The 5 Best Retinol Serums You Can Buy, For Every Skin Type & Budget


No matter what your skin type, incorporating a retinol into your evening beauty routine could be the best thing you ever do for your face. The benefits of this miracle product are well-documented — and if you're reading this article, you're probably already wondering what the best retinol serums are.

Like with any other beauty product, choosing the right formula all depends on your skin type. But since retinols are particularly intense, you want to be extra careful. Retinol serums can be quite harsh, so if your skin is sensitive — or if you're completely new to the world of retinols — you'll want to start with a very low concentration. If your skin is on the oilier side, or you're using retinol to help with acne, you'll likely need a formula that's a little more potent.

And if you're new to retinols, take care — it can take your skin a little while to adjust to the ingredient. Because of this, it's recommended that you start out slow. Try using your retinol once or twice a week, and once your skin adjusts, you can increase your usage to every other night.

A few other warnings: Always use your retinol at night, and be extra vigilant about applying sunscreen every morning, since retinol is known to make your skin more photosensitive.


Best Drugstore Retinol Serum

RoC's Retinol Correxion Deep Wrinkle Serum is a longtime drugstore favorite. It contains the highest percentage of retinol that you can get without a prescription, making it one of the more powerful serums you can buy. Aside from the retinol, the formula contains zinc, magnesium, and copper, which work together to help your skin look brighter. Skin looks renewed and refreshed in as little as 12 weeks. Since the formula is so high in retinol, you'll definitely want to do a patch-test first, especially if your skin is sensitive.


The Best Retinol Serum According To Amazon Reviewers

Amazon reviewers are a picky bunch, but they absolutely rave about this InstaNatural Retinol Serum. In addition to retinol, the formula contains hyaluronic acid, a hydrator, argan oil, for moisture, and niacinamide, which helps with overall clarity. It also contains vitamin C, a known brightener that helps with skin tone and radiance. All of this, for under $20 — no wonder it has a near-perfect Amazon rating.


3. Best For Sensitive Skin

Sensitive skin types may be wary of using a retinol because of how intense they can be. But if you pick up a serum that's formulated for sensitive skin, like this one from First Aid Beauty, there's little to no risk of irritation. It contains just 0.25 percent of retinol, as well as the brand's patented Skin Savior Complex, a mix of hyaluronic acid, oatmeal, aloe, and ceramides, which work to counteract any harsh side effects by keeping it soothed, hydrated, and protected.


Best For Acne

It's impossible to talk about retinol without talking about Differin's Adapalene Gel 0.1% Acne Treatment. It's not technically a serum, but it's not really a moisturizer, either. This prescription-strength treatment is heralded by dermatologists for its ability to clear up even the most stubborn acne. It uses a low percentage of retinol — just 0.1 percent — to penetrate pores and kill acne-causing bacteria at the source. It even won an Allure Best of Beauty Award in 2017.


Best Prestige Pick

One of the most highly-recommended retinol serums on the market is this one by Murad. It releases its retinol in two ways — first, with a heavy dose directly to your skin, and then, with a time-release booster that ensures your retinol continues to work over time. In addition, it also contains a retinol "booster" that helps encourage the skin's receptiveness to the ingredient. It's suitable for all skin types, but since it's quite potent, you'll definitely want to start out slow.

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