The Best Over-the-Counter Retinol Creams
So you’re ready to rev up your anti-aging routine? Reach for retinol, the gold standard, dermatologist-recommended ingredient proven to smooth skin, reduce lines, and even out pigmentation. This vitamin A derivative works on a cellular level to help train skin cells to be healthy again. No prescription? No problem. We’ve got six over-the-counter remedies that go easy on your wallet and hard on your wrinkles. Just stick with them—most take up to six weeks to see results.
Best For Daytime Use
Neutrogena Rapid Wrinkle Repair Moisturizer SPF 30
Fight brown spots and fine lines during the day with this sunscreen-and-moisturizer hybrid. Glucose combined with a special retinol formula does the heavy lifting by brightening discoloration and ironing out wrinkles, while hyaluronic acid—a molecule that can hold up to 1,000 times its weight in water—instantly hydrates and plumps the skin for a more youthful-looking complexion. Bonus: Makeup glides on seamlessly over it.
To buy: $21, drugstore.com.
CeraVe Skin Renewing Cream Serum
If your skin has recently been through the ringer (think harsh outdoor elements or in-office treatments), use this skin barrier strengthener and retinol combo to help gradually restore it. At less than $20, this is a great option for retinol newbies.
To buy: $17, drugstore.com.
Best For Sensitive Skin
Roc Retinol Correxion Sensitive Night Cream
Yes, retinol works wonders on aging skin, but many people experience irritation—like annoying redness or flaking—when using it. If this is your first time using a retinol, give this milder version a whirl. It contains a lower concentration of retinol, so that you wake up with softer, more radiant skin sans inflammation. Apply it up to two times per week, then gradually increase it to every other night as your skin builds up tolerance.
To buy: $23, ulta.com.
Best For Acne-Prone Skin
SkinCeuticals Retinol 0.5
This night treatment contains pure stabilized retinol plus bisabolol, an ingredient derived from the chamomile plant that helps soothe the skin. Not only will this cream help minimize the appearance of fine lines and age spots, but it’s also proven to reduce pore size and eliminate blemishes. Smooth a pea-sized amount onto clean skin, and then wait 30 minutes before applying a moisturizer to score maximum benefits.
To buy: $57, skinceuticals.com.
Dr. Dennis Gross Skincare Ferulic Acid + Retinol Brightening Solution
With the enclosed pads, smooth this serum-like fluid all over your skin or just target trouble spots (like crow's feet or stubborn dark marks). Along with skin-smoothing retinol, this formula also contains bearberry extract to help even out skin tone and speed up cell turnover, azelaic acid to help prevent blackheads and fade brown marks, and salicylic acid and willowbark to combat acne scars.
To buy: $68, sephora.com.
Best For Sagging Skin
Bliss Firm, Baby, Firm Moisturizing Gel-Cream
This airy gel-cream combo feels almost weightless on the skin, but it packs a long list of powerful ingredients. Along with a retinoid to smooth and prevent fine lines, it contains gardenia stem cells to help boost elasticity, peptides to tighten lax skin, and glycolic acid to soften it. That’s not all: Lavender and aloe keep your complexion cool, while apple extract helps brighten acne scars. Think of it as your temporary face-lift in a bottle.
To buy: $62, blissworld.com.
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