Retinol is inarguably pretty powerful stuff. In the right hands (and the right formulations), it'll make light work of treating all manner of skin concerns thanks to its ability to speed up cell regeneration, meaning acne, hyperpigmentation, rough texture and fine lines all stand little chance up against a sturdy retinol-filled skincare regimen. Once the sole reserve of the dermatologist's office—and the £££ hard-hitting formulas therein—in recent years, more and more brands have found ways to syphon the best effects of retinol into easy-to-use, sensitive skin–friendly, over-the-counter products that needn't cost the earth.
Retinol creams tend to be, first and foremost, moisturisers, with plenty of hydrating ingredients to comfort tight, dry skin. But the added dollop of retinol means they'll be working a lot harder than your run-of-the-mill face cream to tackle some of the concerns listed above.
Many opt for a retinol serum, which makes sense, as they allow you to simply slot an extra hit of skincare into the routine you've already become attached to. But if you're not looking to add in yet another step, then switching your moisturiser out for a retinol cream could be a wise move.
You'll also find that plenty come charged with SPF, and that's vital. Retinol can make skin more sensitive to UVA and UVB rays, so it needs an extra cloak of protection for daytime use. Now, I wouldn't recommend using a high-concentration retinol in the daytime, but retinol creams (including the ones I'm about to cover) tend to have a lower dosage, meaning skin isn't likely to freak out as much.
Yes, the work of the retinol in DCL's cream is impressive, but so is the rest of its roster of ingredients. There are vitamins B5 and C to strengthen the skin's barrier, vital in maintaining moisture levels and skin density, while antioxidants and vitamin E fend off damage caused by the free radicals attacking skin from all angles.
The droplets of retinol within Eve Lom's formula are encapsulated in liposomes that break down slowly, delivering a steady stream of retinol for as long as you wear it.
The 0.3% retinol in La Roche-Posay's cream stimulates collagen and elastin to "pull" skin slightly tauter around areas like the eyes, brow and forehead.
Super Facialist's buttery cream mixes retinol derivatives with shea butter and hyaluronic acid and supercharges it with white tea extract to ply skin with plenty of antioxidants. Do note that this formulation doesn't contain any SPF, so follow up with something like this broad-spectrum sunscreen from Kiehl's.
This super-affordable option from L'Oreal Paris uses retinol to plump skin up and reintroduce the bounce that breaks down over the years.
A powerful formula for nighttime use, Murad's cream combines retinol with peptide-rich red algae extracts to up the ante on the firming benefits.
For a formula made of 100% natural ingredients, REN Skincare's face cream is pretty impressive. As well as retinol to target wrinkle depth, it contains phycocolloids to lift, hyaluronic acid to hydrate and algae extracts to repair cell damage.
As for our final words of advice: Go slowly. Start off using your new retinol cream once every other day and allow your skin to get used to it before making it more of a regular occurrence. Your complexion will thank you for it—trust us.