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A derivative of vitamin A, retinol is formulated at a range of percentages—anywhere from 0.25 to two—which stimulate cell turnover, helping to soften fine lines and wrinkles, brighten dark spots, and clear existing breakouts in one fell swoop. While the ingredient is highly effective, retinol can sometimes be intimidating to incorporate into a regular skincare routine. A simple way to pare down the intensity of the ingredient while delivering added moisture and skincare benefits? Using one of the best retinol creams. These product hybrids make it easy to reap the complexion smoothing benefits of using retinol ingredient while smoothing your skin's texture and enhancing its radiance.
"All retinol creams and serums accelerate cellular turnover of the outer layers of the skin. Almost everyone can benefit from implementing retinols or prescription retinoids into their routine," Libby Rhee, DO clinical instructor at Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai tells BAZAAR.com. "Retinols and retinoids aid in cellular renewal, which also can indirectly boost collagen production over time, and contribute to a brighter, more evenly pigmented complexion while improving skin tone and texture." However, Rhee notes that for those looking for quick results, "These skin rejuvenating benefits take consistency and time. When combined with other healthy skincare habits such as cleansing, moisturizing, and using regular SPF, the effect can be glowing, more resilient skin that looks and feels healthier!"
From expert-approved drugstore creams like Olay's Regenerist Retinol24 Night Moisturizer and Neutrogena's Rapid Wrinkle Repair Regenerating Cream to vegan options from Glossier and Drunk Elephant, we've hand-picked moisturizers for just about every skin type. Here, 19 of the best retinol creams to shop now and add to your nightly routine.
+ Vitamin C Night Renewal Moisturizer
For more advanced retinol users, this vegan, one percent formulation from Beauty Pie might become your new favorite. In addition to leaving skin looking and feeling more plump and hydrated with ingredients like hyaluronic acid and shea butter, it also uses vitamin C to brighten discoloration while you sleep.
Retinol Alternative Cream
If you're currently pregnant or have an aversion to retinol, add this plant-based cream from Indie Lee to your nightly routine instead. In addition to improving skin firmness and reducing fine lines, the essential also happens to be eco-friendly, since its bottle is refillable.
Retinol Youth Renewal Night Cream
We consider this staple from Murad one of the best retinol creams because of its versatility. Not only is it ideal for firming skin and reducing fine lines, but the formula also aims to help strengthen the skin barrier.
Advanced Retinol + Ferulic Intense Wrinkle Cream
This face cream is a powerhouse of skin-restoring ingredients. In addition to retinol, it also contains plumping hyaluronic acid, ferulic acid to minimize hyperpigmentation, and the brand’s signature ECG Complex to keep skin firm.
Retinol Vitamin C Moisturizer
Another of our favorite retinol creams, this ultra-rich version uses hyaluronic acid and fatty acids to minimize irritation, and includes the brightening power of vitamin C for the ultimate glow up.
Universal Pro Retinol
Containing 0.5 percent retinyl sunflowerate—retinol derived from sunflower seed fatty acids—plus stevia leaf extract, this cream is one of the gentlest on our list (and even deemed safe for sensitive skin). While it's effective at smoothing lines and wrinkles, it won't leave you feeling dry, since its formula is packed with humectants, like glycerin, to hydrate your complexion. That said, you may need another layer of moisturizer on top, especially if you have dry skin.
Resist Intensive Repair Cream
This highly rated face cream has a little bit of everything: A low concentration of retinol (0.01 percent) provides line-smoothing benefits, while jojoba oil moisturizes and a whole host of antioxidants protect skin from environmental stressors.
Retinol 0.5 Refining Night Cream
Talk about a multi-tasking routine essential: This refining night cream from Skinceuticals uses encapsulated retinol and botanical extracts to calm irritation while reducing the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles.
A-Passioni Retinol Cream
Over 1,300 Sephora customers swear by this concentrated, one percent retinol from Drunk Elephant. It's not only ideal for improving skin dullness and uneven texture, but also happens to be entirely vegan.
Magic Night Cream
It's no secret that BAZAAR editors are big fans of Charlotte Tilbury staples, which includes this popular night cream from the brand. It uses a combination of time-released retinol, plant stem cells, and vitamin E to leave skin looking smoother and plumper as you sleep.
Rapid Wrinkle Repair Regenerating Cream
You'll notice smoother, brighter skin and softened lines in just a week of daily use. But as with all retinol, you'll need to keep using it for the results to stick around.
Retrinal 0.1 Intensive Cream
Fans of Avène's Thermal Spring Water and tinted sunscreen should make room in their summer line up for this velvety retinol cream from the brand. In addition to vitamin A, it also uses ingredients like vitamin E to evening skin's tone and smooth deep wrinkles while protecting it against environmental stressors.
Retinol Correxion Max Daily Hydration Crème
For those dealing with dry skin and fine lines, this hydrating retinol should be right up your alley, since it's made to keep your skin moisturized for the long haul.
Regenerist Retinol24 Night Moisturizer
This fragrance-free cream from Olay is one of Abbott Elementary creator and star Quinta Brunson's favorites, and perfect to slather on before bed. It delivers a big dose of hydration packed with fine line-minimizing retinol, which is still gentle on skin.
Advanced Retinol Nightly Renewal Face Moisturizer with Retinol
Retinol, retinal (a relative of the former), and niacin combine to leave skin looking refreshed overnight. We love how this cream also has anti-redness ingredients, just in case your skin is a little more sensitive.
Apply this powerful cream—which combines retinol and botanicals to brighten hyperpigmentation and soothe visible redness—to your face and neck to redefine beauty rest.
Redermic R Retinol Cream
Made with retinol and lipo-hydroxy acid (a derivative of salicylic acid, which helps gently exfoliate), this lightweight cream helps reduce the appearance of fine lines and crow's feet.
Triple Power Anti-Aging Moisturizer
The anti-aging all-stars—retinol, hyaluronic acid, and vitamin C—get cozy in this wallet-friendly formula. If you’re looking to get into retinol but don’t want to spend a small fortune, this jar is a good place to start.
Night Cream with Retinol 8
Created with a stabilized vitamin A complex that aims to be eight times more effective than most over-the-counter retinol with less irritation, this cream also features natural ingredients like oat extract and turmeric to keep skin calm during the retinization period.
Frequently Asked Questions
What does a retinol cream do?
According to experts, the best retinol creams and serums aim to accelerate cellular turnover of the outer layers of the skin. Cellular turnover is extremely beneficial, as it helps improve your complexion's overall texture and tone overnight.
What's the most effective retinol product?
Any expert will note that the most effective retinol is the one you're using on a consistent basis. As retinol creams are available in a range of percentages over-the-counter—from 0.25 laddering up to two percent—its best to consult a skin expert in addition to customer reviews before deciding on the brand and intensity that's best for your needs.
Meet the Expert
Libby A Rhee, DO, is a clinical instructor at Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York City.
Why trust Harper's BAZAAR?
For more than 150 years, Harper’s BAZAAR has been the preeminent fashion and beauty resource for women at every age. We cover what’s new and what’s next in beauty by working with the world’s leading authorities in dermatology, plastic surgery, cosmetics, skincare, haircare, and fragrance. Every story we publish has been thoroughly researched and vetted by our team of beauty editors and industry experts.
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