Best Retinol Creams – 2018 Reviews & Product Guide
Retinol is a Vitamin A complex used in all kinds of cosmetic products, from eye creams to acne treatments, to improve the tone and texture of your skin. It’s most commonly used in anti-aging products because of its ability to boost your skin’s collagen production to restore elasticity and fill in fine lines and wrinkles.
Though retinol is often used in acne creams, eye creams, and psoriasis treatments, this article focuses on products that use retinol as the principal active ingredient, which targets explicitly aging symptoms such as crow’s feet and dark spots.
Before you begin using a retinol product, there are a few things you should know:
Retinol, Retin-A, and retinoic acid are all derivatives of Vitamin A, but they are NOT the same ingredient. Retinoic acid is harsher than retinol, which can produce faster results but at a higher risk of irritation. Products with Retin-A require a prescription.
The products best suited for sensitive skin, or designed to minimize irritation, typically require six weeks or more of consistent use to produce results. This makes sense when you consider that you didn’t acquire your wrinkles or dark spots overnight. Just remember to be patient. Fine lines may diminish more quickly, and your skin may instantly look and feel healthier, but reversing aging symptoms takes time.
If you’ve never used a retinol product before, start with one that contains a lower concentration of retinol. This will give your skin a chance to adapt to the new ingredient so that it will better tolerate stronger products.
Products containing retinol make your skin more sensitive to the sunlight, so be sure to pair your new retinol cream with daily SPF to reduce the risk of irritation redness.
We’ve compiled a list of top-rated, over-the-counter retinol products that customers love to help you choose a product that’s right for you. Get ready for that glowing, youthful complexion!
Best Retinol Creams
Feature / Benefit
Formula is designed to minimize irritation
Designed for firm & plump skin to target deep wrinkles
Natural supplements are formulated in-house
Can decrease appearance of stretch marks, cellulite, and spider vein scars
Designed for daily use at near-prescription strength
Quality organic ingredients for an over-the-counter price
Great for all skin types
Great for oily or dry skin types
Fights both acne and aging symptoms
Contains 12 premium moisturizing and anti-aging ingredients
1. Obagi360 Retinol
The Obagi 360 skin care regimen is, as a whole, designed to work as an early intervention against UV damage and other environmental irritants so that you can maintain your glowing complexion and reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles as you age.
Obagi has conducted trials and customer surveys to verify that this product lineup does work - after only four weeks, 81% of patients were happy with the results that they saw using these products. Sound low? Well, 97% of users saw noticeable improvements in their skin tone after just one week of use!
Of course, this review focuses on one essential product in the Obagi360 regimen: the 1.0% retinol cream. Many near-prescription-grade retinol products cause irritation and redness for new users because of the strength of the retinol complex, but this product features a retinol entrapment technology which significantly decreases irritation from the use of this product!
This means that you can harness the skin-renewing, anti-aging, dark-spot-removing effects of retinol without experiencing the redness, flaking, and irritation that usually accompany the introduction of retinol into your skincare routine!
If you’ve never used a retinol product before, the Obagi360 line also has a 0.5% retinol cream that uses a lower concentration, which could be an excellent introductory step.
2. RoC Retinol Correxion Deep Wrinkle Night Cream
A one-year clinical trial to document the benefits of its patented RoC Retinol - to develop proprietary and skin care solutions that deliver useful results.
RoC Retinol is just one measurable result of this process, which blends with an essential mineral complex in this night cream to firm your skin while you sleep to visibly reduce the appearance of expression lines and, unlike many other retinol products, even to fill in yet your deepest wrinkles.
RoC is so committed to the effectiveness of their products that they have even created unique product packaging to minimize RoC Retinol products from the light and the open air, both of which can degrade its effectiveness over time. This is telling of the brand’s commitment to quality but also speaks to one of the reasons that this product is so useful.
Reversing advanced aging symptoms can take time; after all, it took years and years for your wrinkles to form, so you won’t be able to get rid of them overnight. However clinical studies show that you should see a visible reduction of deep wrinkles and expression lines within 12 weeks of beginning to use the RoC Retinol night cream!
3. Good N’ Natural Retinol Cream
Every time. This sounds like a no-brainer, but many companies opt to purchase their ingredients elsewhere.
In comparison, Good N’ Natural maintains complete ownership of its manufacturing and product sourcing processes, ensuring the brand’s commitment to the quality of every product offered in their lineup.
This retinol moisturizer can be used each night at the end of your usual cleansing routine. Just smooth a dab of the product over your face to reverse damage caused by sun and wind exposure and general aging effects. Fine lines and light age spots are no matches for this product. Some users also report that, though they purchased the product for its anti-aging effects, they also saw a reduction in the appearance of milia (small white bumps) in their complexion with use!
4. Advanced Clinical Retinol Cream
This product is gentle enough to be used twice each day (and, in fact, is so soft that using only once a day may not produce the results you want) and can be used on your hands and body as well as your face.
It’s also versatile enough to be used to diminish the appearance of stretch marks, spider vein scars, acne scarring, and cellulite anywhere on your body!
Some retinol products cause redness and flaking in dry skin, but Advanced Clinical has designed a product that soothes dry skin even while the retinol works its magic to firm up your skin. The moisturizing effects of this product are compounded by ingredients like aloe vera and chamomile, which might even eliminate the need for an additional moisturizer if your skin is adjusting to the effects of the retinol.
5. LilyAna Naturals Retinol Cream
If you’re not ready to take the financial plunge on a prescription Retin-A product but are looking for a product of nearly equal strength, then this could be exactly what you’re searching for.
The high potency of this lotion is formulated to reduce the appearance of sun spots and scarring, improve skin tone and texture, and re-plump your skin to fill in fine lines and wrinkles. Ingredients like shea butter, Jojoba oil, and green tea help to keep your skin smooth and hydrated with every use to minimize the risk of redness and irritation for users of all skin types. It’s even gentle enough to use the eyes to correct dark circles!
Some retinol products are heavy creams that can leave a greasy finish, but this one absorbs instantly so that it vanishes without leaving anything behind: no oily sheen, to tacky feel, no nothing. It won’t clog your pores or cause breakouts either.
And, while it doesn’t contain any added fragrances, the product does have a very light pleasant scent that will make it that much more enjoyable to use.
6. Tree of Life Retinol Serum
This serum contains clinical-grade retinol, and the manufacturer acknowledges that you’ll probably need to ease into using this product regularly. It does provide vegan hyaluronic acid to keep your skin hydrated, but if you’ve never used a retinol product, then you might consider diluting this one instead of jumping right in.
Tree of Life is committed to using all high-quality organic ingredients but is equally committed to making their products available to the masses, so they don’t charge an arm and a leg for the formula. If you catch this product when it’s on sale, then you might be able to buy a bottle for as little as $10!
And they don’t skimp on customer care either. Products sell fast, but if you aren’t delighted you’ll get your money back without any customer service nightmares or questions asked.
7. Pure Biology Anti-Aging Night Cream
Pure Biology has even conducted lab studies and clinical trials which demonstrate that Fision™ “drastically outperforms” other benchmark anti-aging ingredients on the market, and can decrease the appearance of wrinkles and fine lines by as much as 20% when used consistently over a seven-week period.
This cream can even be used on your neck and chest - other common problem areas for signs of aging - in addition to your face each night.
Another huge plus for this retinol cream is that it is crafted to deliver moisture that lasts; the brand claims that this cream can provide long-lasting moisture for up to 48 hours, altogether eliminating the need to use an additional daily moisturizer!
The secret? An extract from the Baobab tree (also known as the African Tree of Life) that locks in your skin’s natural moisture and create a protective layer between your surface and the damaging, drying effects of harmful UV rays.
Last, but certainly not least, the lightweight, fast-absorbing formula is smooth, non-greasy, and works well with all skin types!
8. Radha Beauty Retinol Moisturizer Cream
One of these elements is green tea extract, which is incorporated into both medicinal and cosmetic products because of its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.
In Radha Beauty’s retinol cream formula, it helps to control redness to produce an even skin tone while also helping to manage your skin’s natural oil production.
Radha Beauty’s formula also incorporates an active retinol complex that works in both immediate and long-term release, which means that this moisturizer continues to go to work on your skin hours after initial application.
Natural organic ingredients like aloe, Jojoba oil, and shea butter help to deliver lasting moisture and to nourish your skin throughout the day, leaving it feeling soft and smooth and looking more radiant than ever.
Rather than using a typical push dispenser or an open-mouth jar, this cream disperses straight up when you press down on the top of the pot. This is a pretty neat feature and is designed to deliver precisely the right amount of product with each use and to minimize wasted product when you’re running low. However, some customers had to return the product because of faulty packaging or prefer using a more standard method.
9. Body Merry Retinol Surge Moisturizer
Body Merry’s Retinol Surge Moisturizer is marketed as an all-in-one fix for some common complexion problems ranging from wrinkles and fine lines to uneven skin tone and acne breakouts to help you “Get Happy With Your Skin.”
In fact, Body Merry is SO committed to this tagline that they offer a 90-day money back guarantee if you aren’t satisfied with any of the products in their lineup. This means that, while this retinol cream may require 6-8 weeks of regular use to see improvements, you have another month after that to determine whether you’re getting the results you expected from this product.
As a bonus, the product is generously sized, and a little goes a long way for each use, so you’ll be getting your money’s worth out of each purchase.
The lightweight finish of this cream makes it ideal to wear underneath your everyday makeup; it absorbs instantly and doesn’t leave any sheen or shine, so your liquid foundation won’t lose its hold and your powder won’t cake or clump. It also doesn’t have any added fragrance. Natural ingredients like green tea extract and hyaluronic acid help to lock in your skin’s natural moisture and soothe any redness or irritation that can lead to an uneven skin tone.
Users report that their skin feels silky soft when using this product, and they love that this product is specifically designed to fight breakouts as well as fill in wrinkles and fine lines. After all, it’s bad enough to have to fight acne and aging at the same time without needing a slew of products to do it!
10. InstaNaturals Anti-Aging Retinol Moisturizer
When developing this anti-aging retinol moisturizer the brand targeted the causes of aging to formulate a product that works, and they have thousands of testimonials from satisfied customers to prove it.
This formula is designed for a variety of skin types and, though some users with oily skin reported breakouts after using this moisturizer, the customer reviews do seem to verify that it can be used for all skin types and sensitivities.
This moisturizer blends Vitamin A, Vitamin C, and green tea extract to deliver an intense dose of antioxidants to your skin, helping it to recharge, refresh, and reduce the adverse side effects of excessive sun exposure and other environmental triggers that lead to unhealthy skin. The formula also focuses on removing dead skin cells and unclogging pores to reduce the appearance of acne breakouts and promote a bright, even skin tone.
Finally, a blend of hydrating and nourishing ingredients such as safflower oil and shea butter leaves your skin feeling softer than ever after using, and hyaluronic acid ensures that it will feel that way all day long!
If you are looking to add a fresh product to your skin care cabinet that will banish breakouts, diminish acne scarring and dark spots, and help your skin look and feel younger and brighter, check out one of these top-rated retinol creams.
You can achieve noticeable results without falling back on expensive dermatologist trips, spa procedures, or cosmetic surgeries at just a fraction of the cost. You get a little older every day, but there’s no reason that your skin has to look like it!