The 13 Best Drugstore Retinol Creams and Serums
When it comes to skincare, there are so many ingredients to know (and love!) but vitamin A derivative retinol is a solid fan favorite. From reducing the appearance of fine lines to minimizing acne, this versatile ingredient is dermatologist-tested and clinically proven to deliver true results.
Best Drugstore Retinol
“Retinoids are the most effective way to rejuvenate skin on the face and body using topical cream,” explains board-certified dermatologist Gregory Nikolaidis. “Retinoids and retinols help exfoliate the skin, remove dead keratinocytes, reduce pigmentation, and reduce fine lines and wrinkles by increasing collagen and elastin in the skin.” While not for everyone—specifically anyone with a super-sensitive skin type or who is pregnant or nursing—retinoids are best used after cleansing and toning, but before moisturizer and sunscreen.
Start slowly, gradually increasing usage once a week to daily pending how your skin tolerates. “Initially, when you start using retinoids some patients develop temporary skin irritation, so it is important to find a formulation that doesn’t irritate your skin too much, so that you can be consistent with utilization,” Nikolaidis says. “Like exercise, retinoids only work and are effective when they are being used.”
With so many choices on the market, we whittled it down to 13 top picks stamped both by derms and beauty editors alike. Discover more below.
Why should you use retinol?
“Retinol has multiple positive effects on the skin,” explains Brooke Jeffy, dermatologist and founder of youth skincare brand BTWN. “It improves skin cell turnover and unclogs pores to help acne and improves skin texture. Retinol reduces collagen breakdown and stimulates production, resulting in reduction of fine lines, and can improve the appearance of brown spots.”
For the best results, start slow, using retinol two to three times per week and increase gradually every three weeks, up to nightly use. “Pair your retinol with a moisturizer to improve tolerability,” Jeffy says. “In general, avoid using products with ingredients including benzoyl peroxide, alpha and beta hydroxy acids, and vitamin C at the same time as retinol, to improve tolerability.”
At what age should you use retinol?
Jeffy says retinoids should be incorporated into your routine for age-related purposes once you’re in your 20s. “As a dermatologist with expertise in tween and teen skincare, I can tell you that retinoids are just not useful prior to that, unless treating acne,” she explains.