6 Retinol Creams, Serums, and Treatments That Actually Work

From treating texture and evening skin tone, to reducing lines and wrinkles, scarring, enlarged pores, and even acne, retinol is the solution to many of our most pressing skin concerns and issues.  

The dermatologist-approved ingredient is derived from vitamin A and it works by reactivating the skin’s renewal process and increasing cell turnover. This exfoliating effect smooths the skin’s surface and evens out the skin tone while stimulating collagen production and clearing pore congestion. 

You can find out more about how retinol works and who can use it here. Below, we’ve rounded up our favourite retinol treatments. 

The Ordinary Granactive Retinoid 2% in Squalane

While The Ordinary has a number of retinol treatments to choose from, this is a great intro to the ingredient for newbies or those with sensitive skin. The retinol comes in the form of granactive retinoid which is super gentle but still very effective, so you get results without the side effects. What’s more, the retinoid is suspended in squalane – a light, non-comedogenic oil which helps to strengthen the skin’s moisture barrier and prevent irritation. 

Alpha-H Beauty Sleep Power Peel

Want to wake up looking extra fresh-faced? Designed to work overnight (skin goes into a state of repair while we sleep), this super-strength sleep mask contains both retinol and glycolic acid for double-duty exfoliation and skin brightening. We’d never recommend a DIY mix of the two ingredients, but this blend has been professionally formulated to keep them both stable and prevent irritation.  

Oskia Retinoid Sleep Serum Level 1

If you’re looking for a gentle retinol to build up your tolerance, try this (level 1 is formulated with 0.2% retinol and Level 2 contains 0.5%). Vitamins C and E combine with the retinol in a silky formula that does the hard work on brightening skin and treating pigmentation issues. Apply to clean skin instead of your usual night treatments and you’ll really notice the difference come 6AM. 

InstaNatural Retinol Serum

For less than £20 this is one of the best retinol serums you can get – you only have to read the rave reviews to be convinced. It’s formulated with a potent cocktail of hyaluronic acid, niacinamide, and vitamin C which help to tackle issues with pores, pigmentation and dehydration and ensure skin stays calm and hydrated while the retinol gets to work. In other words, if you have sensitive skin, your skin will thank you. 

Ecooking Vitamin A Serum Capsules

Skincare capsules ensure that ingredients are kept stable and potent for a long amount of time – exposure to air and light can retinol unstable and reduce its efficacy. What’s more, they’re portioned so that you apply the right amount of product every time. As well as retinol, this formula contains moisturising ceramides to prevent the dryness that often accompanies retinol. Win, win.

Peter Thomas Roth Retinol Fusion PM

If you’ve tried (and loved) a starter retinol and want to try something stronger, this is an excellent choice for the next step up. It features 1.5% encapsulated retinol – a lab-formulated retinol which helps the ingredient to penetrate deeper and without irritation. In addition, the formula is boosted with vitamins C and E to brighten and moisturise skin simultaneously.