The 11 Best Retinol Creams For Younger Skin: Natural, Clean & More
Retinol is among one of the most beloved skin care ingredients in the game. Between its healthy-aging benefits, its acne-fighting abilities, and its wound-healing properties, it's no wonder dermatologists and consumers alike cannot get enough. Keep scrolling to check out some of our favorite retinol creams, from acne-fighting moisturizers to overnight treatments to body lotions that you didn't know you needed.
So what exactly is retinol?
Retinol is a compound derived from vitamin A, falling under the umbrella term of "retinoid," which is all vitamin A derivatives. Low-strength retinols are available over-the-counter (OTC), while higher strength retinols and retinoids require a prescription.
The main attraction to this ingredient is its ability to address a lot of major skin care concerns. Just to name a few: It encourages collagen production to smooth fine lines, promotes cell turnover to enhance skin's glow, improves sun damage to minimize wrinkles, hyperpigmentation, and thinning, and it serves as one of the most effective acne treatments around. Not bad for one little ingredient, right?
As beneficial as all this is, a lot of people find potent retinol serums or prescriptions a bit too harsh to handle, so instead they opt for a gentler retinol cream. These formulas are typically less strong and filled with hydrating ingredients to provide a bit of a buffer for those active properties.
Oh, and if you want all your retinol questions answered—don't forget to check out our retinol Q&A guide.
- Best overall: Dr. Dennis Gross Advanced Retinol and Ferulic Intense Wrinkle Cream ($75)
- Best gentle: Ren Skincare Bio Retinoid Youth Cream ($72)
- Best extra-strength: Obagi Retinol 0.5 ($73)
- Best night mask: Goldfaden M.D. Wake Up Call Overnight Facial Treatment ($85)
- Best exfoliant: OleHenriksen Goodnight Glow Bakuchiol Sleeping Crème ($58)
- Best budget: Good Molecules Gentle Retinol Cream ($8)
- Best dark circle eye cream: Alpyn Beauty PlantGenius Line-Filling Eye Balm with Bakuchiol ($62)
- Best dry skin eye cream: First Aid Beauty FAB Skin Lab Retinol Eye Cream with Triple Hyaluronic Acid ($44)
- Best fine line eye cream: Kate Somerville +Retinol Firming Eye Cream ($98)
- Best body treatment: Paula's Choice Retinol Skin-Smoothing Body Treatment ($29)
- Best body lotion: Versed Firm Ground Retinol Body Lotion ($17.99)
Dr. Dennis Gross Advanced Retinol and Ferulic Intense Wrinkle Cream
The embodiment of a retinol cream, this buttery moisturizer is formulated with hydrating antioxidants like centella asiatica alongside anti-aging powerhouses retinol and bakuchiol. Bakuchiol is often compared to retinol thanks to its similar abilities to fight acne, minimize wrinkles, and reduce photo-aging by targeting similar cellular pathways. However, bakuchiol is more tolerable and gentle, making it a great retinol alternative for people with sensitive skin. It also works great alongside retinol to help promote its skin care benefits without irritation. Thanks to this ingredient combo, this moisturizer will improve wrinkles, texture, and dullness, all without leaving skin greasy.
Advanced Retinol and Ferulic Intense Wrinkle Cream, Dr. Dennis Gross ($75)
Ren Skincare Bio Retinoid Youth Cream
This moisturizer uses a plant-derived alternative to retinol called Bidens Pilosa, which helps skin appear more firm and supple for an overall healthier complexion. Meanwhile, Red Algae extract helps to hydrate the skin and improve fine lines for an almost instant smoothing lift. Even though it's great for all skin types, those with sensitive skin may find this retinol cream to be especially gentle.
Bio Retinoid Youth Cream, Ren Skincare ($72)
Obagi Retinol 0.5
The highest strength cream on the list, this product uses 0.5% retinol to minimize wrinkles and maximize skin's natural glow by sloughing away dead skin cells. All you have to do is apply a small pearl-size amount to the face after cleansing. You'll want to start by using it twice a week and then, depending on your skin's tolerance, either reduce this amount to once a week or up to three times.
Retinol 0.5, Obagi ($73)
Goldfaden M.D. Wake Up Call Overnight Facial Treatment
Though an overnight treatment with retinol may seem too aggressive for lots of skin types, this creamy number is packed with hydrating ingredients as well as active ones. While vitamin E also helps to manage skin inflammation, avocado oil and grapeseed oil provide moisturizing benefits. Meanwhile, the retinol and other active ingredients target breakouts and wrinkles to produce a smoother, younger-looking complexion.
Wake Up Call Overnight Facial Treatment, Goldfaden M.D. ($85)
OleHenriksen Goodnight Glow Bakuchiol Sleeping Crème
Sensitive skin types might want to steer clear of this treatment. But if your skin can handle it, this effective treatment will improve skin's elasticity, tone, and texture. Bakuchiol works alongside other skin care favorites: alpha-hydroxy acids like glycolic and lactic acid. Together, these ingredients even skin's tone and texture for a softer, envy-worthy complexion.
Goodnight Glow Bakuchiol Sleeping Crème, OleHenriksen ($58)
Good Molecules Gentle Retinol Cream
Because this cream is concentrated but gentle, you really only need a pea-size amount for it to minimize fine lines and wrinkles. Formulated with 0.1% retinol and bakuchiol to boost retinol's effects without irritation, grapeseed oil and acmella oleracea extract help nourish the skin. As one of the most affordable options on the list, this pick is great for people on a budget.
Gentle Retinol Cream, Good Molecules ($8)
Alpyn Beauty PlantGenius Line-Filling Eye Balm with Bakuchiol
Formulated with bakuchiol over retinol, this balm-like cream will fill in fine lines to plump wrinkles around the delicate eyes. But that's far from its only benefit. It also uses vitamin C, licorice root, and bearberry leaf to brighten dark circles, while caffeine reduces puffiness. The results? Eyes that appear well rested and brilliant.
PlantGenius Line-Filling Eye Balm with Bakuchiol, Alpyn Beauty ($62)
First Aid Beauty FAB Skin Lab Retinol Eye Cream with Triple Hyaluronic Acid
Another eye cream that's great for targeting crow's feet and other fine lines, this favorite is made with microencapsulated retinol for a time-release effect to help penetrate deep into the skin. It also uses a triple-weight hyaluronic acid to boost skin's moisture for plumper, brighter results. To top it all off, it has finely milled minerals call micro-pearls, which use their light-reflecting properties to amplify skin's glow for an immediately radiant effect.
FAB Skin Lab Retinol Eye Cream with Triple Hyaluronic Acid, First Aid Beauty ($44)
Kate Somerville +Retinol Firming Eye Cream
For those who have a little money to spare, this luxe eye cream is totally worth the investment. This one uses retinol and Bidens Pilosa to increase skin elasticity and firmness to diminish fine lines and wrinkles without any irritation, while hyaluronic acid provides moisture. You'll start seeing results almost immediately, but regular use will deliver impressively youthful results.
+Retinol Firming Eye Cream, Kate Somerville ($98)
Paula's Choice Retinol Skin-Smoothing Body Treatment
Your face isn't the only place that gets wrinkles or breakouts; your body can also experience these skin care concerns. So why wouldn't you treat it the same way you treat your face? It's easy to do with body treatments like this one. This body treatment is formulated with a mid-strength 0.1% retinol to improve texture and skin tone, while shea butter and plant oils hydrate the skin.
Retinol Skin-Smoothing Body Treatment, Paula's Choice ($29)
Versed Firm Ground Retinol Body Lotion
If you want to improve your skin's texture while it also craves serious moisture, this body lotion is the one for you. Thanks to cocoa butter and squalene, your skin will receive a boost of hydration as the encapsulated retinol diminishes body acne and hyperpigmentation for a velvety soft finish. Thanks to its lightweight formula, it won't leave skin greasy as it soaks in all the benefits.
Firm Ground Retinol Body Lotion, Versed ($17.99)
mbg review process
At mbg, high standards are earned—and there are no shortcuts. Our beauty editors stay up to date on the latest ingredient research and innovation. It's a dynamic, continuously evolving space, and it's important we look into the science so we can make informed choices about which formulas earn our stamp of approval (figuratively speaking).
Our high standards also come from testing products—many, many products. Our editors and writers rigorously test and research the products featured in our roundups to offer you the best, most informed recommendations. When we write reviews, you can trust we spend quality time with the formulas: We don't simply rave about products we've slathered on the back of our hand. We endorse products we've tried and loved.
Learn more about our testing process and clean beauty standards here.
Emily Rekstis is a freelance writer, editor and content creator. After serving as the beauty assistant at Harper's Bazaar and Self magazine, she went on to cover celebrity beauty and fashion as UsWeekly's Style Editor. Consistently curious and always willing to learn, she indulges in her variety of interests writing about everything from beauty trends to health habits to design tips for publications like Healthline, Byrdie, Women's Health, MyDomaine, BuzzFeed, The Cut, Allure and many more.