Retinols are a godsend for pretty much every skin type. They help to promote cellular turnover, which clears up, evens out, and brightens up your overall complexion. And while this hero ingredient used to only be available with a prescription, lower-dose versions have gone mainstream. Because of that, just about anyone can get their hands on the best over the counter retinols, so you can get the zit-clearing, glow-producing benefits without a visit to the dermatologist.
Retinol is the name for the over-the-counter version of retinoid. "It helps stimulate collagen production to thicken the deep skin layers," says dermatologist Joshua Zeichner. "At the same time, it actually thins out the outer skin layer, improving skin radiance. Topical retinols also prevent skin cells from sticking together within the pores and reduce inflammation in the skin, which is why they are also used to treat acne."
Retinols tend to be less potent than RX retinoids, which makes them better for folks with sensitive skin types. Still, it's a good idea to look for retinols that also have hydrating ingredients in them, like squalane and hyaluronic acid. This will ensure that your skin stays flake-free, while also allowing the retinol to work its exfoliating magic. Also: it's especially important to wear sunscreen every day when using retinol, since it can make your skin more photosensitive. Check out this list of the best facial sunscreens if you need help finding a new daily formula.
If the complexity of searching for the right retinol for your skin type sounds intimidating, never fear. I've rounded up a list of the best over the counter retinols you can buy online. Remember: the key to using a retinol safely is to start slowly. Once or twice a week is plenty in the beginning, and once your skin gets used to them, you can increase your usage to every other day.