19 best retinol creams and serums (according to our beauty editors)

By Claudia Shannon / Research Scientist / ishonest

Retinol: it's the skincare ingredient that needs no introduction. By now you're likely already aware of the near infinite benefits it has to offer. From working wonders on fine lines and wrinkles, to improving skin's texture, reducing scarring and enlarged pores. It's also great for people with acne.

As leading Hollywood dermatologist, Dr Lancer, who works with famous faces like Victoria Beckham and Beyonce, explains it's one that truly works. 'Retinol is lauded for it's medically and scientifically-proven ability to speed up the skin's cell cycle' he says. 'It is one of the few ingredients on the market that comes with this absolute guarantee - it has no gimmicks. ' The zero BS approach makes it even more appealing.

So, when should you start using retinol?

In theory, you could start using retinol in your mid to late 20s. Prevention is better than cure - aka the earlier the better - but, obviously within reason (if you're under 25, you probs don't need it). How do I choose a retinol?

There are variations of retinol and also different strengths. If you're just starting out, you should be using a low percentage. La Roche-Posay Redermic R, is the perfect starting point as it contains a mere 0. 3%, it's also a good option for people with sensitive skin. The Ordinary Granactive Retinoid 2% in Squalane is a great contender for newbies, too, plus it's super affordable.

If you're a seasoned retinol user, Medik8 Crystal Retinal 3 is a great option (and one we personally swear by). One of the strongest formulas out there Sunday Riley's A+ High-Dose Retinoid Serum is an incredibly potent, supercharged serum that will get you results fast.

How do you use retinol?

Apply it at night and avoid mixing it with other active skincare ingredients. It can be layered with hyaluronic acid, but try to minimise mixing it with lots of products. Are there any side effects?

Unfortunately, retinol does come with some side effects, though these can be reduced by choosing the right formula for your skin type and applying it properly. You should always introduce retinol tentatively into your skincare routine at first, then build it up slowly as your skin becomes more tolerant. Initially, begin using it a couple of times a week in smaller doses. As you start to see results and less irritation, you can steadily increase the percentage - but this has to be done over time (read more about best practice retinol usage here). Overuse of retinol can cause redness, sensitivity and peeling. Keep in mind that whilst using any product containing retinol you'll need to apply daily sunscreen.

These are 19 of our favourite retinol formulas that we actually use. . .

1 A+ High-Dose Retinoid Serum

Newbies beware: if you're not a regular retinol user, this is not one to slather on. A pro-strength formula powered by 5% retinoid, 1% liposomal-encapsulated retinol, and 0. 5% blue-green algae, incorporate this into your routine after you've stayed faithful to a lower percentage for at least a few weeks. It's incredibly efficacious so expect serious results in a short space of time.

2 Super Retinol Ceramide-Boost Anti-aging Face Serum

Is there anything Beauty Pie can't do? This retinol serum is one of our all- time favourites that's to it's super-smart formula. It uses an encapsulated Retinol complex, which basically means the serum is absorbed by the skin before releasing - meaning you get maximum efficacy without the dreaded irritation. The Super Retinol Ceramide-Boost Anti-aging Face Serum has a 3% encapsulated Retinol complex, which works on the skin at 0. 09% pure Retinol. So you can expect some pretty punchy results when it comes to unclogging your pores, boosting Collagen production and smoothing out the complexion.

3 Dermalogica Retinol Oil 30ml

Layering your retinol with chemical exfoliants such as salicylic acid hasn't always been advised in the past, but Dermalogica has managed to combine these two power-house acne-clearing ingredients with the low likeliness of a skin flare up, how? By using a time-release delivery system, and formulating with a phytolipid base of argan, golden jojoba and rosehip seed oil, to reinforce the skin's natural barrier.

4 The Ordinary Granactive Retinoid 2% in Squalane

The Ordinary has quickly gained a cult following for selling effective ingredients at cheap as chips prices. This is a brand that prides itself on their consumer honesty, something they proved when they upgraded all their retinols to a new formula called 'Granactive Retinoid'. Compared to their old offering, Granactive Retinoid gives better results against signs of ageing without aggravating the skin.

5 Regenacalm Serum S1 Pro

Made in the UK, this indie beauty brand has been making waves across the skincare industry thanks to the A* formulas - and this serum is no exception. It's been made with 3% encapsulated retinoid to target fine lines, wrinkles, blemishes, acne scars and hyperpigmentation. It's free of parabens, silicones, PEGs, SLS, SLES, and mineral oils, plus it's vegan and cruelty-free.

6 A-Passioni Retinol Cream

Arguably the most hyped skincare launch of, well, ever. . . Drunk Elephant's A-Passioni Retinol Cream is the holy grail for reactive skins. Like all their products, you won't find any of the 'suspicious 6', (SLS, fragrance, dyes, essential oils, chemical screens, drying alcohols, silicones and SLS) in here. Instead, their 1% retinol has been blended with soothing botanical extracts, passionfruit, kale, apricot and cherry. It's also packed full of potent peptides and fatty acids, helping to speed up surface renewal, boost collagen and plump up ageing complexions. Tick, tick, tick.

7 Murad Retinol Youth Renewal Serum 30ml

If you suffer from sensitivity, this retinol was formulated with you in mind. Knowing that vitamin A can sometimes cause irritation and dryness in sensitive skins this formula also contains hyaluronic acid to help your skin retain moisture.

8 Crystal Retinal 3

You've heard of retinol, but have you tried crystal retinal? This clever crystal-encapsulated retinaldehyde formula works 11 times faster than normal retinol, thanks to its ability to be more easily converted into retinoic acid by the skin. It also causes less irritation, and comes with built in hyaluronic acid and vitamin E to plump and hydrate your complexion.

9 Olay Retinol24 Night Serum With Retinol & Vitamin B3

One of the best retinol serums we've discovered and lucky for us, it won't break the bank. Yep, Olay's Retinol24 Night Serum is packed with a potent retinoid complex and vitamin B3 (Niacinamide), allowing it to help smooth fine lines & wrinkles, reduce skin texture, improve brightness and fade dark spots. The formula is also incredibly hydrating, so expect to see an instant improvement as skin gets a serious moisture hit.

10 OSKIA Retinoid Sleep Serum Level 2 30ml

Imagine going to sleep and waking up with your dream skin Ok, so obviously this doesn't promise that but incorporating this super-charged serum into your bedtime routine will help to plump up your skin over time thanks to the brand's Super-Nutrient Retinoid Complex. It consists of Retinoid, Vitamins C & E and Pro-Vitamin D3 for a smoothed and revived skin.

11 Texture Reform

Created by super facialist to the stars Shani Darden, this intensive treatment is the secret behind some of the best celebrity complexions, including Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, Chrissy Teigen and Jessica Alba. Delivering all the benefits with less side effects, the inclusion of niacinamide, lactic acid and soothing aloe vera make it perfect for sensitive skin's who struggle with irritation.

12 PIXI Collagen and Retinol Serum 30ml

Pixi really weren't joking when they labelled their skin care range skin treats'. The collagen, retinol and niacinamide in this formula team together to help you skin appear more plumped (thanks to the retinol and collagen) and skin tone and texture (thanks to the niacinamide).

13 Advanced Retinol 1. 5% Complex Night Concentrate

This much-anticipated night cream is one to consider if you steer clear of retinol due to skin sensitivity. Scientists behind the launch carried out extensive research into the retinol sweet spot (maximum concentrate meets minimal irritation), and added bisabolol (found in Chamomile) to calm and soothe. The anti-ageing formula is also boosted by No7's go-to peptide blend, Matrixyl 3000 Plus.

14 Zelens Power A Treatment Drops (30ml)

Ok, yes spenny but oh-so effective. The pure, encapsulated retinol and the duo of retiniods in the formula, create a time-released treatment that effectively prompts skin renewal of a more even texture.

15 La Roche-Posay Redermic [R] Anti-Wrinkle Retinol Treatment

Ideal for first time users, this cream contains 0. 3% retinol so it won't leave you red faced. Like all La Roche-Posay's minimalist formulas, this has been created with sensitive skin's in mind and so it's free from preservatives, fragrances, colourants, or parabens. It's worth noting how reasonable the price is, too.

16 Anti-Aging 1% Retinol Booster

When it comes to ingredients, Paula's Choice is a brand you can trust. Her 1% Retinol Booster has been cleverly designed so that you can add it into the moisturiser you're already using, instantly transforming it into an anti-ageing formula. Just make sure you read our retinol guide first.

17 Luna Sleeping Night Oil

Sunday Riley's souped up retinol rich face oil is a force to be reckoned with. Packed full of anti-inflamatory extracts to help calm and soothe, it works wonders on conditions like acne, rosacea, eczema and psoriasis as well as providing all the usual anti-ageing benefits of a retinoid.

18 Elizabeth Arden Retinol Ceramide Capsules Line Erasing Night Serum - 60 Pieces

Two wrinkle busting power players sealed in serum capsules, these are a dream if you're always on the go. Single use air tight pods preserve the potency, making it 76% stronger than un-encapsulated retinol, while hydrating ceramides prevent the dreaded dryness that often accompanies retinol.

19 Fine Lines & Wrinkles 0. 3%. Retinol Serum

This Paris-based, environmentally-friendly brand looks like it belongs in an apothecary, and our favourite product from the range is this dinky 15ml retinol. It contains a lower-end concentrate of 0. 3, so should suit most skin types (just remember to ease yourself in, as with all retinols). It also contains castor oil, which boasts water-binding properties and aids the absorption of other skincare ingredients.

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