Using Retinol Creams to Fight Wrinkles, Acne, and More 2021

A retinol cream might be exactly what you need to combat dull, dark skin, and fine lines. Over the years, retinol has emerged as a skin-care juggernaut, thanks to its many anti-aging benefits and powerful effects on transforming skin. But in a sea of over-the-counter products and overly-hyped marketing, it can be tricky to separate what’s fact from fiction regarding this buzzy ingredient. In order to find out what’s the best retinol cream for you, let’s start with some of the basics first.

Exactly what is retinol?

Vitamin A is derived from Retinol, which is a retinoid. It’s most commonly used in OTC products because it’s less harsh than its retinoid cousins. But don’t let that fool you—it’s still a heavyweight champion among skin-care ingredients, especially when it comes to delivering positive effects on problematic skin. In fact, many people use it to help treat an array of skin concerns, including hyperpigmentation, dark spots and most notably, fine lines and wrinkles.

According to Joshua Zeichner, MD, an associate professor of dermatology and director of cosmetic and clinical research in dermatology at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City, retinol is perhaps the most well studied ingredient when it comes to improving the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. In order to strengthen the foundation of the skin and fill in lines, it binds to receptors in the skin that stimulate the production of collagen and elastin. To narrow down some of the best retinol creams, here are a few derm-approved options.

Medications that contain retinol that are over-the-counter

Retinol 0.5 by Skinceuticals – $76.00

This concentrated retinol cream from Skinceuticals is a potent and effective way to promote cell turnover and even out skin tone. A stabilized formula helps reduce irritation while maintaining its strength. It contains 0.5 percent pure retinol. Plus, it does not clog (i.e., does not cause acne).

I bought Obagi360 Retinol 0.5 from Obagi Medical for $69.00

One of the best retinol creams among dermatologists is this one, which has jojoba oil and shea butter as well as other ingredients that really maintain moisture. By working together, these ingredients strengthen the skin and improve its elasticity.

A moisturizer with retinol24 + peptides from Olay for $29.00

It’s tried and true because this Olay moisturizer works so well. It also offers a potent version of Retinol 24 + Peptide, Regenerist Retinol 24 + Peptides. Additionally, at $28, it has hydrating ingredients like niacinamide and aminopeptides that help keep you hydrated. The combination of these elements will reduce dull skin and increase skin firmness, while providing you with vital hydration.

Serum Herbivore Bakuchiol Retinol Alternative – $54.00

It is important to note that bakuchiol is a substance you should pay close attention to if you are sensitive to retinol. Despite not replacing retinol, dermatologists agree that it is effective for people whose skin is sensitive and breastfeeding mothers.

“Bakuchiol is derived from an Asian plant and its seeds and acts on the skin to up-regulate retinol receptors—proteins [in] the skin that help with skin turnover and many of the skin rejuvenating benefits that retinols afford,” says Melanie Palm, MD, a board-certified dermatologist and cosmetic surgeon. “Bakuchiol tends to decrease redness and irritancy of the skin compared to retinol,” Palm continues. It’s even something she adds to retinols and trinoids to help with tolerance.

Overnight Cream by SkinBetter AlphaRet — $120.00

Despite its high price, dermatologist and clinical assistant professor Robert Finney, MD, says this night cream formula is the best. In addition to being highly effective, the formula is very well thought-out and backed by hard data. Rather than sitting on the surface of the skin and waiting for it to penetrate, it actually combines [retinol] with lactic and glycolic acids, so it can penetrate quicker, explains Finney.

76.00 dollars for Replenix RetinolForte Treatment Serum

Dermatologists recommend this retinol serum if you’re looking for one. This retinol treatment serum contains “medical grade” green tea technology which helps calm skin irritation.

pond’s rejuvenation serum – $8

This is a great alternative for those looking for a retinol product that’s budget-friendly. It contains vitamin B3 and retinol as a one-two punch that helps fight skin aging and boost elasticity for only $8.

$78.00 for SkinMedica Age Defense Retinol Complex 0.5

Retinol is one of Palm’s personal favorites from SkinMedica. In addition to retinol, the cream contains algae extract and antioxidants to soften and moisturize the skin, preventing irritation.

Acne-prone skin should use retinol creams

$12.00 for Differin Gel

Because it is tried-and-true, this one works. It used to be that adapelene could only be purchased with a prescription, but now you can find it in most drugstores. It’s FDA-approved as well. This product has an acne-fighting formula and prescription strength that makes it a top choice among acne sufferers.

Adapalene Free of Acne – $10.00

Just a little bit of a remix of the night cream above. Here, adapalene stands out as a terrific ingredient because it clears skin concerns such as acne and clogged pores.

Skin care products for wrinkled skin with retinol

Retinol Correxion Night Cream includes Retinol – 16.00

This RoC cream is a dermatologist’s favorite, thanks to its non-oily and non-comedogenic formula. Among the reasons is that it is stabilized, so your skin is less likely to become irritated by it. RoC Retinol Correction is one of Zeichner’s favorites. As retinol is stabilized in the product’s hydrating base, potential irritation is minimized.”

A retinol cream differs from a retinol serum, what’s the difference?

No matter which retinol serum or cream you choose, you can’t go wrong. The main difference between the two comes down to their consistency and how they play nice with your other skin-care products. Because retinol serums are lighter by nature, you can freely pair them together with a moisturizer. However, retinol creams are thicker and often have more hydrating ingredients already built in, so you don’t have to apply an additional moisturizer. For those who prefer a simple beauty regimen, it may be better to opt for retinol cream over the serum.

If you are lazy or don’t have any steps [in your routine] and you want to add retinol, then a retinol night cream with hydrating ingredients would be best, says Finney. When using a very good moisturizer and you want something lighter weight, [use] a serum.”

Applying and using retinol: how should it be done?

Despite some temptations to slather retinol all over your face in hopes of gaining faster results, you should begin slowly. (Patience, grasshopper. Patience.) As a general rule, you should use a pea-size amount just as often as your skin allows; otherwise, you risk causing unnecessary irritation. After a month, Palm suggests using the medication every night as tolerated, then every third night after that. The skin is able to cope with the frequency in this way.

At the same time, not everyone is suited to retinol. Taking any form of vitamin A derivative during pregnancy can result in risks associated with childbirth. You should always remember that no one retinol cream fits all when you’re choosing one. The type of skin you have, your tolerance level, and your intention to use the product must always be considered. When all else fails, go with brands that have a history of credible skin-care practices.

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