The 10 Best Retinol Creams of 2019

Retinol Cream: The Best of 2019

While it's true that there is no one size fits all skincare product, Retinol comes pretty close. Why? Because Retinol works for both young, blemish-prone skin as an acne treatment, and mature, aging skin, as a powerful wrinkle fighter. In fact, Retinol is such a versatile product that it's one of the few skincare items both moms and daughters can share.

Retinol has been shown to increase skin's collagen levels while decreasing its breakdown, which helps minimize and prevent fine lines. Retinol also speeds up cell turnover, unclogs and shrinks pores, reduces dark spots, brightens the complexion, and lifts droopy skin. Phew! Basically, the best Retinol cream is like the skincare equivalent of a Swiss army knife!

Retinol cream is available both OTC and as a prescription, with the OTC version containing a weaker percentage (0-2%) of Retinol. But with so many choices, how do you know which Retinol cream will work best for you? Read on as we reveal our picks for the best Retinol cream.

If you have a few deep-set wrinkles that really bug you and you prefer a spot treatment instead of an all-over face cream, consider the Neutrogena Rapid Wrinkle Repair Retinol Oil. Although the name is a bit of a tongue twister – try saying “Rapid Wrinkle Repair Retinol” five times fast – the results are clear, with 90% of women seeing noticeable results after just 1 week of daily use.

Like their Rapid Wrinkle Repair Daily Moisturizer Cream, Neutrogena combines Retinol SA with Hyaluronic Acid and Glucose Complex, which work together in the fight against fine lines and deep wrinkles. However, this product does not contain an SPF so you’ll need to ensure you use a separate sunscreen in order to prevent future skin problems.

The Rapid Wrinkle Repair Oil contains Retinol SA, which has been proven to provide superior benefits over other forms of Vitamin A. The Rapid Wrinkle Repair Oil also utilizes the plumping power of Hyaluronic Acid along with a Retinol boosting Glucose Complex to provide fast acting wrinkle-fighting results.

The drawback to the Rapid Wrinkle Repair Oil is Neutrogena won’t disclose the amount of Retinol in their products, however judging by overall results it appears this formula may contain a lower percentage of Retinol compared to the cream version. Still, if you are concerned with targeting specific problem areas versus your whole face, you’ll definitely want to give the Neutrogena Rapid Wrinkle Repair Oil a go.

Key Features
  • Concentrated Retinol Oil with Retinol SA will dramatically reduce fine lines and wrinkles
  • Noticeable results after just 1 week
  • Super concentrated, lightweight, fast-absorbing formula will soften wrinkles and reveal glowing skin
  • Package Size: 1 oz bottle
  • Active Ingredients: Retinol
  • Cruelty Free?: Yes
  • Lightweight, concentrated formula
  • Results after just one week
  • Repairs dry skin
  • No SPF, may irritate skin if exposed to sunlight

If deep-set wrinkles are a concern for you, and you’ve also got dry skin in need of long-lasting hydration, you’ll want to check out Roc’s Retinol Correxion Max Daily Hydration Crème which effectively addresses both these needs.

While ROC does not promise overnight results from their Retinol Correxion Crème, it’s clinically proven to reduce the appearance of wrinkles within 1 week, while gradually fading dark spots and deep lines within 8.

The ROC Retinol Correxion Crème is also ultra-hydrating and, thanks to the hyaluronic acid, your skin will remain moisturized and retain a rejuvenated appearance for up to 24 hours post-application. While this is great for those with dry skin, it also works for those with an oily complexion as this formula is oil-free and non-comedogenic so it won’t clog pores or cause breakouts.

The one drawback to the ROC Retinol Correxion Crème is that it doesn’t contain an SPF. Since Retinol is known to cause sensitivity to sunlight, you must take precautions to use a separate sunblock or any sun exposure will cause redness and irritation to your skin.

Despite its lack of sun-protection, the ROC Retinol Correxion Max Daily Hydration Crème is an effective, daily moisturizer that will reduce wrinkles and rejuvenate skin without clogging pores.

The mantra behind Roc’s Retinol Correxion Max Daily Hydration Crème is simply “The longer you use it, the better it works”, which we find is truly the best way to sum up this product.

Key Features
  • 1.7 oz jar contains powerful Retinol moisturizer
  • Hydrating formula smooths appearance of wrinkles in one week and fades fine lines and age spots with continued use over 8 weeks
  • Moisturizer keeps skin hydrated for up to 24 hours after application
  • Package Size: 1.7 oz jar
  • Active Ingredients: Retinol
  • Cruelty Free?: Yes
  • Noticeable results after only 1 week
  • Effectively fades fine lines and dark spots within 8 weeks
  • Keeps skin moist and hydrated for up to 24 hours post-application
  • Does not contain sunscreen

If you’d like a powerful, wrinkle-fighting formula that’s also made with high-quality, natural ingredients, Tree of Life Retinol Cream may be your perfect choice!

Tree of Life contains Retinol and vegan Hyaluronic acid for a powerful anti-aging combination that works to combat wrinkles, plump skin, and restore an overall youthful glow to your complexion.

Tree of Life is also a great choice for those seeking vegan-friendly, organic skincare, and is paraben-free and gentle, yet also potent enough to provide noticeable results.

Besides being an effective wrinkle fighter, Tree of Life is also a rich moisturizer and contains jojoba oil, green tea, B5 and Shea Butter for long lasting hydration that applies smoothly and without residue. However, since this formula is so rich, those with oily or acne-prone skin may find it causes breakouts. Therefore, it’s best used by those with mature, dry skin who require that extra boost of hydration that the Tree of Life formula provides.

Key Features
  • Package Size: 1.7 oz
  • Active Ingredients: Retinol, Hyaluronic acid
  • Cruelty Free?: Yes
  • Contains Retinol and Hyaluronic acid for a powerful wrinkle fighting combination
  • Contains Jojoba oil, green tea, B5 and Shea Butter for increased hydration
  • May feel somewhat greasy
  • Contains no SPF protection

If you favor a more natural Retinol cream over one packed with harmful chemicals and questionable ingredients, Radha Beauty offers a safe, effective option with their Miracle Retinol Moisturizer.

Besides Retinol, the ingredients in this product are simple, well-known, natural wrinkle fighters. This includes green tea for its antioxidant properties that prevent aging and inflammation, Vitamin E for its hydration and protection against free radicals, and Hyaluronic acid for its skin plumping abilities.

The downside to this product is it does not contain an SPF, and, if you plan on using the Radha Beauty Miracle Retinol Moisturizer during the day, the company recommends a separate sunscreen as the product will make your skin more sensitive and susceptible to burning. If the product is used as a night cream, however, no separate sunscreen is required.

Besides its wrinkle fighting capabilities, the Radha Beauty Miracle Retinol Moisturizer helps fight acne by unclogging and shrinking pores. While you may break out initially as your skin adjusts to the product, with continued use your face will appear clearer and your pores will tighten and shrink.

And, when paired with a Vitamin E serum, the Miracle Retinol Moisturizer is an effective solution against dark spots and hyperpigmentation as it brightens and evens out your complexion.

Just ensure you start by applying only a small amount of product to prevent sensitivity, and apply a separate sunscreen if using during the day. With continued application, this product is an effective, natural solution for a smooth, even complexion.

Key Features
  • Product contains a powerful wrinkle-fighting combination of 2.5% active Retinol, Hyaluronic Acid, Vitamin E, and Green Tea
  • Reduces the appearance of acne, wrinkles, and brightens skin-tone
  • Increases skin's natural collagen production functions
  • Reduces hyperpigmentation
  • Package Size: 1.7 oz
  • Active Ingredients: Retinol, Vitamin E, Green Tea
  • Cruelty Free?: Yes
  • Skin-brightening, acne-fighting
  • Wrinkle reducing
  • Increases collagen production
  • Free from dyes, scents, and parabens
  • Contains no SPF, separate sunscreen is recommended

Over the counter Retinol creams typically contain between 0-2% Retinol. LilyAna Naturals Retinol Cream contains a whopping 2.5% Retinol for maximum effectiveness and fast results.

LilyAna Naturals Retinol Cream also contains Vitamin E, Green Tea, Shea Butter and Jojoba Oil for added moisture and to counteract the drying effects of Retinol. While this formula will leave your skin moist and hydrated, it’s also non-comedogenic and won’t clog pores. The cream is also designed to absorb quickly without leaving a heavy, sticky feeling or an oily residue.

However, it’s recommended to begin using this product gradually, as the high-potency formula has the potential to cause redness, irritation and sun-sensitivity. Additionally, this product does not contain any SPF, so you’ll need to take care and apply a sunscreen daily.

Overall, this formula provides effective results against fine lines and wrinkles, while helping to fade sun spots, and improve the overall texture of your skin. And LilyAna Naturals is 71% organic, so you’ll be able to achieve fast, effective results with a cream that’s also natural and gentle.

Key Features
  • Product contains maximum amount of Retinol (2.5%) available in OTC formula
  • Contains added moisturizers to combat Retinol's drying effects
  • 71% organic
  • Package Size: 1.7 oz
  • Active Ingredients: Retinol
  • Cruelty Free?: Yes
  • Contains max amount (2.5%) Retinol
  • Contains added moisturizers
  • Fresh, natural, non-synthetic fragrance
  • Advanced formula may cause irritation and redness
  • Contains no SPF

If you’d like an extra-rich, moisturizing Retinol cream, you’ll want to check out New York Biology Retinol Cream. This cream combines the wrinkle fighting power of Retinol along with intense hydration from Jojoba Oil, Shea Butter, and Vitamin E.

Also included is Hyaluronic acid, which is used as a booster to supercharge the acne-fighting, collagen increasing capabilities of Retinol. Increased collagen levels translate to skin that is plump, firm, and hydrated.

The New York Biology Retinol Cream is suitable for use in all areas of the face, including the delicate eye area, so a separate eye cream isn’t required. With daily use, the cream was shown to significantly decrease fine lines and wrinkles within 12 weeks, with maximum benefits after 12 months or more.

While Retinol is a great choice to deep clean pores and clear up blemishes, with all its added moisturizers, the New York Biology Retinol Cream may be too rich for oily, acne-prone skin and may clog pores instead of cleaning them.

However, if you’d like intense hydration along with a significant reduction in fine lines and wrinkles, you’ll definitely want to give the New York Biology Retinol Cream a try!

Key Features
  • Package Size: 1.7 oz
  • Active Ingredients: Retinol, Vitamin E
  • Cruelty Free?: Yes
  • Rich cream, also contains Jojoba Oil and Shea Butter for additional moisture
  • Infused with Vitamin E for increased hydration
  • Contains green tea and wheat germ which prevent environmental damage to skin
  • Too rich for some skin types, may clog pores or cause breakouts

If you’re a fan of CeraVe moisturizer, which always seems to pop up on lists of dermatologists’ favorite products, you’ll be happy to know the brand has released their own version of Retinol cream.

Formulated with encapsulated Retinol to reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, along with three essential ceramides (1, 3, 6-II) designed to restore your skin’s protective barrier, CeraVe Anti-Aging Face Cream may be one of the most advanced Retinol formulas on the market.

This product also utilizes a patented control-release technology that delivers long lasting hydration to your skin.

Additionally, the CeraVe Anti-Aging Face Cream contains a broad-spectrum sunscreen which protects against UVA and UVB rays and prevents sunburns.

While the CeraVe Anti-Aging Face Cream is packed full of moisturizers and sun protection, it’s also surprisingly gentle and is non-comedogenic, non-irritating and fragrance-free, making it suitable for use on all skin types.

The one drawback to this product is the design of the bottle’s dispenser which has a bit of a learning curve to make the cream dispense properly. If you find you’re having trouble mastering the dispenser, the company offers a helpline for assistance and troubleshooting.

Key Features
  • Contains encapsulated Retinol to reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles
  • Formula contains three essential ceramides ((1, 3, 6-II)) which helps to restore protective skin barriers
  • Non-comedogenic, won't clog pores
  • Contains SPF 30 broad spectrum sunscreen to protect against UVA and UVB rays
  • Package Size: 1.76
  • Active Ingredients: Retinol
  • Cruelty Free?: No
  • Encapsulated Retinol for effective wrinkle reduction
  • Contains three essential ceramides
  • Won't clog pores
  • Contains broad spectrum SPF 30
  • Dispenser of bottle isn't the most user-friendly

The ideal pH of the skin is 5.5 for a perfect balance of moisture and overall health. That’s the science behind Medix’s 5.5 Retinol Cream, to obtain that ideal balance through their plant-based formula.

The Medix 5.5 Retinol Cream is designed to combat deep set wrinkles, crepey sagging skin, and sun-damage through the combination of Retinol and Ferulic acid. The formula also incorporates Chamomile and Botanimoist AMS, for up to 88% increased hydration.

Also included in the formula are shea butter, aloe vera, sunflower and rosemary, which provide supplemental moisturizing benefits.

While this product is designed to smooth skin, increase elasticity, and lift sagging areas, it’s also surprisingly gentle and contains no animal-derived ingredients or harmful additives.

However, while this product contains mostly natural ingredients, it’s important to note that it does, unfortunately contain a synthetic fragrance which smells overly fruity and sweet. Therefore, if you have asthma, allergies or are just sensitive to smells, you may want to skip this product.

Due to the amount of moisturizers the Medix 5.5 contains, you’ll also want to skip it if you have oily or acne prone skin, as it will likely break you out. Instead, this product is best for those who would like to combat sun-damaged, crepey skin with an intense blast of hydration.

Key Features
  • Contains a combination of Retinol and Ferulic acid to target wrinkles and transform sun-damaged skin
  • Product utlilizes Chamomile and Botanimoist AMS for up to 88% increased hydration
  • Vegan, cruelty-free formula contains no animal by-products or harmful additives
  • Package Size: 15 oz bottle
  • Active Ingredients: Retinol, Chamomile
  • Cruelty Free?: Yes
  • Contains Retinol and Ferulic Acid to fight wrinkles and sun damage
  • Contains Chamomile and Botanimoist AMS for hydration
  • Not testing on animals, vegan-friendly formula
  • Strong synthetic, fruity fragrance
  • Somewhat greasy formula

If you’re most concerned with reducing crow’s feet, dark circles, and puffiness, you’ll want to try a Retinol cream specifically targeted to the eye area. The RoC Retinol Correxion Anti-Aging Eye Cream Treatment is a Retinol cream designed to smooth and perfect the delicate skin around the eyes, and contains anti-aging, anti-wrinkle ingredients in a non-greasy formula.

This dermatologist tested formula has been shown to reduce the appearance of crow’s feet and wrinkles in 12 weeks, with diminished dark circles and under eye puffiness after only 4.

The RoC Retinol Correxion Anti-Aging Eye Cream Treatment also includes an Essential Mineral Blend which works in conjunction with the Retinol to visibly reduce the signs of aging around your eye area. According to the company, upon application the cream goes to work immediately in smoothing the skin’s surface, with increasing results from continued daily use. Besides the reduction in crow’s feet, fine lines, and wrinkles, expect your eye area to feel healthier and look years younger.

The drawback to the RoC Retinol Correxion Anti-Aging Eye Cream Treatment is that, since it’s targeted specifically to the eye area and not the entire face, the quantity of product in the tube is tiny- 0.5 oz to be exact! However, eyes are one of the primary features we tend to notice, and, judging by the marked improvement and wrinkle reduction the RoC Eye Cream provides, it’s totally worth it!

Just ensure that you are using an SPF 15 or higher in conjunction with this product, as you’ll be more susceptible to sunlight and irritation. Whether applying the RoC Eye Cream day or night a separate sunscreen is recommended since this product contains none.

Key Features
  • Retinol cream specifically designed for the delicate eye area to reduce signs of aging including dark circles, crow's feet and puffiness
  • Hypoallergenic, non-comedogenic formula
  • Reduces dark circles and puffiness around eyes in 4 weeks
  • Reduces appearance of crows feet and wrinkles in 12 weeks
  • Package Size: 0.5 oz tube
  • Active Ingredients: Retinol
  • Cruelty Free?: Yes
  • Targeted wrinkle reduction for the eye area
  • Hypoallergenic
  • Non-comedogenic
  • Reduces crows feet, dark circles, and eye bags
  • Tiny tube size

If you’re on the hunt for an effective Retinol product but are iffy about trying creams from some of the smaller manufacturers, you’ll want to check out the Rapid Wrinkle Repair Daily Hyaluronic Acid Retinol Face Moisturizer from Neutrogena, a trusted name in skincare products.

The Rapid Wrinkle Repair combines Retinol SA with Hyaluronic Acid and Glucose Complex, along with an SPF 30 sunscreen, which packs a powerful punch in your fight against wrinkles. But just how powerful is it? Unfortunately, Neutrogena refuses to disclose the percentage of Retinol in the product, citing it as a trade secret, however, judging by its overall effectiveness, it appears to be on the high-end for OTC formulas.

The advantage to the Neutrogena Rapid Wrinkle Repair over other retinol treatments is that it contains Retinol SA, which is scientifically proven to provide superior benefits over other forms of Vitamin A. The Rapid Wrinkle Repair also contains Hyaluronic Acid, to add plumping hydration to your skin, and a Glucose Complex which acts as a booster to the Retinol SA for rapid acceleration of wrinkle-fighting results. This powerful dark spot, crow’s feet fighting formula is combined with UVA/UVB SPF 30 for daily sun protection which helps prevent future signs of damage on your skin.

Despite the company’s misgivings on providing Retinol percentages, this product is practically perfect in its overall performance, and works quickly and effectively in smoothing skin’s surface while preventing future wrinkles.

Key Features
  • 1 fl oz pump bottle
  • Clinically proven to reduce the look of wrinkles, including crow's feet, within 1 week
  • Combines Retinol SA with Hyaluronic Acid and Glucose Complex
  • Combination UVA/UVB SPF 30 sun protection
  • Package Size: 1 fl oz
  • Active Ingredients: Retinal SA, Hyaluronic Acid and Glucose Complex
  • Cruelty Free?: Yes
  • Made by a trusted brand of skincare products
  • Combines Retinol with sunscreen for an all-in-one daily moisturizer
  • Noticeable results within one week
  • Neutrogena won't disclose amount of Retinol included in the product

So you've read about all of Retinol's great benefits, but what exactly is this wonder elixir? To put it simply, Retinol is a retinoid, which is the catchall term for all Vitamin A derivatives. Retinol creams contain retinoic acid which binds with skin cell receptors to help with cell turnover. Retinol essentially "tricks" your body into thinking it's younger than it is, as frequent cell turnover is associated with youthful radiant skin, and typically after 3 months women will experience significant anti-aging effects.

Besides being a powerful wrinkle filer, Retinol also helps minimize future damage from occurring. Retinol exfoliates on a cellular level, so new skin is always popping through. When skin is "newer" it looks brighter, smoother and younger. And while it won't happen overnight, Retinol will even out your complexion and fade dark sun spots, hyperpigmentation, and acne scars.

Another great feature about Retinol is it's just as helpful for young, blemish-prone skin as it is for mature, aging skin. Retinol helps control oil and keeps pores from clogging which leads to clearer skin with fewer blemishes, blackheads, and cysts.

And while Retinol is available in prescription strength from your doctor, it's also available in OTC form, though it will be a weaker, slower dosage. However, it may be best to start with an OTC cream, as the decreased potency will lessen the side effects.

Potential side effects from Retinol include flaky, dry, irritated skin, sensitivity to sunlight and increased risk of sunburn. While these side effects typically subside after your skin has adjusted. it's important that you gradually ease yourself into a Retinol routine.

Dermatologists recommend starting with one application of Retinol during your first week, two nights a week for two weeks, three nights a week for three weeks, followed by every other night from week four going forward.

During the first few weeks when you are only using Retinol 1-2 nights per week, don't expect to see a big change. You have to use Retinol consistently to reap most of the benefits, so in the beginning, you are really just training your skin to accept the product. Once you've made it through the introduction period and are using Retinol every other night, expect to see results within approximately 3 months of continued use.

And while the side effects and commitment to Retinol may sound exhausting, it's likely you'll find the benefits to outweigh the negatives. Most skincare products only work on the superficial, topical level, but Retinol works on the cellular level, enabling it to truly transform and resurface your complexion from the inside out, so you'll wake up with clearer, brighter, and younger-looking skin.

Resources— Allure, Marie Claire

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