We may be biased but we truly believe that retinol is the holy grail of all skincare products. Here at Messycafe we believe that the fountain of youth (besides botox) exists in the form of vitamin A. Let me back up a little and tell you why we think everyone needs a retinol serum in their life. Whether you use an over-the-counter serum or prescription cream, the benefits are multi-faceted. Do you have acne scars, textured skin, fine lines, enlarged pores, or sun damage? Retinol can fix that — one caveat, finding the best retinol serums for your skin takes time, and patience.
We honestly don’t know of any other potent skincare ingredient that can do it all. Personally, I first introduced to retinol in my mid-20s when I was trying to combat my hormonal acne while improving texture and preventing fine lines. In recent years, I’ve started experimenting with professional chemical peels paired with a prescription retinoid to really get into the nitty-gritty of the dermis. And for the first time in my life, I feel really good in my skin. Although it took a while to find the best retinol serum, it was worth the wait.
To find out more, keep reading to find the magic of retinol which lies in is its ability to speed up skin cell turnover and keep collagen from breaking down while functioning as an antioxidant. Intrigued? Same. Read on to learn more about this game-changing ingredient and discover the best retinol serums to incorporate into your skincare routine.
What is retinol and what does it do?
Retinol is a form of vitamin A and the other most common topical vitamin A derivatives are retinoic acid, retinyl palmitate, tazarotene, and adapalene.
Retinol vs. Retinoid?
A retinoid refers to all forms of vitamin A. Retinol is a gentler type of retinoid found in over-the-counter preparations.
OTC vs. prescription-strength?
Retinoic acid (also known as the prescription tretinoin) is the only formulation proven to decrease fine lines and wrinkles because retinol can be converted to (very) small amounts of retinoic acid in the skin. We suspect you can see improvement in fine lines and wrinkles as well, although to a lesser extent. Retinyl palmitate is the weakest form with poor skin penetration.
If you’re thinking of upgrading your over-the-counter retinol for a prescription, consult with your family doctor because the prescription retinoid is given to patients for treating active acne and reversal of acne scarring. It’s best to begin with an over-the-counter product containing retinol first, especially if you are just starting on your skincare journey. Starting with over-the-counter retinol will have the least amount of irritation or side effects. Once you are regularly using and tolerating the best retinol serum for your skin you can graduate up to a prescription version.
Incorporating retinol into your routine.
If you are a retinol newbie or have extremely sensitive/dry skin, we suggest starting with the lowest amount. For retinol, this is usually less than 1%. Make sure you’ve been using it for at least one month before escalating to the next level. The goal is always to try and use a retinoid nightly. However, this is difficult for the majority of people, at least three nights a week minimum is a great goal.
Once you find the best retinol serum for you, a pea-sized amount is recommended. Apply it to the entire face by placing that pea-sized amount on the back of your non-dominant hand and using the finger pads of your other hand to dab small amounts to the main areas of the face (forehead, cheeks, and chin). Make sure to rub it in and seal it with a moisturizer. Dr. Geddes-Bruce warns that your skin can often appear irritated, pink, tight, dry, or flakey during the adjustment period which can take two to four weeks.
The best OTC retinol serums:
Skin Better Science AlphaRet Overnight Cream
An absolute favorite night creams containing retinoate, alpha hydroxy acids, and peptides all in one non-irritating formula.
The Ordinary Granactive Retinoid 2% Emulsion
The Ordinary is such a trustworthy company, and their focus on science is truly appreciated; their price point is also not too expensive. They are constantly listening to feedback and updating their formulations to improve feel without sacrificing efficacy.
The Chemistry Brand Retin-Oil
Slather this stuff on your neck, chest, arms, and knees to help keep fighting the good fight against Father Time.
Revision Skincare D.E.J Night Face Cream
Combines both retinol and the plant-based bakuchiol. Studies show it thickens the top layers of skin within just a few weeks of consistent use. You can’t argue with quick, visible results.
SkinCeuticals Retinol 1.0
A great product that contains the highest percent of retinol you can find OTC. Skinceuticals backs up their products with incredible clinical studies published in respected journals — their dedication is amazing. So many other skincare these days is nothing but pretty packaging and good marketing.
Neutropenia Rapid Wrinkle Repair Retinol Regenerating Anti-Aging Face Cream
An easy drugstore find with a great price point. There are different retinol-containing formulations ranging from an oil-based serum to creams with hyaluronic acid.
Prescription-Only Retinol Serums:
It’s the strongest class of retinoids (tazarotene) but so lovely to use with only minimal irritation.
An oldie but goodie and may work the best-ie for fine lines and wrinkles — can be irritating so start slow and work your way up.
The new kid on the prescription block with decent tolerability and good data for off-face use (such as for back-ne).
Formerly prescription only, now available over the counter. Studied mostly in use for acne, this retinoid also helps keep skin refreshed and collagen tight.
Retinol reduces fine lines and wrinkles by increasing the production of collagen. They also stimulate the production of new blood vessels in the skin, improving your skin color. Hopefully after reading this post about the holy grail of skincare, you’ll incorporate more retinol into your daily routine.
Stay safe, healthy, and live life to the fullest.