When it comes to powerhouse skincare ingredients, retinol easily ranks at the top of the list. Thanks to its ability to stimulate collagen and accelerate cell turnover, the vitamin A derivative can take care of pretty much any skin issue in the book. Wrinkles? Check. Acne? Check. Discoloration? Check. But, as with most of the great things in life, it does come with a catch—it's not exactly the most gentle ingredient out there. If your skin is sensitive, just one application can leave you with a peeling, irritated complexion that not even your most expensive night cream can soothe. However, there are formulas out there that play nice with needy skin types, you've just got to find the right ones. Lucky for you, we've already done it. Ahead, we've rounded up an algorithm-backed list of the best retinol creams for sensitive skin on the market, all ranked and approved by our data-driven algorithm that factors in best-selling buzz, editorial mentions, and real user reviews. From a luxury find celebs swear by to a drugstore formula you won't believe rings up under $20, keep scrolling to shop the most gentle retinol creams on the shelves and take care of your biggest skin woes without the redness or irritation. Opening image: @muradskincare
Love our 10 Best Retinol Creams For Sensitive Skin? Just wait till you see our 10 Best Eye Creams For Sensitive Skin!
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PCA Skin Retinol Treatment For Sensitive Skin
WHAT IT DOES: The secret to this sensitive skin-friendly formula is a genius ingredient called niacinamide. The antioxidant helps to gently combat the signs of aging while also calming the skin, kicking any chance of redness or irritation to the curb.
HELPUL TIP: Start with two applications per week, then gradually increase to every other night, then advance to nightly as your skin adjusts.
MyChelle Dermaceuticals Remarkable Retinal Serum
BEST FOR: Formulated with retinaldehyde—retinol's more potent relative—this is an excellent choice for those looking to step up their retinoid regimen. Because it also contains soothing ingredients like ceramides, aloe, and allantoin, you shouldn't see an increase in irritation.
USERS SAID: "I was looking for something stronger than Differin and after I read and did some research, I came across this product. I use it every night, and after just a week I can already seen big differences in my skin texture. My skin is so much clearer and softer!"
RoC Retinol Correxion Anti-Aging Sensitive Skin Night Cream
LOVED FOR: Containing emollients that smooth, hydrate, and protect the skin barrier while slowing down the absorption of retinol, this gentle formula makes the skin feel healthy and moisturized rather than dry and irritated.
FROM THE EXPERTS: This night cream is clinically proven to gently reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles while you sleep in just eight weeks.
SkinMedica Age Defense Retinol Complex .25
WHY YOU NEED IT: Formulated to time release over the course of eight hours, this serum penetrates more evenly into the skin to provide better results without the irritation. It's also encapsulated in spheres so hyaluronic acid, so it's super hydrating too.
HELPFUL TIP: Be sure to apply daily sun protection with SPF 20 or higher while you're using this.
SkinCeuticals Retinol 0.3
WHAT IT DOES: This unique formula features a delivery technology that allows for a steady release of pure retinol into the skin, slowly tackling discoloration, enlarged pores, and more. Even better, the packaging was specially designed to help preserve its potency.
USERS SAID: "I've read that when you first use retinol, your skin will purge. This didn't happen to me at all! I used to have cystic/hormonal acne and the scarring is really apparent. After using this cream for a month, my skin looks SO MUCH BETTER. It's honestly unbelievable."
Marie Veronique Gentle Retinol Night Serum
WHY YOU NEED IT: This all-natural formula boasts all the benefits of retinol plus potent vitamins C and E, making it even more anti-aging than your average formula. And don't worry—thanks to ceramides, your skin won't stress out.
AS SEEN ON: Naomi Watts swears by this for her glowing complexion.
First Aid Beauty Fab Skin Lab Retinol Serum 0.25% Pure Concentrate
BEST FOR: If you're new to the world of retinoids, this extra gentle formula is a great place to start. Balanced with First Aid Beauty’s proprietary Skin Saver Complex, it delivers the wrinkle-reducing results you want without the irritation.
FROM THE EXPERTS: In a consumer perception study after four weeks, 91% felt their skin looked smoother and that the product was gentle and non-irritating.
Murad Retinol Youth Renewal Night Cream
LOVED FOR: Don't let the fact that this is a night cream scare you away. According to reviewers, the consistency is super lightweight but still seriously hydrating.
USERS SAID: "I have very sensitive skin and usually steer clear from retinol products, but this cream has caused no redness or irritation! I wake up to brighter skin and am excited to see more results."
Sunday Riley Luna Sleeping Night Oil
WHY YOU NEED IT: There's a reason this oil is such a fan favorite. From the light-as-air formula to the abundance of nourishing ingredients like chamomile and blue tansy, it's truly one of the gentlest options on the list while still remaining incredibly effective.
FROM THE EXPERTS: Luna Sleeping Night Oil is clinically proven to improve skin radiance, fine lines, and smoothness in just four weeks.
Murad Retinol Youth Renewal Serum
WHAT IT DOES: Using a unique tri-active technology, this game-changing serum delivers an instant dose of retinol as well as a slower dose over time to minimize current signs of aging and the ones you can't see yet, too. Genius, huh?
USERS SAID: “Add this to your skincare routine immediately! I am only 25 but I am trying to prevent the arrival of fine lines and wrinkles as much as possible. This is the perfect product in regards to being proactive about aging skin. It takes a very small amount to cover your face and does not leave pores feeling clogged. It does not cause my face to break out either, and I have extremely sensitive skin!"