11 Best Retinol Creams: Which Is Right for You? (2018)

best retinol cream


When I was in my 40s, I was struggling with adult acne and a few of those sneaky little fine forehead lines, despite my somewhat oily skin. Naturally, when my peroxide cream didn’t do the trick, I headed straight for the dermatologist in search of a good solution. She sent me packing with a prescription for Retin A. Wow – that stuff was harsh on my skin at first, but it did have a dramatic impact, clearing up my little pimple issue in short order.

Fast forward a decade, plus a few years. My skin isn’t quite as oily, and I can see the evidence from decades of playing outdoors, often without adequate sunscreen. The result? I’ve got a lot more fine lines, some honest, well-earned wrinkles and a bit of uneven pigmentation.

I’ve learned there are three key ingredients to keeping your skin looking young and healthy, and reversing that ticking time clock: retinol, niacinamide and resveratrol. While there are lots of pretenders out there claiming to be the fountain of youth, from stem cells and collagen to exotic botanicals, the big three actually have the science behind the beauty claims.

Retinol, a vitamin A derivative, is really the power hitter when it comes to anti-aging benefits. When the collagen in your skin begins to break down, you’ll notice more sagging and lack of elasticity. Retinol actually helps to stimulate collagen production, which makes your skin smoother and firmer, while at the same time, diminishing the appearance fine lines. We all want that, right?

What Is the Best Retinol Cream?

retinol, retinol cream, best retinol cream, anti-aging cream, amara organics Amazon Customer Reviews
  • Natural and organic
  • Very moisturizing
  • Effective for acne
Price: $19.95 Shop at Amazon Shop now Read our review
retinol, retinol cream, best retinol cream, anti-aging cream, strivectin Amazon Customer Reviews
  • Fights fine lines and wrinkles
  • Improves skin elasticity
  • Leaves skin hydrated
Price: $112.00 Shop at Amazon Shop now Read our review
retinol, retinol cream, best retinol cream, anti-aging cream, pca skin Amazon Customer Reviews
  • Powerful anti-aging formula
  • Targets dark spots
  • Skin brightening
Price: $110.00 Shop at Amazon Shop now Read our review
retinol, retinol cream, best retinol cream, anti-aging cream, nia 24 Amazon Customer Reviews
  • Leaves skin smooth
  • Locks in moisture
  • Less irritating than many
Price: $130.00 Shop at Amazon Shop now Read our review
retinol, retinol cream, best retinol cream, anti-aging cream, radha beauty Amazon Customer Reviews
  • Amazon's Choice
  • Very affordable
  • Leaves skin plump and hydrated
Price: $19.95 Shop at Amazon Shop now Read our review
retinol, retinol cream, best retinol cream, anti-aging cream, roc retinol Amazon Customer Reviews
  • Firms and smooths
  • Diminishes fine lines
  • Targets even deep wrinkles
Price: $14.77 Shop at Amazon Shop now Read our review
retinol, retinol cream, best retinol cream, anti-aging cream, lilyana naturals Amazon Customer Reviews
  • Natural formula
  • Non-comedogenic
  • Doesn't dry out your skin
Price: $19.99 Shop at Amazon Shop now Read our review
retinol, retinol cream, best retinol cream, anti-aging cream, anti-aging Amazon Customer Reviews
  • Proprietary anti-wrinkle formula
  • Provides deep hydration
  • Helps repair UV damage
Price: $23.95 Shop at Amazon Shop now Read our review
retinol, retinol cream, best retinol cream, anti-aging cream, body merry Amazon Customer Reviews
  • Non-drying formula
  • Fights fine lines and wrinkles
  • Repairs sun damaged skin
Price: $22.98 Shop at Amazon Shop now Read our review
retinol, retinol cream, best retinol cream, anti-aging cream, oz naturals Amazon Customer Reviews
  • Skin brightening
  • Plumps and hydrates
  • Targets dark spots and wrinkles
Price: $15.93 Shop at Amazon Shop now Read our review
organic retinol cream Amazon Customer Reviews
  • Natural and organic
  • Antioxidant formula
  • Deeply hydrating
Price: $19.97 Shop at Amazon Shop now Read our review
Our Unbiased Reviews
  1. 1. Top Rated: Amara Organics Retinol Cream for Face 2.5%

    • Amazon #1 Best Seller
    • Leaves skin smooth, bright and moisturized
    • Helps to reduce wrinkles and minimize pores
    • Effective at clearing acne
    • Can feel a little heavy or greasy
    • May cause dryness and flaking
    • Can initially cause breakouts and some skin irritation
    • Some packaging issues reported

    This retinol cream works on a molecular level to help repair skin and stimulate collagen, resulting in firmer, smoother, younger looking skin. Because it speeds up skin cell turnover, it helps to fade sun and age spots and improves texture, giving your skin a more healthy glow. Retinol’s power to create lasting skin improvement has been shown through lengthy clinical testing. As we’ve mentioned many times, the longer you use it, the better its effects.

    This retinol cream is also an effective treatment for acne, and for diminishing old acne scars. It unclogs pores to clear up blemishes, reduce blackheads, and minimize pores. Retinol helps to prevent future breakouts by keeping dead skin cells from clogging pores. This multitasking formula repairs elastin and stimulates collagen to further fade acne scars.

    The unique blend of 2.5% retinol with moisturizing acids, oils and butters means you get all the anti-aging benefits with less chance of skin irritation. Safe for all skin types, this formula contains natural and organic ingredients, with no harsh chemicals, no parabens, and no artificial colors, fragrances, or dyes.

    One thing I really love about it is the manufacturer’s 100% hassle-free guarantee. If you don’t like the way it works, send it back for a refund with no questions asked. What’s to lose with a deal like that?

    Under makeup, Amara Organics Retinol Serum continues the work that your night cream began, meaning your anti-aging efforts can go 24/7. If that much retinol seems like it might be too harsh for your skin, Amara Organics Vitamin C Serum also delivers a robust anti-aging formula, along with skin brightening and deep moisturization.

  2. 2. StriVectin Advanced Retinol Intensive Night Moisturizer

    • Helps to reverse the signs of aging
    • Improved formula minimizes skin irritation
    • Leaves your skin looking and feeling smooth
    • Hydrates and nourishes your skin
    • Super spendy
    • May cause breakouts or skin irritation
    • Works similarly to some less expensive products
    • Not effective for every user

    If you want to look younger, literally overnight, this retinol cream is a miracle worker. StriVectin’s anti-aging multitasker is updated with copper tripeptides, proven to protect skin and promote skin rejuvenation. It’s supercharged with retinol, to help restore your skin to its healthiest state during sleep, the time when your skin most actively repairs and renews.

    You’ll awake to a more beautiful, refreshed looking face that’s been rejuvenated by the gold standard in anti-aging, retinol, and patented nia-114, which activates retinol’s age-fighting efficacy. It helps to strengthen your skin barrier, reducing the sometimes irritating side effects of retinol.

    This overnight anti-aging treatment can significantly improve the major signs of aging. It improves the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, while enhancing your skin’s firmness and elasticity. Regular use can leave your skin looking smooth, refined, nourished and hydrated.

    If you want to kick those crow’s feet to the curb, try StriVectin-AR Advanced Retinol Eye Cream, which also fights dark circles, puffiness and redness. If you’re looking to use the powerful punch of retinol 24/7, StriVectin-AR Advanced Retinol Concentrated Serum can be your daytime solution to smooth and refine your face under makeup, while minimizing the appearance of pores.

  3. 3. Highest Retinol Formula: PCA SKIN 5% Pure Retinol Night Intensive Brightening Treatment

    • Contains the big three anti-aging ingredients
    • Effectively targets age spots and skin discoloration
    • Brightens and illuminates
    • Leaves skin smooth
    • A major hit to the wallet
    • Tiny tube for the money
    • Can be too strong for sensitive skin
    • May cause skin irritation

    Retinol, niacinamide and reservatrol are the triple play power hitters in anti-aging skin regimens. These three ingredients are all formulated in this popular PCA Skin night cream that brightens and smooths skin, with clearly visible results in just four weeks of use.

    Specifically formulated for discoloration, this advanced nighttime retinol treatment features a delivery system often used in pharmaceutical skin care. The patented Omnisome delivery system stabilizes and carries a unique blend of ingredients deeper into the skin to give you better results.

    This retinol cream reduces signs of aging, and discoloration, to leave your skin bright and smooth. For oily, acne prone skin, PCA SKIN 0.5% Pure Retinol Night Intensive Clarity Treatment reduces blemishes and oil production with salicylic acid, while it also fights skin aging.

    If you’re looking for a pure wrinkle fighting treatment that helps build collagen and firm up sagging skin, PCA SKIN Intensive Age Refining Treatment 0.5% Pure Retinol Night might be the formula that’s best for you.

  4. 4. Nia 24 Intensive Retinol Repair

    • Leaves skin looking firm and hydrated
    • Almost twice the amount of product compared to many
    • Fights fine lines and wrinkles with consistent use
    • Improves skin texture
    • It’s a big investment
    • Retinol formula isn’t as strong as some
    • May cause irritation or breakouts
    • Requires long term use to see effects

    This intensive repair treatment is formulated with pro-niacin and retinol to address multiple signs of aging. Niacin helps speed the conversion of retinol to its active form to help reinforce your skin’s natural barrier. That means you get an effective skin-aging skin solution minus the irritation that can be associated with retinol creams.

    Potent sodium hyaluronate helps to boost your skin’s hydration and locks in that moisture to keep skin looking plump, smooth and soft. Used nightly, this medium weight, moisturizing formula can make a significant improvement in the look of fine lines and even deep wrinkles, giving you firmer, more radiant looking skin.

    For daily moisture and damage repair, Nia 24 Intensive Recovery Complex uses that same hard working pro-niacin to give you skin that keeps looking younger than your years.

    For décolletage, shoulders and hands that have been damaged by too much sun exposure, Nia 24 Sun Damage Repair for Décolletage and Hands is formulated to improved age and sun spots and soothe and smooth those key areas of your body.

  5. 5. Amazon’s Choice: Radha Beauty Retinol Moisturizer Cream

    • Very affordable
    • Nifty pump jar with lots of product
    • Mostly organic, skin-loving ingredients
    • Leaves skin smooth and minimizes dark spots and wrinkles
    • May cause drying when you first start using it
    • Feels a bit greasy to some users
    • Retinol formula not as strong as some
    • May cause breakouts or irritation

    Formulated with organic aloe, green tea, jojoba oil, and shea butter, this super hydrating and moisturizing retinol cream is a best-seller because of its ability to fight the signs of aging, and, at such an affordable price. This formula is made of more than 70 percent organic ingredients and features 2.5 percent retinol to minimize fine lines and even deeper wrinkles.

    Hyaluronic acid plumps and hydrates your skin for a flawless looking complexion and more even skin tone. The non-greasy formula fights dark spots and helps to minimize scarring. It goes on light and never feels sticky or goopy, plus a little bit goes a long way, so it’ll last longer than some others.

    The vitamin and extract enriched formula is filled with lots of skin loving ingredients in addition to the retinol, so it’s easy to feel good about using it on your face and even around your sensitive eye area.

    For additional daytime skin smoothing, Radha Beauty Hyaluronic Acid Serum plumps wrinkles and protects your skin from free radical damage too. Radha Beauty Vitamin C Serum helps to fade sun spots and skin discolorations, and also stimulates collagen production for firmer more youthful looking skin.


  6. 6. Best Buy: RoC Retinol Correxion Deep Wrinkle Facial Night Cream

    • Affordable compared to many
    • Reduces fine lines and wrinkles with continued use
    • Leaves skin brighter and minimizes dark spots
    • #1 Amazon Best Seller
    • Tiny tube for the price
    • Can be too strong for sensitive skin
    • Stings if you get it in your eyes
    • Scent is a bit much for some

    With RoC Retinol Correxion Deep Wrinkle Night Cream Treatment for Anti-Aging, after 12 weeks, even deep wrinkles are visibly diminished. This unique formula is designed to work through the night, when your skin is likely to be the most receptive. In just four weeks you’ll notice your crows feet diminishing, and your skin looking brighter and lighter. After eight weeks, you’ll see your expression lines minimized.

    As with most retinol products, the longer you use it, the more visible your results will be. In clinical trials, the good news was that this retinol cream’s effectiveness continues without plateauing. The formula, featuring pure RoC retinol and an essential mineral complex, penetrates the upper layers of your skin, firming and leading to a smoother face in the morning.

    The light, oil free cream starts to work immediately, penetrating deeply into the skin’s surface to help fill in even your deepest wrinkles. For the best results, cleans and condition your face prior to using retinol cream with RoC Daily Resurfacing Disks that feature soap free cleansers, and a pad that has an exfoliating side to clear out dead skin cells.

    For day and nighttime hydration, RoC MULTI CORREXION 5 in 1 Daily Moisturizer fights multiple signs of aging to help your skin look more youthful and radiant.

  7. 7. LilyAna Naturals Retinol Cream Moisturizer for Face & Eyes

    • #1 Amazon Best Seller
    • Retinol formula reduces lines, wrinkles and scars
    • Gentle enough for sensitive skin
    • Cruelty-free
    • May cause skin irritation for some users
    • Can initially make your skin feel a bit dry
    • Contains some non-organic ingredients
    • Some packing issues reported

    If you’ve thought about using Retin A, but worry about its harsh side effects, this retinol cream is a great place to begin your anti aging journey. This formula is designed for daily use, with maximum prescription strength effectiveness without flaking, peeling or drying out your skin.

    It is loaded with many of the most effective anti-aging and moisturizing ingredients including hyaluronic acid, vitamin E, green tea, shea butter and jojoba oil, along with a boat load of natural plant extracts. This high potency retinol cream can help to reduce fine lines, fade sun damage, spots, minimize scars and even improve the look of stretch marks.

    It absorbs quickly, without feeling heavy or sticky, and it’s gentle enough for even sensitive skin. You can use it around your eye area to help diminish dark circles, milia and under eye bags. Use on your hands and neck for firming and crepey skin.

    The non-irritating formula won’t clog your pores, and it’s great for men and women alike. The fact that it’s cruelty-free is an added bonus as well.

    If your eyes are particularly sensitive and you’re looking for a more natural alternative, LilyAna Rose Hip and Hibiscus Eye Cream could be a perfect solution. LilyAna Vitamin C Serum is wildly popular with users who love it for the way it helps to minimize hyperpigmentation, fade scars and reduce fine lines.

  8. 8. Amazon #1 New Release: Pure Biology Anti Aging Night Cream

    • Visibly reduces wrinkles and age spots
    • Moisturizes for up to 48 hours
    • Works to tone and firm your sagging neck and wrinkled decolleté
    • Quite affordable
    • Can dry out skin initially
    • May cause skin irritation
    • May not be best for dry or sensitive skin types

    If you could hydrate, renew and defend your skin with just one cream, wouldn’t you jump at the chance? This retinol night cream promises to do that and more. Formulated with pure retinol, hyaluronic acid and Fision™ Wrinkle Fix, a proprietary anti-aging ingredient that has been clinically shown to deliver potent wrinkle reduction benefits.

    This anti-aging cream can help reduce wrinkles, fine lines and age spots, while firming and tightening your skin. Baobab Tien™ extract provides up to 48 hours of moisture, actually eliminating the need for day moisturizers. Its unique amino acid structure has a distinctive ability to lock-in deep moisture, and is clinically indicated to defend and restore skin from the effects of UV-related aging.

    It’s also a great solution to firm and fight wrinkles and sagging on your neck and decolleté. This super popular and highly rated retinol cream also offers a no questions asked return policy, another good reason to give it a try.

    To brighten and deeply cleanse your skin, as well as loosen blackheads and clear pores, Pure Biology Clay Face Mask uses pure Bentonite clay and Pea peptides to give you a more luminous look and fight over production of melanin, the cause of dark spots.

    For extra lift and firmness in your eye area, Pure Biology “Total Eye” Anti Aging Eye Cream utilizes 90 percent natural ingredients to reduce fine lines, wrinkles, puffiness, bags and dark circles, while protecting your delicate under eye skin from UV rays and free radical damage.

  9. 9. Body Merry Retinol Surge Moisturizer

    • Effectively helps kick wrinkles to the curb
    • Helps to clear up zits
    • Diminishes and repairs dark spots and sun damage
    • Best price for the largest amount of product
    • Can be too drying for sensitive skin
    • Feels heavy to some
    • Pump dispenses too much product at one time
    • It takes long term use to see results

    Let’s just start by saying that the size of the Body Merry Retinol Surge Moisturizer is more than twice what most other retinol creams offer, and more than four times the size of many. That alone is an impressive way to begin the story about this anti-aging moisturizer.

    That added size means you’ll be more willing to use it on your neck and chest too. This moisturizer uses natural and organic ingredients like plant derived hyaluronic acid to comfort and hydrate your skin, while ingredients like green tea, organic jojoba oil, vitamin E, vitamin B5 and shea butter join forces to reveal brighter, younger looking skin.

    The star of the show here is retinol, which is, as you know by now, delivers powerful anti-aging benefits, reducing fine lines and wrinkles, improving your skin’s texture and minimizing sun damage, dark spots and scarring. This light, non-greasy formula is designed to absorb quickly and easily. It also helps minimize breakouts and zits, without leaving your skin red, irritated and dry.

    For serious acne issues, Body Merry Glycolic Acid Exfoliating Cleanser helps to alleviate clogged pores and slough away dead skin, dirt and oil build up. Follow up with Super C-22 Toner before slathering on your retinol cream, for a super clean, radiant glow.

  10. 10. OZNaturals Super Youth Retinol Moisturizer

    • Best natural retinol formula
    • Helps to diminish fine lines and wrinkles
    • Plumps and strengthens your skin
    • A lot of product for the price
    • Too frequent use may dry skin
    • Newer formula doesn’t seem to work as well as the original
    • Not effective for every user
    • May cause irritation for those with sensitive skin

    OZNaturals Super Youth Retinol Moisturizer is cold-pressed, natural skin care that can deliver great results with far less redness and irritation common to many retinol creams. It contains a potent cocktail of retinol, along with antioxidants, formulated to help diminish the appearance of fine lines, wrinkles, and premature aging due to sun exposure.

    This multitasking anti-aging night cream fights free radical damage as well as assists in restoring and renewing firmness, elasticity, and thickness to your skin. This retinol cream boasts a long list of benefits that include improved skin texture, reduced appearance of enlarged pores, and diminished brown spots, to create luminous and glowing complexion.

    Hyaluronic acid plumps and hydrates, while vitamin C supports the production of collagen and vitamin E supports your skin’s natural barrier to protect it from environmental damage. OZNaturals Anti Aging Retinol Serum is also popular for daytime use because it noticeable delivers anti-aging results within a few weeks.

    Because retinol may be too harsh for daily use, depending on your skin type, on the days in between, try OZNaturals Anti Aging Hyaluronic Acid Serum to plump, hydrate and give you super glowing skin.

  11. 11. Best Organic Formula: Kleem Organics Anti-Aging Retinol Moisturizer

    • Natural and organic formula with five key bioactives
    • Antioxidants fight free radical damage
    • Hydrating but not greasy
    • Top rated natural formula
    • Jar looks deceptively big
    • Goes on kind of chalky
    • Not as moisturizing as some
    • Some pump issues reported

    This all natural and organic formula is easy on your skin. The 2.5 percent retinol in this cream is tempered with vitamin E, green tea and jojoba to gently tackle fine lines and wrinkles, while leaving your skin hydrated and smooth. Green tea is filled with natural antioxidants, so it fights off free radicals that can damage your skin.

    This retinol cream evens your skin’s tone and texture, while boosting production of collagen and elastin, to give you younger and firmer looking skin. While it’s deeply moisturizing, it won’t clog pores and feels clean, not oily. It fights dull skin, bringing brightness and life to the forefront. It also effectively targets dark spots and hyperpigmentation.

    We also think you’ll love that it has a money back guarantee, so you’re not risking a big investment up front, or in the long haul.

A few of the retinol creams reviewed in this post have formulations that also include the second heavy hitter, niacinamide. A form of vitamin B3, this key ingredient is a powerful way to tackle excess pigmentation and brown spots. In fact, it even helps to block the production of melanin so those spots become less likely to happen.

None of the creams reviewed list resveratrol, a powerful antioxidant, in their ingredient lists, but for the most part, all of them do include some antioxidants.

I was in for a little shell shock when I first started searching for the best retinol cream. Many cost a whole lot of money for the tiniest of tubes. When you're talking about a product that's going to be a part of your daily beauty regimen, that seems hard to wrap your head around. Of course, if you're not spending hundreds on botox treatments every few months, or thousands on a face lift, the price seems pretty worth it for great looking skin. And not all retinol creams are budget busters. We've included many highly rated, well-priced options on this list.

Retinol, similar to the prescription Retin A, can be drying, especially at first. While most formulations include hydrating hyaluronic acid, shea butter and jojoba oil to combat that effect, lots of people choose to use their retinol cream on alternating days, or just a couple of times per week.

For acne prone skin it's an especially effective tool that may initially cause you to break out, but then clear up in rather amazing fashion. Retinol creams are a terrific weapon to add to your skincare arsenal, no matter your age or gender, to deliver younger looking skin fast.

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