The best retinol serums for aging skin that dermatologists think are worth buying


Learn how your anti-aging routine can benefit from these "skincare miracles" and what you need to know before using them.

When it comes to our skin care routine, aren't we all looking for that special magic potion that will make our complexion look radiant and youthful? Unfortunately, there is no magic ingredient. But you can still get great results with one skincare wonder: retinol.

What is a retinol serum?

Similar to other retinol products, retinol serums are touted for their anti-aging benefits and are available over the counter without a prescription. 

“It is a weaker version of the prescription retinoid tretinoin (Retin-A). Prescription topical retinol may be difficult to tolerate for some patients with sensitive skin, and retinol may be is a gentler alternative." Leah Jacob, assistant professor of dermatology at Tulane University. 

How does it work? "When retinol is applied to the skin, it increases cell turnover, helping to improve skin and fight signs of aging that are often caused by environmental factors," explains Dr. Kim Nichols is a board-certified dermatologist and founder of NicholsMD in Greenwich, Connecticut. 

"When used correctly and consistently, retinol can reduce redness, inflammation, and enlarged pores while reducing the appearance of blemishes, hyperpigmentation, and stubborn dark spots associated with problem skin," Nichols adds. Flavonoids have anti-aging effects. Active ingredients she recommends to her customers. 

Are retinol serums safe for everyone to use? 

If you have sensitive skin, err on the side of caution and give your skin tone some time to adjust to the retinol. 

"People with dry or sensitive skin need to be more careful when using retinol. "Start with a small amount more often, twice a week, applying a small amount to your face at night, then increase every two weeks until you increase it to every other night once, then increase to once a night as tolerated," advises Dr. Mary L. Stevenson, a dermatologic surgeon and associate professor of dermatology at NYU Langone Health. 

Retinol should be avoided while pregnant or breastfeeding, and people with certain skin conditions like eczema or rosacea should also stay away from the ingredient. 

"They're safe for most skin types, but if you have sensitive skin, you'll need to be careful to go slow and be careful not to overexpose yourself to the sun, especially in the beginning," says Dr. explains Angela J. Lamb, a board-certified dermatologist in New York City. 

Nichols notes, "I recommend that patients who cannot tolerate retinol switch to another active chemical peel, such as azelaic acid, glycolic acid, or salicylic acid." For personal advice, visit a board-certified A dermatologist is your best choice to achieve your specific goals. Skin care goals. 

The best retinol serums, according to dermatologists 

1. Retinol Rejuvenating Serum 

Winner of the Shop TODAY Beauty Awards for Best Affordable Anti-Aging Serum, three dermatologists we surveyed ranked this affordable CeraVe Retinol Serum as one of their favorites. 

"It contains hyaluronic acid, glycerin, and ceramides to hydrate the skin, as well as niacinamide and licorice root extract to help improve uneven dark discoloration," says Dr. Debra Jaliman, board-certified dermatologist and author of "Skin Rules: Trade Secrets from New York's Top Dermatologists." 

PhD. Liia Ramachandra, a former pharmaceutical executive and skin care expert, loves the lightweight, gel-like consistency and calls it "ideal for treating acne." Robert Anolik, a member of the American Academy of Dermatology, appreciates the addition of ceramides, which help "soothe" the skin and counteract some of retinol's side effects. 

2. Retinol Correxion Hyaluronic Acid Deep Wrinkle Facial Filler 

More than 7,200 verified Amazon buyers have given this bestseller a five-star review; like her, Lamb is a big fan of dual-action wrinkle fillers. It contains hydrating hyaluronic acid to restore moisture, and the brand claims it can improve the appearance of deep wrinkles in just four weeks. 

3. Rapid Anti-Wrinkle Repair Facial Oil Retinol Serum 

Retinol is very powerful on its own, but when combined with other ingredients it can become a real powerhouse, and this oil is a perfect example of that. "Adding salicylic acid to this serum increases its effectiveness and makes the results more visible," Jacobs tells us. 

This facial oil formula absorbs quickly and targets deep wrinkles and dark spots. One satisfied shopper called it a "holy grail essential," while other reviewers used the following terms to describe it: "magical," "amazing," and "gentle yet effective." 

4. Retinol 1% Squalane Solution 

Ramachandra likes this affordable option because it's affordable and effective. It's suitable for all skin types and helps treat uneven skin tone, irregular texture, signs of aging and dryness. 

"Nothing fuss about it. It's just retinol in squalane (a great moisturizing solution), which makes the retinol easier to use," she explains. 

This waterless serum contains trace amounts of retinol (1%, to be exact), making it perfect for sensitive skin. 

5. Adapalene Gel 0.1% Acne Treatment 

Are you tired of having breakouts that pop up at the worst possible times? Retinol conditions skin, cleanses and prevents acne. This popular acne gel from Differin (seriously, it has over 53,000 verified reviews on Amazon) goes a step further by reducing inflammation and fighting breakouts, blackheads, and clogged pores. 

Not sure retinol is right for your nightly skin care routine? Nationally board-certified dermatologist Dr. Ranella Hirsch offers important advice: "Apply only to clean, dry skin, and use only a pea-sized drop." 

6. Anti-aging retinol serum to quickly repair wrinkles 

Lamb likes this serum because it's "oil-free and affordable," calling it affordable. The silky formula brightens and evens skin tone, fighting fine lines and wrinkles, leaving skin feeling comfortable and smooth. It also contains hyaluronic acid to moisturize the skin. 

One reviewer called it a "delicious treat" for her face, and many people mentioned the quick and noticeable results they saw when they started using the serum. "It works great and the results are immediate," said another shopper. 

7. Hyaluronic Acid and Retinol Facial Serum 

This anti-aging retinol serum is a force to be reckoned with. It contains a variety of additives that nourish the skin while reducing the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. 

"It contains hyaluronic acid, which is another great moisturizing ingredient that can help reduce potential skin dryness when using retinol," Anolick says. 

As an added bonus, it's affordable, vegan, hypoallergenic, and free of parabens and phthalates. 

8. Pure Retinol Facial Serum with Vitamin B3 

Jacob calls this serum one of her go-to retinols, and Amazon reviewers agree: It has over 6,400 verified five-star reviews on Amazon. The lightweight yet effective hypoallergenic formula contains time-release niacinamide, glycerin, and retinol, making it a triple-medicine with potent results. 

Customers are clearly impressed with its performance, too. 

"I have sensitive skin and have been burned by other serums in the past. I have no redness or burning!" one reviewer wrote. Another customer left the following review: "I have sensitive skin and it works great. I'm seeing great results a month after purchasing." 

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