The Best Retinol Serums for Anyone Who Doesn't Know Where to Start
Fact: Retinol reigns supreme as one of skincare's star ingredients. You've probably seen this little word written on countless product labels time and time again and wondered, What is this stuff? Same. To clear up the confusion, retinol is essentially a vitamin A derivative used in skincare products for anti-ageing and acne purposes. It's been proven to be an acne-fighting ingredient that diminishes the appearance of fine lines, wrinkles, brown spots, and sun spots. It's known to work fast and effectively, which is why you see this in so many products. (To get a full breakdown of this hero ingredient, take a look at our detailed retinol guide.)
We're huge advocates of incorporating retinol serums into your routine to nourish and hydrate your skin with hardworking ingredients. Celebrity facialist Renée Rouleau once told us exactly how to apply retinol serum, which should be to your entire face and neck. "Wait three minutes and apply a small amount of moisturiser, if needed," says Rouleau. "Use the retinol serum for two nights on, one night off, alternating with an exfoliating acid serum and a nourishing treatment serum.” This schedule will deeply penetrate your skin.
There are a few retinol serums we can stand behind at Byrdie. We also tapped top dermatologists to share their all-time favourites. Find out the most game-changing serums below and why they're winners below.
"While retinol is the most powerful anti-aging ingredient that we have on the market, it's not quite as powerful as prescription strength retinoids in treating acne," explains Dr. Zeichner. "That being said retinal is a great option for women with aging and acne prone skin. I recommend Neutrogena Rapid Wrinkle Repair Serum because it contains stabilised retinol and the formulation won't break you out."
iS Clinical Pro-Heal Serum Advance+ ($148)
"This advance serum is an excellent spot treatment for lesions that are inflamed and enlarging," explains Charlene DeHaven, MD. "It contains high levels of wound healers for acne lesions, anti-inflammatories, and antioxidants from botanical sources. The strong serum is also packed with vitamins A, C, and E and olive leaf extract."
Dr. Dennis Gross Ferulic Acid + Retinol Brightening Solution ($99)
This little orange bottle, which happens to be vegan and cruelty free, will give your skin the ultimate glow-up. Infused with plant-based antioxidant ferulic acid and retinol, it does everything from protecting your skin against sun damage to smoothing out rough patches.