The best drugstore retinol that actually works

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When it comes to powerful skincare ingredients, retinol takes the crown. That doesn’t mean your other products aren’t worthy, retinol just does it all. From tackling lines and wrinkles to keeping acne at bay, all you need is one skincare product to solve a laundry list of skin woes. Dermatologists also love retinol because it helps to stimulate collagen production and cell turnover, which keeps skin healthy, youthful, and glowing. A lesser-known use of retinol? It controls excess oils to keep pores unclogged and clear. And since retinol is so popular, you don’t need to seek out your dermatologist to pick one up. Instead, you can head to your neighborhood drugstore to grab one.

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If you’re looking to add a retinol product to your skincare routine, you’re in luck because they are available over the counter. Many drugstores carry brands that are known to have formulas that offer results, like Neutrogena and Olay, to name a few. So what is retinol anyways? The skincare queen is a derivative of vitamin A that is made for topical use. It absorbs into your skin and penetrates into the deepest layers to smooth out wrinkles and other signs of aging. The result? You’re left with an even complexion that glows. Although it takes time to reap the benefits of using retinol consistently, the good news is it won’t break your bank account thanks to the best drugstore retinol that actually works and cost a fraction of the cost as other options.

And will all good things, there are a few less desirable facts to keep n mind. Retinol can irritate the skin and may even cause breakouts when you start to use it. It’s recommended that you start slowly, then increase your retinol usage once you know how your skin can tolerate it. Also, note retinol is not pregnancy safe, and you should consult your doctor if pregnant or nursing.

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Ahead, the best drugstore retinol that money can buy.


Neutrogena’s formulas are tried and true, and for a good reason: They’re effective. This retinol cream is no exception. It has a rich texture that massages easily into your skin to smooth your complexion and keep wrinkles in check. Not only is the moisturizer packed with retinol that fights signs of aging, it also contains hyaluronic acid, which deeply hydrates. The result? Youthful-looking, plump skin that glows.

Rapid Wrinkle Repair Regenerating Cream $36.99

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Advanced Clinicals

A good retinol formula doesn’t have to cost a fortune. Take this one, for example, from Advanced Clincials, that’s under $16. Shoppers call it “food for your skin.” One said, “[It’s] so soothing and not heavy. My skin got back to normal in a few weeks. Now in the dry cold weather of Chicago, I just slather it on, and it keeps my skin moisturized. Love it!” You can use it as a body lotion, but it’s also suitable for your face, too!

Advanced Clinicals Retinol Moisturizer $15.67

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Retinol doesn’t come in just one form any more — you can get it in a cream or serum, and now easy-to-use capsules. The RoC Retinol Capsules come pre-packaged with retinol serum in a vegetable-based capsule that’s 100 percent biodegradable. The capsules promise to reduce the appearance of lines and leave dry skin fully moisturized. In a clinical study conducted by the brand, 97 percent said that after one night, they had “visibly reduced lines and wrinkles​.”

Retinol Capsules Anti-Aging Night Retinol Face Serum Treatment $24.99

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You can’t think about drugstore brands without Olay coming to mind. If you haven’t landed on a retinol to add to your skincare routine just yet, give the Regenerist Retinol 24 Max Night Face Moisturizer a chance. First things first. The cream is fragrance-free and doesn’t irritate the skin. It contains a retinoid complex which improves under-eye wrinkles and other signs of aging in just two weeks.

Regenerist Retinol 24 Max Moisturizer $43.99

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This retinol serum has earned over 24,000 five-star ratings on Amazon. Shoppers love that it calms acne and actually works. Tons even call it “perfect.” The serum has a list of benefits, including refining pores, erasing acne scars, and smooths acne. The star ingredient, of course, is retinol, but you will also find ceramides that strengthen the skin’s barrier and moisturize.

Retinol Serum $11.93

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You should add retinol to your nightly routine. Luckily, this one is specially formulated for that. The Complex Night Concentrate includes a 1.5 percent dose of retinol in its formula — don’t let the number scare you, it means it has enough of the potent ingredient to transform the skin, but doesn’t irritate your skin.

Advanced Retinol 1.5% Complex Night Concentrate $41.99

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