How To Pick A Retinol Product

Categories: Anti-aging, Skin care
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retinolRetinoids 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 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.

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51 Responses to “How To Pick A Retinol Product”

  1. lovy Says:

    what do you think of avene eluage creme and gel? It is retinol product, what do you think of it?

  2. Jeni - Savvy Skin Says:

    I looked up its ingredients, and it doesn’t appear to have a lot of retinol in it, and it doesn’t say how much is in it, so I assume it’s not a lot. So I personally wouldn’t use it.

    Water (aqua), Caprylic/Capric Triglycerides, Squalane, Triethylhexanoin, Glyceryl Stearate, PEG 100 Stearate, PEG 40 Hydrogenated Castor Oil, Polymethyl Methacrylate, Acryates/C10-30 Alkyl Acrylate Crosspolymer, BHT, Butylparaben, Disodium EDTA, Fragrance (parfum), Phenoxyethanol, Propylparaben, Red 33 (CI 17200), Retinal, Sodium Hyluronate, Triethanolamine

  3. Jrzygrl Says:

    Do you use a moisturizer over the TX Afirm? If so, what moisturizer would you recommend for night time use that contains anti-aging ingredients maybe like peptides and stuff. Also, any great day time antioxidant/sunscreen you would recommend?

  4. Jeni - Savvy Skin Says:

    Over TX Afirm I generally use a moisturizer that doesn’t have any active ingredients, because I don’t want anything to counteract the retinol. I use Nivea Creme, or Clinique Dramatically Different Lotion. If you don’t have dry skin, then you might not need a moisturizer. With peptides, I like Olay Regenerist Deep Hydration Cream. I use this by itself at night, or in the morning. is my post on my favorite sunscreen. For antioxidants, I like Paula’s Choice Skin Recovery Super Antioxidant Concentrate.

  5. Ange Says:

    Is the Txsystems Afirm 3X okay for acne prone skin? And also I can’t find the link to the Replenix Retinol Smoothing Serum 3x, it doesn’t seem to work. Thanks for your great advice. Also what do you think of Neutrogena Anti-wrinkle cream (orginal), Paula recommends it?

  6. Andrea Says:

    Hi, What do you think of green cream?

  7. Jrzygrl Says:

    Is there an eye cream you would recommend? I would like to find one with retinol for nightime use but I don’t know where to begin. There seem to be so many out there claiming this and that but I trust your feedback so I’m seeking your opinion and advice first. Thanks again for all your input.

  8. Jeni - Savvy Skin Says:

    I don’t really use eye creams, so there’s not a specific one I would recommend. I use the retinol/retinoid products I recommend in this post. Then I wait a few minutes, and apply a regular face moisturizer over it. So, for example, I would use the Tx Systems around my eyes, then wait a few minutes, and apply a moisturizer like Clinique Moisture On-line, or Paula’s Choice Skin Recovery Hydrating Treatment Mask. And I sort of pat on the moisturizer, so that it doesn’t rub off the retinol product.

  9. Jeni - Savvy Skin Says:

    Green Cream looks like it would be a great product. I remember seeing it when I was researching this post, and I think I didn’t mention it because it didn’t list the percentage of retinol in the products. However, their Level 9 says it’s one of the strongest retinols on the market, so I’m sure its percentage is high. Also, I just gave a quick glance at the ingredients, and they don’t appear to be pore-clogging. And the price isn’t too outrageous, so this is definitely a product I’d try. I would just double-check the ingredients to confirm they aren’t pore-clogging.

  10. Jeni - Savvy Skin Says:

    I updated the link for Replenix, so it works now. Also, I discovered they also make a 1% and .5% version. I don’t believe TX Systems Afirm is bad for acne-prone skin. I’ve been using it for a few years, and it doesn’t appear to have any pore-clogging ingredients.

    I haven’t tried Neutrogena Anti-Wrinkle Cream, but I have seen that Paula Begoun likes it. Since it doesn’t list the percentage of retinol, I would prefer to use another product that does reveal its retinol strength.

  11. Jrzygrl Says:

    Hi Jeni,
    I wanted to first say thank you for creating your website. It’s so informative. Also thank you for sharing your ideas/advice and products with us other ladies who are trying to “age gracefully”. I couldn’t find on your website if you touched upon the topic of antioxidants. I was thinking to incorporate a Vitamin C serum into my morning routine and I was wondering if you knew of any you would recommend. I did find a Vitamin C serum by Cellular Skin Rx that looked pretty good however I was hoping you could share your thoughts on their products. Their site is When I asked for their feedback as to how potent their product remains since it’s in a dropper format this is what they shared with me:

    Thank you for your inquiry. Our best-selling C+ Firming serum is a stable, 12% concentration of L-ascorbic acid suspended in a glycol solution with a 3.0-3.5 pH, packaged in a dark, amber glass bottle to protect the formula from exposure to UV light. There is no water in the formula. Water has a far greater impact on stability than does the low surface area exposure to oxygen in the air when our dropper bottle is opened/closed on a normal basis. Check alternative C serums for the inclusion of water in the list of ingredients. If it is present, you can be assured that the formula will “turn” within about 3 weeks of opening.

    Our C+ Firming serum has been tested for shelf/usage life at our FDA-approved manufacturing facility. At six months of normal usage, the formula will begin to degrade and becomes ineffective completely by the 12th month. It’s sealed shelf life is three years. However, one bottle of C+ Firming serum generally lasts about 12 weeks so it will be completely effective to the last drop.

  12. Andrea Says:

    Thanks so much!! : )

  13. Mary Elizabeth Beeman Says:

    Hi Jeni!

    Thank you so much for your very informative website. I have been researching skin care products on the internet, and got completely confused and about to give up! Then, I found your website! I have, for the past couple of years been using these skin care products: Biomedic purifying cleanser (morning and night), Biomedic Potent-C 10.5 (morning) , Anthelios SX (morning), Biomedic Retinol Cream Normal Prep 15 (night). I have noticed lately that my skin just doesn’t have the same look and soft feeling that it had when I first started using these products. I think that skin gets used to products, and they aren’t as effective as when you for start using them. Before using Biomedics, I was using MD Forte III. So my skin is used to Retinol, and doesn’t get irritated. Based on what I am currently using, can you give me recommendations for new products to try. I am especially interested in a vitamin C product because I think that it really helps, and also a retinol product. I would also like to try a new cleanser and moisturizer. And how and when I would use the new products.

    I have also seen on-line pharmacies where you can purchase Differin (a generic form) and Renova, without a prescription. I don’t know about sizes of the tubes, so I don’t know if the prices are good. I have also seen both products in a cream form and gel. What do you think ?

    I look forward to hearing from you. Thank you so much for your help!!

    Mary Elizabeth

  14. sofie Says:

    There is one over-the-counter product that include proven effective retinol and that is Roc. I’ve been using it for 3 months now, my skin is 80% smoother and more even tone. I don’t have anymore blackheads and whiteheads like I used to. By the way the reason why I know it contain high percentage of retinol is because like you mentioned. It’s the fourth ingredient on the list. It’s also packaged in a solid tube and it’s only $24.99.

  15. Laura Says:

    How do you go about getting a perscription for Retinol ..through a doctor? or dermatoligist? As for over the counter products, how do you find those also?


  16. Susan Says:

    I want to order the Afirm 3x lotion. but noticed one of the first ingredients is caprylic triglyceride. On your list its says to avoid caprylic acid. Is this the same ingredient? Thanks!

  17. Ellie Says:

    My skin is sensitive, redness prone and acne prone. The only products which seem to control the acne and keep my skin moisterized and calm are the MD Forte products. I’ve used them for years and now am using the level III products. How do gylcolic products compare to retinol products for keeping the skin smooth. They do not seem to work on wrinkle reduction, but they do keep my combination skin in check and are not for the eyes. Do you think it would be ok to add the TX products and use around my eyes…thanks.

  18. Manny Schembari Says:


  19. Jeannon Kralj Says:

    I just read your great article about how to chose a retinol product.

    I was looking to find out the highest percentage strength of an over the counter retinol product.

    You said the 1 % in the Skinceuticals product was the highest percentage you had ever seen.

    I just purchased a product at Walgreens called PerlaBella Retinol. It comes in little capsule that you twist the end off for one dose. It said on package “highest concentration available”. Reviews on web were good on this. Price was quite reasonable for one month supply. I have used it 3 days and no irritation. I am using for wrinkles and have never used a Retinol product before. I emailed company and asked the percentage but no answer yet.

    I sure would like to know the legal percentage over the counter in USA too.

    Thank you for your great website. Will sign up now.

  20. Jeannon Kralj Says:

    I just heard of a 1.5 % product beating the highest of SkinCeuticals.

    Maximally potent Retinol Fusion PM

    Peter Thomas Roth serum on his website and QVC.

  21. David Says:

    You forgot Avon which has some of the highest concentrations. Right now you can get intensive line treatment for 4.99 they are discontinuing the particular brand ageless results probably putting in new packaging get it. Don’t be fooled by higher prices and names.

  22. linda Says:

    Hi, wonderful site!! Has anyone tried the PerlaBella Retinol capsules? Thanks! Linda

  23. andrea m Says:

    i would like to know if the department store brands like Lancome, Clinique, Elizabeth Arden, carry eyecreams that contain Retinol? Also if cheaper brands like Loreal Plenitude, Oil of Olay have Retinol eye creams.

    I’m 43 ys old, my eyes are begining to show signs of aging like saging, dark cirdles, and puffiness. I’ve tried Lancome High Resolution eye cream and have been using it for more than 3 mos. and haven’t seen any improvement. Do you have any advise for me?

  24. Linda L. Brown Says:

    Linda says:

    Hi, I live in Victoria, B.C. Canada and I would like to know where the best place to order the TX Systems Affirm. I purchased a cream off a website once and my credit card # got hi-jacked. Is this product sold in drug stores?
    Thank You! great Site.

  25. Thais Defalco Says:

    I actually found a great Retinol product that has pretty high concentration of Retinol (1.5%). It’s called Retinol PM Fusion from Peter Thomas Roth. It’s a watery solution that I personally put a few drops on the palm of my left hand and with the fingers of my right hand, I apply to my face. It feels like you’re not putting anything on as, like I said, it is a watery solution, but you can feel your skin smooth right away. I, so far, am in love w/ this product. I use it every night upon bed time and if I feel my skin is a little sensitive or flakey the next morning (expected side effects of retinol/retinoids?) I skip it that particular day and go back the following night. My acne has diminished drastically, no improvements on a annoying fine line next to my mouth, but I can’t expect miraculous results in less than 2 weeks of use, right?! I am 30 years old, got my fair share of sun tan throughout my life and want to start taking better care of skin but wasn’t sure about Retin A and the likes because of all the side effects they bring about. This is a wonderful product and I highly recommend if you’re looking for a good retinol product with a decent amount of retinol in it. In fact, this product has very few ingredients, retinol being the 3rd on the ingredients list (again, proof that the concentration is pretty high!!!) I can’t wait to see results after a few months of use. If I HAVE to, I’ll look for REtin A but for now, I’m happy with my PTR Retinol PM Fusion.

  26. Spyglassweb Says:

    Alpha Hydrox, Night ResQ has .15% retinol. I am trying this first as I am a beginner with retinols. Thanks for the tips for higher concentration products!

  27. terriej Says:

    Hi, I just came upon your website when I googled retiniod vs. retinol. Philosophy just came out with a new product called “The Miracle Worker Retinoid Pads” ($70). It comes packaged in 2 pieces. One piece is a brown glass bottle with the “fresh pour” retinoid solution in it and the 2nd piece is a plastic conatiner containing the pads. You’re supposed to pour the complete bottle of solution into the conatiner with the pads once you get the product home. Can you tell me what you think of this new product? Also, Neutrogena has a retinol serum ($57?) that it only sells on QVC that has been getting rave reviews on Can you check that one out too? I will be eagerly awaiting your response. Thanks…

  28. terriej Says:

    This is for those looking for a RETINOL EYE CREAM. I found one at It’s called “Clinician’s Complex Retinol Eye Cream” and it’s $53 plus free shipping. The ingredients are listed on the webpage and retinol is the 4th ingredient after deionized water, phospholipids, and retinyl palmitate (another form of vit. A). It also contains, vitamin E and CoQ 10 and has no parabens, etc. I haven’t tried this eye cream yet but, it’s the closest I’ve found to something that I am willing to try. Let me know what you think about this product or if anyone has tried it. Thanks…

  29. Thais Says:

    Hi everyone,

    So, after using Retinol Fusion PM for about a month, I purchased the real deal: Retin A 0.5%. I was already very happy with the results from Retinol Fusion and started out on Retin A slowly, once every other night, and if I feel my skin is overly dry, I skip it 2 nights. So far so good, I have not had any problems with skin purging or flaking like a lot of people experience. I might still have some of the side effects people claim because I heard the worst of the purging and flaking starts after about 4 weeks of use and I’m still on my 3rd week. I do love how my skin looks and feels right now: smooth, moisturized, glowy. I do feel my skin is more sensitive, like, if I scrub an exfoliator for too long it kinda hurts so I now only exfoliate with a very mild scrub for a few seconds and rinse it off. I noticed some very minor peeling in my nostrils and top of my lips but it’s not noticeable at all and they’re gone, no more peeling right now. I will update as treatment progresses and hope my skin just gets better and better (although I’m sort of expecting it to purge and peel as I’ve seen in most of reviews this is something Retin A users should expect and very few people don’t experience these so dreaded side effects – lucky ones!!!)

  30. Michelle Says:

    I have heard that Retinol is more effective with a SPF. Would Jan Marini tinted SPF 30 with antioxidants be non pore -clogging over this product in the post?

  31. Thais Says:


    Don’t ever use Retin A during the day, in fact, most Retinols should be only used at night since they make the skin super sensitive to the sun. I’ve been on Retin A since May and I haven’t had one single pimple in the past 4 months. When my period is approaching I have a few small tiny pimples but nothing major and after a day or two, if I leave them alone, they just dry out and vanish. Retin A (the real deal, not derivatives like Retinol) has even helped with some past bad zits scars I had on my face, the scars are GONE, believe it or not. My dermatologist just gave me 6 refills of Retin A 0.5% and I’ll keep using it forever. Thankfully I have not experienced any of the nasty side effects people hate so much like purging, flaking, redness, etc. The first 3 or 4 weeks I had a little peeling on my nostrils and around my mouth but that was gone quickly and I haven’t had any more problems with the product. Note that there’s a big difference between Retinoic Acid (the real tretinoin, or vit. A like Retin A, Renova, etc) and Retinols. Please read the following information I got from the site

    “Retinol, a form of vitamin A, is found in many anti-wrinkle and skin rejuvenation products.

    Retin A, also known as trans-retinoic acid or retinoic acid, is a type of tretinoin.

    Retinol and Retin A are often confused – whilst they are related, they are quite different. Their relationship lies in that retinol eventually gets converted to retinoic acid.

    Retinol and other forms of vitamin A, such as retinal and retinyl palmitate, do not have much direct effect on the skin. They first need to be converted by special enzymes into the active metabolite, retinoic acid.

    Only Retin A [retinoic acid] directly affect skin cells to reduce some signs of aging.

    In theory, you should be able to apply retinol to the skin, wait till it gets converted to retinoic acid, however the conversion rate is low and varies greatly among individuals.

    In addition, when exposed to air either during storage or use, most retinol oxidizes and degrades before it can become available for conversion to retinoic acid in the skin. Retinol products tend to have fewer side-effects than retinoic acid [tretinoin, Retin A] due to this lower biological activity.

    As a result, significantly less people respond to retinol creams than to retinoic acid [tretinoin, Retin A], and the degree of response tends to be less too.”

    As you can see, if you’re looking for real results (antiaging and acne), you should ask your dermatologist to prescribe Retin A since REtinols won’t do much for your skin. I am glad I started using Retin A, very glad. Besides helping with my acne, it even smoothed out a stubborn little line I had on the side of my mouth that no other cream, serum, lotion was able to do so. If you have any more questions I’m glad to help you out.



  32. Linda Gleason Says:

    what is the best over-the-counter product containing Retin-A.
    Do you recommend any Clinique products for neck wrinkes?

  33. Thais Says:

    Before starting on Retin A, I was using this super potent Retinol product from Peter Thomas Roth called “Retinol Fusion PM” It’s a liquid that you put a few drops on your hand and spread on your face, it feels almost like oil but it has a powdery finish. I looooved it and still use once in a while at night when I don’t use the Retin A. Upon using it I felt my skin cleared up within 2 weeks, I had those nasty internal pimples that woud not go away and if I touched them would leave bad scarring. As for wrinkles, no over the counter Retinol product can help much, contrary to what they all claim, because Retinols do not affect the skin deep enough to reduce signs of aging, that is why dermatologists recommend tretinoin (tretinoin, the active ingredient in Retin A, Renova, Retin A Micro) Only real Retinoic Acid, or Tretinoin work deep inside the skin to produce cellular changes. If you wanna invest on some over the counter REtinol, I’d recommend Retinol PM Fusion because it worked for me (smoothed out my skin, helped me get rid of pimples, diminished my pores size) but it doesn’t help with wrinkles, no over the counter Retinol will help with wrinkles for that matter, no matter how much they cost and what their claims are. I researched a lot about Retinoic Acid, Retinols, their differences, how they affect the skin and I always recommend Retin A for tougher jobs, like wrinkles. And my dermatologist also said the same thing.
    Good luck

  34. Eric Says:

    O’my Goodness Organic Retinol Facial Moisturizer claims to have 7% retinol. Do you think that’s safe?

  35. Thais Says:

    Honestly, I don’t trust ANY retinol products that claim wonders, the one and only true Retinoid that really delivers results is TRETINOIN, which is sold under the brand Retin-A, Renova, Retin-A Micro. I currently use Retin-A and it’s been wonderful for my skin. I just recently had one of those nasty internal pimples growing and it started getting really painful (I was out of town for a couple of days and therefore didn’t use Retin-A for that period) and all I had to do is go back to my regular Retin-A routine and in a matter of (no kidding!) ONE DAY the pimple subsided and went away, it never even grew to its full size. As for fine lines, this is a miracle, seriously, I’m only 30 and only have a few tiny little fine lines and Retin-A is taking care of those as well. Bottom line, as I said before: if you want REAL results, go for the REAL thing.

  36. Rene Says:

    I tried Replentix 10x. I am wondering if the product should look dark yellow in color?
    What is the life of Replentix and can it break down? This is the first time I’ve used a retinol product and don’t see much difference and thought I might feel or see more pronounced effects of the 10 x product. Please advise. Thank you.

  37. megan Says:

    I recently picked up a product at Sally’s called Skincare Ldel Cosmetics Retinol Night Cream. ( It claims to contain 400,000 I.U.’s of Vitamin A. What exactly does this mean and what do you think about this product? It’s a lot cheaper than most retinol products that I’ve used.

  38. Lai Says:

    I was reading this article on the cream you are using, I would love to try it but I work outside so it would be impossible for me to stay out of the sun. Any suggestions or any other cream I could start using. I just turned 30 and feel old. Thanks you.

  39. Lori Says:

    Thanks for keeping this page up. The information was so helpful and confirmed the question that prompted my searching, which was Peter Thomas Roth Retinol PM, or Philosophy’s Help Me? I’ve been using one of Neutrogena’s products with retinol with no discomfort, so I’m ready to upgrade to the stronger product.

  40. Thais Defalco Says:

    Hi everyone,

    I am not anything close to a dermatologist and can only recommend products based on my own experience and researches I did online. It doesn’t matter what type of product you use or what brand you use, all I know is that if you are expecting real results with long-term effects you gotta try Retin A, the only FDA approved cream to treat acne and wrinkles. There are 1000s of products out there that claim to have massive amounts of Vitamin A but the real ingredient you should be looking for if you’re serious about rejuvenating and treating your skin is TRETINOIN, which is only sold via prescription (I got my Rx from my derm and pay ONLY $2.00 for a tube of Retin A cream, which lasts me 1 month a tube) Please read below for a more clarifying explanation about the difference between retin a (tretinoin/retinoic acid) and Retinol:
    “So what’s the difference between the two?

    Retin-A is a brand of tretinoin also referred to as trans-retinoic acid or simply retinoic acid.

    Retinol and retinoic acid are related but quite different. Retinol and other forms of vitamin A, such as retinal and retinyl palmitate, do not have much direct effect on the skin.

    The reason why retinol doesn’t have any direct effect on the skin is a little tricky to explain. Since biology was not my strong suit in high school, I’ll do my best to make this as easy as possible to understand: retinol first needs to be converted by special enzymes into the active metabolite (substance produced during metabolism of another substance) – retinoic acid.

    In effect, only retinoic acid directly affects skin cells and helps reduce some signs of aging. Guess what? Retinoic acid is also known as tretinoin!

    The bottom line seems to be pretty clear – a retinoic acid sold as Retin-A provides a better shot at eliminating fine lines and reducing wrinkles than even the best retinol formulations.

    When selecting two types of anti-aging products, you might want to opt for the one that contains retinoic acids or tretinoin (aka Retin-A) over the one that contains retinol.”

    As you can see, tretinoin or Retinoic Acid (Retin A, Renova) are the ones you should go for if you’re expecting to see real, long term results. Before using Retin A I had heard that in the first 4 weeks of use the skin goes berserk, it peels, it get red, it dries out, etc, but I didn’t experience any of those nasty effects because I started using it slowly, once every 3 days and AT NIGHT TIME ONLY (when on Retin A, don’t ever use it during the day as the Tretinoin makes skin more sensitive to sunburn) Then after about 2 weeks I started using it every other day and then after another 2 or 3 weeks I started using it every day, again, at night time only. If I feel my skin is too dry the next day I skip one night and use it again the following night. You have to listen to your body and not go crazy with Retin A. To me, since the results are so amazing and long term, I decided to go slowly and that paid off. I’m 30 yrs old and my skin looks much better than it did 10 yrs ago, my pores are so much smaller, skin is smoother and I now barely have any pimples, they now usually only pop up when I’m about to get my period but they dry out a couple of days after. I couldn’t be happier with Retin A and highly recommend it to everyone. I will probably use it for the rest of my life! But guys, don’t forget: don’t waste your time and money buying products that contain Retinol, Retinol IS NOT AS EFFECTIVE AS TRETINOIN OR RETINOIC ACID and the results are not the same. Retinol doesn’t really any direct effect on the skin and you WILL NOT SEE THE RESULTS YOU’RE LOOKING FOR, NO MATTER WHAT THE PRODUCT PROMISES YOU. You want real results? Go to a dermatologist, tell him you’re interested in starting a Retinoic Acid (Retin A/Renova) regime and he’ll prescribe it to you. Take it slowly, start by using it 2 or 3 times a week then gradually increase the amount of times you use it until your skin is comfortable enough for you to start using it every day (every NIGHT actually) It might take at least 6 months of continuous use for you to see any visible results but don’t give up, this product really delivers. And if your skin starts purging, peeling, getting red, just give it a break for a few days but don’t stop using the product. These side effects are very common and will go away eventually. By the way, on nights when I feel my skin is a bit too dry and I want to give it a break, I only use a very mild moisturizer for sensitive skin and call it a night. And I can’t stress this enough: DON’T USE RETINOIC ACID/TRETINOIN DURING THE DAY, THIS CREAM IS MEANT TO BE USED AT NIGHT TIME ONLY.
    Hope this helps.


  41. Jess Says:

    The posts by Thais DeFlaco read like advertisemenst and not all of the information presented is supported by research that has been done on retinol
    I went to a dermatologist, guess what, he recommended that I start with a non-prescription Retinol product, then move to a prescription level product. With the non-prescription product I did see a change in deep wrinkles and it cleared age spots on my face and neck completely. I’m 64, have good skin, with no looseness in the skin on my face and neck, but the age spots (some very dark brown) all cleared using a non-prescription product. And while I did get some peeling at first it only lasted about 2 weeks.
    I used one container of Olay ProX, but switched to SkinCueticals. I may move to a prescription product after one more container of non-prescription product, but I have to consider the cost. It is not a product covered by my insurance and the cost of each tube is around $135.00. Sometimes in younger people they can get around the insurance coverage issue by prescribing it to treat acne.
    My dermatologist said that the best thing anyone can do for the skin on their face is sunscreen. Using a stand along product, even under makeup. You should not put it on every exposed surface unless you’re going to be in the sun for hours and/or you are in a swim suite. People need sun to produce vitamin D, which is very important in healing and nerve health and sun screen interferes with that process.
    He said that people who have never “broiled on the beach” and avoided sun burn have better skin quality when they get old.

  42. Thais Defalco Says:

    I’m not even going to waste time posting a long reply to Jess. I do NOT work for any advertising company or for Retin A, for that matter. I was just stating my own personal experiences with the product and how wonderfully it worked for me, after spending years looking for a good and effective product. It managed to clear my skin and pores and get rid of a fine smile line I had. Guess what, Jess, I also started using a non prescription Retinol product before starting on REtin A and you would be able to see that if you had read all my posts.

    Use whatever works for you but I will keep what I said: Retinol doesn’t work as well as Tretinoin (Retinoic Acid, Retin A is just the brand name) and if you really do your homework you’ll find many studies that back up what I stated on my post. Even my dermatologist told me not to waste time and money using OTC Retinol products for a long period. Oh, and FYI, my derm prescribed tretinoin to me for its rejuvenating properties since I never really had much acne (except when I’m close to getting my period.) And yes, lucky me I only pay $2.00 a tube of 0.025% strength that lasts about a month. I swear by tretinoin and will use it to preserve my youthful look forever.

    Just please, don’t assume I’m advertising any products just because I’m saying good things about it.

    For everyone else out there, research research research, don’t take mine or anyone’s word for it, talk to your doctor, your dermatologist and you’ll find something that works for you. I found my holy grail in tretinoin, which happens to have a brand name REtin A and love the way my skin looks!!! Don’t forget to use sunscreen on your face every day, all year long, and obviously, on your body if you’ll be exposed to direct sunlight for extended periods of time.


  43. viola clemente Says:

    the girl Thais Defalco she did her reseached very well,i have been looking for a good retin-A that is high and will work. Thank you so much.sign Vi

  44. Thais Says:

    Thank you Viola,

    As I said, I don’t work for Retin A, am not an aesthetician or a dermatologist (or even close to being one) and I was only recommending the product as per my personal experience. That’s actually pure chemistry: Retinoic Acid works deep inside the skin, Retinols do not, that simple. Whether it will work for everyone’s skin that’s not up to me, each individual should listen to their own body and see what’s best for them.
    I now also use every other night a serum with AHA (Alpha Hydroxy Acid) for it’s exfoliating properties and it’s working pretty well. I didn’t wanna have to use Retin A every single night so I found something to use on nights when I’m not using Retin A. If you have any questions, I’ll be happy to answer to the best of my knowledge but you can also visit, sign up and take advantage of the wonderful world of skincare products reviews. If you go to product reviews and type in “retin A”, you will see first hand hundreds of reviews from people all ages, different skin types, etc. Actually, before I purchase any products I go to, type in the product name and get so many reviews. Usually that’ll help me decide whether I should buy a product or not. Also, I like the site, and there you will also find thousands of products reviews. Good luck everyone and have a wonderful summer!!!

  45. Sara Says:

    Thais, (and everyone else) I hope this helps! I’ve been using RetinA (off and on) for 10years til I lost my insurance and can no longer afford the luxury of a dermatologist. I’ve been reading this site looking for a solution for my facial blemishes, acne and aging skin! The comments made by Thais are absolutely based in fact (altho you say youre not an MD, you sound like every MD I’ve been to). My dermatologist has said the very same thing about these products, and my experience with RetinA has been very similar to yours, Thais!
    I do have adult acne. My skin was worse than some of the commercials we see for teenagers! I had oily skin, internal pimples, exploding pimples, scarring, large pores…you get the picture! As an adult, this was embarrassing, and I was desperate!! I was prescribed RetinA and it cleared up my skin immediately! I used smaller than a pea sized amount once a day (if I used it in the hot FL daytime, I would feel my face get red but it ddnt affect how it worked on my problems!). By the end of a week there were notable changes for the better, and by the time my acne cleared up, I looked refreshed and as though I actually had good skin!!
    My dermatologist says that by using the RetinA, the cell turnover rate is much faster than the OTC products (including retinol). He says that it doesnt stop pimples from occurring (the pore may still get clogged), the skin just sloughs off so rapidly that the pimple doesnt have time to sit. As far as blemishes, again, the skin cells are sloughing off rapidly so it doesnt take as long for the blemished skin to be replaced by the newer, undamaged skin underneath. This skin turnover rate is also beneficial in our quest to look youthful. Using RetinA, we are always showing off newer, more refreshed skin.
    As I said previously, since I can no longer afford to go to a dermatologist (no job/no insurance), I came to this site in hopes of finding the closest thing to my beloved RetinA in an OTC version!

  46. Sara Says:

    Sorry…again just personal experience, but hoping it adds some context to the RetinA conversation. Insurance companies have become more watchful of RetinA and its usage. It was originally used for acne, and when it’s benefits re: wrinkles became apparent, insurance companies started monitoring it more closely. Using it for acne makes it medically necessary vs wrinkles being cosmetic and unnecessary, therefore not covered by some companies. I had stated in my previous post that I use it primarily for acne, but there were times when my insurance company wdnt even cover my refills without a new MD visit (as though my acne would clear up in a month or 2!). Anyway, I wanted to say, also, that the redness, peeling, drying, etc is due to the excessive sloughing of the skin. It’s what RetinA does!! It affects us all differently and according to the MDs, the effect it has can depend on the condition of the skin (how oily or sensitive, etc). Another factor is the amount we use, even a small amount can produce big results right away (good or bad)! The bottom line is, if RetinA is used regularly, we are, essentially, peeling off our outer layer of skin at a much faster rate than it would be done naturally. That said, how you use the product can determine the rate at which this peeling is done. If you have trouble, scaling back may be all that’s necessary, but I’m not a MD so…again, just trying to give the benefit of my experience…. I’m going to try some of the retinol treatments that have been suggested on this site. I doubt I’ll have the same results, but will let you guys know how close it gets.

  47. Kristen Says:

    Lots of interesting feedback. Clearly everyone has different experiences because they all have different skin types. Prob the best info on this article was the focus on the packaging of retinol no matter what types you are buying. Someone had asked about O’my Goodness Organic Retinol Facial Moisturizer and since it is not packed in a tube or small mouth container and therefore exposes more of it to more air and light then I wold not use it. Whatever you do please use sunscreen. Not only does it prevent further aging including sunspots, hyperpigmentation, wrinkles, and worsening rosacea. Also retinol can make you more sun sensitive so only use it at night (I’ve heard sunlight can deactive retinol but I haven’t confirmed this is based on fact one way or the other), slather on the sunscreen during the day and use a higher spf like 20 or 30 and stay out of the sun as much as possible.
    Personally I have found that slowly introducing my skin to retinol is best. I started with the lowest grade afirm and recently worked my way up to 3X which I hope to receive soon. has a great sale on the right now for only $36.00 per tube. It normally goes for $40 plus they throw in free shipping so for those who love this product check it out. If I could go to the doc for a prescrip retinol I’d still personally start with an otc retinol just to build up tolerance. Nothing more annoying then wasting $$ on a doc visit and a prescrip only to find out your skin can’t handle it. If you can afford it and your skin will tolerate certainly go for the higest retinol you can get. Prescriptions will ultimately work best but there is still benefits to otc retinol. It decreases oiliness in my skin and does help my newly acne prone skin (very recent event for me). For those who are familiar with Dr. Baumann’s book Skin Type Solutions she states prescription retinols are best for treating and fighting wrinkles and otc stuff is better for prevention purposes.
    Hopefully I wasn’t to repetitious (except about the important stuff like sunscreen :D) and I hope it helps.

    Good luck all!

  48. Jaqi Says:

    I’m looking into your skincare routine to settle my adult acne, and am following your advice to buy products without pore clogging ingredients. I’m specifically having trouble finding a retinoid product. Even your recommended Afirm 3x contains stearic acid. Isn’t that a pore clogger?

  49. Lisa Benson Says:

    Hello everybody, Can anyone recommend a product for sagging eyelids that really does work? I’m 47 and I have tried almost everything from the high priced stuff to the otc’s and NONE of them have worked for me.

  50. maxine Says:

    Hi All,
    I am a black woman. I have two toned complexion in my face. I am interested in Retin A. Do you recommend anything else?

  51. Tracy Says:

    Have you tried PSF Retinol Nite Repair ? I saw it on another website and it’s also pretty strong

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