17 Best Retinol Serums to Smooth Wrinkles and Brighten Skin

If you've tried it allhydrating night cream, moisturizer, and face serum but you're still showing signs of skin damage, don't just slap on a heavy-duty foundation and call it a day. Instead, it might be time for the gold standard in anti-aging: Retinol. The over-the-counter vitamin A derivative clears acne flare-ups, evens out tone and texture, stimulates collagen, and minimizes age spots and wrinkles. 'Retinol is the only medication that has scientifically- proven anti-aging properties, ' says Tsippora Shainhouse, a board-certified dermatologist in Los Angeles.

While retinol is extremely effective, it does have its drawbacks (namely that it can cause irritation and can be pricey), so it's important to note two key things. First, you can find retinol in a wide range of products, but if you're a beginner, you should stick to serums instead of creams. While neither is technically 'better' than the other, serums will give you the most bang for your buck, as they tend to be more potent. That said, because serums contain higher concentrations of retinol, there can be a greater chance for redness, peeling, and dryness (especially if they're paired with other powerful ingredients, like vitamin C). To reduce the risk of irritation, use a low percentagelike 0. 025 percentand ramp up as your skin adjusts, says Dr. Sonia Batra.

So, which retinol serum is the best? To help you navigate all the options available, we asked dermatologists to share the products perfectly suited for oily or sensitive skin, acne, dark spots, and, of course, wrinkles, that they most often recommend.

The Ordinary Retinol 0. 5% in Squalane

A very affordable retinol serum that addresses a broad range of skin concerns, from fine lines and wrinkles to acne and dark spots, says Dr. Shari Sperling, a board-certified dermatologist in New Jersey.

Retinol Correxion Deep Wrinkle Facial Filler

This potent serum has it all: retinol, vitamins A, C, and E, and hyaluronic acid. 'It's a great product if your skin is on the oily end of the spectrum, ' says Rita Linkner, a board-certified dermatologist in NYC. 'It's a solid anti- aging product that will combat fine lines and wrinkles, thanks to the hyaluronic acid which helps the other vitamins hit deeper layers in the skin where they can make the most impactful changes to how your face looks and feels. '

Night Ranger

This serum offers clinical grade retinol to help boost healthy skin cell turnover, says Kristin M. Baird, a board-certified dermatologist in Colorado. Still, it's gentler on sensitive skin than other formulas, because all active ingredients are naturally derived and it doesn't contain added perfumes. Bonus: It leaves behind a delicious citrus-vanilla scent.

Rapid Wrinkle Repair Retinol Serum

'Retinols can be quite irritating, particularly to sensitive or dryer skin types, ' says Tsippora Shainhouse, a board-certified dermatologist in Los Angeles. 'This is a great, mild retinol product that helps bring new skin cells to the surface, while encouraging new collagen growth overtime. ' To minimize irritation, Shainhouse recommends applying a thin layer two nights per week, and slowly increasing frequency as tolerated.

Age Defense Retinol Complex

If you're committed to using retinol serum for the foreseeable future, Jeffrey Fromowitz, a board-certified dermatologist in Florida, recommends SkinMedica's line. It's suitable for all skin types and is available in three strengths of retinol, so you can progress to stronger concentrations as your skin adjusts to the product, he says.

Retinol Serum 0. 25% Pure Concentrate

It contains peptides, which, combined with retinol, treats fine lines and wrinkles, as well as smoothes skin, says Sonia Batra, a board-certified dermatologist and co-host of The Doctors. It also has skin-soothing ingredients, like hyaluronic acid, aloe, colloidal oatmeal, and ceramides, to simultaneously calm irritation and hydrate.

Ferulic Acid + Retinol Brightening Solution

This multipurpose product contains a number of anti-aging ingredients that work together to minimize the appearance of fine lines, skin discoloration, and stimulate new collagen growth over time, says Shainhouse. Hyaluronic acid hydrates, ferrulic acid helps reduce free radical damage, alpha-hydroxyacids gently exfoliate, and retinol stimulates new collagen growth.

Ageless Intensives Anti-Wrinkle Cream

This product is a dermatologist favorite, because it's lightweight and effective, but it's also readily available and affordable, says Erum Ilyas, a board-certified dermatologist in Philadelphia. It's a great pick for anyone with dry skin, tooalthough most retinols tend to be drying, this one glides on smooth and leaves skin feeling hydrated.

Adapalene Gel 0. 1%

This once prescription-only topical retinoid is one of the best over-the-counter treatments for treating oily and acne-prone skin, says Dr. Howard Sobel.

Intensive Clarity Treatment 0. 5% Pure Retinol Night

For a prescription-strength retinol serum that won't irritate even the most sensitive skin, try this night cream, says Mona Gohara, a board-certified dermatologist in Connecticut. It contains only naturally-derived ingredients to nourish and hydrate skin without irritation. 'I can only use most retinol products two times a week, but I can get this formula on five to six times a week, ' says Gohara.

1% Retinol Treatment

Struggling with acne? This blemish-busting treatment will hit the spot: Retinol helps slough off dead skin cells (preventing pores from getting clogged) and decreases oil production; vitamin C reduces the appearance of dark spots and acne scars; and licorice and oat extracts soothe irritation and inflammation.

Skin Renewing Retinol Serum

Consider this the skincare equivalent of a $9 bottle of ros: The gentle formula is packed with retinol (to help smooth fine lines and wrinkles), ceramides (to strengthen the skin's natural barrier), hyaluronic acid (to hydrate), and niacinamide (to calm the skin), so it could easily be mistaken for the fancy stuffbut, best of all, it won't break the bank.

Eau Thermale Avene Retrinal Eyes Contour Care, 0. 5 Fl Oz

If you're looking for a targeted eye treatment, try this cream. It contains retinaldehyde to diminish puffiness and reduce fine lines and wrinkles, like crow's feet, says Dr. Manish Shah, a board-certified plastic surgeon in Denver. As an added bonus, it also contains hyaluronic acid to plump and smooth.

Retinol Ceramide Capsules Line Erasing Night Serum

A preservative-free retinol formula, it comes in single-use capsules that take the guesswork out of application and make travel a breeze. It also contains ceramides to strengthen the skin barrier and alleviate any irritation that retinol can traditionally cause, says Dendy Engelman, a board-certified dermatologist in NYC.

Aqua Cream

This cream contains 1 percent retinol, alpha-arbutin, elemental sulfur, and a blend of natural brightening extracts to provide a broad spectrum approach to brightening skin, says Craig Kraffert, a board-certified dermatologist in California. It's very light, making it easy to use under sunscreen or makeup, too.

Retinol Youth Renewal Serum

You're practically guaranteed to put your best face forwardthanks to this silky anti-aging serum. The potent formula contains not one, but two varieties of retinolfast-acting and timed-releaseplus a retinol booster to minimize the appearance of fine lines and even out tone. Not to mention that it also contains deeply moisturizing hyaluronic acid to help reduce any irritation and dryness.

Renewal Retinol

This retinol serum helps build collagen, which diminishes fine lines and wrinkles, smoothes the skin, and hydrates all at the same time, says Anna Guanche, a board-certified dermatologist at the Bella Skin Institute. This product is great for beginners, too, since it has a smaller concentration of retinol. Once your skin adjusts to your new regimen, opt for the brand's more powerful formula.