol Treatment
More of a light lotion than a thicker cream, Paula's Choice 1% Retinol Treatment is still moisturizing enough for those with dry and/or sensitive skin. The balancing combination comes from pairing 1% retinol with ingredients like glycerin, ceramides, and hyaluronic acid. To specifically address the redness that can come with retinol use, the brand added several soothing ingredients to the formula, like licorice root extract and oat extract. There's even a travel-size version of the treatment if you want to test it out before investing in the full-size.
6. Best Retinol Eye Cream
It's important to note that you can't use just any retinol product around your eyes, as the retinol concentration in most face serums and creams is too high to be tolerated by the delicate skin in that area. (And if your skin is especially sensitive or you're worried that your retinol product is getting too close to your eye contour area, you can apply a light layer of Vaseline under your eyes before you use your retinol on the rest of your face — a tip I learned from Dr. Idriss). For a dedicated retinol eye cream, Kate Somerville +Retinol Firming Eye Cream pairs retinol with a mix of moisturizing, soothing, and antioxidant-rich ingredients like hyaluronic acid, rice bran extract, aloe leaf extract, and chebula fruit extract. This eye cream is even gentle enough to be used morning and night, as long as you ease your way into daily application and follow up with sunscreen.
Dr. Lindsey Zubritsky, board-certified dermatologist