After 45 hours of research evaluating 63 products, we picked Neutrogena Rapid Wrinkle Repair Retinol Regenerating Face Cream as our top choice.
When it comes to skincare products, we're exposed to tons of options -- too many options, really. Every season, there's always a hot new ingredient that everyone is crazy about.
Getting desensitized to the hype of all these "wonder" ingredients can be inevitable over time. After all, using an overhyped skin care product -- and then failing to notice visible results -- is extremely disappointing.
Good thing there's always retinol.
Retinol is a type of retinoid, and retinoids are a group of compounds that behave like or are derived from Vitamin A. It is one of the most well-researched ingredients in skincare. In fact, according to Harvard Health, retinoids are the most used and most studied anti-aging compounds. They reduce fine lines, wrinkles, pigmentation, and texture.
What's the bottom line?
If you want to spend your money on an ingredient that is actually proven to work, retinoids are your best bet. And what better way to enjoy their amazing benefits than by using the best retinol cream?
We've researched and tested dozens of products to find the best of the best. We've also categorized them according to specific needs, so whatever your anti-aging concern is, these best retinol creams have got you covered.
The Drunk Elephant A-Passioni Retinol Cream has legions of fans for all the right reasons. Its 1% Retinol formula dramatically improves uneven skin tone and texture. What's more, it contains a blend of peptides that boost retinol's anti-aging benefits.
Drunk Elephant products are quite expensive, and this one is no exception.
Drunk Elephant formulated this retinol cream to help reduce the appearance of wrinkles, fine lines, and other signs of aging. It is vegan, gluten-free, and cruelty-free. If you're looking for a lightweight retinol cream that suits all skin types, this is a great pick.
A-Passioni contains 1% vegan retinol. Now, you might be thinking, "You mean retinol isn't always vegan!?!" Well, yes. Retinol can either be sourced from plants, animals, or synthetic ingredients. But even if you're not vegan, you'll probably appreciate this fact because vegan retinol is generally more gentle compared to the animal-derived version.
On top of that, A-Passioni also threw Vitamin F and a potent trio of peptides into the mix. The triple peptide blend boosts retinol's anti-aging effects, while Vitamin F is good for making the skin more supple.
Lastly, as with all other Drunk Elephant products, this cream is free of silicones, fragrance, essential oils, and dyes.
Three words: THIS. PRODUCT. WORKS.
A-Passioni reduces the intensity of fine lines and wrinkles with minimal flaking and peeling. Users with problematic skin have reported a huge difference in terms of texture and tone after using this cream for a few weeks. We love how effective it is at combatting sun damage. So if you struggle with dark spots and uneven skin tone, we couldn't recommend this product enough.
Although the A-Passioni is widely-loved for being effective, it will set you back $74. This amount can be rather painful to spend on an ounce of product, but we genuinely believe that it's worth every penny.
Avene's RetrinAL 0.1 Intensive Cream transforms the skin without triggering redness and irritation, which makes it safe to use for people of all skin types. It contains additional skin-loving ingredients like Vitamin E, Relastide, and of course, Avene's signature thermal spring water.
At $70, this retinol cream is definitely on the pricier side of the spectrum.
Avene's formula is clinically shown to effectively reduce the signs of aging. It's an excellent cream if you have sensitive skin and are looking for a skincare product that will add youthful radiance back to your complexion.
This retinol cream boasts a blend of various patented skincare ingredients that aim to brighten the skin and increase its youthfulness. Aside from retinol, which is its primary ingredient for combatting lines and uneven skin tone, this product also has anti-oxidants that protect your complexion from free radicals.
Additionally, it contains a photostable form of Vitamin E, meaning it won't degrade or destabilize once exposed to light. The patented Relastide component plumps and firms the skin. And, of course, this wouldn't be an Avene product if it did not contain thermal spring water, which soothes and calms the skin.
By the way, this product is free of parabens, fragrance, soap, soy, and gluten.
This product really makes a difference in the brightness and youthfulness of the skin. But what we really love about Avene's RetrinAL cream is that it does the job without the usual side effects of retinol use -- namely, redness, peeling, and hypersensitivity. If you have extremely sensitive skin, however, there's a chance that you might experience these symptoms, but to a lesser degree.
What's more, it's got so many rave reviews for its ability to unclog the pores and firm the skin. So if you're aiming for that "glass skin" appearance, look no further!
Another one of our pricier picks, the RetrinAL costs $70 for an ounce of product. But just like Drunk Elephant's A-Passioni, we truly believe that it's worth the investment.
The Rapid Wrinkle Repair Daily Face Moisturizer lives up to its name. It does make a difference in just a week, especially when it comes to the look and depth of wrinkles. We also love that it has hyaluronic acid that helps moisturize the skin.
Some users with sensitive skin have reported experiencing bouts of redness and irritation with this product. That said, if you have sensitive skin, we recommend that you perform a patch test before slathering this moisturizer all over your face.
This product is meant for those who are looking for a moisturizing retinol cream that also contains sunscreen. In spite of having an SPF of 30, it doesn't leave a white cast. Instead, it leaves your face looking all smooth and glowy. You'll probably enjoy this product if you love light-finish hydrators that quickly deliver noticeable anti-aging effects.
The Rapid Wrinkle Repair moisturizer has Retinol SA, Hyaluronic Acid, and Glucose Complex. These ingredients work hand in hand to reduce wrinkles, boost your skin's hydration level, and brighten your complexion.
If you're after a firmer and healthier-looking face, this moisturizer really works. Its retinol component not only reduces the look of lines, but it helps lessen the appearance of age spots, as well. The hyaluronic acid ingredient makes the skin so much more supple with regular use. Plus, some users even reported that this retinol cream helped clear up their acne.
This moisturizer's sub-20-dollar price tag is a stark contrast to the mind-boggling prices of the first two retinol creams on this list. Even if your budget is a bit tight this month, splurging on this moisturizer wouldn't hurt too bad.
This retinol cream makes the skin stronger and more resistant to the signs of aging by harnessing the power of Centella Asiatica. This, in combination with Pro-Retinol, lessens the appearance of lines, age spots, and sagging skin.
This cream has a distinct scent that some users did not like.
This product is for those of you who are looking to counteract fine lines, dark spots, sagging skin, wrinkles, and other signs of aging at an affordable cost. Moreover, it's a great starter retinol product for individuals with a damaged skin barrier.
L'Oreal's Revitalift Cicacream moisturizer uses Pro-Retinol to help smoothen the skin and make it more youthful-looking. But that's not all. It also contains Centella Asiatica extract -- a repairing ingredient that is widely used in Asian skincare. Centella repairs and strengthens the skin barrier, which results in a healthier complexion that is better equipped to resist the signs of aging.
This retinol cream has a smooth, almost-luxurious texture, but without the luxury price tag. Using it day and night will give you the best results. In as little as two weeks, you can expect firmer-looking skin and less severe lines around your eyes and mouth.
In spite of being a retinol product, it doesn't irritate the skin (most likely due to the inclusion of Centella extract). We appreciate how the formula almost instantly sinks into the skin, so it's a great pick whether you have a dry, normal, or oily complexion.
We were totally floored when we found out how inexpensive this retinol cream is -- especially for something that contains 1.7 ounces of product. In spite of being so affordable, it gives surprisingly great results.
RoC's Max Daily Hydration Creme provides round-the-clock hydration while revealing brighter and younger-looking skin with retinol. It is oil-free and great for everyday use.
Some people found its fragrance too strong. However, note that the scent subsides a few hours after application.
RoC's Retinol Correxxion Creme has an oil-free and non-comedogenic formula that makes it ideal for dry, normal, and oily skin types. We love its creamy texture that instantly plumps the skin and makes it stay that way for 24 hours.
This moisturizer contains a bunch of ingredients that are great for skin health. Retinol rejuvenates the skin and helps manage the signs of aging. Hyaluronic acid delivers instant and long-lasting hydration. This retinol cream also has a high moisture content that softens and smooths the skin.
As far as hydration goes, this retinol cream instantly makes the skin look more supple. After several uses, it makes a huge difference in terms of the skin's softness and plumpness.
Its anti-aging effects took a bit longer to show up -- so really, patience is key! Slight improvements in the depth of lines and wrinkles are visible after two to three weeks. In about two months, you can expect a significant fading of age spots, as well as a firmer-looking complexion overall.
This drugstore retinol cream is already inexpensive in itself, and the fact that a little product goes a long way with this product bumped its value score even more.
RoC's Retinol Correxxion Sensitive Night Cream delivers anti-aging effects without irritating the skin too much. It's able to gently reduce the intensity of fine lines and wrinkles using a milder strength of retinol. Plus, it's very affordable, too!
It doesn't work as quickly as full-strength retinol creams.
RoC's Retinol Sensitive Night Cream is a mild formula that's designed for retinol beginners or people with sensitive skin. This oil-free and non-comedogenic cream applies quite thickly, but that's something that's pretty normal for a night cream.
This cream contains a milder strength of retinol to accommodate even sensitive skin types. Like its full-strength counterpart from RoC, it also contains Hyaluronic Acid that helps hydrate and plump the skin.
In spite of being milder and more sensitive skin-friendly, this retinol night cream still effectively reduces the appearance of wrinkles, age spots, and fine lines. As expected, it doesn't work as quickly as full-strength retinol products -- but if you have sensitive skin, you know how difficult it is to find a product that's both mild and effective at the same time. That said, we believe that great results are worth the wait! And in the case of this night cream, visible improvements are most likely coming your way.
At less than $20, this retinol night cream is a good deal. What's more, you can usually get this on sale for less than $15 at Amazon. What a steal!
Neutrogena's Rapid Wrinkle Repair Regenerating Retinol Cream is great for softening the lines around the mouth and eyes. It effectively reveals a smoother, softer, and younger-looking complexion with Accelerated Retinol SA and Hyaluronic Acid.
Reviewers with sensitive skin experienced redness and some irritation with this product. Its retinol component is quite strong, so if your skin is sensitive, you should slowly build up towards everyday use.
This fragrance-free cream has a rich texture that envelops the skin in a moisturizing blanket of goodness. It's no surprise that many users have reported enjoying softer and smoother skin right after application!
According to Neutrogena, this cream contains the highest concentration of Accelerated Retinol SA (presumably among their lineup of retinol products), which is the "fastest retinol" currently available. While we can't vouch for the validity of that claim, we can definitely confirm that this baby produces quick results!
It also contains Hyaluronic Acid, which is a classic ingredient used to hydrate the skin. It also boasts a Glucose Complex that boosts the effectiveness of retinol.
Whether you are in your 60's and looking for a product that will reduce the appearance of fine lines or a 25-year-old who's trying to delay the appearance of wrinkles for as long as possible, you will most likely benefit from this retinol cream.
It's potent enough to give visible anti-aging results in a matter of weeks. But to get maximum results, we recommend that you use this product over the course of several months. It really does soften the appearance of wrinkles and brighten the skin. If you're suffering from clogged pores and dark spots, this cream will stimulate rapid cell turnover to make your pores look more refined and your dark spots more faded.
Beware, though, as this retinol cream's potency is no joke! If you have delicate skin, start using this cream every two days at first. Slowly build up your usage as your skin adapts to the retinol content in order to avoid unnecessary bouts of irritation.
At an MSRP of almost 30 bucks, this retinol cream sits somewhere near the pricier side of drugstore products. However, you're getting 1.7 ounces of a highly effective product -- so it's still a really awesome deal in the end. What's more, you can frequently find this at a discount on Amazon, which brings down its price to somewhere closer to the $20 mark.