Skin-care innovations often arrive at the rate of iPhone updates, with smart new technologies appearing every time you blink. That being said, finding the best retinol serum can be understandably overwhelming. But this antiaging ingredient shouldn’t fall by the wayside. First used in over-the-counter creams in the ’70s, this powerful form of vitamin A is prized for its proven youth-enhancing results.
“Retinol [cream] signals your body to produce collagen and new cells for firmer and smoother skin, while also reducing hyperpigmentation and clogged pores,” says New York City dermatologist Dr. Anne Chapas of its multitasking capabilities. Still, the superhero ingredient has its drawbacks, namely that it can cause dryness and irritation, especially in the colder months, and has a tendency to become unstable (and therefore ineffective) in the presence of oxygen and light.
That is, until now. The best retinol creams of the moment feature intelligent timed-release technology, anti-inflammatory peptides, ultra-replenishing moisturizers, or even airless pump packaging to keep ingredients lab-fresh. Whether you choose an overnight micro-peel, a line-softening serum, or a regenerative eye cream, they belong in any antiaging routine, from the acne- prone to those with sensitive-skin. Keep these in rotation year-round or use them once or twice a week for a rejuvenating boost—and watch skin transform.
Below, 15 of the best retinol serums and creams to consider this season.
1. Drunk Elephant A-Passioni Retinol Cream
This lightweight serum is formulated with 1% vegan retinol to exfoliate and erase any wrinkles, pollution or UV-ray damage, such as dark spots, while vitamin F soothes the skin’s barrier, making it an excellent choice for those with sensitivities. It is also filled with peptides, which firm up the skin.
2. L’Oréal Paris Revitalift Night Serum With Pure Retinol
This serum includes dermatologist-recommended pure retinol—known to be more effective than retinol derivatives—that works to reduce the sign of deep wrinkles, according to a 12-week study in which 100% of the women showed wrinkle reduction by the end. To balance out the retinol, the formula includes soothing and nourishing ingredients like glycerin and hyaluronic acid for added moisture.
3. Murad Retinol Youth Renewal Night Cream
Murad’s overnight treatment infuses the brand’s Retinol Tri-Active technology to minimize fine lines and wrinkles and prevent those you can’t yet see. Looking to improve your skin’s elasticity? This night cream includes red algae (which is filled with peptides), restoring your skin’s desired bounciness. This product can not only be used on the face, but also on the neck and chest for maximum antiaging benefits.
4. Clark’s Botanicals Retinol Rescue Overnight Cream
Looking to brighten dull skin, or smooth out your skin’s uneven texture? Look no further than this all-in-one cream. This fast-absorbing product features 11 active ingredients, including vitamin E and calming oatmeal flour to counteract dryness or peeling that often comes with retinol. If your pores are enlarged, red clover will counteract this issue, while jasmine protects the skin’s barrier.
5. Colbert MD Illumino Face Oil
Merging the luminous finish of a hydrating face oil with the retexturizing benefits of retinol and antioxidants, New York City dermatologist Dr. David Colbert’s cult formula uses a powerful encapsulated delivery system to drive active ingredients deep beneath the skin. Borage seed, yangu, marula, argan, and olive oils are all infused into this concoction for maximum repair and nourishment.
6. Ole Henriksen Goodnight Glow Retin-ALT Sleeping Crème
This rich night cream, in addition to exfoliating and regenerating the skin’s surface, contains a powerful combination of AHA and natural bakuchiol to simultaneously help lighten sun spots for a brighter complexion by morning. This cream is also great for those who are experiencing a loss of firmness, thanks to the edelweiss stem cell, red algae, and tara extracts. And don’t worry about losing your skin’s softness either, as it’s also equipped with lemon, sugarcane, and chamomile extract.
7. Kate Somerville Retinol Firming Eye Cream
This is the ultimate multitasking eye cream, which firms, brightens, and nourishes your undereye area. The formula combines retinoids, peptides, and hyaluronic acid to hydrate skin, reduce puffiness, and fade dark circles without irritation. The gold applicator also offers a cooling sensation with de-puffing benefits around the under-eye as well as below the brow bone.
8. Dr. Brandt Skincare 2% Retinol Complex Serum
Dr. Brandt’s dermatologist-formulated retinol serum contains a timed-release complex to deliver powerful brightening and resurfacing benefits while you sleep thanks to rare ingredients like lemon tree honey, phospholipids, and amino acids taken from sugar beets.
9. Dr. Dennis Gross Skincare Ferulic + Retinol Wrinkle Recovery Peel
For a change of pace, do your own at-home peel for maximum antiaging, skin- smoothing benefits. This peel created with a powerful combination of retinol, ferulic acid, and soothing chamomile to rapidly transform skin and deliver antioxidant protection. It can be used up to three times per week on clean skin in the evenings. Don’t forget your sunscreen in the morning!
10. Dr. Lancer Advanced Retinol Treatment
Advanced plant-derived retinol, also known as bakuchiol, and collagen work together to soften the overall look of fine lines and wrinkles, while prickly pear extract plumps skin for a hydrated, smoother glow. This also includes Dr. Lancer’s CoRetinol technology which takes skin softness to a whole other level, improving the skin’s overall elasticity. Prickly pear is the cherry on top of this plumping formula.
11. Avène RétrinAL 0.1 Intensive Cream
Bottled in an airless pump, this rich cream contains retinaldehyde, a less irritating form of vitamin A that stimulates cell turnover and collagen synthesis, along with French thermal spring water to provide anti-inflammatory benefits even for those with very reactive skin.
12. SkinCeuticals Retinol 0.3
A less invasive version of the brand’s original cult retinol formula, this gentle evening treatment is designed for first-time users to deliver slowly released antiaging, acne-stopping benefits. To counteract the retinol, this formula also includes bisabolol—chamomile extract—helping to calm the skin’s irritation.
13. Mara Evening Primrose + Green Tea Algae Retinol Oil
Slip into luxury with this decadent face oil. Filled with algae extracts, retinol, natural sources of vitamin A, brown seaweed, evening primrose oil, and fermented green tea, this oil will lessen the appearance of wrinkles and protect the skin’s barrier from harsh environmental stressors. Expect a clearer, more even, plump, and supple skin texture.
14. Marie Veronique Gentle Retinol Night Serum
Looking for the best retinol serum that’s also gentle? With green tea leaves, neroli oil, vitamin C, argan oil and a retinol-based formula, this night serum is great for all skin types, including acne-prone skin. It works to hydrate the skin and reduce signs of aging, such as fine lines and wrinkles. The ceramides within the serum ensure that the moisture in your skin is being retained.
15. Olay Regenerist Retinol Night Face Moisturizer
This decadent moisturizer is filled with Olay’s retinoid complex, which aids skin in becoming more vibrant and smoother. You’ll also notice the reduction of fine lines and wrinkles over time, thanks to the added amino peptides. Niacinamide adds a moisture retaining and gentle exfoliating element, removing unwanted dead skin cells.