Best Retinol Products For Smoother, Blemish-Free Skin in 2020

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I wouldn’t be me if I didn’t recommend the best retinol products when dishing skincare advice. I’ve been using the stuff for years and it’s saved me from permanent dark spots, pimples that seem to never go away and a generally dull complexion. Long story short: retinol is the real deal. The vitamin A derivative is routinely recommended by experts because it boosts collagen production (which slows down as you get older), increases cell turnover for a youthful and smooth surface, and regulates oil, to name a few. Still, you can’t just grab any ‘ol formula from the drugstore or your nearest Sephora—finding an effective one requires some discernment and label reading.

Since retinol is photosensitive and potentially irritating, you’ll want to make sure your match includes a safe level of the ingredient (most brands hover around .3%) and other properties that could cause a bad reaction. For those with sensitive skin, retinol alternatives like bakuchiol are just as effective when used consistently. There’s also texture and frequency to consider. Most retinol products come in the form of lightweight serums, but for people with more resilient skin, they prefer getting their vitamin A fix in the form of a night cream or oil as the last step in their routine. Finally, price is often a determining factor in our retinol of choice.

Thankfully, these newbies and plenty of others cover the spectrum of prices, from splurge-level digits to drugstore bargains under $20. For now, here are the retinol products already getting excellent reviews.




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If you want a gentle formula that also includes retinol instead of an alternative, CeraVe’s serum includes its signature three essential ceramides for moisture, as well as niacinamide for brightening.

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This once-a-week night mask is formulated with five different types of vitamins and retinol to brighten, moisturize and arm your skin with plenty of antioxidants while you brave the outside elements.

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Sobel Skin Rx.

This Sephora-exclusive brand just launched last month and its range is already making (good) noise. The lightweight lotion does pack a heavy punch with the retinol percentage, so tread lightly if it’s your first time playing with vitamin A.

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While you sleep, this new night mask gradually releases encapsulated retinol, an exclusive peptide complex (for firming) and pomegranate (antioxidant protection) for a refreshed glow by sunrise.

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January Labs.

This clean beauty option is a must-try for sensitive skin types as it also includes gorgonian extract and aloe for soothing benefits, as well as niacinamide and vitamin C for brightening.

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Josie Maran.

The retinol in Maran’s innovative formula is derived from pink algae that utilize a rich source of beta carotene to diminish fine lines with consistent use.

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Miss Spa.

The name says it all! This affordable retinol alternative is enriched with bakuchiol to smooth and rejuvenate the skin without depleting it of moisture.

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Murad’s Retinol Tri-Active Technology includes a fast-acting retinoid, a time-released retinol and retinol booster to improve the look and feel of your skin in just one month.

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Peace Out Skincare.

These transparent patches are chock full of retinol, vitamin C and peptides for a targeted solution you can place directly over fine lines.

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Pixi by Petra.

Fragrance-free and suitable for all skin types, this luxurious retinol oil is a cure-all for your most common skin concerns, thanks to a formula rich in retinol, peptides and ceramides.

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The retinol in this luxe, plant-based gel-cream is called ginsenoside and derived from Korean red ginseng to rebalance moisture and address signs of aging.

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