Don't limit the powerful anti-aging ingredient to your face products.
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Ask any dermatologist and they'll tell you that retinol is the gold standard in treating many signs of aging. From smoothing fine lines and wrinkles to fading age spots, retinol has been used to treat a wide range of skin issues. Most folks know about the benefits retinol has for the face, but did you know that this all-star ingredient works wonders for your body too? 

Below, we've covered everything you need to know about retinol body lotions—the benefits, the downsides, what to look for, and much more.

Retinol Benefits

Retinol is perhaps the most effective ingredient that dermatologists have to treat aging skin. "Retinol helps stimulate collagen to strengthen the foundation of the skin," explains Joshua Zeichner, M.D., a board-certified dermatologist, director of clinical and cosmetic research in dermatology at Mount Sinai Hospital, and medical advisor for JORI Skincare. "This means improved texture, more even tone, and fewer lines and wrinkles. It is commonly used in face care products, but is more recently being incorporated into body care."

When applied on the body, retinol body lotions can even out skin tone, moisturize, and address crepe-iness. The benefits of retinoids have also been noted in studies for lessening the negative impact of photodamage and treating acne, according to Erum Ilyas, M.D., a board-certified dermatologist at Schweiger Dermatology Group in King of Prussia, Pa. But just as with the face, she notes that some people will be more sensitive to retinoids than others. "It may be necessary to decrease the frequency of use or the strength to improve tolerability."

Retinol Downsides

While effective, retinol can potentially cause skin irritation in the first two to four weeks of use, as your skin acclimates to it. "You may be used to applying body moisturizers daily, but in the case of retinol-containing products, I say start every other day or two," says Dr. Zeichner. "Retinol thickens the lower skin layers, but does thin out the outer skin layer, known as the stratum corneum—this gives the skin a dewy glow, but it also increases the risk of sunburn, so it is even more important to wear sunscreen daily."

What to Look For in a Retinol Body Lotion

Because retinol can be drying, it's important to find a retinol body lotion that also adds moisture back into the skin. "When purchasing a retinol body lotion, recognize that dryness or irritation may be a barrier to use," explains Dr. Ilyas. "Seek out products with hydrating ingredients such as coconut oil, argan oil, and/or hyaluronic acid to offset the dryness."

When should you start using a retinol body lotion? 

Dr. Zeichner recommends starting a retinol product after the age of 30, when skin cell turnover starts to slow down. "Don't wait for there to be significant sagging or wrinkles to start addressing aging skin," he says. "It's far better to keep the skin strong and prevent wrinkling than it is to get rid of wrinkles after the fact."

Because pure retinol is unstable in UV light, it's recommended to apply a retinol body lotion in the evening. "Don't apply too much, because it can increase the likelihood of irritation," explains Dr. Zeichner. "Rather than a liberal application like you would do for a regular moisturizer, use as little as you can to cover the entire treated area." 

Best Retinol Body Lotions

retinol-body-lotions-Paula's Choice Retinol Skin-Smoothing Body Treatment

1 Paula's Choice Retinol Skin-Smoothing Body Treatment

$28, amazon.com

Many dermatologists and beauty editors are a big fan of this Paula's Choice pick. "I tend to like Paula's Choice Body Treatment with Retinol given its added hydrating ingredients," says Dr. Ilyas. Not only does this anti-aging formula contain a specialized retinol complex to smooth out skin, it also features antioxidants vitamin C and E to fight signs of aging, as well as shea butter and evening primrose oil for extra hydration.  

retinol-body-lotions-Josie Maran Whipped Argan Pro-Retinol Body Butter

2 Josie Maran Whipped Argan Pro-Retinol Body Butter

$46, sephora.com

This gorgeous body butter features pro-retinol derived from pink algae to visibly reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles throughout the body, without the dryness that normally comes with a retinol product. With a lovely air-whipped texture, this formula includes the brand's signature skincare product, 100% pure argan oil, to bring hydration back into the skin and protect its moisture barrier. 

retinol-body-lotions-Chantecaille Retinol Body Treatment

3 Chantecaille Retinol Body Treatment

$104, nordstrom.com

Pricey but just as potent, this retinol body lotion from Chantecaille promises to help moisturize dry patches for younger-looking skin. The pure retinol encapsulated in botanical microspheres helps boost retextured and firmer-looking skin, while the saccharide isomerate draws water back into the dermis, minimizing dryness and flakiness. 

retinol-body-lotions-versed0-firm-ground-retinol-body-lotion

4 Versed Firm Ground Retinol Body Lotion

$18, target.com

"Versed Firm Ground Retinol Body Lotion contains a stabilized, encapsulated form of retinol in a formula, along with cocoa butter and vitamin E to hydrate and protect the skin," explains Dr. Zeichner. We love that it's vegan, cruelty-free, climate neutral-certified, and packaged with 75% post-consumer recycled plastic too. 

retinol-body-lotions-iS CLINICAL Body Complex

5 iS CLINICAL Body Complex

$75, amazon.com

Another fan-favorite among derms, this pick from iS CLINICAL works to hydrate and calm skin using vitamins, botanicals, and antioxidants. The formula is ideal for sensitive skin, as it includes a gentler form of retinol, called retinyl palmitate. It works as a mild exfoliant to reveal more youthful, radiant skin. 

retinol-body-lotions-Eminence Organic Skin Care Coconut Firming Body Lotion

6 Eminence Organic Skin Care Coconut Firming Body Lotion

$36, dermstore.com

If you're super-sensitive to retinol, but still want a smoother, firmer body, consider this pick from Eminence. It features a natural retinol alternative complex (thanks to chicory root oligosaccharides and tara tree) to help boost collagen production and smooth the appearance of skin. It also has some wonderfully hydrating ingredients, including coconut, shea butter, and grapeseed oil. 

retinol-body-lotions-Advanced Clinicals Retinol Cream

7 Advanced Clinicals Retinol Cream

$15, amazon.com

A popular Amazon pick, this cream from Advanced Clinicals works to diminish signs of deep wrinkles, fine lines, and sun damage by boosting collagen production. It also boasts a ton of hydrating and calming  ingredients, including hyaluronic acid, aloe vera, and chamomile. 

retinol-body-lotions-Perricone MD Cold Plasma Plus Fragile Skin Therapy

8 Perricone MD Cold Plasma Plus+ Fragile Skin Therapy

$34, ulta.com

This pick from Perricone MD not only improves the appearance of thin, crepey skin, it also promotes more resilient skin on fragile areas prone to bruising, damage, or tearing, such as the arms or shins. It's formulated with retinol, miro-hyaluronic acid, and growth factor peptides for a boost of youth after every application. 

retinol-body-lotions-Olay Nighttime Rinse-off Body Conditioner with Retinol

9 Olay Nighttime Rinse-Off Body Conditioner with Retinol

$8, target.com

Although this Olay product isn't marketed as a retinol body lotion, the results are very similar. A body wash-meets-body lotion (aka a body conditioner), it's formulated with retinol and vitamin B3 complex for hydrated and super-smooth skin. How does it work? After you cleanse your skin, massage this body conditioner onto your body, rinse off, then pat dry once you step out of the shower—it works overnight to hydrate.

retinol-body-lotions-Doris Day MD Skincare Retinol Body Serum

10 Doris Day MD Skincare Retinol Body Serum

$185, dorisdaymd.com

According to Dr. Zeichner, this pick from Doris Day MD Skincare gives your body the same benefits you are looking for on your face. "The body serum combines retinol with potent antioxidants vitamin C and vitamin E," he says. "Peptides in the blend further strengthen the skin, while salicylic acid exfoliates and brightens the skin."