Retinol Reviewed: 5 Best Retinol Serums For Your Skin

Retinol Reviewed: The 5 Best Retinol Serums For Your Skin


If you’re anything like me, adding retinol into your skincare routine undoubtedly feels like the most daunting step out of them all; for years, rumours of irritation and reactions meant that I cast aside the ingredient all together. But since finding my perfect match, retinol is my favourite skincare step – and in this blog series, I’m going to help you find yours, so you can also enjoy all the perks that retinol has to offer.

But before I dive straight into its benefits, I need to answer one key question first: what is retinol? In short, retinol is a derivative of vitamin A, which works to treat everything including acne, skin ageing and sun damage. Once applied to the skin, it breaks down into retinoic acid, which promotes cell renewal and collagen production to achieve firmer, youthful skin. Traditionally retinoids, such as Retin-A, are prescribed by a specialist but the weaker variations of retinoids, such as retinol, are available in concentrations of up to 2% in a variety of formats, including: eye creams, lip balms and night oils.

In the opening edit of my retinol reviewed series, we’re going to start with a familiar step in our skincare routine: serums. But first, let’s discuss the benefits of retinol…

Benefits of Retinol:

I love a multi-functional skincare ingredient and retinol is certainly that; encouraging cell renewal, retinol is most commonly known as an anti-ageing ingredient, targeting wrinkles and dullness to promote a brighter, smoother complexion. The powerhouse ingredient can be particularly beneficial for those looking to target hyperpigmentation or rough, uneven complexions. But, that’s not all! Retinol also targets acne by clearing the buildup of skin cells, while reducing the visibility of scarring caused by previous blemishes.

Got more questions before you dive in? Discover more in our Retinol 101 guide:

Retinol 101: Every Question You’ve Asked, Answered!


1. The Gentle Retinol Serum For Beginners

Active Ingredients: 0.3% retinol, 2% vitamin B3 and 10% glycerin.

Retinol Serums Reviewed: La Roche-Posay Retinol B3 Serum

I just had to start this list with the serum that fueled my love for retinol: the La Roche-Posay Retinol B3 Serum. Part of the best-selling Redermic R collection, this award-winning serum is loved worldwide by both skincare enthusiasts and dermatologists.

La Roche-Posay worked with leading scientists to expertly blend 2% vitamin B3 and 10% glycerin in order to calm and hydrate your skin, whilst protecting against external aggressors known to accelerate ageing.

But the thing that sets this lightweight serum apart is its lower retinol concentration; this allows you to build up your skin’s tolerance to the anti-ageing ingredient over time, making it the perfect retinol for beginners or those with sensitive skin.

Designed with retinol newbies in mind, the built-in pipette helps you apply the correct dose to the skin and, of course, makes for mess-free application. But for me, the best bit about La Roche-Posay’s serum is that its surprisingly silky texture leaves behind a cool and calming sensation, which you wouldn’t typically associate with retinol.

2. The Retinol Capsules For Intermediates

Active Ingredients: retinol and ceramides.

Retinol Serums Reviewed: Elizabeth Arden Retinol Ceramide Capsules Line Erasing Night Serum

Have you used retinol before but are still finding your feet? The Elizabeth Arden Retinol Serum is a great next step for retinol intermediaries, harnessing all the high-powered benefits of retinol and the moisturising properties of ceramides in a pre-dosed format.

Elizabeth Arden has done the hard work for us, dispensing the formula into individual skincare capsules to ensure you’re using the exact daily dose to meet your skin’s needs. But the capsules aren’t just for ease, they also protect the serum from air and light for maximum potency, so you can enjoy the active ingredients in their optimal state. This air-tight design makes the Line Erasing Night Serum an excellent choice for fine lines and wrinkles, helping deliver clear, smooth and radiant skin in just one month!

3. The Affordable Retinol Serum For Experts

Active Ingredients: 1% Retinol.

Retinol Serums Reviewed: The Ordinary Retinol 1% in Squalane

For those of you who are seasoned in the benefits of retinol, The Ordinary Retinol 1% in Squalane is an affordable choice to regularly restock your skincare routine without breaking the bank. Perfect for anyone who feels that their retinol is no longer cutting it, this serum is the highest concentration of retinol The Ordinary has to offer.

The closest concentration to the prescribed offerings, this serum has been designed for beauty lovers who have built up their tolerance to the iconic anti-ageing active, who can’t get enough of the way it minimises everything from fine lines and photodamage to blemishes and acne scarring.

As an added bonus, The Ordinary has dropped squalane into the mix to help comfort and hydrate your skin, calming any irritation caused by the powerful active ingredient. But if you’re reading this and thinking, ‘I’m not ready for 1%’, The Ordinary retinoid range offers progressive concentrations, so you can slowly work your way up the collection.

4. The Alternative Retinol Serum For Naturalists

Active Ingredients: bidens pilosa, ceramides and niacinamide.

REN Bio Retinoid Youth Serum

If you’re a fan of vegan or natural skincare, you’ll love the REN Bio Retinoid Youth Serum, a plant-derived retinol alternative that’s clinically proven to reduce the signs of ageing within 7 days.

Perfect for anyone concerned with the first signs of ageing, naturally derived retinoids are a great choice for skincare lovers looking to dip their toe in the water. REN rely on ‘Bidens pilosa’, a herbaceous flower that harnesses similar anti-ageing benefits to vitamin A, to create an anti-ageing serum that works to plump and firm the skin without the risk of irritation.

REN’s vegan elixir pays homage to nature by blending an array of botanical ingredients, including ceramides extracted from wheat, in order to build the skin barrier and prevent future signs of ageing.

5. The High-Tech Retinol Serum For Experimentalists

Active Ingredients: tripeptide and lactic acid.

Dermalogica Neck Fit Contour Serum

Those of us who have already found our perfect facial serum might think that’s it for our romance with retinol. But with so many functions, the benefits of retinol can be enjoyed by the whole body, including the neck! Introducing… the Dermalogica Neck Fit Contour Serum, a plant-based anti-ageing formula that works to lift, firm and sculpt the sagging skin around the decollete.

Designed with tripeptide, lactic acid and Dermalogica’s Flex Lift Technology, the Contour Serum not only delivers retinol-like results, but it’s also a workout for your neck. Utilising 25 years of skincare expertise, Dermalogica has developed a unique cooling roller, which provides a sensory experience that both feel proactive and offers some much-needed relief after a long day. Top tip: tie your hair up before use to avoid painful tangles.


See The Textures!



View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Escentual (@escentual)


Discover More:

3 Retinol Rules For Radiant Results


bareMinerals Ageless Phyto-Retinol Lip Balm Review

Shop this post