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Should You Be Using a Retinol Cream?

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acne spot treatment, Woman taking care of her skin

Image: Shutterstock/ gpointstudio

Of all the anti-aging ingredients used throughout the years, retinoids are still at the forefront of anti-aging formulas. Retinoids are a class of Vitamin A derivatives, and they’ve been used in skincare products since the 70s. The most widely used retinoid is Retin-A, which is made with the retinoid tretinoin.

Albert Kligman, Ph.D. developed this in the late 60s for acne treatment, but later found out that it also helped with wrinkles, fine lines, and overall skin tone. Kligman patented Renova, a tretinoin in an emollient base, which became the first FDA-approved topical treatment for anti-aging. While all of this was about eighteen years ago, retinoids are still the primary ingredient in most moisturizers, serums, and creams. Why, you might ask?

Retinoids have a scientific track record superior to all other anti-aging ingredients. Susan Weinkle, a dermatologist in Bradenton, Florida, told Real Simple, “I tell patients that regardless of how much time or money they have, sunscreen and a retinoid are the most important anti-agers to use. This combo covers all of your dermal needs: UV protection; smoother, firmer skin; a more even tone; fewer breakouts; and tighter pores.”

Oprah says retinoids unclog pores, boost collagen to reduce fine lines, and speed cell turnover to even out discoloration and smooth the skin. While prescription formulas of retinoid yield the most impressive results, an over-the-counter retinol cream will still yield the same benefits—it will just take longer. It will take roughly twelve weeks to see major results when using a retinol cream, while over-the-counter retinoid formulas may take as little as four weeks.

So, should you be using a retinol cream? The answer is a resounding yes! It’s clear that you should be using a retinol cream if you want youthful skin free of breakouts and fine lines. And just as Weinkle said, be sure to pair it with UV protection, and you’ll have all the bases covered. Check out our favorite retinol cream products on the market. Keep in mind, if you have a dermatologist, ask about prescription retinoid formulas for more effective results.

Retinol cream you don’t need to take out a loan for

The Ordinary Granactive Retinoid 2% in Squalane, $9.60This water-free solution contains 2% concentration of a retinoid active complex called Granactive Retinoid for anti-aging. The product is popular for not causing irritation that can sometimes be present with retinol.

Neutrogena Wrinkle Repair Serum, $17.35This lightweight, silky serum absorbs quickly into the skin to deliver the highest concentration of hyaluronic acid to smooth skin. The product features the highest concentration of Accelerated Retinol SA available, to fade wrinkles, brighten skin tone, smooth fine lines and improve texture, and leave a soft texture on the skin.

La Roche-Posay Redermic R Eyes Anti-Aging Retinol Eye Cream to Visible Reduce Wrinkles, $19.12: This award-winning anti-aging eye cream is made with retinol to reduce the appearance of crow’s feet wrinkles and the look of dark circles. This product won Redbook MVP Awards, 2014, Health Beauty Awards, 2014, and the All You Besy Beauty Buys, 2014. 

A healthy investment for your skin—middle of the line retinol creams

Philosophy Help Me Retinol Night Treatment, $35This retinol cream cleanses the pores and evens out pigment. It reduces fine lines and provides Vitamin A without the peeling of the skin. This is great if you have sensitive skin and need something a little more gentle than retin-A.

SkinCeuticals Retinol 0.5 Refining Night Cream, $64This night cream promotes healthy cell regeneration and collagen production to reduce visible signs of aging, enlarged pores and blemishes. With 0.5% retinol, it prevents skin damage caused by free radicals and restores balance to the skin.

Peter Thomas Roth Retinol Fusion PM, $65This potent retinol serum renews the skin with concentrated encapsulated retinol for maximum results with minimal irritation. In addition, the product contains Vitamin C and E for renewal. The combination with retinol and the vitamins results in even skin tone and texture, collagen production, a reduction in fine lines and wrinkles, and a dose of moisture.

Luxury retinol cream products

Ferulic + Retinol Brightening Solution, $88This fast-absorbing liquid retinol serum uses ferulic acid to boost the skin’s appearance and texture, while reducing fine lines for an even, instantly-smoother looking, lit-from-within-glow.

Advanced Retinol Day Treatment SPF 30, $99This anti-aging treatment reduces the appearance of deep-set wrinkles and fine lines. It hydrates and plumps the skin for a youthful glow, and it evens tone to leave a radiant complexion. Broad spectrum UVA/UVB SPF 30 shield the skin from sun and future damage.

Gentle Retinol Night Serum, $110This high-tech formula permits anhydrous Vitamin C and microencapsulated retinol, with stabilization assist from Vitamin E. This combination results in superior collagen-building and antioxidant effects.

Kate Wilke is a freelancer in the midst of health coach and yoga training, as well as a certified meditation instructor. When she's not paddle boarding or skiing, she's informing someone about global warming (or cats) over a local double IPA. Follow her on Instagram — @meditatekate