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We love a good facial skincare routine as much as the next person, but we know that our efforts can't stop there. It's crucial to show the skin below the chin some love too, especially if you're fighting visible signs of aging. This should come as no surprise, but wrinkles, fine lines, creping, and sagging don't set any boundaries, meaning they can appear on your facial skin just as easily as they can appear on your hands, legs, and arms.
That's why a lot of people turn to retinol, a derivative of vitamin A that—along with many other benefits—can help reduce said signs of aging and prevent them from cropping up prematurely. You'll find it as the star ingredient in a handful of anti-aging facial products, but it can (and should) be incorporated into your body routine as well.
Before you rush to slap on the highest concentration of retinol you can find, you might want to start with a lower concentration to minimize potential irritation. Keep in mind retinol can lose its efficacy when exposed to oxygen or sunlight, so choosing products housed in opaque, airtight packaging or made with a stable form of the vitamin may last longer. And don't forget to look for moisturizing ingredients to prevent dry skin.
Go ahead and slather on our picks of the best retinol body lotions, below.
Best Overall: Paula's Choice Retinol Skin-Smoothing Body Treatment
Top honors in this roundup go to this Paula's Choice body lotion formulated with pure retinol, antioxidants, and natural butters and plant oils—all ingredients you normally see in facial products. Not only does it smooth the skin by diminishing the appearance of an uneven tone, but it also curbs dryness and reveals a firmer, more lifted skin look.
What Our Testers Say
"I am happy to report that my skin feels just as soft as a baby’s—from head to toe. The best part? My skin felt hydrated all day." — Olivia Hancock, Product Tester
Best Splurge: Chantecaille Retinol Body Treatment
This luxurious cream is infused with pure retinol encapsulated in botanical microspheres, saccharide isomerate (a hydrator) and edelweiss extract (an antioxidant) and—spoiler alert—it's worth every penny. Massage the lotion into your skin day and night for smoother, firmer-looking skin.
Best for Beginners: ThisWorks Sleep Plus Dream Body Cream
Amino acids are the building blocks that make up proteins and have a role in virtually all the biological processes that occur in our bodies, including the reparation of skin.
When trying retinol for the first time, dermatologists don't suggest reaching for the most powerful formula you can get your hands on. Rather, start slow and work your way up to an increased frequency and higher concentration.
If you're a retinol newbie, this gentle body cream is a great place to start. Many users love this retinol lotion infused with essential oils and amino acids because it’s not harsh, but still works hard to get you softer, smoother-looking skin—all while you snooze.
Best Overnight Treatment: Cosmedix A-Lift Overnight Vitamin A Body Treatment
Caffeine is a natural stimulant most commonly found in tea, coffee, and cacao plants. In skincare, it helps to stimulate blood flow and decrease puffiness, as well as works to dissolve fat, which makes it a choice cellulite treatment.
Speaking of results while you snooze, perfect your beauty sleep routine by adding this overnight body treatment into the mix. A dream team of two types of vitamin A—retinol and retinal in a proprietary encapsulation—mix with caffeine, bakuchiol, safflower seed oil, and antioxidants to promote skin firmness and elasticity, reveal brighter-looking skin, and improve texture. Apply it onto your skin at night and let it sink in.
Best for Dry Skin: iS Clinical Body Complex
Hyaluronic acid is a naturally occurring polysaccharide found in the human body. It acts as a cushioning and lubrication agent for our joints, nerves, hair, skin, and eyes. When used in skincare, it acts as a moisture binder, which means that it will attach itself to the water in the cells (while also attracting and holding water from the air) making them plump.
Treat your body skin with this soothing lotion from iS Clinical. It’s full of hardworking ingredients: hyaluronic acid gives parched skin a boost of hydration, aloe calms, and fruit acid extracts encourage mild exfoliation.
Best for Crepey Skin: Perricone MD Cold Plasma Plus+ Fragile Skin Therapy
One of the common skin side effects of aging is crepey skin. To promote firmer-looking skin and improve the look of creping, reach for this body lotion infused with retinol, hyaluronic acid, and vitamin E. Users love this retinol body lotion because it works well to smooth crepiness and reduce wrinkles on thin, fragile skin.
Best for Sagging Skin: Medix 5.5 Retinol Cream Anti-Sagging Treatment
Reviewers can’t stop talking about how amazing this potent retinol cream is, especially when it comes to sagging skin. It helps tighten the look of skin so well that many reviewers noticed a difference in no time flat.
Best for Wrinkles: Advanced Clinicals Retinol Cream
See your wrinkles to the door with the help of this retinol cream from Advanced Clinicals. Rub it all over your body, but pay close attention to your neck, chest, hands, and feet. It visibly restores volume to areas prone to wrinkles and sagging. Another perk? It's quite affordable for its size.
Best Brightening: Rosen Apothecary Anti-Aging Retinol Body Lotion
Here, ingredients such as retinol (the star), hyaluronic acid, and collagen help fade hyperpigmentation with continued use for brighter-looking skin. This light lotion quickly melts into the skin, which means you don’t have to worry about it leaving behind a greasy residue or staining your clothes. Another plus? It's big enough to share with the whole family, though you probably won't want to.
Best for Hands: Robanda Anti-Aging Hand Treatment
An oft-neglected area of skin, the hands are among the first areas of skin to show signs of aging. It’s important to give your hands the same attention you give your face and the rest of your body, so keep this powerful hand treatment handy (get it?). Formulated with retinol, antioxidants and even SPF 15, this hand cream can brighten age spots and hyperpigmentation, protect against harmful UV rays and reduce signs of aging.
Best for Face: PH Factor 5.5 Retinol & Ferulic Acid Cream for Face and Body
Don't want to use two separate retinol creams for your face and body? Par down your skincare routine with this retinol cream that you can use on both areas of skin. No matter where you apply it, it'll work to help reduce the look of wrinkles and fine lines, all while minimizing the appearance of dark spots and sun damage.
When it comes to retinol lotions that target signs of aging below the chin, we’re giving top honors to the Paula's Choice Retinol Skin-Smoothing Body Treatment. Packed with pure retinol, antioxidants, and natural butters and plant oils, it leaves the skin looking firmer and lifted while addressing concerns like dryness and uneven tone. When it comes to improving the appearance of crepey skin, the Perricone MD Cold Plasma Plus+ Fragile Skin Therapy is excellent for firming and diminishing the look of wrinkles wherever skin is most thin and fragile, thanks to added hyaluronic acid and vitamin E. And for the most bang for our buck, we're turning to the Advanced Clinicals Retinol Cream to target sagging and wrinkles on the neck, chest, hands, and feet without having to splurge—but trust, it’ll work its magic anywhere on the body.
What to Look for in a Retinol Body Lotion
A Tolerable Yet Effective Concentration of Retinol
Because retinol can potentially irritate the skin, Zeichner doesn’t recommend reaching for a formula with too high a concentration of the vitamin A derivative for use on the body (such as a formula containing a 1% or higher concentration). However, you will want it to contain at least a .25% concentration, which studies have shown is the minimum concentration of retinol needed in a formula for it to be effective.
Retinol is notorious for being a tough ingredient to stabilize, meaning it pretty easily loses its efficacy over time—especially after being exposed to things like sunlight, air, and heat. For this reason, Zeichner recommends looking for products that contain a stabilized form of retinol or package the formula in a way that will keep it from being exposed to elements that would render it useless.
As you already know, retinol is known to be potentially drying and irritating, so look for formulas that will deliver much-needed moisture back into your skin. If you’re not into heavier body lotions and creams, opt for formulas formulated with lightweight hydrators, like hyaluronic acid. Also steer clear of formulas that contain added fragrance, as it can further irritate dry skin.
Are retinol body lotions safe?
While retinol body lotions are technically considered safe, Zeichner says he is cautious of recommending them to be used all over the body. “First off, retinol can be potentially irritating. Secondly, covering large body surface areas with an active ingredient theoretically could lead to absorption of the active into the bloodstream,” he points out. Instead, he recommends applying retinol body lotions to localized areas, such as the chest, rather than using it from head to toe. Also, he adds that vitamin A derivatives—retinol included—should not be used by pregnant women due to the risk of potential birth defects.
How often should you apply retinol body lotion?
Zeichner recommends starting slow with retinol body lotion the same way you would start slow with retinol for the face, “Start applying every other night and increase as tolerated,” he says. “If you develop redness, burning, stinging, or itching, hold off for a day or two.”
Experts recommend starting a new relationship with retinol slowly to build up your skin's tolerance to the powerful ingredient. Also, always apply broad-spectrum sunscreen while using retinol since it can make your skin more sensitive to UV rays.
Meet the Expert
Dermatologist Joshua Zeichner, MD, is an associate professor of dermatology and the Director of Clinical and Cosmetic Research at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City. He specializes in multiple areas of cosmetic and medical dermatology, including acne.