Welcome to another look into our guide! In this post we’ll explore retinol, a product that has been used for years to improve the appearance of skin. Using our guidance, you will get the most out of this wonderful substance and avoid rare, but possible side effects due to improper use.

Retinol stimulates the formation of new epithelial cells, which helps to reduce spots and expression lines. Products with a high concentration of vitamin A are used exclusively in dermatology. Over-the-counter cosmetics with retinol can be just as effective, although it will be necessary to be patient and consistent if we want to see results.

Key Facts

  • Retinol is a vitamin A derivative capable of stimulating the renewal of the most superficial layer of the skin.
  • It is an especially effective product to treat acne, blemishes and expression lines of the face.
  • The main side effects of retinol are inflammation, redness, and peeling of the skin. These unpleasant symptoms will appear if our skin is particularly sensitive or if we use an excessive amount of product.

Ranking: The best products with retinol on the market

Next, we’ll fill you in on the best serums with retinol that you can find on the market. In this section you will learn which ones are the most suitable for you and your friends and you’ll discover the multitude of benefits they offer our skin.

No. 1: Maritime Naturals, Retinol Face Cream (120ml)

Each 30ml bottle of this serum contains certified organic ingredients including retinol (vitamin A), Vitamin B5, shea butter, Jojoba oil, these among others, are the ingredients that have collagen stimulating effects. The manufacturer states this product is parabens and sulfates free, and they don’t specify whether this serum has been tested on animals.

The creators suggest applying this product after using their moisturizing Vitamin C serum – in order to get the best results making sure to apply it in a light circular motion. When using this serum, avoid direct contact with the eyes, just spreading a light layer onto the face, neck and decollete areas. Buyers leave excellent reviews of this product, highlighting an improvement in skin texture and quality after one month of continued use.

No. 2: The Ordinary, Granactive Retinoid 2% Emulsion (30ml)

The Ordinary brand boasts simple, integral and high purity formulations. One 30ml vessel of this serum contains Solubilized Hydroxypinacolone Retinoate, an advanced retinoid that delivers better anti-aging results with less irritation than other non-prescription retinoids. This being said, it’s very important to be aware of possible side effects from using higher concentrations of retinol.

The manufacturer advises against using other products that contain retinoids while using this serum, as high concentrations can make your skin more sensitive to UV radiation. The serum should be applied at night to clean and dry skin. During the day it is essential to use protection against sun exposure while using it. According to users, it is a product that really works at attenuating expression lines and spots

No. 3: Neutrogena, Anti-Aging Retinol Face Cream (48ml)

One 48ml container of Neutrogena, Anti-Aging Retinol Face Cream includes hyaluronic acid for moisturization and less than 1% retinol that works to renew and rejuvenate the skin. This cream has a Glucose Complex that works as a Retinal SA booster, which is said by the manufacturer to accelerate the skin’s surface activity and decrease the presence of wrinkles and fine lines.

This serum has a simple formula that creates a cream gentle enough for daily use. Buyers are very satisfied with the serum and note that it can be used on sensitive skins. Moreover, the use of hyaluronic acid works to plump the skin affected by expression lines. This popular brand promises that this cream creates visibly healthier and younger skin in as early as 1 week.

No. 4: My Organic Zone, Skin Hydrator (50ml)

The Organiz Zone, Skin Hydrator is an all natural serum that contains all organic compounds and oil extracts to provide high levels of anti-aging and anti-wrinkle properties. This includes Sunflower oil, Shea butter, Jojoba oil, Aloe Vera, Vitamin E, Vitamin B5 and more. All of which work to leave the skin smooth and glowing. The 1% active retinol concentration provides extra anti-aging properties.

This serum is great to use on all areas of the skin due to its moisturizing capacity. The manufacturer suggests applying the serum to clean and exfoliated skin and allowing 15 minutes before applying any other products to the face. There are no parabens, fillers, dyes or harmful fragrances present in its composition. This Canadian based brand does not test on animals and is licensed and approved by Health Canada.

No. 5: All Natural Advice, Night Lift Cream 1% retinol (50ml)

No products found.

This All Natural Night Lift Cream comes in a 50ml bottle, and it contains a 1% retinol concentration. Advanced Peptides, Panthenol, Hyaluronic Acid, and CoQ10 are included in the cream to help achieve younger looking skin. All of these active components promote increased elasticity and firmness of the skin. All ingredients within this night cream are certified organic.

The manufacturer recommends using the serum every night to allow for deep absorption into the skin. This product fights a multitude of skin problems including wrinkles, fine lines, sun spots, age spots and damage from UV rays. Buyers have consistently noticed a fresh and rejuvenated sensation the morning after applying this product.

Shopping Guide: Everything you should know about retinol

Retinol, a derivative of vitamin A, has been used in cosmetics since 1984. This molecule is capable of stimulating the cell DNA of the cells it comes into contact with, accelerating its metabolism. If used consistently, it’s capable of stimulating the production of new cells and generating a thickening of the epidermis.


A retinol serum will improve the appearance of the skin of both men and women equally.(Source: Mandrikova: 51170131/123rf.com)

What is retinol exactly?

Retinol is a derivative of vitamin A. It belongs to the group of topical retinoids, such as tretinoin and isotretinoin. These two products, commonly used in dermatology, are effective, but tend to generate redness and inflammation of the skin. Retinol was developed as a softer (but equally effective) skin care alternative.

After the age of 30, collagen production and the creation of new skin cells begins to slow down. Vitamin A is able to penetrate cells and stimulate their metabolism, making them behave like young cells again.

In short, adding a retinol product to our skin care routine can help alleviate the signs of aging. Our skin will appear renewed, hydrated and healthy. If we use a retinol formula consistently, we will see an improvement in the condition of our skin after about three months. Patience is key when first adding this product to your daily routine.

What is the difference between retinol and the rest of vitamin A derivatives?

For many people, retinol is the “only anti-wrinkle agent that works”. Actually, there are other vitamin A derivatives that are also capable of altering the appearance of the skin.

We strongly believe it’s important that you know the main differences between these derivatives so that you can safely and buy the right serum for the needs of your skin.

  • Retinol Palmitate: This is a weak retinoid, cheaper than the other vitamin A derivatives. Because it contains palmitic acid, its action is mainly moisturizing the skin. Its effects on wrinkles, blemishes and acne are somewhat limited, but it rarely causes irritation. It is recommended for sensitive skins.
  • Retinol: This product has a moderate potency. It is considered safe for free sale to the public. Its price often depends on the prestige of the manufacturer’s brand. The most common side effects from the use of this product are redness and peeling. It produces microscopic changes in the structure of the skin that translate into aesthetic improvement.
  • Tretinoin: This product has an acidic component that makes it especially suitable for the treatment of acne. It also has excellent anti-ageing action. This product requires a doctor’s prescription due to its potential side effects: more severe redness, irritation and inflammation of the skin.
  • Isotretinoin: Like tretinoin, this molecule is used for the treatment of more severe acne. Since side effects can be stronger and quite uncomfortable, a prescription and a follow-up appointment with your physician is required.
  • Tazarotene: This is the most potent of the retinoids. It is mainly used for the treatment of psoriasis, although it can also be used to combat the signs of ageing. This is a strong and effective component – for this reason its cost is pretty high.

If you need a more visual idea of the differences between retinol and other derivatives, you can consult the following table:

Derivative Potency Side effects Price Available over the counter
Retinol Palmitate Weak Very mild Low Yes
Retinol Medium Mild Variable Yes
Tretinoin High Severe Medium No
Isotretinoin High Severe Medium No
Tazarotene Very high Severe High No

Who would benefit from the use of Retinol?

Generally, it’s recommended to add a retinol serum to your beauty routine from the age of 30. After this age, the synthesis of collagen reduces considerably and thus the creation of new cell also decreases considerably. Using a serum with vitamin A will enable you to keep your skin looking younger for longer. The use of retinol will be beneficial for treating:

  • Wrinkles and expression lines
  • Sun spots
  • Craters and scars – consequence of acne
  • Acne, grains and blackheads
  • Irregular and uneven skin texture

Who should refrain from using a retinol serum?

Younger people (under 25) should not use this product. If this product is applied on young skin, the epidermis will be over stimulated and this can cause various problems: acne, oily skin and peeling. For people under 25, we recommend using a product with salicylic acid.

Furthermore, people with particularly sensitive skin should be especially careful when using retinol. If this is the case, we recommend starting with the lowest possible concentration of retinol. After a trial period, if no side effects appear, you can gradually increase the potency of your serums.


Experts recommend that we start to add retinol to our beauty routine starting at the age of 30.

How can a retinol product benefit my skin?

Because retinol promotes the creation of new cells, there will be a renewal of the outermost layer of skin. Therefore, sun spots, scars and acne scars will be attenuated. This molecule will also penetrate deep into the pores, reducing the formation of pimples and blackheads.

Aging progressively reduces the thickness of the skin. Retinol opposes this degradation and restores its elasticity, providing hydration and freshness to the skin. Both the skin of man and women alike would benefit from the use of retinol.


Make sure your serum is rightly serum to avoid contact with the outside air and sunlight – exposure to the elements will cause degradation of the molecule.(Source: Kappatou: 67315405/123rf.com)

What is the price range for serums with retinol?

Cosmetic products have a varying prices, the price will generally be correlated to the prestige of the brand behind the product. You will find their price can range from anywhere between 7 CAD$ to over 200 CAD$. Keep in mind that a high price does not always necessarily mean high efficiency.

Pay attention to the ingredients in your serum and make sure that retinol is the main component. Many manufacturers use moisturizers and other molecules that make the product more expensive. It’s important to choose a brand that you trust. That being said, yes, it’s still possible to find fantastic serums without your bank account taking the hit.

How are retinol products applied?

Retinol is applied at night, on a clean and dry skin. Sunlight quickly deteriorates any retinoid, so you will waste the product if you use it during the day. It’s important to know that the serum penetrates moist skin quite intensely, and this can cause irritation. The skin must be very dry before applying your retinol treatment.

Apply a small amount of retinol to face, neck and décolleté area. If your serum comes in gel or cream form, a pea-sized amount will suffice. If you use it in the form of oil, do not use more than 4 drops. Using more than the recommended amount puts you at risk of irritation, peeling and redness.

Should I use sunscreen when using retinol?

Yes! No doubt about it. You must use a high sun protection factor when using products with retinol (minimum SPF 30). Remember, too, that sun exposure is the main agent responsible for the aging of skin. You should use sunscreen every day, not just when you’re out on the beach or clearly exposed to the sun, sunscreen is important even on the cloudiest of days!

The exact mechanism by which retinol sensitizes on the skin with solar radiation is not yet known. Some hypotheses point to an effect of the same molecule, while other authors believe that the new cells don’t tolerate the sun as well. All in all, what we do know is that our epidermis becomes more sensitive to the impact of the sun’s rays.

Dr. Adam FriedmanDermatology Physician (USA)

“You do not need to avoid sun exposure. Simply use protective measures, such as daily sunscreen, particularly on affected areas [by retinol].”

What side effects may occur while using retinol?

When starting a retinol routine, skin irritation, redness, and peeling may occur. These effects are annoying, but harmless, and will improve with time of use. However, the appearance of painful, open wounds or swelling are all strong indicators that you should see a doctor immediately.

Our advices is to start off with low concentrations of retinol one night a week for one month. Gradually increasing the frequency of use if your skin has shown it tolerates it. If your skin is very sensitive, you should apply a moisturizer ten minutes before applying the serum.

Below is a table summarizing treatment for the main side effects of retinol use:

Side effect Treatment
Reddening of the skin. Sunscreen and hydration before applying retinol.
Irritation Sunscreen and hydration before applying retinol. Lengthening the time between retinol application.
Scaling Sunscreen and make sure to use cleansers and creams made for sensitive skin. Extra hydration.
Dry skin Sun protection. Intense hydration (masks, day serums).
Pain, allergic reactions, severe or continuing irritation. Stop using product and seek medical advice immediately

Can I use a retinol serum if I am pregnant?

Vitamin A derivatives are liposoluble. This means that they are able to penetrate the cell membrane and accumulate in the body. Even if you apply a retinoid topically, the molecule is able to get into your body and with the potential of having harmful effects on the fetus.

Therefore, women are advised not to use retinol during pregnancy and lactation.
There are anti-gaining alternatives that are safe for the fetus. For example, you can use serums with vitamin C, glycolic acid or lactic acid.

Dr. Hanna BrowneGynaecologist

“It is currently recommended to stop using retinoids one month before attempting to get pregnant.

Purchase Criteria

Here are the most important factors to consider when choosing a retinol serum. Before deciding on a new product, pay attention to the following aspects:

  • Desired effect
  • Type of skin
  • Formulation
  • Type of container
  • Value for your money

Desired effect

What problem on your skin are you looking to treat? If you’re only looking to just improve the appearance of your skin, a low concentration of retinol will suffice. If you’re looking to fight blemishes and wrinkles, you’ll have to look for more powerful products. However, keep in mind that unfortunately, manufacturers are not obliged to disclose the exact amount of retinol in their serums.

Some products advertise very high concentrations of retinol, but in reality actually only use a small amount of the molecule, which is diluted in oils and moisturizers. We suggest you choose a quality and trusted brand with reputable formulas in which the main ingredient is retinol. Remember to always read the composition of the formula before making your purchase.

Type of skin

If your skin is particularly sensitive, suffers from allergic reactions, or prone to eczema or rosacea, try using products with low retinol concentrations. It’s always a good idea to do a small test in an inconspicuous area (such as behind the ear) to check your reaction to the product after 24 hours.

Nonetheless, virtually all skin types (dry, oily, mixed) will benefit from the effects of retinol. If your skin is oily or mixed, choose a lightweight serum. If your skin is dry, you can opt for heavier oils. However, make sure you use daily sunscreen with any product you choose, protecting your skin avians the sun is of utmost importance when using retinoids.


A container with a dispenser will prevent the serum from degrading upon contact with air.(Source: Starikov: 37935466/123rf.com)


There are serums free of parabens and silicones, as well as products that respect nature and protect the environment. More and more cosmetics brands are opting for compassion and giving up testing their products on animals. These serums will carry a characteristic symbol on its packaging if its manufacturer does not experiment on animals and if it’s made with natural and organic ingredients.

Type of container

Retinol deteriorates upon contact with air and sunlight. Therefore, it’s important that you choose opaque containers and store your serum in an unexposed place.

Make sure to opt for a tube container or one with a dispenser. This way, only the amount of product you are going to use at that moment will come into contact with the air, protecting the rest of the product from deterioration.

Value for your money

In general, products with retinol have a great quality-price correlation. This is because a small amount of retinol has been shown to improve the appearance of the skin, if used consistently. If you want to save money, choose a serum with few extra ingredients, the main focus and component of its composition should be retinol.


Retinol is capable of accelerating the metabolism of skin cells. In this way, a rejuvenated skin is obtained, free of spots and wrinkles. Side effects include redness and peeling. These discomforts are easily preventable and in most cases, disappear over time.

We hope this guide enables you to choose the right retinol serum for your skin. Read through the composition of each product carefully before making your purchase, and don’t let yourself be confused by percentages and concentration ratios. Remember to be patient, and in a matter of months you will enjoy beautiful, younger looking skin.

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(Featured image source: Mandrikova: 51170131/123rf.com)

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