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Retinol is an incredibly powerful skincare ingredient, but it can be hard to find a good over-the-counter option. Below, we’ve created a guide to the best drugstore retinol products.
1. Rapid Wrinkle Repair Regenerating Cream
Neutrogena Retinol for Moisturization and Anti-Aging
This anti-aging moisturizer is a great way to add retinol to your routine, as the addition of moisturizing ingredients may help mitigate some of the irritation often associated with retinol. The cream contains retinol SA, which works to smooth lines and even skin tone. It also contains hyaluronic acid, which pulls moisture to the skin for healthy hydration levels.
May cause irritation
In addition to the hydrating benefits, hyaluronic acid has been shown to help minimize the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, which makes this drugstore moisturizer even more effective for anti-aging. Even though the hydrating ingredients may mitigate the irritating effects of retinol, if you’re new to this skincare ingredient or have sensitive skin, you may want to start by using this cream every other day or every two days to see how your skin reacts.
This is an excellent choice for those looking for an affordable retinol. This fragrance-free retinol serum not only helps with acne scars and large pores, but it can also help fight signs of aging and brighten the skin.
Developed with dermatologists
May cause irritation or dryness
This non-comedogenic retinol serum also contains ceramides and niacinamide, which work to calm and restore the skin while maintaining its barrier. Additionally, this formula contains licorice root extract, which gives a brightening boost. That extra benefit may further help lighten discolored scars.
This is a cult-favorite The Ordinary product, and one of the best for preventing and reducing the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles without the irritation often associated with traditional retinol.
Skin types: All Skin Types
Best for: Anti-Aging
Tested on animals:
How to use: At night, after cleansing, apply the product to the face, neck, and chest. Follow up with a moisturizer.
The unique, next-generation retinoid actives in this serum makes it one of the best The Ordinary products for those who want to use a retinol but are worried about irritation. Retinoids (vitamin A derivatives) are well-known for preventing and reducing the appearance of fine lines, wrinkles, and other signs of aging.
Vegan and cruelty-free
Those with retinoid experience may prefer a stronger product
This product contains granactive retinoid, a complex of solubilized hydroxypinacolone retinoate (HPR). This form of retinoid offers anti-aging benefits without the irritation associated with retinol (which is also a vitamin A derivative). It also contains retinol that comes in a protective capsule to further prevent irritation, boost anti-aging benefits, and support the granactive retinoid.
Retinol is the gold-standard for minimizing wrinkles, fine lines, and hyperpigmentation. Those who are experienced with retinoid products may prefer the Retinol 1% in Squalane over the Granactive Retinoid 2% Emulsion, as it is more potent. However, with the higher strength comes a higher risk of irritation, so it is best suited for those who’ve used retinoid products in their routine.
Vegan and cruelty-free
High likelihood of irritation, especially as skin adapts to the product
This serum contains squalane and jojoba oil, two ingredients that hydrate and soothe the skin. They may help minimize the irritation caused by the retinol.
Retinol is an incredibly effective ingredient for diminishing wrinkles, fine lines, and sun spots. The addition of sodium hyaluronate and niacinamide make this a soothing, hydrating, and effective anti-aging product.
This serum contains a gradual release retinol, which slowly acts on the skin for maximum efficacy and better tolerance.
Retinol is the gold-standard for fighting signs of aging, so this is an excellent choice for those with wrinkles, fine lines, and sun spots. The addition of soothing and hydrating ingredients helps counteract some of the potential irritating side effects of retinol.
May irritate more sensitive skin types
This serum contains vitamin C, which brightens the skin, as well as licorice extract and oat extract, which soothe and calm redness.
Retinol and hyaluronic acid are both excellent skincare ingredients, but they serve different purposes, so neither is better than the other – it just depends on what your skin needs and what concerns you’re looking to address. Hyaluronic acid attracts moisture to the skin and locks it in, helping with the skin’s hydration levels. Retinol fights signs of aging, prevents acne, and improves skin tone and texture. Both of these ingredients can be beneficial additions to a skincare routine, and they can also be used at the same time. You’ll find hyaluronic acid in a few of the retinol products recommended above.
Is it OK to use retinol every night?
Some people may find that they can use retinol every night. However, using a retinol product on a daily basis may increase your risk of irritation and dryness. When first starting out with retinol, it’s best to take a more conservative approach to your usage. If you’re using a retinol product for the first time, start by applying it a couple times a week to see how your skin reacts and allow it to adjust to the ingredient. After a few weeks, you may decide to apply it more frequently, if it seems suitable for your skin.
What can you not mix with retinol?
As a general rule of thumb, you’ll want to avoid layering a retinol product with any other products that contain active ingredients that can irritate the skin. Retinol should not be mixed with alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs), beta hydroxy acids (BHAs), vitamin C, or benzoyl peroxide. Using chemical exfoliants (AHAs and BHAs) or vitamin C at the same time as retinol can increase your risk of irritation and dryness, while benzoyl peroxide and retinol will actually cancel out each other’s effects. You should also avoid applying two (or more) products containing retinol at the same time, as this will also increase your risk of irritation and dryness.
The Bottom Line
If you want to add an effective retinol product to your skincare routine, you can easily find some excellent options at the drugstore. Consider one of our recommended retinol products to fight signs of aging, prevent acne, and promote an overall more even and smooth complexion.
About the author
Kyra is a content writer based in Los Angeles, CA. She works in the health and wellness sphere, and covers everything from beauty to skincare to fitness. She has been passionate about skincare since she was a teenager, and loves uncovering the absolute best routines and products available to help people reach their skin goals.