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When it comes to skincare, there are only a handful of ingredients that have become holy grails for a variety of skin types. One of those ingredients that people can’t seem to get enough of is retinol, a vitamin A derivative that grew in popularity for its wrinkle-smoothing properties. But board-certified dermatologist Dr. Morgan Rabach notes that there is much more to this buzzy skincare hero than its wrinkle-refining abilities.
“Retinols help unclog pores by reducing oil, and therefore makes pores appear smaller,” she says.”Retinols regulate the turnover of keratinocytes (the cells that make up the skin) and help the dead outer layers slough off.” She also notes that retinol can help increase collagen production and assists in regulating pigmentation, therefore helping to even out skin tone.
While this ingredient grows in popularity, there’s one drawback about it that leaves many people in the dust: the hefty price tag. Most retinol products can be expensive and getting a prescription for a stronger retinoid cream involves trekking to the dermatologist. But, fret not, because there are plenty of bargain-friendly retinol options at your local drugstore that are just as effective.
Below, we’ve listed the best drugstore retinol creams—so your skin (and your bank account) can stay in the clear.
Best Overall: Differin Adapalene Gel 0.1% Acne Treatment
With tons of glimmering reviews, this drugstore retinol treatment is undeniably everyone’s fan-favorite. Backed by both dermatologists and customers alike, this treatment works to clear and prevent up to 87% of acne in just a few weeks, thanks to an Rx-strength of retinol that won't irritate your skin or burn a hole through your wallet.
Best Night Cream: Olay Regenerist Retinol 24 Night Cream
Contrary to it’s “night cream” label, this powerful retinol-infused formula works around the clock for a full 24 hours to keep your skin hydrated and firm. Plus, it’s fragrance and dye-free, so sensitive skin types can proceed without caution.
Best Eye Cream: RoC Retinol Eye Cream
When it comes to undereye bags and crow’s feet, you need to give the delicate skin around your eyes some extra TLC. That's where this eye cream comes in. It’s formulated with powerful retinol to reduce the appearance of puffiness, under-eye sagging, and dark circles in as little as 12 weeks.
Best for Wrinkles: Neutrogena Rapid Wrinkle Repair Night Moisturizer
If you’re looking to give your skin a smoother, more youthful appearance, then this retinol-infused night moisturizer will do just the trick. One of the main causes of wrinkles and fine lines is dehydration, so in order to give your thirsty skin exactly what it needs, you’re going to need an intensively hydrating moisturizer. Enter: hyaluronic acid, another skincare favorite for its extremely hydrating properties, which is also prevalent in this top-rated night cream.
Best for Dry Skin: CeraVe Skin Renewing Retinol Cream
Another reason why many people turn away retinol is due to the dryness that can come with it. Dr. Rabach suggests using your retinol products at night plus starting with a lighter dose of retinol in order to minimize dryness as much as possible. So, for our dry-skinned friends, we suggest using this retinol cream, which contains hydrating ceramides to keep your skin’s barrier intact for more moisture retention.
Best for Acne-Prone Skin: Vichy LiftActiv HA Concentrate
If your skin breaks out with a single touch, then you may need a retinol product that’s more suited for your skin type. This concentrate not only works to give your skin the acne-clearing benefits of retinol, but leaves a grease-free, silky finish on your skin. Retinol works to speed up cellular turnover for clearer skin, and hyaluronic acid restores the long-lost moisture for a more supple appearance.
Best for Sensitive Skin: Versed Press Restart Retinol Serum
Retinol is powerful and not typically recommended for sensitive or easily irritated skin types. But this retinol serum was specifically designed for delicate skin and pores, teaming a low-dose version of retinol with its naturally-derived cousin, bakuchiol, to deliver all the benefits of the trendy skincare ingredient without dryness, irritation, and/or flaking.
Best for Oily Skin: L'Orѐal Revitalift Anti-Wrinkle + Firming Moisturizer
If excess oil is a concern for you, then allow me to introduce you to this beloved moisturizer. This classic from L'Orѐal is popular for its grease-free finish, giving your pores a hefty dose of retinol without excess residue left behind. This cream is also infused with centella asiatica to help soothe and repair skin. With this cream, expect to have a smoother and firmer finish in just four weeks.
Best Clean Beauty: Honest Beauty Honestly Pure Retinol Serum
When it comes to our skincare, some of us can be purists with our ingredient lists. So, if you’re looking for a new addition to your clean beauty routine, give this serum a shot. It’s infused with tapioca-derived retinol, plus hyaluronic acid and squalane to give your skin an added boost of hydration.
Best for Retinol Newbies: Avène Eau Thermale RetrinAL 0.05 Cream
If you’re new to the retinol game, you shouldn’t start with a hefty dose. Rather, Dr. Rabach recommends starting with a light strength of retinol only once a week and using moisturizer over it to soften this powerful ingredient’s edge. This product has a very mild 0.05 percent retinol formula, all encased in thermal spring water-infused cream to soothe and pamper your skin. Talk about a great introduction to the wonderful world of retinol.
Best Budget: Palmer's Cocoa Butter Formula Night Renewal Cream
Don’t let the price tag fool you: This night cream will have just as much of an impact on your skin as its pricier counterparts. Customers love its retinol-infused formula that also contains another fan-favorite ingredient: cocoa butter. This intensely rich night cream works to restore and replenish your skin while you catch up on your beauty sleep, for plump and hydrated skin by sunrise.
Best Serum: La Roche-Posay Redermic R Anti-Aging Retinol Serum
Looking for a pure dose of good ol’ retinol? Then opt for a stronger serum, like this top-rated one from La Roche-Posay. It instantly works to smooth fine lines and wrinkles, plus targets premature sun damage, uneven skin texture and tone to completely rejuvenate your overall complexion.