Retinol products have come a long way since their genesis. Originally used as an acne treatment, scientists quickly realized that this heavy-hitting exfoliator was actually a powerful and untapped anti-ager. A byproduct of vitamin A, retinol works by removing dead skin cells to encourage cell turnover. Thus, pores are unclogged and dull skin is diminished to make way for a new, healthy complexion.
Today's retinol features a more stabilized form of the ingredient that has an advanced shelf life and is even more potent than earlier formulations. But because retinol products (especially serums) are growing in popularity, the market is inundated with a ton of variations, and thus, it can be hard to choose one that will work for you. So, to round up the best retinol serums money can buy, we turned to the top picks of the girls who have the most enviable and flawless complexions: models. And as it turns out, many of them lean toward the same fast-acting serum.
Keep scrolling to find out the most popular formula as well as its close contenders.
The Number One Pick
Celebrity esthetician Shani Darden is something of a legend when it comes to skin. With a client list that boasts names like Kim Kardashian West and Jessica Alba, it's no surprise that her retinol serum is beloved by Hollywood stars and models alike.
In an interview with Glamour UK, Suki Waterhouse explains that she uses it twice a week. "I feel like it tightens everything," she says. Emily Ratajtowski told InStyle that it's the top product she'll splurge on. On top of that, supermodel Rosie Huntington-Whiteley credits this magical serum for her glowing complexion. She told Violet Grey that it's her favorite product of all time: "It leaves skin flawless," she says.
The Honorable Mentions
Supermodel Joan Smalls says that this serum has a permanent place in her routine. She told Elle that she even likes to mix it with her moisturizer and apply it throughout the day to ensure long-lasting hydration. Likewise, model Arizona Muse mixes it with her foundation, saying, "It just turns every foundation into the most sheer amazingness." And French model Camilla Rowe shared with Refinery29 that this serum is one of her tried-and-true products as well.
When she's not using Shani Darden's serum, Rosie Huntington-Whiteley reaches for this offering from iS Clinical. When she spoke with us about her skincare routine, she said that she's a fan of the entire line and that this serum is "brilliant."
On her blog, A Model Recommends, model Ruth Crilly raves about Verso Skincare's line of retinol products. Formulated with retinol 8, a unique style of stabilized vitamin A that's proven to be more effective than a standard retinol, Verso's face serum helps support and rejuvenate skin. Crilly reported that she experiences no dryness when using this product, which is a common side effect of retinol products. "In fact, I've found the serum on its own to be very moisturizing," she says.
On the pricier end of the spectrum is this offering from Natura Bisse. Pat it onto the eye area every night for a reduction in crow's feet, puffiness, and dark circles, thanks to a potent dose of retinol that promotes a visible lift and increase in elasticity. Model Elle Macpherson told Into the Gloss that this product has a place in her nightly routine.
A go-to for many, Paula's Choice offers this straightforward retinol serum at an affordable price. A blend of retinol and antioxidants provides deep penetration to minimize wrinkles while brightening and diminishing dark spots simultaneously. Model Andrej Pejic cited this as one of her favorites while speaking with Into the Gloss.
Up next, check out these serum and moisturizer duos that will completely transform your skin.