There's a reason why retinol gets all the glory when it comes to skin care routines. The vitamin A derivative is a dermatologist-favorite for its many skin benefits and its fast-acting powers. And while it can often require a prescription, you can find some of the best night creams with retinol over-the-counter and online, once you know what type of formulation is most suited for your skin.
If you're a retinol newbie, you're going to want to start off with a lower concentration of the ingredient while your skin adjusts to it, to reduce the common side effects that are collectively known as retinization — redness, dryness, flaking, and a burning sensation. Look for a night cream that also contains plenty of skin-soothing and hydrating ingredients, like glycerin, niacinamide, ceramides, and squalane. Even more importantly, if you've never used retinol before, you'll want to begin by applying it just twice a week. If you haven't noticed any irritation after a few weeks, bump your application up to every other night.
For anyone already well-versed with retinol and its impressive list of abilities, your options are more varied. If you've been using a retinol nightly and have built up your skin's tolerance, you can handle a higher concentration of the ingredient without the risk of irritation. You'll still want to look for a retinol cream that includes hydrating ingredients if you plan to use this instead of a nightly moisturizer.
Acne-prone skin types can also benefit from a retinol treatment, as its ability to regulate cell turnover helps keep pores clear of all the gunk and dead skin that typically cause breakouts. There are also treatments formulated specifically to treat acne.
To help upgrade your skin care routine, here are four of the best night creams with retinol that you don't even need a prescription for.
1. The Overall Best Night Cream With Retinol
This retinol-infused cream works like magic while you sleep to renew skin and keep it hydrated. The brand's retinol tri-active technology includes retinoid, a time-released retinol, and a retinol booster so that the ingredient's skin benefits are both immediate and sustained. To avoid the dryness, redness, and irritation that often occur when you first start using a retinoid product, Murad added hydrating ingredients like shea butter, glycerin, dimethicone, and squalene that help leave skin smooth and soft.
The Murad Retinol Youth Renewal Night Cream is also formulated with swertia flower extract and red algae extract. Swertia flower extract is said to support cell turnover to boost skin's firmness and elasticity, while peptide-rich red algae also improves firmness in addition to providing soothing benefits to the skin. In short, it's an all-around nighttime dream cream.
2. The Best Drugstore Night Cream With Retinol
Retinol creams can come with a hefty price tag, but RoC's Retinol Correxion Deep Wrinkle Anti-Aging Night Cream is an affordable option that has earned itself a cult following over the years for how effective it is. Within 12 weeks of use, RoC promises to noticeably plump up skin for a smoother, more even appearance. It can be applied on its own thanks to moisturizing ingredients like glycerin and shea butter, or you can follow up with a moisturizer if you notice any dryness.
3. A Gentle Night Cream For Retinol Beginners & Those With Sensitive Skin
For first-time retinol users, or for sensitive skin types that haven't been able to find a non-irritating retinol cream in the past, SkinMedica's Retinol 0.25 Complex is a gentle way to ease your way into using the skin-renewing ingredient. With a smaller concentration of 0.25 percent retinol, this night cream helps your skin build a tolerance, especially when started as a twice-weekly addition to your routine.
To further help with sensitivity, SkinMedica has formulated their night cream with niacinamide to help protect skin from oxidative stress and sun damage, while calming inflammation and minimizing the appearance of enlarged pores. Ceramides are also in this cream, which are naturally found in skin cells, and form a protective barrier that helps your skin retain moisture. For more anti-inflammatory and skin-soothing benefits, SkinMedica even included magnolia bark extract and squalane.
4. Best Retinol Gel For Acne-Prone Skin
While retinol's ability to increase skin cell turnover naturally makes it a powerful ingredient for fighting acne, Differin's Adapalene Gel is the first prescription-strength topical retinoid treatment available over-the-counter. Adapalene, which is the type of retinoid used in Differin, is one of three retinoids typically used for topical acne treatments. Not only does it naturally help reduce redness (though you'll still want to start off by using this twice weekly and increasing over time), but adapalene also helps prevent future breakouts from occurring by keeping pores clear. It can also help fade old, unwanted scarring.
Over 1,000 Amazon users give Differin five stars, stressing that you have to be patient during the first few weeks as the retinoid brings all of the pore-clogging debris to the surface (aka, be prepared for more breakouts while it works to clear everything out of your skin). "I don't have any acne currently, and have not had any breakouts in the past few weeks," writes one reviewer. "Most of the blackheads that were being pushed out of my skin have surfaced and have been washed away, leaving clear, smaller pores," adding, "Several people have noted how good my skin looks, [and] not only are breakouts much more rare, but the general texture of my skin looks better."
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