The Best Retinol Body Lotions to Tighten and Smooth Your Skin

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Best Retinol Body Lotions

Byrdie / Chloe Jeong

When it comes to establishing an effective anti-aging routine for your face, you likely have heard of, or even tried, retinol. When it comes to youth-boosting skincare ingredients, it’s the undisputed champion, beloved for its long history of offering proven effects. But here’s the thing: Retinol can have the same great effects for the skin below your chin, too. “Retinol helps to rebuild collagen and thicken the dermis, which over time will improve the appearance of crepey or loose skin,” explains Dr. Devika Icecreamwala, a board-certified dermatologist in Berkeley, CA. “It also works to smooth the skin, so can be used on areas of the body that appear bumpy, and it helps improve acne and discoloration,” she adds.  

Byrdie Researched & Approved

Paula’s Choice Retinol Skin-Smoothing Body Treatment earns top honors due to its high concentration of pure retinol, skin-loving antioxidants, natural butters, and plant oils. If you’re looking for a more affordable pick, PH Factor 5.5 Retinol & Ferulic Acid Cream does double duty as a face and body moisturizer.

A few general rules apply, similar to those that come when using a retinol facial product. Skip any retinol body lotion if you’re pregnant or breastfeeding, and make sure to be extra diligent about sunscreen and sun protection when using one, says Icecreamwala; the ingredient makes your skin more sensitive to the sun. Since retinol can also be irritating, decrease the frequency of usage if you’re noticing any dryness or irritation, she points out.

To find the best products out there, we tried out one of the current top-rated retinol lotions. Our tester used it for weeks, rating how well it smoothed, softened, and hydrated their skin. Our team then took these results and combined them with our own research and expert recommendations to compile this list.

Ahead, the best retinol body lotions that are worth a try.

Best Overall: Paula's Choice Retinol Skin-Smoothing Body Treatment

Paula’s Choice Retinol Skin-Smoothing Treatment
What We Like
  • Effective formula

  • Very hydrating

  • Mid-range retinol concentration

What We Don't Like
  • Needs more anti-aging ingredients

The ingredient list in this body product is really almost identical to what you’d see in a face product—think pure retinol (in a mid-strength, 0.1% concentration), protective antioxidants, plus lots of moisturizing natural butters and plant oils. The result is a lotion that’s both beautifully hydrating and smoothing—and leaves skin with a gorgeous glow—though, also helps leave your skin looking firmer over time. 

Active Ingredients: Retinol, primrose oil, grape oil, glycerin | Skin Type: All | Size: 4 ounces | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: No

paula's choice skin-smoothing retinol body treatment

Byrdie / Olivia Hancock

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 Budget: PH Factor 5.5 Retinol & Ferulic Acid Cream for Face and Body

PH Factor 5.5 Retinol & Ferulic Acid Cream for Face and Body
What We Like
  • Contains ferulic acid

  • Affordable

  • Formulated at healthy skin pH

What We Don't Like
  • Fragrance can be irritating

Super affordable, this is another pick that combines retinol with ferulic acid, a great combo for delivering a litany of anti-aging benefits. Further giving you more bang for your buck, you can also apply this on your face if you want. (Though FYI, because it does contain some thicker moisturizing ingredients, we’d suggest only doing so if your skin is dry and not oily or acne-prone.) And if you are going to use it on your face, just a pea-size amount is all you need.  

Active Ingredients: Retinol, ferulic acid | Skin Type: All | Size: 15 ounces | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: No

Best for Sagging Skin: Medix 5.5 Retinol Cream + Ferulic Acid Anti-Sagging Treatment

medix 5.5 retinol cream + ferulic acid anti-sagging treatment


What We Like
  • Contains ferulic acid

  • Affordable

  • Formulated at healthy skin pH

What We Don't Like
  • Smell can be off-putting

A fan favorite on Amazon, many happy reviewers repeatedly point out how well this helps improve the look of sagging, crepey skin all over their body. It’s also nice and hydrating and has the added benefit of containing ferulic acid, one of the most potent antioxidants out there, for an extra dose of protection against free radical damage that can contribute to signs of aging.

Active Ingredients: Retinol, ferulic acid | Skin Type: All | Size: 15 ounces | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: No

Best Multi-Tasking: Replenix Retinol Smooth + Tighten Body Lotion

Replenix Retinol Smooth + Tighten Body Lotion
What We Like
  • Great multi-tasking formula

  • Absorbs quickly

What We Don't Like
  • Expensive

Icecreamwala recommends this formula, which really can do it all. “This product contains not only retinol, but also antioxidants, ceramides, green tea polyphenols, and hyaluronic acid. The antioxidants fight off free radicals, the ceramides improve the skin barrier, the green tea polyphenols prevent irritation to the skin, and the hyaluronic acid moisturizes,” she says. In short, it leaves skin smoother, softer, more even, firmer, more hydrated... need we continue?

Active Ingredients: Retinol, antioxidants, ceramides, hyaluronic acid | Skin Type: All | Size: 6.7 ounces | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: No

Best for Sensitive Skin: iS Clinical Body Complex

iS Clinical Body Complex

Courtesy of Dermstore 

What We Like
  • Great for sensitive skin

  • Has extra exfoliating ingredients

  • Hydrating

What We Don't Like
  • Retinol-like ingredient doesn't work as well

  • Expensive

‘Retinol’ and ‘sensitive skin’ don’t always go hand-in-hand, but this is one exception to the rule. The gentle formula relies on retinyl palmitate, a gentler type of retinoid, and doesn’t contain a ton of it. What it does have is hyaluronic acid and aloe to leave the skin feeling soothed and hydrated, says Icecreamwala, who’s a fan. As an added benefit, it also gives you some gentle exfoliation, thanks to white willow bark extract.

Active Ingredients: Retinol, aloe hyaluronic acid | Skin Type: All | Size: 6 ounces | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: No

Best for Dry Skin: Josie Maran Whipped Argan Pro-Retinol Body Butter

Josie Maran Whipped Argan Pro-Retinol Body Butter
What We Like
  • Hydrating but not greasy

  • Clean and cruelty-free

  • Rich in texture

What We Don't Like
  • Retinol-like ingredient doesn't work as well

  • Scent can be off-putting

When your skin is super dry, a lotion isn’t going to cut it—you want to reach for a nice thick cream or, even better, a rich butter such as this one. Rather than using straight-up retinol, it uses a gentler derivative, pro-retinol. Argan oil and vitamin E make it plenty hydrating, though also offer antioxidant protection, notes Icecreamwala, of another one of her picks. 

Active Ingredients: Pro-retinol, argan oil, vitamin E | Skin Type: All, dry | Size: 8 ounces | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: Yes

Best Retinol Alternative: The Organic Pharmacy Advanced Retinoid-Like Body Oil

The Organic Pharmacy Advanced Retinoid-Like Body Oil
What We Like
  • A good retinol alternative

  • Clean and 98.9% organic

  • Increases skin elasticity by 15%

What We Don't Like
  • Retinol-like ingredient doesn't work as well

  • Scent can be off-putting

For those who can’t use retinol, for whatever reason, this aptly-named formula is the best alternative. The star of the show is bakuchiol, a plant-based ingredient that’s been shown to offer anti-aging effects nearly equivalent to that of retinol, but without the accompanying irritation. In a clinical study (from The Organic Pharmacy's website), this oil was shown to increase skin elasticity by 15% and reduce the number of wrinkles by 29% after just 28 days of use. The fact that the oil is super fast-absorbing and non-greasy is just a bonus.

Active Ingredients: Bakuchiol, natural oils | Skin Type: All | Size: 3.4 ounces | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: Yes

Best for Cellulite: Rosen Apothecary Anti-Aging Retinol Body Lotion

Rosen Apothecary Anti-Aging Retinol Body Lotion
What We Like
  • Good option for cellulite

  • Affordable, big bottle

  • Doesn't feel greasy

What We Don't Like
  • Low retinol concentration

Okay, so no topical product will totally get rid of cellulite (which isn’t something you need to get rid of, to begin with). That being said, using a retinol cream is a good way to help tighten the skin, which, over time, might help minimize the look of cellulite. If that’s what you’re after, try this cream; it has the added benefit of containing caffeine, another choice topical that helps constrict blood vessels and can improve the look of lumps and bumps more quickly. On top of all of that, a combo of argan oil and hyaluronic acid ensures it’s plenty moisturizing, though never greasy. 

Active Ingredients: Retinol, caffeine | Skin Type: All | Size: 32 ounces | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: No

Best for Hands: Hand MD Duality Dual Repair

Hand MD Duality Dual Repair
What We Like
  • Hydrating but not greasy

  • Dual-chamber packaging

  • Doubles as moisturizer and anti-aging serum

What We Don't Like
  • Only meant for hands

True story, your hands can often give away your age even more so than your face. (After all, they’re often very neglected, both when it comes to sun protection and any type of anti-aging products.) That’s where this souped-up hand cream comes in. Retinol and peptides do the youth-boosting duties, while hyaluronic acid hydrates. Per the name, the bottle features two chambers; one that contains an anti-aging serum and one that contains a moisturizer.

Active Ingredients: Retinol, peptides, antioxidants | Skin Type: All | Size: 2 ounces | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: No

Best Serum: Doris Day MD Skincare Retinol Body Serum

Doris Day MD Skincare Retinol Body Serum
What We Like
  • Contains many active ingredients

  • Lightweight texture

  • Good for neck and chest

What We Don't Like
  • Expensive

  • Full list of ingredients not disclosed online

While this pick is very pricey, it is formulated by a top dermatologist, so you can feel confident that you’re getting a highly effective formula. It combines retinol with salicylic acid, a gentle exfoliant, as well as antioxidant-rich vitamin C. Because it’s a serum, it contains the most featherweight texture of any products on the list (and also is the most potent when it comes to concentration of said active ingredients). It’s also especially great for use on the neck and chest.

Active Ingredients: Retinol, salicylic acid, vitamin C | Skin Type: All | Size: 6.76 ounces | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: Unknown

Final Verdict

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, 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 Medix 5.5 Retinol Cream Anti-Sagging Treatment is excellent for firming and diminishing the look of wrinkles wherever skin is most thin and fragile. And while it is on the more expensive side, the Replenix Retinol Smooth + Tighten Body Lotion is an ideal multi-tasker, boasting a litany of top active ingredients to help not only smooth and tighten but also even out skin tone, combat wrinkles, and moisturize.

Meet the Expert

  • Dr. Devika Icecreamwala is a board-certified dermatologist in Berkeley, CA. She’s the founder of Icecreamwala Dermatology, a practice specializing in both medical and cosmetic dermatology.
  • 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.

What to Look for in a Retinol Body Lotion

A Tolerable Yet Effective Concentration of Retinol

Because retinol can potentially irritate the skin, board-certified dermatologist Dr. Joshua 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 0.25% concentration in a formula for it to be effective.

Stabilized Formulas

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. 

Hydrating Ingredients

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 they can further irritate the 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.” 

Why Trust Byrdie?

Byrdie contributor Melanie Rud has over a decade of experience in the beauty industry, writing for some of the biggest magazines and websites out there. She’s well-versed in anything and everything retinol-related, having covered the ingredient extensively during her career, and firmly believes that the skin on your body deserves just as much anti-aging attention as the skin on your face.

According to our Diversity Pledge, 15% of products in our newly-published market roundups will feature Black-owned and/or Black-founded brands. At the time of publishing, we were not able to find any retinol body lotions from a Black-owned and/or Black-founded business. If you know of one we should consider, please email us at and we will evaluate the product ASAP.

Article Sources
Byrdie takes every opportunity to use high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial guidelines to learn more about how we keep our content accurate, reliable and trustworthy.
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