Today's new class of skincare products is a game of Pac-Man—between the ingredients, the devices, and the treatments, it's a maze to navigate, and before you can wrap your head around one, you get swallowed up by the next wave. Sure, it's fun to test-drive as many new launches as you can get your hands on, but introducing your skin to several different factors is overstimulating, and a pared-down, efficient lineup will yield much more tangible results (not to mention less irritation).
Recently, I'd overheard a top dermatologist say that there are just three skincare staples she'll always recommend to her patients: sunscreen, a good hydrating moisturizer, and a retinol. The first two seem self-explanatory, but understandably, there's still some skepticism around the third. Essentially, its purpose is to stimulate cell turnover and "thicken" the skin, which in turn helps plump fine lines and wrinkles and reverse sun damage and discoloration. It's also a proven acne treatment, acting as a wick to sweep away pore-clogging, breakout-causing buildup. Sure, if used too frequently or in conjunction with the wrong products, it could induce adverse side effects, but with correct use, you'll wonder how you ever went without it. The remaining problem, however, is that a lot of today's leading retinol formulas come with a steep price tag.
But we're not going to leave you hanging. We love finding more affordable options for widely loved products, which is why we were floored to find that natural brand Instanatural's Anti-Wrinkle Anti-Aging Serum had thousands of rave reviews on Amazon—and only costs $19.
In addition to the main attraction, retinol, this serum also has hyaluronic acid and argan oil meant for intense hydration, plus niacinamide meant to restore the skin's barrier and prevent environmental damage. It's even got vitamin C to brighten and even the skin's allover tone. Now, you might be thinking, But I thought you weren't supposed to use retinol and vitamin C at the same time? Turns out this is just a common misconception—a 2016 study even found that participants who used a blend of the two ingredients saw a significant change in signs of aging and photo-aging. Another study found that applying a retinol–vitamin C complex greatly increased the amount of skin surface lipids in menopausal female participants, helping to create a natural barrier against aggressors as well as retain moisture in the skin.
With nearly 1500 five-star reviews on Amazon, we're convinced this won't be another bottle of serum that makes it into the beauty product graveyard. Amazon shoppers rave about how much their skin has changed in terms of fewer signs of aging and an overall dewier, more glowing complex. We don't know about you, but we'll be swiping up one of these for ourselves.
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This serum single-handedly brightened and smoothed my skin in what seemed like one night. It's got retinol, salicylic acid, niacinamide, vitamin C, hyaluronic acid, tea tree oil, and lavender—all the good stuff in one bottle. Whitney Port actually fell in love with the serum after reading this review.
Ready for the ingredient list in this rose facial toner? Organic rose water. That's it. While some rosewater toners have a ton of additives that actually do more harm than good, this completely natural one-ingredient formula is deeply hydrating, nourishing, and only $14.
Zasada M, Budzisz E. Retinoids: active molecules influencing skin structure formation in cosmetic and dermatological treatments. Postepy Dermatol Alergol. 2019;36(4):392-397. doi:10.5114/ada.2019.87443
Herndon JH Jr, Jiang LI, Kononov T, Fox T. An open label clinical trial to evaluate the efficacy and tolerance of a retinol and vitamin C facial regimen in women with mild-to-moderate hyperpigmentation and photodamaged facial skin. J Drugs Dermatol. 2016;15(4):476-482.
Wójcik A, Bartnicka E, Namieciński P, Rotsztejn H. Influence of the complex of retinol-vitamin C on skin surface lipids. J Cosmet Dermatol. 2015;14(2):92‐99. doi:10.1111/jocd.12140