The Best Retinol Creams, Serums And Oils For Your Most Flawless Skin Ever

If you're old enough to remember Friends the first time around, it's time to get acquainted with retinol aka the most effective skin-plumper out there.

Chances are, you've already heard of retinol it's famed for helping with an unbelievable number of skin issues. A dermatologist-approved derivative of vitamin A, clinical trials have repeatedly shown retinol to improve skin cell turnover and minimise the breakdown of collagen (which leads to fine lines). And that's not all: retinol has also been shown to help with skin concerns such as acne, hyperpigmentation, wrinkles, dryness, rough skin texture, blemishes we could go on forever.

But before you dive straight in with a skincare innovation this advanced, you're going to need some tips on using it correctly. We turned to expert dermatologist Dr. Sam Bunting for her tips on using retinol, the right way:

'A good kick-off plan is to start slowly, every other night, using a pea-sized amount if you're a first-timer doing this at home. Build up to nightly use after a couple of weeks, as tolerance improves.

'If you're nervous (a lot of people are!) it can be helpful to start a retinoid under a physician's guidance so that you have a structured plan and someone to check things with, as the first 6 weeks can be a bit up and down, especially if you have acne. But in the long run, the effort is usually worthwhile. 'Always use at night as UV exposure deactivates most retinoids, rendering them useless.

'Always partner a retinoid with daytime broad-spectrum sunscreen use. This should be everyone's first anti-ageing step as at least 80% of why we age is due to environmental aggressors and is preventable. Retinoids can make skin more sensitive, initially so extra UV protection is essential. 'So, now you're all clued up, it's time to dive into our verdict on the very best retinols out there there's one for sensitive skin, one for serious dark spots, and even one for using around your eyes.

1 Best for. . . tanning Sleep Mask Face Retinol

Love tanning? Love smooth skin? Why not combine the two with James Read's retinol sleep mask that gives you a holiday glow overnight. A dose of hyaluronic acid keep skin hydrated whilst the DHA (the ingredient that gives you a tan) and retinol, which can both be drying, work their magic.

2 Best for. . . adding to your other skincare 1% Retinol Booster

Give your go-to night cream a retinol boost with Paula's Choice's genius serum. Formulated with a gentle 1% retinol, this is the ideal way to ease your skincare routine into Vitamin A, a few drops at a time.

3 Best for. . . sun damage Night Switch Retinol 1%, 15ml

Turn the clocks bag on pigmentation and sun damage with Lixir's dinky pump that packs a serious retinol punch (minus the irritation or redness). A well-balanced 1% retinol formula boosts protein production and target signs of sun damage to leave your skin firmer and more even after just one week of use.

4 Best for. . . natural beauty lovers Plantscription Retinol Night Moisturiser with Alpine Flower

Origins' retinol cream combines the genius of nature with the latest lab technology for a gentle formula that actually works. Plant extracts of Alpine Flower and Anogeissus team up with vitamin A to target fine lines and speed up cell renewal. The result? Younger, plumper looking skin minus the parabens and sulphates.

5 Best for. . . doing what it says on the tin Retinol Youth Renewal Serum

Powered by techy sounding Tri-Active technology (a combo of three different types of retinol) this super lightweight serum feels weightless whilst rapidly transforming your skin. The idea? To achieve the benefits of retinol without the annoying side effects. Apply to your neck as well to make the most of this wrinkle-zapping retinol.

6 Best for. . . celebrity skin Texture Reform

The LA facialist behind the A-list's flawless skin, Shani Darden knows a thing or two when it comes to a glowy complexion. If it's good enough for Em Rata and Rosie H-W, it's good enough for us.

7 Best for. . . sustainable beauty Squalane +Phyto-Retinol Serum

Formulated with bakuchiol (a plant-based retinol alternative), Biossance's serum is ideal for sustainable beauty lovers. Bakuchiol helps to boost your skin's natural collagen whilst reducing pigmentation and smoothing. Vegan and cruelty- free, this is the ideal way to love your skin and the environment.

8 Best. . . vegan formula Regenacalm Serum S1 Pro

Clean beauty brand Facetheory just dropped a new, more concentrated, version of its best-selling Regenacalm Serum with all the same benefits for sensitive skin. The S1 Pro is formulated with 3% retinoid (encapsulated, to target the cells that need it the most) so it gets to work on fine lines and pigmentation quickly, without causing that all-too-familiar dryness the morning after application. It's vegan and cruelty-free, and skips on the parabens and sulphates, too.

9 Best for. . . sensitive skin Retinol 0. 3% + Vitamin B3 Serum

Yup, you can use retinol if you have sensitive skin, you just have to find the right one and remain cautious. La Roche Posay's lower concentration (0. 3%) means sensitive skin is less irritated but the benefits are no less effective - a much more sensible route for retinol beginners.

10 Best. . . night serum Flawless Nightly Serum

This dermatologist-approved night serum is the ultimate overnight treatment. 'I like Granactive Retinoid, which is in our Nightly Serum as its very gentle yet extremely effective, ' says Dr. Sam Bunting. 'It also combines well with other Actives like Niacinamide and Azelaic Acid. '

11 Best for. . . all skin types A+ High-Dose Retinoid Serum

If you've tried (and loved) Sunday Riley's Luna oil, this is the next step up. It combines 1% encapsulated, stabilised retinol with (less potent) retinol ester, plus humectant white honey to counteract the drying effects. Retinoid first-timers should use the 'two days on, two days off' schedule, while seasoned users can apply nightly, following with a hydrating oil (the brand's soothing Juno is the perfect match).

12 Best for. . . portion control Elizabeth Arden Ceramide Retinol Capsules

Elizabeth Arden's genius portion-size capsules mean you get the perfect amount of retinol serum for each application. Formulated to visibly reduce lines and wrinkles without drying skin, these are the ultimate entry-level option. The capsules are biodegradable as well - huzzah!

13 Best for. . . value for money Super Retinol Ceramide-Boost Anti-aging Face Serum

If you've blacklisted retinol because of irritation, give this game-changer a go. It's an encapsulated form of the stuff, which means it's only delivered to the cells that need it the most. It's also suspended in a handful of other ingredients such as hyaluronic acid to turn on your skin's internal water tap, dead skin-sloughing lactic acid and cell-building, skin-plumping ceramides, which all help cushion the blow.

And if all that isn't impressive enough, you can bag a bottle for the grand price of 13. 75 with a Beauty Pie membership.

14 Best for. . . Breakouts and acne scars Clinical 1% Retinol Treatment

Exposure to air and light can make retinol unstable (in other words, significantly less potent) which is why we love the packaging of Paula's Choice's 1% Retinol Treatment. The high-strength serum is incredibly lightweight and floods the skin with moisture. It's is especially fantastic at banishing breakouts and the marks they leave behind, so if you suffer with bouts of adult acne, stockpile it.

15 Best for. . . Potency and strength R-Retinoate Intense

Dubbed by the founders as 'their best formulation ever', Medik8's latest launch deserves serious attention. It's one of the first ever products to combine vitamin A derivatives retinyl retinoate and retinaldehyde (the new, non- irritating kid on the block), resulting in one of the most potent retinol creams that money can buy.

Said to be eight times stronger than your average retinol (and 11 times faster acting), this is not one for beginners. (Even seasoned users should limit to twice a week, before building up to nightly use. ) But that's not to say you'll need to brace yourself for weeks of peeling and dryness the creamy, apricot- coloured serum is surprisingly gentle, thanks to the barrier-restoring ceramides and peptides inside.

16 Kate Somerville +Retinol Vitamin C Moisturizer 77


Many brands shy away from combining vitamin C and retinol, as they typically require different pH environments to work optimally. Kate Somerville has side- stepped the issue in this creamy, orange-scented moisturiser, which sees the vitamin C encapsulated in volcanic soil, keeping both ingredients as active as possible until the moment they hit your skin.

17 Best for. . . eyes Ferulic + Retinol Eye Cream

Loved by beauty journos everywhere, Dr. Dennis Gross' eye cream is super-silky and easily absorbed (so you can say 'see ya' to puffiness), but it's definitely no lightweight. The retinol is given a boost by antioxidant ingredient ferulic acid, and together, they smooth away creases and shield against aggressors. May your concealer stay perfectly smooth forevermore.

18 Best for. . . beginners Retinol 0. 3%

Any skincare boffin knows that, when it comes to retinol, it pays to start small. This gentle serum is formulated with 0. 3% retinol an ideal level for beginners. It's exceptionally stable (thanks to the aluminium-lined tube and oxygen- shielding applicator), and contains a chamomile extract to buffer the drying effects.

19 Best for. . . hyperpigmentation Dark Spot Fix

When it comes to fading acne scars and hyperpigmentation, this incredibly potent spot treatment is your best ally. It combines the brand's signature retinol compound with skin-clearing niacinamide and a redness-reducing turmeric extract. Apply it nightly, be patient, and expect dark spots to lighten within a few weeks.