When it comes to skincare ingredients, few of them are as multitasking as retinol. Not only does the vitamin A derivative come in multiple forms and work for all skin types, but it can seemingly solve a myriad of our biggest skincare woes at all once. Acne, fine lines, wrinkles, discoloration, dullness—if you've got it, retinol can fix it. The downside? The miracle ingredient can come with a hefty price tag, and snagging yourself a prescription will require a trip to the dermatologist, and—you guessed it—even more cash. However, we're here to let you in on a little secret: there are tons of retinol options sitting pretty on the shelves at your local drugstore, and you'll find that many of them contain the same high-quality ingredients and concentrations that the pricey products do. Ahead, we're breaking down which wallet-friendly retinol creams and serums are worth the hype, from Neutrogena to CeraVe to Olay. Whether you've got aging skin or some serious hormonal acne, give one of the following affordable retinol formulas a go and watch all your biggest skin troubles disappear. Opening image: @rocskincare
Love our 10 Best Drugstore Retinol Creams? Check out our 10 Best Drugstore Hair Masks next!
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Honest Beauty Honestly Pure Retinol Serum
BEST FOR: If you stick to a clean beauty routine, Honest's affordable retinol serum is for you. It's made with tapioca-infused retinol and no icky ingredients, plus heavy doses of hyaluronic acid and squalene for a hydrating punch.
FUN FACT: The tapioca-infused retinol is time-released, which is why it's gentle enough for nightly use and sensitive skin.
TruSkin Retinol Cream
WHAT IT DOES: TruSkin's $20 option contains 2.5% retinol, the highest over-the-counter retinol concentration you can get your hands on. This is the reason for its ultra-fast results, from smoothing fine lines and wrinkles to shrinking pores and clearing pimples.
USERS SAID: "This stuff is tough, but works wonders. I've only been using it for about a week and I've seen a MAJOR difference. I get cystic acne on top of minor breakouts, and literally a week ago my face was the worst its ever been in my life. I've been using this every night (but you should definitely start with two to three nights a week), and my face is as clear as a baby butt."
Vichy LiftActiv Retinol HA Concentrate Anti-Wrinkle Face Serum
BEST FOR: While retinol is great for breakouts, introducing new products to acne-prone skin can cause even more breakouts. If this sounds like you, Vichy's formula is a great start. You'll get the blemish-busting benefits of retinol, plus a non-greasy finish and hyaluronic acid to keep things supple and moisturized.
FUN FACT: When we say supple and moisturized, we mean it. This formula contains Vichy's famous thermal spa water, which is rich in 15 minerals and comes straight from volcanoes in France.
CeraVe Skin Renewing Retinol Serum
LOVED FOR: Retinol products can be seriously drying, which is one reason why people tend to avoid them. CeraVe's formula contains hydrating ceramides and hyaluronic acid to protect the skin's barrier, so you won't have to worry about getting parched skin with this one.
BEST FOR: While this formula is great for fighting multiple skin concerns, ingredients like niacinamide, vitamin B3, and licorice root make it great for uneven skin tones in particular. In just a few weeks, you can expect a major decrease in redness and discoloration and a serious boost in brightness.
Olay Regenerist Retinol Moisturizer
WHY YOU NEED IT: Made with a rich, ultra-hydrating blend of vitamin B3 and retinol, this drugstore product serves as a skin-quenching night cream and wrinkle-fighting retinol product in one—no need for extra steps.
FROM THE EXPERTS: While this is indeed a night cream, it's formulated to work around the clock and provide the skin with a full 24 hours of moisture and visible improvements in fine lines and wrinkles, smoothness, brightness, firmness, dark spots, and pores.
Neutrogena Anti-Wrinkle Retinol Cream
BEST FOR: Formulated with retinol SA (which is scientifically superior to other forms of vitamin A) and loads of hyaluronic acid to keep your skin bouncy and soft, this drugstore find is easily one of the best retinol creams for beginners. Since it rings up under $25, you don't have much to lose by giving it a go.
FROM THE EXPERTS: This retinol cream is clinically proven to deliver softer, smoother skin and reduce the appearance of deep wrinkles in as little as two weeks.
La Roche-Posay Redermic R Intense Anti-Aging Concentrate Retinol Face Serum
LOVED FOR: This popular retinol product comes in the form of a serum rather than a heavy cream, so it sinks in like a dream and layers easily with your go-to moisturizer.
USERS SAID: "Many retinol creams do not work for sensitive skin. This isn't one of them. It's mild yet effective, and I see a noticeable difference in my skin when I'm using it. It's lightweight and helps with skin tone as well as acne. My skin appears smoother and clearer, and it also helps with fine lines. Excellent value for the money!"
RoC Retinol Correxion Serum
WHAT IT DOES: Not only does this retinol serum come highly recommended by dermatologists, but it's also a surefire way to fix both blemishes and fine lines. Thanks to the addition of magnesium and zinc, the formula kills acne-causing bacteria just as well as it smooths wrinkles.
FROM THE EXPERTS: In four weeks, expect to see a decrease in dullness and fine lines on the face and neck. In eight weeks, you'll notice diminished signs of photodamage. In 12, deep wrinkles on the face and neck will be dramatically reduced.
Tree Of Life Retinol Moisturizer Face Cream
WHY YOU NEED IT: This moisturizer is packed with heavy-hitting ingredients like retinol and hyaluronic acid—all for under $15 and with free one-day shipping through Amazon Prime. Can't go wrong here.
USERS SAID: "I have been using this retinol moisturizer for about a month and so far I LOVE it. [...] Don’t let the price full you. It does not have a bad smell, it leaves my skin really moisturized, and a little goes a long way. I have been using it mostly at night after a retinol serum application. I get many compliments as well. People at work are asking me what I have been doing differently for my skin because these days I'm glowing!"
No7 Advanced Retinol 1.5% Complex Night Concentrate
WHAT IT DOES: Don't let the .3% retinol concentration fool you. Because it's encapsulated with an oil and water base, the active ingredient is delivered quickly for maximum efficiency with minimal irritation. Pretty cool, huh?
FUN FACT: New to Boots' in-house brand, No7, this buzzy retinol serum racked up a 99,719-person waitlist just 10 days after its launch.