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Want youthful skin? These are the best retinol serums to use

Adding a retinol face serum to your skincare routine can have noticeable anti-aging benefits.

Published Mar 13, 2024
5 min. reading time
Image of four types of retinol serums

A star ingredient in the fight against aging, retinol products have long been a favorite for skincare enthusiasts looking to beat the signs of aging like wrinkles, enlarged pores and dark spots.  

Starting your retinol journey can be somewhat daunting as the strong ingredient often causes irritation and redness and side effects like skin sensitivity, purging and peeling. 

It’s also why it’s recommended to start with a product with a lower concentration of retinol and build up from there. 

With recent research and innovation, several brands have come up with a variety of serums containing retinoic acid that suit many skin types. From effective retinol creams to the best retinol products recommended by dermatologists, we’ve listed the best retinol serums here to help you get started.

Read more: Add hyaluronic acid serum to your routine for a dewy skin

Browse the best retinol serums

Retinol B3 Pure Retinol Serum in red
A dermatologist-recommended retinol
Retinol B3 Pure Retinol Serum
Lancer Advanced Retinol Treatment in silver bottle
Best for mature skin
Lancer Advanced Retinol Treatment
$97 at Lancer Skincare
A+ High-dose Retinoid Serum in dark blue bottle
Best retinoid pick
A+ High-dose Retinoid Serum
$85 at Sunday Riley
The Retinol Serum in blue and gold bottle
A splurge buy
The Retinol Serum

A dermatologist-recommended retinol

Pros & Cons
  • Dermatologist tested and recommended

  • Suits sensitive eyes

  • Non-comedogenic

  • May not be suitable for those with cystic acne

A top contender in anti-aging retinol, this Retinol B3 Pure Retinol Serum comes highly recommended by dermatologists worldwide. With three powerhouse ingredients, namely retinol, niacinamide and hyaluronic acid, this serum is highly recommended for those looking to treat deep wrinkles, fine lines and premature sun damage.

Niacinamide helps restore the skin barrier, retinol improves the appearance of lines and wrinkles, while hyaluronic acid acts as a powerful humectant to moisturize skin. 

Free from parabens and oil, this serum is suitable for all skin types including sensitive skin.

Best for mature skin

Pros & Cons
  • Improves skin elasticity

  • Works on deep wrinkles

  • Helps fade dark spots

  • May cause skin irritation

If you’re after a product with a stronger concentration of retinol for wrinkles on mature skin, this Lancer Advanced Retinol Treatment is a great option. With a blend of 1.25% retinol and plant-derived Bakuchiol, it improves the appearance of deep wrinkles and expression lines, resulting in more elastic skin.

Additionally, this serum contains collagen and prickly pear extract, which provide hydration while minimizing redness and dryness for a smoother appearance. 

Lancer recommends applying no more than 2 pumps to your face, neck and décolleté in upwards strokes during your nightly routine.

Best retinoid pick

Pros & Cons
  • Gluten-free and fragrance-free

  • Results in more even skin tone

  • Safe to use on sensitive skin

  • May not be suitable for pregnant women

  • On the pricier side than other brands

With a combination of 5% retinoid ester blend, 1% liposomal-encapsulated retinol blend, and 0.5% blue-green algae, this serum from Sunday Riley makes a great addition to your skincare routine with its anti-aging properties.

The serum also contains encapsulated CoQ10 that helps improve the appearance of damaged skin. For new users, Sunday Riley recommends layering this serum with a moisturizer.  

Not convinced? Users rate this 4.9 stars and recommend this if you’re looking for retinoids for wrinkles that are highly effective.

A splurge buy

Pros & Cons
  • Won’t irritate skin

  • Vegan ingredients

  • Suitable for all skin types

  • High price point

If you don’t mind splurging on retinol, then The Retinol Serum by Augustinus Bader is a worthy investment. Made with sustainably sourced ingredients, this lightweight and hydrating formulation is safe to use on all skin types, from mature to blemish-prone skin.

Made from the brand’s innovative Trigger Factor Complex (TFC8) formulation, it diminishes fine lines and wrinkles and optimizes the skin microbiome to help prevent the overgrowth of unwanted bacteria for smoother, blemish-free skin. 

Augustinus Bader offers an auto-replenishment program where your next two orders are 20% off, so you save in the long run. 

If dropping cash isn’t an issue for you, this is one of the best retinol serums to get.

Best for sensitive skin

Pros & Cons
  • Vegan formula

  • Free from side effects

  • Reduces appearance of fine lines

  • May be too gentle for long-time retinol users

Got dry skin or sensitive skin? Try Universal Pro-Retinol to enjoy the benefits of retinol without the harsh side effects that come with it. 

Using 0.5% pro-retinol (Retinyl Sunflowerates), a combination of pure retinol and sunflower seed fatty acids, you’ll get healthy, glowing skin without having to worry about dryness, peeling or skin irritation.

A vegan and cruelty-free product, this serum also contains Mondo Grass Root extract that retains moisture to keep your skin plump and minimize irritation.

Best for beginners

Pros & Cons
  • Suitable for night and day use

  • Safe to use around delicate eye area

  • Evens out skin tone

  • Paraben-free

  • May be too gentle for experienced retinol users

Are you a retinol beginner? Opt for this Micro-Dose Anti-Aging Retinol Serum with ceramides and peptides from Kiehl’s to ease yourself into the world of retinol. Thanks to these two ingredients, this serum will gently encourage cell renewal and strengthen your skin barrier as you build your tolerance towards retinol.

To ease into it, use this serum two to three times a week after cleansing and layer it under sunscreen. You’ll also love that it’s safe to pair with other Kiehl’s serums for a more potent effect.

Pros & Cons
  • Travel-size

  • Smooths overall skin texture

  • May cause breakouts for normal skin types

We highly recommend the Differin Acne Retinoid Treatment Gel Adapalene 0.1% if you have acne-prone skin. This topical retinoid serum contains adapalene, an ingredient that’s known to dry out acne without exacerbating your breakouts.

This prescription-strength acne-fighting retinoid helps clear breakouts where they start and works within five minutes. Not only will you get youthful-looking skin but you’ll also achieve a smooth complexion too. If you want the best retinol serum that’s safe for acne-prone skin, try this serum.

Can you use retinol nightly?

Retinol is a powerful ingredient and daily usage may lead to dry skin and breakouts, especially if you’re just starting. For beginners, we recommend using retinol once every two to three nights and gradually increasing the frequency once your skin adjusts to the product.

It is also advisable to use retinol in the evening as its usage will make your skin more sensitive to sun rays. 

What should I avoid when using retinol?

It is highly advisable to avoid using vitamin C and retinol together as both of these powerful ingredients can cause your skin to break out. Instead, alternate between the two products. Most skincare enthusiasts would wear vitamin C in the morning and retinol at night.

The best retinol serums revealed

We’ve carefully curated our list of retinol serums and we’re happy to vouch for our picks. If you’re still in doubt, here are our favorites on the list that may help you make a decision:

  • Retinol B3 Pure Retinol Serum: This serum contains three powerful ingredients: pure retinol, niacinamide and hyaluronic acid to help with overall skin health. It also comes highly recommended by dermatologists.  

  • A+ High-dose Retinoid Serum: Because of its advanced strength with 6.5% retinoid content, this serum is the best retinol serum for seasoned users and those with mature skin. 

Like our pick of the best retinol serums? Start your journey to youthful, glowing skin now.

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Prices updated on 03/13/2024. We are not responsible for any changes to the prices mentioned above.

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Written by
Afina Najib

A journalism graduate from Curtin University, Afina Najib specializes in writing tech, finance, automotive and wellness content. Now residing in Kuala Lumpur, Afina spends her weekends hitting the gym or watching Formula 1 races.

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