You shouldn’t just dive headfirst into retinol skincare products.
Fact: retinol is the most effective and most extensively studied skincare ingredient on the planet. Also fact: retinol is the scariest skincare ingredient, period.
Retinol is the most commonly talked about member of the retinoid family. This happy clan of vitamin A derivatives go by different names according to their strengths, with retinol being the most popular one available over-the-counter. Touted to transform skin texture, diminish blemishes, improve cell turnover and stave away visible ageing, retinol is the pinnacle of skincare goodness, but people always approach with caution as when it gets ugly, it gets really ugly.
When used improperly, retinol can cause your skin to go the way of a chemical peel from hell, i.e. you begin to flake hardcore, and your skin gets extra, extra sensitive. This is a massive barrier to entry for retinol newbies, as this frightening prospect, next to the heavy amount of literature one has to parse to come to terms with what retinol is best to use.
The answer, of course, is individual. While we’re here today to recommend the best retinol products for beginners, it is important to know that retinol virgins must always approach this inclusion as training for a marathon. You don’t run 42km overnight, you train your body to get there with low, slow doses.
Similarly for retinol, you want to start with small concentrations (0.25 or 0.5 percent) used two to three times a week, maximum, and only a pea-sized amount at a time. Your skin will show results after a couple of weeks to three months, so not seeing a dramatic change is not an excuse to heap on more product, but play the waiting game.
Also, do not forget to use SPF after retinol as your skin becomes hypersensitive to sun exposure upon application. There is really little point to using retinol if you’re just going to let sunlight’s aging prowess wreck your complexion once you’re out the door.
For more on retinol rules for use, click here.
With all this in mind, let’s look at the best retinol products to get started.
First Aid Beauty is known for being an amazing product line for people with sensitive skin, so you can be assured that its retinol is as gentle as can be. 0.25 percent of pure retinol combines with peptides and a low-irritation formula to deliver a dose of anti-ageing goodness to your skin, sharing space with vitamin C and hyaluronic acid for brightness and hydration.
1 percent retinol is as intense as it gets without a prescription, and while beginners may find it daunting to jump right into the motherlode, there are benefits to going big when done in moderation. Ease your skin into Paula’s Choice’s 1% Retinol Treatment by using a pea-sized amount once a week across the whole face, gradually increasing the frequency every two weeks as you monitor your skin’s reaction.
Skinceuticals Retinol products are some of the most trusted in the market, especially for anti-ageing purposes. Pure retinol is used to accelerate cell turnover, but with minimal irritation, all packaged in an airless tube that ensures the product stays stable and safe to use for a very long time. One of the best retinol creams in the market, this product by Skinceuticals is perfect for sensitive skin.
Another retinol favourite is the Skinmedica complex, which combines pure retinol with other skin loving ingredients, such as vitamin E, ceramides, niacinamide and squalene. This nourishing combination doesn’t detract from the benefits of the retinol in the slightest, but enhances them.
One of the best budget retinols on the market comes from cult skincare brand, The Inkey List. This bestselling product uses a combination of squalene and a low dose of a retinol complex to better your skin, all for the low, low price of S$20. This is not pure retinol, mind, but a combination of oils and vitamins with the vitamin A derivative. Great for first-timers afraid of retinol at its most intense.
Your skin likes change and hence, switches to repair mode in the evening. Keeping this in mind, Lixirskin brings to you this overnight serum that allows your skin texture to reset by night and give you a natural glow by morning. Best results, if mixed with a mild moisturiser.
Enriched with retinol mixed with the goodness of avocado and coffeeberry, this gentle sleeping mask keeps your eyes soft and moist all night long. It also helps treat fine lines and wrinkles, leaving your eye area refreshed by the morning. So, say goodbye to puffy eyes in the morning!
If your skin needs nourishment, Alpha-H’s vitamin-A serum is what you might be looking for. Rich in antioxidants, this transformative solution removes dead cells and stimulates skin renewal to give it a youthful glow. Perfect for all skin types, it boosts collagen and elastin production giving you healthy, smooth skin.
Here’s a water-free solution that fights signs of aging while refreshing your skin from its core. Clinically tested and powered with 0.5% retinol, this serum can do wonders to your dull skin. It is advised not to be applied to broken skin.
A skin-renewing formula that can bring back your skin’s natural glow by improving its texture. It comes with anti-aging benefits such as reduction of fine lines and wrinkles, and diminishes acne scars and dark spots. It’s compatible with sensitive skin and can be applied regularly.
Olay’s new Retinol night moisturizer works actively on your skin all night long and offers 24-hour hydration. The gentle formula of Retinol and Niacinamide ensures to minimize irritation or redness after use, making it suitable for sensitive skin types.
This solution is a next-generation treatment that effectively retains moisture and uplifts your skin’s barrier. Gentle to the touch, this serum evens out texture by removing dead skin cells and enhances radiance to brighten your everyday look.
To achieve visibly glowing skin, apply this nourishing retinol serum by Advanced Clinicals. It seamlessly penetrates into your skin to work its magic and give your skin the love it deserves. Now say yes to younger-looking radiant skin and goodbye to fine lines and wrinkles!
This anti-aging serum removes dead skin cells to reduce pore size and addresses concerns of acne prone skin. It’s a vegan, silicone-free product meant to combat stubborn signs of aging such as fine lines and increase collagen and elastin production.
Infused with 0.3% retinol, this skin-repairing pure retinol cream by Clinique is the perfect remedy for all your skin problems. It takes care of various issues from lack of hydration and dull texture to signs of aging. Regardless of whether you have dry skin or oily skin, with Clinique’s retinol serum, you get smooth, glowing skin in just a month!
Check out Biossance’s ultra-light retinol serum that can lend you plumper, youthful skin without causing any irritation. Enriched with bakuchiol, a plant-based alternative to retinol, it also delivers anti-aging benefits and is believed to increase collagen production. Even better, it comes in a 100% recyclable bottle with an airless pump.
When should you use Retinol?
It is recommended that you apply retinol only during the night as it is sensitive to UV rays and sun rays can decrease its efficacy.
How to use retinol?
Here’s a step-by-step process on how to apply retinol:
- Wash your face and pat it dry.
- Once completely dry, take a pea-sized amount of retinol and apply it on your chin moving up to your face.
- Hydrate skin by applying moisturizer or night cream over retinol for best results.
How to choose retinol as per skin type?
If you’re a beginner, it is best to start with a gentle percentage of retinol. If your skin type is oily though, you can try a product with higher strength.
Are there any side effects of retinol?
The most common side effects of retinol include redness, irritation, and scaly patches. This could be experienced by first-time users or those with sensitive skin. In such cases, it is advised that you consult a dermatologist and purchase retinol with a tolerable concentration.
Which is the most effective retinol product?
While one cannot zero in on a single most effective retinol product, there are a few products that have received the best reviews. Apart from the ones mentioned in our article, some other options could be Masktini’s Night Ranger, Neutrogena’s Rapid Wrinkle Repair Retinol Serum, First Aid Beauty’s Retinol Serum 0.25% Pure Concentrate, and 1% Retinol Treatment by Paula’s Choice, to name a few.
Hyaluronic acid vs retinol – which is more effective?
Each substance comes with its own benefits. Your skin type determines what could work best for it. For those with dry skin, hyaluronic acid is the best solution whereas retinol works better when it comes to boosting collagen production and combating signs of aging. Some users might also benefit by combining both but only with proper medical consultation.
How much percentage of retinol is good for skin?
It’s always recommended to start with a product with a lower retinol concentration. Ideally, 0.01% retinol or more has proven to reduce signs of aging, remove dead cells and boost the health of your skin.