Retinoids and Retinol are two of the few skin care ingredients that are proven to visibly reduce the appearance of wrinkles, even-out skin tone, stimulate collagen growth, and they even help with acne. Retinoids are only found in prescription products, while you can find Retinol in all sorts of over-the-counter products. Retinoids are more powerful, however you can find some strong, effective Retinol products, which I’ll show you how to do. By the way, make sure you wear sunscreen every day when you use products with Retinol, since they make your skin more sun-sensitive!
How I pick a Retinol product
I have a prescription for Differin, a Retinoid, but since I don’t have good prescription coverage, I like to sometimes use over-the-counter Retinol products to save money. Retinol is also good for people that don’t want to bother going to a Dermatologist to get a prescription cream.
- I look for a Retinol product that lists its percentage of Retinol. It’s impossible to know how much Retinol is in a product, unless the product tells you, and few do this! You can look at a product’s list of ingredients, and the closer Retinol is listed to the beginning of the list, the more that is in there. I personally don’t want to waste my money by “guessing” how effective the product will be, though.
- Proper product packaging is a must. To stay potent, Retinol must be kept away from air and sunlight. This means it’s going to lose effectiveness if it’s in a jar, or see-through container. Tons of Retinol creams come in jars! You want a product that comes in a non-transparent tube or pump bottle.
- If you’re acne-prone, make sure the Retinol product doesn’t contain pore-clogging ingredients. And from this same link, you will find ingredients to stay away from that irritate your skin (like alcohol denat.).
- I check the Product Reviews on MakeupAlley.com and look up each product I’m interested in, and read user reviews. Keep in mind that every product will have some bad reviews, but you know you’re onto something good when it receives almost all favorable reviews. If more than one product sound good, I go with the cheaper one and try that first. Less popular products may not be listed on the site though:(
- I would start with a product with at least .15% Retinol, and work my way up to higher concentrations, if my skin can handle it. Follow the product instructions for proper use.
Retinol products that meet my criteria
I find it easy to pick a Retinol product, because there are so few that meet my criteria! There are a ton of Retinol products that might possibly have large concentrations of Retinol (RoC, Avon, and Philosophy all sell Retinol products but don’t list percentages, so there’s no way to know if their products are good, or a waste of money).
Txsystems Afirm 3x
This is what I currently use. The 3x version comes with .6% Retinol, and you can get the product in .3% or .15% versions. The lower concentration versions are good if you have sensitive skin, or if you are new to using Retinol. Sometimes you may initially peel a bit, and you will need to work your way up to the stronger formulas. Of the products I am listing, this is the only one I’ve personally tried.
Skinceuticals Retinol 1.0
At 1% Retinol, this is the highest concentration of Retinol that I’ve seen in a product! I haven’t tried this product, and would want to, however it contains some ingredients that could clog pores. If you don’t have acne-prone skin like me, you have nothing to worry about, but if you do have acne, I’d skip this. This also comes in a lower strength .5% version.
Neova Retinol ME 0.30%
This also has pore-clogging ingredients, but it would be fine if you aren’t acne-prone. It also comes in a .15% version.
La Roche-Posay Biomedic Retinol 60
Yet another Retinol product that contains pore-clogging ingredients. Again, if you aren’t acne-prone, it should be fine. Like the Afirm, this comes in .6%, .3% and .15% strengths.
Replenix Retinol Plus Smoothing Serum 5x
Ooh this one looks fine for acne-prone skin, and it comes in a 1%, .5%, .3% or .2% version.
Most of these products range from $30-60. Depending on your insurance, you might be better off getting a prescription for Differin, Renova, or Retin-A if you don’t mind seeing a Dermatologist. If you know of a good Retinol product I missed, let me know! I want to know about ones that list their Retinol percentages, and come in proper packaging. It would be especially nice to find a drugstore product to recommend! Finally, you can read my post about Renova vs Retin-A.