The 5 Best Retinols For Sensitive Skin

Amazon / Bustle

Retinols are somehow both the most championed and most feared of skin care products. Anyone who has used them can attest to the fact that they help with skin cell turnover, leading to a clearer, brighter, and overall healthier looking complexion. But retinols are no joke, and they can be harsh on some people's skin — especially if yours is sensitive. It's a common misconception that these skin types can't reap the benefits of retinols, but that's not the case —all that you need is one of the best retinols for sensitive skin.

Like with most other beauty products, the key to finding a retinol for sensitive skin all has to do with the ingredients list. You want to find a product with a low percentage of retinol (also known as vitamin A) — I'm talking 0.25 percent or less. You'll still benefit from the ingredient, but your skin won't get angry. Also, look for hydrating or soothing ingredients (like hyaluronic acid or green tea, for example) that will counteract any dryness or irritation from the retinol — two common side effects.

Another tip for using retinol safely with sensitive skin is to start by using it once or twice a week. Once your skin adjusts to it, you can bump up your use to every-other night, but you don't really need to be using it more than that. It's also important that you use an SPF every day (and always apply the retinol at night), as retinol tends to make skin more photosensitive.

Ahead, five of the best retinols that are safe to use on sensitive skin.

1. The Best Retinol Serum For Most Sensitive Skin Types

Whether you have sensitive skin or are just new to using retinol, First Aid Beauty's Retinol Serum is a great, gentle option. It contains a low percentage of retinol — just 0.25 percent, which is higher than some of the other formulas on this list, but low enough so as not to irritate your sensitive skin. Also, the other ingredients in this formula will help counteract irritation or drying, mainly, the brand's Skin Saver Complex, which contains hyaluronic acid, collodial oatmeal, aloe, ceramides, and more. All together, these ingredients help soothe and moisturize your skin, keeping any harsh side effects from the retinol at bay while it works its magic.

2. Best All-Natural Retinol Serum For Sensitive Skin

For a more natural form of retinol, reach for Mad Hippie's Vitamin A Serum. It uses a gentler form of retinol, called HPR, that poses a lot less risk of irritation. The formula also contains aloe vera, a known soother and skin-protector, phytoceramide, which helps skin hold on to moisture, and sodium hyaluronate, a form of hyaluronic acid that plumps and hydrates (according to the brand, even better than HA would alone).

Mad Hippie is also a natural (and completely vegan) brand that avoids the use of any harsh chemicals or synthetic ingredients in their formulas, making their products a great choice for sensitive skin across the board. You'll find no parabens, SLS, or synthetic fragrances, for example — all common irritants that are known to aggravate sensitive skin. They're also GMO-free and Leaping Bunny-certified cruelty-free, as well.

3. Another Natural Serum — That Gets Its Retinol From Carrots

Another great natural option is this 40 Carrots Vitamin Serum. It gets its retinol from carrots (which are naturally rich in vitamin A — aka retinol), and resurfaces your skin much more gently than a prescription retinol would. The formula also contains vitamin C, a popular ingredient for brighter, clearer. Together, this natural duo improves skin cell turnover, which helps with both hyperpigmentation and uneven texture, resulting in "smoother," "glowing" skin, according to reviewers.

4. Best Retinol Gel For Sensitive, Acne-Prone Skin

Aside from promoting skin cell turnover and its brightening abilities, Differin's Adapalene Gel 0.1% Acne Treatment is an amazing choice for anyone dealing with breakouts. A dermatologist- and beauty editor-favorite, it's won a ton of beauty awards (including Allure's Best of Beauty) for being as powerful as a prescription product, but available over the counter. It has a gel formula that blends into skin easily, and most fans claim to see an improvement within 12 weeks. Not only does it clear up existing pimples, but it helps prevent future breakouts, too — use it all over your face or as a spot treatment, depending on the severity of your acne. There is no moisturizer in this gel, however, so it's super important that you follow the treatment with a gentle face cream.

5. A Great French Pharmacy Retinol For Sensitive Skin

Avène specifically makes all of their products with sensitive skin in mind, which is why you can feel confident using their RetrinAL. It contains an extremely low percentage of retinol — 0.05 — but it also comes in a 0.1 percent version, which you can buy on the same Amazon page. The formula is hypoallergenic, non-comedogenic, and free of fragrance, parabens, soap, soy, and gluten — so the risk of a negative reaction is extremely minimal. It also contains elastin peptides to help firm and plump skin, vitamin E, to protect from environmental aggressors, like free radicals, and the brand's signature thermal water, which has been used for centuries for its soothing, naturally restorative benefits.

Bustle may receive a portion of sales from products purchased from this article, which was created independently from Bustle's editorial and sales departments.