The 11 Best Retinol Face Creams of 2023

These tried-and-true celebrity skincare products are effective at reducing wrinkles, hyperpigmentation, acne, and more.

You may have heard that retinol is the holy grail of anti-aging – but what is retinol and is it right for you?

It is a derivative of vitamin A and is one of the few skin care ingredients clinically proven to reduce wrinkles, along with other benefits such as smoothing skin texture, clearing clogged pores, treating acne, and reducing hyperpigmentation. Dr. Birnur Aral, Managing Director of GH Beauty Lab, explains that retinol works by speeding up skin cell turnover, thereby increasing collagen production and reducing its breakdown.

The Good Housekeeping Institute Beauty Lab regularly tests anti-aging products containing retinol, including moisturizers, serums, and retinol eye creams. They are evaluated in laboratories using state-of-the-art instruments and by consumer testers, who report their feedback on ease of use and impact on skin.

Retinol treatments can come in the form of lotions, creams, or serums and can be purchased by prescription or over-the-counter. “The main difference between over-the-counter retinol and prescription retinol is the concentration of the active ingredients in the formula,” says dermatologist Hope Mitchell, founder of Mitchell Dermatology in Perrysburg, Ohio, and Fremont Dr. Er said.

“The maximum percentage available for over-the-counter retinol is 1%, although there are various lower concentrations available.” While prescription retinol treatments are more potent than over-the-counter retinol and can provide better, faster results, But they can also be more annoying. Some dermatologists recommend starting with an over-the-counter retinol product (like the tips below) to allow your skin to adjust to the ingredient, then increasing its effectiveness with prescription treatments as needed.

Read on for full results on the best retinol skin care products tested by GH Beauty Labs, including drugstore products and tips for beginners and sensitive skin.

  1. No7 Protect & Perfect Intense Advanced Essence: No7’s Superstar serum, made with retinol, won GH Beauty Lab’s anti-aging serum test and performed well at smoothing skin. When evaluated for four weeks before and after using the Visia Complexion Analyzer device, it achieved perfect results in improving texture and reducing the appearance of pores, although some noted mild irritation.

Users also rave about the formula because it feels comfortable and absorbs quickly. “My facial skin looks softer and smoother, and wrinkles and pores are less noticeable,” exclaimed one user. Another agreed: “My skin looks younger.”

  1. Roc Retinol Correxion Max Daily Moisturizer: This GH Seal Star Roc Retinol Day and Night Cream is proven to provide fast and long-lasting anti-aging results. After just one week of use, skin looks 32% smoother, brighter and 32% more hydrated within 24 hours.

It only gets better—after four weeks, people saw further reduction in fine lines and eye wrinkles, and after eight weeks, they reported a reduction in deep wrinkles and dark spots. However, the cream formula may be too rich for oily skin types.

  1. Olay Regenerist Retinol 24 Night Moisturizer: A skin-smoothing retinol treatment and nighttime moisturizer in one: Olay’s fragrance-free Regenerist Retinol24 formula, winner of GH Beauty Lab’s anti-aging night cream tests, visibly reduces wrinkles, brightens, firms and softens skin.

Using the lab’s Cutometer device, which measures skin laxity, GH Seal Star improved skin firmness by 27% after four weeks of use. 100% of testers agreed that it made skin feel softer, and they also thought it worked best at brightening their skin. “My skin is firmer and smoother every morning,” one tester reported.

  1. Neutrogena Rapid Wrinkle Repair Anti-Wrinkle Retinol Daily Facial Moisturizer SPF 30: This Neutrogena Day Cream SPF 30, winner of GH Beauty Labs tests, firms skin, reduces dark spots and reduces wrinkles over time. In laboratory calculations using the Visia Complexion Analyzer, the moisturizer reduced UV spots by 13% after 8 weeks of daily use.

“It contains stable, fast-acting retinol, which in our tests significantly increased skin firmness,” explains Aral. “After eight weeks of daily use, it improved the appearance of nasolabial folds (aka smile lines) in some consumer testers.” Some users disliked the smell, and others found it unnoticeable.

  1. Exuvianance, anti-aging nighttime improvement: Fight wrinkles with Exuviance’s lightweight gel-like lotion, which won the GH Beauty Lab Anti-Aging Night Cream test for reducing the appearance of fine lines thanks to its triple combo of retinol, glycolic acid, and peptides.

Digital imaging in the lab using the Visia Complexion Analyzer found a 10% reduction in the appearance of wrinkles after four weeks of using the formula. When calculated using the Cutometer device, which measures skin laxity, firmness increased by 31%, but some users noticed mild irritation or breakouts. “Over time, my skin became smoother, more even-toned, and had fewer fine lines,” one tester reported.

  1. No7 Pure Retinol 1% Night Concentrate: Even skin tone and texture issues like broken capillaries and milia with this powerful nighttime treatment with No7 1% Retinol. “What impressed me most was how it targeted stubborn lines and wrinkles, while also targeting broken capillaries, milia, and acne,” says Dr. Mitchell. It may not be the best choice for sensitive skin types due to the high concentration of active ingredients that may cause irritation.

7. innisfree retinol centella asiatica moisturizing serum: Retinol treatments don’t have to be harsh on skin: This gentle, watery, GH Beauty Award-winning Innisfree serum delivers the gold standard in texture-refining ingredients along with nourishing and soothing ingredients.

Moisturizing hyaluronic acid, ceramides and niacinamide, along with the calming herb Centella Asiatica, ensure sensitive skin remains balanced. Beauty Lab reviews found that it even works on sensitive and redness-prone skin. “My skin is clearer, brighter, softer, and smoother without any discomfort,” one tester commented, although some people don’t like the “runny” consistency.

8. La Roche-Posay Effaclar Adapalene Gel 0.1% Acne Treatment: Danusia Wnek, senior chemist at GH Beauty Lab, recommends adapalene, a tretinoin that was previously only available by prescription, to people with acne-prone skin.

She’s a fan of this La Roche-Posay gel, which has a “beautiful formula that’s lightweight and absorbs quickly to help treat acne.” Just be aware that the intensity of this treatment may burn or irritate the skin.

9. L’Oréal Paris Revitalift Bright Reveal Brightening Moisturizer SPF 30: Winner of the GH Beauty Lab anti-aging day cream test, this L’Oréal lotion contains retinol to even out skin tone and reduce pigmentation, and glycolic acid to cleanse pores.

In lab testing using the Visia Complexion Analyzer, dark spots were reduced by 11% and skin hydration increased by 28% over four weeks, each time measured using the Corneometer device. Testers report that this “fast-absorbing” formula leaves skin “bright, radiant” and “reduces the appearance of wrinkles.” A word of caution: It doesn’t perform well and can cause eye irritation or watering.

10. SkinBetter Science AlphaRet Night Cream: This powerful yet gentle nighttime treatment is enriched with proven anti-aging ingredients like retinoids and peptides, combined with exfoliating acids and supplemented with moisturizers like hyaluronic acid and ceramides.

One lab expert noted that in imaging tests with the GH Beauty Lab Visia Complexion Analyzer, it performed well at improving skin texture and tone but was “not irritating.” It’s a bit more expensive, but the investment is worth it: An impressive six testers noted that their “fine lines appeared to be softened.”

11. Palmer’s Cocoa Butter Facial Oil: Another GH Seal star and Beauty Lab Test winner, Palmer’s facial oil is formulated with retinol and also contains hydrating argan, almond and coconut oils for intense hydration on contact. (Please note that since this formula is oil-based, it may not work on oily or acne-prone skin.) In lab tests, it received top marks for instantly hydrating skin, leaving it looking “plump and smooth.” ”, as someone described it.

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