Glow by Dr. Brandt's Overnight Resurfacing Serum ($85) boasts the most retinol allowed in a non-prescription product--2 percent--and astounding results. Though Rouleau says "it's not about the percentage, but about how stable the product is," we noticed results the next morning. Rouleau's own Advanced Resurfacing Serum ($83) may be a bit less potent (it has 1 percent retinol), but the formula is so gentle that our guinea pig, whose sensitive skin turns red from most moisturizers, is hooked on its brightening effects.
ROC Skincare and Skinceuticals hopped on the retinol bandwagon years ago, though both have refined their delivery systems and released new versions promising stronger results. The former's Retinol Correxion MAX Wrinkle Resurfacing System ($27) is a two-part deal, with a retinol cream followed by a resurfacing serum. One application is four times stronger than a series of three chemical peels and, as the name suggests, it does a bang-up job of fighting wrinkles--even crow's feet. Skinceuticals' Retinol 1.0 ($59) is more straightforward. Like all retinols, it turns over cells and builds collagen while shrinking pores and with just 1 percent retinol it strikes a balance between gentle and effective.
Dr. Gross, who released his Ferulic Acid & Retinol Brightening Serum ($85) in October, is a longtime fan of retinol. "I've tried all of the ones out there and I can tell you that retinol done right is a very powerful tool," he says. "It doesn't matter if you're in your 20s or 60s, it just makes your skin look better whatever your aging concerns." He added ferulic acid--an antioxidant that might have anti-carcinogenic properties and definitely aids with skin brightening--to his own product to protect against sun damage and enhance the retinol's effects. In case his enthusiasm isn't clear, Gross adds: "You need to use a retinol product."