11 Retinol and Retinoid Products to Treat Acne, Wrinkles, and More

We asked dermatologists everything you should know about retinol and retinoids. Whether you struggle with acne or want to prevent wrinkles and visible signs of aging, retinol can be a skin-care ingredient in your nighttime routine.



Retinol is a vitamin A derivative that can help with several common skin concerns and has become a popular ingredient in creams, serums, and more.




Retinol, a subset of retinoids, is a "powerful anti-aging agent and skin transformant," says Dr. Linda Honet, board-certified dermatologist and president of Honet Dermatology/Cosmetics.




To help you decide if retinol may be beneficial for your skin care needs, we asked dermatologists everything you should know about retinol, including tips on how to use it.




We've also got experts' favorite retinol creams and serums, as well as some of the top-rated products based on their recommendations.




What is retinol? Derived from vitamin A, retinol is an active ingredient in skin care that "has been shown to increase skin cell turnover and stimulate collagen (the building blocks of skin), making it ideal for anti-aging and skin rejuvenation," Dr. .Caren Campbell is a California Board Certified Dermatologist.




In 1971, the FDA approved retinoids (a class of vitamin A derivatives to which retinol belongs) as a topical treatment for acne. Subsequent studies have shown that retinol can improve wrinkles, hyperpigmentation, and more. (More on retinoids vs. retinol below.)




Board-certified dermatologist Dr. Cindy Tolowski. Retinoids can increase collagen production and reduce collagen breakdown, which "helps eliminate fine lines and wrinkles" and scars. Retinoids inhibit the production and transfer of melanin preventing the appearance of age spots over time" and helping to fade existing age and sun spots.




Retinoids help clear clogged pores and minimize their appearance. Retinoids increase skin cell turnover, helping to replace dead skin cells with younger, healthier cells for a radiant complexion.




"Retinol is the most important topical agent for acne control because it exfoliates the top layer of skin that clogs pores, reduces oil production, kills acne-causing bacteria, and has anti-inflammatory properties," adds Campbell.




"[It] also helps with hyperpigmentation, skin discoloration, and some skin scarring because it increases skin cell turnover and collagen production." Dermatologist Recommended and Top Rated Retinoid Products

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Most retinol products are touted as having anti-aging benefits but not acne-fighting benefits. Why? "Companies cannot legally make medical claims ('treat acne') unless specific studies have been conducted to back up those claims,"




Trosky explained, noting that these studies "can cost millions of dollars." Research aside, "it's accurate to say that any product that contains retinoids will inherently help reduce acne tendencies," she says.




"Companies can't say that, but any dermatologist will attest to that fact." (Virtually all the dermatologists we spoke to agreed.) Below, we highlight top-rated retinol creams and serums and retinoid gels as well as some expert-recommended options — experts we spoke to say retinol creams and serums work for most people is a good starting point, although retinoid gel is a better choice for problems like cystic acne.




All of the retinoid gels we recommend are adapalene – a retinoid usually available in concentrations of 0.1% and 0.3% and used to treat mild to moderate acne – as it’s the only over-the-counter version currently available Topical retinoids.




Retinol products. RoC Retinol Correxion Deep Wrinkle Facial Serum. Honet says this retinol serum from RoC is a great "proven" choice—the brand says its retinol has passed more than 100 clinical trials and more than 75 safety studies.




According to RoC, the formula contains a mineral complex that hydrates the skin and boosts the effectiveness of retinol. Neutrogena Rapid Anti-Wrinkle Repair Regenerating Retinol Cream Honet highlights Neutrogena's Rapid Wrinkle Repair Retinol Cream as a good and relatively affordable retinol cream.




The brand says its patented accelerating formula uses retinol, glucose complex and hyaluronic acid to reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, leaving skin looking smoother without irritating it.




Peter Thomas Roth Retinol Fusion Night Serum: Honet is a fan of Peter Thomas Roth's "impressive" and "clinically effective" products, and singled out the brand's Retinol Fusion PM Night Serum for praise. This serum contains sustained-release 1.




According to the brand, they contain 5% retinol—retinol products have slightly more—as well as vitamins C and E and squalane to keep skin hydrated. "Some dermatologists even use this nighttime serum," says Honnett.




Alastin Skin Care Renewal Retinol. Alastin Skincare's updated retinol is formulated with oat extract, hydroxymethoxyphenyldecanone and tremella fungus to soothe and hydrate skin, according to the brand. The retinol in the product is encaps