Retinol: A big-hitting anti-ageing ingredient that's a huge name in the skincare industry.
So what is it that makes it such a potent powerhouse? Retinol is actually a derivative of vitamin A, and has the power to prevent collagen (our natural anti-sagging protein) from being broken down.
It's also a wonder-working enhancer, boosting firmer skin and reducing wrinkles. The best retinol creams will help to smooth your skin by speeding up cell renewal, and can slow down the process that creates pigmentation, so aiding the reduction of ageing sun spots.
If you start using a retinol-infused cream, it's always a good idea to add SPF to your skincare routine, as the sun can minimise its powers. And, if you haven't used retinol products before, you may want to start slowly and build up a tolerance before regular use. But, trust us, it's worth it.
We've rounded up the best retinol-based creams below to get you on the road to a youthful, clearer complexion.
Best retinol creams for beginners
1. REN Bio Retinoid™ Anti-Ageing Cream
Clean beauty queen? This retinol cream is for you. The moisturiser is made up of 100% nature-derived vitamin A, pro vitamin A, and retinoid analogue, and doesn't contain any synthetic retinol that can sometimes cause irritation.
Get set to expect plumper-looking skin with a more even tone (that means goodbye wrinkles, age spots and other imperfections). We love a hardworking product and this moisturiser not only hydrates but helps turn back time, too.
- Price: £45, Look Fantastic – buy here now
2. Pixi Retinol Eye Cream
The skin around our eyes is thinner and more delicate than on any other area of our face. This gentle yet multitasking eye cream is packed with age-reversing retinol, working to reduce the look of fine lines for a smoother finish.
It also offers a morning caffeine fix, with the ingredient reducing dark circles and puffiness for a wide-awake finish. What's more, avocado oil hydrates, while antioxidant-rich blueberry protects against external aggressors. Eye'll take it.
- Price: £22, Cult Beauty – buy here now
3. NIP+FAB Retinol Fix Restorative Day Cream
Post-Treatment Proof that retinol-infused products don't have to cost the earth, the Nip & Fab range delivers results without busting the budget.
This nourishing moisturiser is full to the brim with big-hitters in the beauty world, like hydrating hero hyaluronic acid, anti-ageing panthenol and, of course, retinol, which works to smooth out wrinkles and boost collagen production.
- Price: £27.70, Amazon – buy here now
4. Paula's Choice Resist Barrier Repair Moisturiser with Retinol
This lightweight, age-defying moisturiser is designed to promote younger, firmer, skin while it hydrates. The non-greasy formula delivers a silky, smooth finish and is infused with a potent mix of retinol and antioxidants to tone up, tighten up and brighten up. Cruelty-free, fragrance-free and an all-round best buy.
- Price: £32, The Hut – buy here now
5. Drunk Elephant A-Passioni Retinol Cream
Beauty editors, Instagram influencers and bloggers are devotees of this 'clean-clinical' brand, and for good reason – prices might be high but so are the results. This retinol cream is a potent little power player, designed to be an intensive treatment that works to minimise fine lines and dark spots.
A fruit cocktail with a difference, it's packed with passionfruit, apricot, kale and winter cherry extracts along with firming peptides and essential fatty acids. But the best bit? It boasts a 1% retinol level, which really packs a punch. Apply a small amount to a clean face at night, starting off at once a week so your complexion can build up tolerance – and get ready to supercharge your skin!
- Price: £62, Cult Beauty – buy here now
6. Origins Plantscription™ Retinol Night Moisturiser with Alpine Flower
Want the age-beating benefits of retinol but without any harsh effects on skin? This moisturising night cream will let you sleep easy. The retinol works to boost cell renewal as you snooze, while advanced hydrators like Alpine flower lock-in moisture and keep dryness at bay. Over time, expect less visible pores, minimised wrinkles, a clearer skin tone and a reboot on radiance.
- Price: £49, John Lewis – buy here now
Fancy a firmer future? This fine line-fighting, age-busting formula has got you covered. Like a high-end A-list party, all the big names of the beauty industry are here, including hydrating hyaluronic acid, moisturising shea butter and antioxidant-steeped white tea extract, which helps build collagen and boost cell renewal.
Fortified with retinol, it will also improve elasticity and blur imperfections. Want to join the game-changing get-together? Well you can – without a heft entrance fee.
- Price: £14.60, Boots – buy here now
8. Charlotte Tilbury Magic Eye Cream
There's a reason why Charlotte Tilbury products are Instagram favourites and celebrity-approved – they work wonders and the packaging is divine. The Magic Eye Cream, while not super-cheap, has hundreds of five-star reviews online. Packed with time-release retinol molecules, it works to smooth and brighten the under-eye area with regular use. Show dark circles the door and hydrate dry skin with winter Daphne stem cell extract and vitamins A, C and E for totally popping peepers.
- Price: £40, John Lewis – buy here now
9. The Ordinary Granactive Retinoid 2% Emulsion
Purse-happy prices and skin-pleasing results – oh how we love the extraordinary Ordinary. Pop a few drops of this concentrated anti-ageing treatment on to a clean face in the evening for boosted elasticity, diminished lines and pigmentation, and an even skin tone. It's a little miracle-worker in a (pretty cool) bottle.
- Price: £8, Beauty Bay – buy here now
10. Murad Retinol Youth Renewal Night Cream
While this is definitely treat-yourself territory, Murad always offers high-performing lotions and this retinol-infused night cream is no different. You can drift off dreaming about your supple, smooth complexion as the moisturiser melts into your skin and works its magic. A peptide-rich red algae extract firms up your face and restores elasticity, minimising the ageing appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. Sweet dreams…
- Price: £65, John Lewis – buy here now
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