The Best Retinols To Try For Every Skincare Problem & Budget

The Best Retinols To Try For Every Skincare Problem & Budget

Considered the ‘gold standard’ in age-targeted skincare, retinoids are one of the only ingredients proven to work when it comes to increasing cell turnover, unclogging pores and boosting collagen. But with so many retinol products on the market, it's a little overwhelming to say the least. Here, we share our guide to the ones best suited to each skin type, as well as breaking them down for every budget…


£: The Ordinary Granactive Retinoid 5% in Squalane, £11.99

There’s no doubt about it, The Ordinary is one of the best brands out there when it comes to combining potency and affordability., This low-irritation serum contains 5% ‘Granactive Retinoid’ which has been proven to defy ageing and smooth skin without causing redness. The addition of Squalane also counteracts harsh effects by putting moisture back into the skin and preventing flaking or dryness. Use a couple of drops pre-moisturiser up to three times a week for the best results.

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££: Neutrogena Rapid Wrinkle Repair Serum, £22.68 (was £23.34)

Working just as well as its more expensive counterparts, Neutrogena’s impressive serum is lightweight, yet surprisingly nourishing thanks to a hefty dose of hyaluronic acid. Stabilised retinol (a formulation that prevents major breakouts and dryness) works to refine and smooth away under the skin bumps, while the hydrating formula gives an extra, moisturising kick. Promising results in just one week, it earns consistently high reviews.

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£££: Luna Sleeping Night Oil, £45

Sunday Riley’s next-gen retinoid is delivered via cold-pressed oil, which makes it a great hydrating and corrective option. Warm a few drops into your hands and pat it onto cleansed skin before bed. Overnight it will get to work stimulating and repairing sluggish cells, as well as boosting elasticity and radiance – no wonder it’s won a legion of A-list devotees, including Helen Mirren and Gwyneth Paltrow. A little goes a long way too, so the price tag feels worth it.

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£: Indeed Labs Retinol Reface Skin Resurfacer and Intensive Wrinkle Repair Serum, £19.99 

The sheer formula isn’t as nourishing as others on the market, but don’t underestimate it – the results match products that are double the price. Working to get rid of dark patches and uneven skin tone, it contains a blend of skin-loving glycerin and three forms of retinol to gradually promote a smoother complexion. A great intro to retinol if you want to try reducing pigmentation on a budget.

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££: Paula’s Choice Resist Anti-Aging Retinol Serum, £39

Think of this serum as a multi-purpose product. With vitamin C, it gently exfoliates and brightens dark patches, while retinol triggers collagen production and cell turnover. The oat extract means irritation and redness is kept at bay too, so even the most sensitive of skin types can reap the benefits.

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£££: Verso Dark Spot Fix With Retinol 8, £114

Pigmentation sufferers should still be careful when it comes using retinol. As it helps to lighten the skin, any subsequent UV exposure could increase brown patches, so limit usage just to the evenings. Verso’s formula is particularly potent and regularly recommended by dermatologists for its fading and lightening abilities. Use once or twice a week and always follow up with a moisturiser.

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£: The Inkey List Retinol Serum, £9.99

From the brand that focuses on simplicity comes this brightening retinol that encourages speedy cell turnover for instant radiance. The slow-release formula also keeps irritation to a minimum, as does the addition of squalene, which improves skin’s clarity and bounce.

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££: Pixi Collagen & Retinol Serum, £26

Collagen, retinol and vitamin B3 come together in this unique formula to give skin a daily dose of luminosity, while also strengthening and plumping over time. Not only does it help to improve texture, fine lines and dullness, it also gradually diminishes the appearance of pores. Gentle enough to be used daily, massage two to three drops onto cleansed skin pre-moisturiser.

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£££: Medik8 R-Retinoate Youth Activating Cream Intense, £210 

It might be expensive, but the proven results from this moisturiser make it a worthy investment – especially if you’re serious about skincare. Even the biggest retinol-phobes have been satisfied by the brightening and ageing results, all of which come without causing a major breakout. Eight times more powerful than other retinols, it’s about prevention as much as cure, working to keep skin healthy and soften wrinkles over time. Use a small amount twice a week at night, then gradually build up to every other night for two weeks thereafter.

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£: Nip & Fab Retinol Fix Eye Treatment, £19,95 

Contrary to popular belief, the eye area can tolerate retinol - just make sure it's specifically designed for it, like this one from Nip & Fab. Using slow-release vitamin A, it gently plumps up the skin, reducing signs of puffiness and dark circles, while blurring the appearance of fine lines, too.

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££: Peter Thomas Roth Retinol Eye Care, £34.45 (was £47)

Created for night-time usage, Peter Thomas Roth’s Eye Cream kick-starts sluggish skin cells to encourage the creation of line-smoothing and firming elastin collagen. The addition of vitamins C and E also strengthen and protect the fragile area, while caffeine works to reduce puffiness. Tap on gently with your ring finger over the top of moisturiser.


£££: Dr. Dennis Gross Skincare Ferulic + Retinol Eye Serum, £68 

Crepiness and uneven skin tone don’t stand a chance against this supercharged serum. In fact, 93% of people who tested it saw fine lines soften within just three weeks. Designed for use on the entire eye area – including the lids – a few drops will help to brighten, smooth and rehydrate thanks to the combination of liquorice root extract and various antioxidants.

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£: Bybi Bakuchiol Booster + Olive Squalane, £12 

Bakuchiol is a less-irritating, natural alternative to retinol that yields almost identical results. In short, it’s great for those who suffer with extreme sensitivity. Bybi’s version was created to dial up your existing creams, lotions or serums. Affordable, it’s a great entry-level serum that soothes, nourishes and conditions without blocking pores. It’s also brilliant for dry and spot-prone skin types, too.

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££: ROC Retinol Correxion Sensitive Night Cream, £24.25 (£25.50) 

RoC scientists understood that over-use of retinol can cause skin irritation. By blending retinol molecules with emollients – the latter of which soothe, hydrate and protect the skin barrier – scientists have been able to slow the absorption rate, making this formula one which suits everybody. Slather on a thick layer at night and you’ll soon see a difference to your skin’s overall texture.

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£££: La Roche-Posay Redermic Anti-Wrinkle Retinol Treatment, £32 

Containing a lower retinol concentration (just 0.3%), La Roche-Posay’s treatment is a great way to work your way up to more frequent usage. Working just like a moisturiser, it can be applied at night-time to treat blotchiness and increase firmness. While it won’t stop fine lines completely, it’s been proven to make a significant, blurring difference. Expect results within a couple of weeks.

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£: CeraVe Skin Renewing Retinol Serum, £21.42 (was £22.66)

Developed with dermatologists, CeraVe is a range you can trust. Combining 1% retinol with skin-plumping ceramides, this is a great non-clogging option for acne sufferers. Regular use will help to keep dead skin cells out of pores, while the anti-inflammatory formula will keep redness and flare-ups at bay.

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££: Murad Advanced Blemish & Wrinkle Reducer, £49.50

Containing retinol, salicylic and glycolic acids, Murad’s formula is said to modulate skin maturation and shedding, which in turn, prevents the formation of the plugs that can cause acne. Both acids work to loosen the bonds of dead skin cells, while retinol gradually brightens and resurfaces. With a medication-like effect, it’s known to dry spots up fast. 

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£££: Bioelements Oil Control Sleepwear, £82.07 

Retinol can be a powerful tool for fighting acne and the deep scars often left behind. For a softer approach, try using a blemish-prone night cream that can settle in while you sleep. This one from Biolements works to control oil production (stopping pores from becoming clogged) while minimising the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. Vitamin E and green tea extract also keep skin soft, while protein peptides prevent early signs of ageing.

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