If you’re looking for the perfect retinol product that works for your skin type, we have the guide for you. Here are our recommendations for the best retinol for oily skin.

Our Recommendations

1. Resurfacing Retinol Serum

CeraVe Resurfacing Retinol Serum

CeraVe Retinol for Fading post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation and minimizing large pores

CeraVe Resurfacing Retinol Serum

This drugstore retinol serum is specifically formulated to tackle post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation and large pores, and helps promote an overall even and clear complexion.

Skin types: Normal, Oily and Combination
Best for: Fading post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation and minimizing large pores
Tested on animals: Yes
How to use: After cleansing, apply a pump of the serum evenly all over the face, neck, and chest. Use once a day (or less frequently to prevent irritation).
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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.

Pros

  • Affordable
  • Lightweight
  • Non-comedogenic
  • Fragrance-free
  • Developed with dermatologists

Cons

  • 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.

Aqua/Water, Propanediol, Dimethicone, Cetearyl Ethylhexanoate, Niacinamide, Ammonium Polyacryloyldimethyl Taurate, Dipotassium Glycyrrhizate, Hydrogenated Lecithin, Potassium Phosphate, Ceramide Np, Ceramide Ap, Ceramide Eop, Carbomer, Cetearyl Alcohol, Behentrimonium Methosulfate, Dimethiconol, Lecithin, Sodium Citrate, Retinol, Sodium Hyaluronate, Sodium Lauroyl Lactylate, Cholesterol, Phenoxyethanol, Alcohol, Isopropyl Myristate, Caprylyl Glycol, Citric Acid, Trisodium Ethylenediamine Disuccinate, Pentylene Glycol, Phytosphingosine, Xanthan Gum, Polysorbate 20, Ethylhexylglycerin

  1. National Center for Biotechnology Information. "Why Topical Retinoids Are Mainstay of Therapy for Acne"

    Accessed Nov. 8, 2021.
  2. National Center for Biotechnology Information. "How Much Do We Really Know About Our Favorite Cosmeceutical Ingredients?"

    Accessed Nov. 8, 2021.
  3. National Center for Biotechnology Information. "The structure, function, and importance of ceramides in skin and their use as therapeutic agents in skin-care products"

    Accessed Nov. 8, 2021.

2. RetrinAL 0.1 Intensive Cream

Avene_RetrinAL_0.1_Intensive_Cream

Avène Retinol for Fighting the Signs of Aging

Avène RetrinAL 0.1 Intensive Cream

This over-the-counter anti-aging retinol contains retinaldehyde, a potent retinoid, as well as other ingredients that help minimize the appearance of wrinkles, plump the skin, and protect against free radicals for a youthful complexion.

Skin types: Normal, Oily, Dry and Combination
Best for: Fighting the Signs of Aging
Tested on animals: Yes
How to use: At night, after cleansing and drying the skin, apply to the face, neck, and chest. Follow up with a moisturizer.
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The star ingredient of this over-the-counter, fragrance-free retinol treatment is retinaldehyde. This kind of retinoid is one of the strongest that you can get without a prescription, and it has been proven to stimulate collagen production, smooth the appearance of wrinkles, and brighten skin tone. It also contains peptides that help plump the skin.

Pros

  • Anti-aging
  • Fragrance-free
  • Formulated to minimize the risk of allergic reactions

Cons

  • Contains color additives
  • May cause irritation (especially for those new to using retinoids)

In addition to the peptides and retinaldehyde, this anti-aging treatment cream contains vitamin E, an antioxidant, as well as Avène thermal spring water, which is meant to soothe and soften the skin.

Water (Avène Thermal Spring Water), Triethylhexanoin, Cyclopentasiloxane, Cetearyl Alcohol, Cyclohexasiloxane, Ceteareth-20, Polymethyl Methacrylate, Ceteareth-33, Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride, Ammonium Acryloyl Dimethyltaurate/Vp Copolymer, Benzoic Acid, Bht, Caramel, Disodium Edta, Mica, Oenothera Biennis (Evening Primrose) Oil, Oleoyl Dipeptide-15, Oleoyl Tetrapeptide-31, Phenoxyethanol, Red 33, Retinal, Silica, Sodium Hydroxide, Titanium Dioxide, Tocopherol, Tocopheryl Glucoside

  1. National Center for Biotechnology Information. "Retinoids in the treatment of skin aging: an overview of clinical efficacy and safety"

    Accessed Nov. 8, 2021.
  2. National Center for Biotechnology Information. "Vitamin E in dermatology"

    Accessed Nov. 8, 2021.

3. Retinol 1% in Squalane

The Ordinary Retinol 1% in Squalane

The Ordinary Retinol for Fighting the Signs of Aging

The Ordinary Retinol 1% in Squalane

This product is the highest-strength retinoid serum from The Ordinary, and the brand’s answer to more traditional retinol products. It’s excellent for preventing and minimizing the signs of aging.

Skin types: All Skin Types
Best for: Fighting the Signs of Aging
Tested on animals: No
How to use: At night, after cleansing, apply the product to the face, neck, and chest. Follow up with a moisturizer.
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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.

Pros

  • Alcohol-free
  • Fragrance-free
  • Vegan and cruelty-free

Cons

  • 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.

Squalane, Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride, Simmondsia Chinensis (Jojoba) Seed Oil, Retinol, Solanum Lycopersicum (Tomato) Fruit Extract, Rosmarinus Officinalis (Rosemary) Leaf Extract, Hydroxymethoxyphenyl Decanone, BHT.

  1. National Center for Biotechnology Information. "Retinoids in the treatment of skin aging: An overview of clinical efficacy and safety"

    Accessed Aug. 11, 2021.

4. 1% Retinol Treatment

Paula’s Choice Clinical 1% Retinol Treatment

Paula's Choice Retinol for Hyperpigmentation and Wrinkles

Paula’s Choice Clinical 1% Retinol Treatment

This treatment combines retinol, a powerful anti-aging ingredient, with hydrating and brightening ingredients for an even, smooth skin tone.

Skin types: All Skin Types
Best for: Hyperpigmentation and Wrinkles
Tested on animals: No
How to use: After cleansing, massage a pea-sized amount of the treatment into the skin. Initially, limit usage to three times a week to allow the skin to adjust.
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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.

Pros

  • Fragrance-free
  • Lightweight
  • Non-greasy

Cons

  • 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.

Water (Aqua), Dimethicone (skin-softening), Glycerin (skin-replenishing), Butylene Glycol (hydrating), Isononyl Isononanoate (emollient), Castor Isostearate Succinate (skin-softening ), Glyceryl Stearate (texture enhancer), C12-15 Alkyl Benzoate (emollient), Dimethicone Crosspolymer (texture enhancer), PEG-33 (stabilizer), Polysorbate 20 (texture enhancer), Behenyl Alcohol (texture enhancer), PEG-100 Stearate (texture enhancer), Pentaerythrityl Tetraisostearate (stabilizer), Polymethylsilsesquioxane (texture enhancer), Tetrahexyldecyl Ascorbate (vitamin C/antioxidant), Retinol (skin-restoring), Ceramide NG (skin-replenishing) , Palmitoyl Tetrapeptide-7 (skin-restoring), Palmitoyl Hexapeptide-12 (skin-restoring), Sodium Hyaluronate (skin-replenishing ), Dipotassium Glycyrrhizate (antioxidant plant extracts/skin-soothing), Glycyrrhiza Glabra Root Extract (licorice extract/antioxidant/skin-soothing), Avena Sativa Kernel Extract (oat extract/antioxidant/skin-soothing), Arctium Lappa Root Extract (burdock extract/antioxidant/skin-soothing), Salix Alba Bark Extract (willow bark extract/antioxidant/skin-soothing), Glycine Soja Sterols (antioxidant/skin-softening ), Lecithin (skin-restoring), Allantoin (skin-soothing), Tocopheryl Acetate (vitamin E/antioxidant), Hydrolyzed Soy Protein (antioxidant/skin-softening), Sorbitan Laurate (texture enhancer), Acetyl Dipeptide-1 Cetyl Ester (skin-soothing), Disodium EDTA (stabilizer), Hydroxyethylcellulose (texture enhancer), Palmitoyl Tripeptide-1 (skin-restoring), Sodium Hydroxide (pH adjuster), Tribehenin (emollient), Caprylyl Glycol (skin-softening), Ethylhexylglycerin (skin-softening), Pentylene Glycol (hydrating), PEG-75 Shea Butter Glycerides (emollient), PPG-12/SMDI Copolymer (stabilizer), PEG-10 Phytosterol (fatty acid-based emollient), PEG-8 Dimethicone (skin-softening), PEG-14 (texture enhancer), Magnesium Aluminum Silicate (texture enhancer), Arachidyl Glucoside (texture enhancer), Arachidyl Alcohol (texture enhancer), Sclerotium Gum (texture enhancer), Carbomer (gel-based texture enhancer), Phenoxyethanol (preservative), Benzoic Acid (preservative)

  1. National Center for Biotechnology Information. "Retinoids in the treatment of skin aging: An overview of clinical efficacy and safety"

    Accessed Jul. 30, 2021.

FAQs

Is retinol good for oily skin?

Yes, people with oily skin can greatly benefit from adding a retinol product to their skincare routine. This multi-tasking ingredient fights signs of aging (including fine lines, wrinkles, and dark spots), promotes a more even skin tone, and clears and prevents breakouts. The key is finding a more lightweight formula that contains other ingredients that are suitable for oily skin. 

What is the best retinol for oily, acne-prone skin?

Many of the products recommended above are suitable for oily skin that is prone to breakouts, but two particularly great options to consider are The Ordinary Retinol 1% in Squalane and the CeraVe Resurfacing Retinol Serum.

What is the best drugstore retinol for oily skin?

If you are looking for a drugstore retinol product, a great option to check out is the CeraVe Resurfacing Retinol Serum. Alternatively, while not available at drugstores, another super affordable retinol product that is suitable for oily skin is The Ordinary Retinol 1% in Squalane.

The Bottom Line

Retinol is one of the most powerful, science-backed skincare ingredients out there, so adding a product with this ingredient to your routine can be incredibly beneficial. If you have oily skin, there are plenty of suitable retinol products that will work for you, but we consider these recommendations to be some of the absolute best.