7 Best Retinol Serums to Reveal Radiant Skin

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Find the best retinol serum for your skin type, skin condition, and budget! Overall, my top recommendation is La Roche-Posay Retinol B3 Serum.

Everyone wants radiant and young-looking skin, and retinol is touted as one of the best ingredients to help achieve that. It accelerates the rate of cell turnover, softens fine lines and wrinkles, improves uneven texture, and minimizes age spots! (Harvard Health)

Any vitamin A serum would give your skin these benefits but given the variations in potency of pure retinol, you need one that works specifically for your skin type. 

So what’s the best retinol serum for you? Read on to find out!

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What Is The Best Retinol Serum?

Here are my top recommendations:

  1. Editor’s Choice: La Roche-Posay Retinol B3 Serum
  2. Runner-Up: Peter Thomas Roth PM Night Serum
  3. Most Popular: CeraVe Resurfacing Retinol Serum
  4. Most Potent: Elizabeth Arden Retinol Ceramide Capsules Line Erasing Night Serum
  5. Best Budget: RoC Skincare Retinol Correxion Deep Wrinkle Serum
  6. Highest Rated: SkinMedica Retinol Complex 0.5
  7. Best for Anti-Aging: Murad Resurgence Retinol Youth Renewal Serum
La Roche-Posay Retinol B3 Serum
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EDITOR'S CHOICE

La Roche-Posay 
Retinol B3 Serum

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Best For:

✅ Fine Lines
✅ Wrinkles
✅ Sun Damage
✅ Pigmentation
✅ Skin Texture

Key Ingredients:

⭐ 2 Types of Retinol
⭐ Niacinamide (Vitamin B3)
⭐ Glycerin
⭐ Hyaluronic Acid
⭐ Thermal Spring Water

Key Features:

👍 2.2K+ Reviews
👍 79% 5-Stars
👍 1 oz Size
👍 Suitable for Sensitive Skin
👍 Non-Comedogenic

Get the benefits of retinol without the irritation with La Roche-Posay Retinol B3 Serum!

This serum contains two types of retinol: pure retinol and gradual release retinol. 

Pure retinol gives your skin all the brightening and anti-aging benefits in one go while the gradual release retinol uses microencapsulation technology to release the contents to your skin over several hours.

Given that retinol is known to be potent and possibly irritating to the skin, La Roche-Posay uses other ingredients to balance it out:

  • Vitamin B3 (Niacinamide): reinforces the skin barrier and improves skin tone
  • Glycerin: keeps lipids healthy and protects against irritation
  • Hyaluronic Acid: increases elasticity and hydrates the skin
  • La Roche-Posay Thermal Spring Water: soothes the skin
  • Soybean Oil: restores collagen and nourishes dry skin

The formulation has also been allergy tested and is non-comedogenic, paraben-free, and oil-free. Hence, we have an effective retinol serum suitable even for sensitive skin!

Attesting to this are 2,300 reviews on Amazon with 80% 5-stars, a truly exceptional rating in the skincare space. Many users stated that the product helped in reducing the appearance of age spots, fine lines and wrinkles and some even mentioned how it cleared their pore congestion and acne.

But do note that it contains fragrance. If this is your first retinol serum, you’ll want to start using it every other day and then build up from there.

Our Verdict: A bit pricey at $40/oz, but all it takes is 3-4 drops of La Roche-Posay Retinol B3 Serum in the evening and you can experience brighter, smoother, younger-looking skin! Just remember to use SPF sunscreen during the daytime.

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Peter Thomas Roth PM Night Serum
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RUNNER-UP

Peter Thomas Roth 
PM Night Serum

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Best For:

✅ Redness
✅ Dullness
✅ Age Spots
✅ Imperfections

Key Ingredients:

⭐ 1.5% Microencapsulated Retinol
⭐ Vitamin C
⭐ Vitamin E
⭐ Squalane

Key Features:

👍 1K+ Reviews
👍 71% 5-Stars
👍 Not Alcohol-Free

When you work all day, it helps to have a retinol serum that would work on your skin all night long like Peter Thomas Roth PM Night Serum!

It uses 1.5% encapsulated retinol which is excellent for minimizing fine lines and wrinkles, enhancing radiance and skin tone, and reducing redness and imperfections.

Because this ingredient works by basically drip-feeding retinol to your skin, you can experience the power of retinol with less risk of inflammation.

The night serum also employs vitamin C to brighten age spots and treat UV damage, and vitamin E to improve skin texture and maintain the skin’s oil balance.

Pairing together these vitamins makes them even more effective as they boost each other’s antioxidant performance (Good Housekeeping).

Then there’s squalane for moisturizing and reducing redness plus bisabolol for its soothing and anti-aging properties. The entire ingredient mix makes this product great for mature skin types. It can even be used to improve dark circles!

The clincher is that it costs $65/oz. Still, it has over 1,000 reviews and 70% 5-stars on Amazon, so perhaps it’s worth the price. 

Just make sure that you’re not buying a fake and remember to give your skin time to adjust. It absorbs quickly and is lightweight on the skin, so you can immediately follow up with a night cream.

Our Verdict: Gently exfoliate your skin with the Peter Thomas Roth PM Night Serum and its 1.5% encapsulated retinol, vitamin A, and vitamin C mix. 

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CeraVe Resurfacing Retinol Serum
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MOST POPULAR

CeraVe 
Resurfacing Retinol Serum

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Best For:

✅ Post-Acne Marks
✅ Enlarged Pores
✅ Blemishes
✅ Skin Texture

Key Ingredients:

⭐ Encapsulated Retinol
⭐ 3 Essential Ceramides
⭐ Licorice Root
⭐ Niacinamide

Key Features:

👍 24K+ Reviews
👍 75% 5-Stars
👍 Fragrance-Free
👍 Paraben-Free
👍 Non-Comedogenic

With the CeraVe Resurfacing Retinol Serum, baby smooth skin is no longer a far-fetched dream!

A mix of plumping, hydrating, and non-irritating ingredients prove to make this serum a hit, including:

  • Encapsulated Retinol: encourages cell turnover and improves signs of aging
  • 3 Essential Ceramides: repairs the skin barrier and maintains epidermal integrity (IncideCoder)
  • Licorice Root Extract: soothing and sebum-regulating
  • Niacinamide: brightens dark spots and improves acne
  • Hyaluronic Acid: binds water molecules to the skin

Over 24K+ reviews and 75% 5-stars prove how impressive it is as users share how it cleared up their acne while still addressing dark spots and wrinkles. Some even mentioned that it helped with stretch marks!

We have a multi-tasker on our hands, and it’s fragrance-free, paraben-free, and non-comedogenic. Of course, it also helps that this CeraVe product sells for less than $20/oz. 

Our Verdict: Get rid of acne blemishes, wrinkles, and imperfections using the CeraVe Resurfacing Retinol Serum and its non-drying formula with added ceramides and hyaluronic acid. The % of retinol is not disclosed which implies that it's on the lower end, but this makes it great for particularly sensitive skin and beginners to retinol.

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Elizabeth Arden Retinol Ceramide Capsules Line Erasing Night Serum
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MOST POTENT

Elizabeth Arden 
Retinol Ceramide Capsules 
Line Erasing Night Serum

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Best For:

✅ Fine Lines
✅ Wrinkles
✅ Aging Skin
✅ Rough Texture

Key Ingredients:

⭐ Retinol
⭐ Ceramides
⭐ Peptides
⭐ Emollient Oils

Key Features:

👍 1.7K+ Reviews
👍 74% 5-Stars
👍 30 Capsules
👍 Biodegradable Capsules

The older we get, the more important it becomes to take our vitamins and capsules. In this case, we’re talking about the Elizabeth Arden Retinol Ceramide Capsules Line Erasing Night Serum!  

The thing about retinol is that constant exposure to light and air can make it less effective which is why Elizabeth Arden opted to produce this night serum using capsules, to help keep the product fresh and beneficial. 

The formulation includes:

  • Retinol: boosts elastin and collagen production
  • Ceramides: maintains skin barrier function and hydrates skin
  • Peptides: eases inflammation and improves uneven texture
  • Green Tea: lightens age spots and protects from free radicals
  • Sunflower Oil: soothes skin and heals damaged moisture barriers
  • Avocado Oil: nourishes different skin layers
  • Phytosphingosine: anti-inflammatory and anti-microbial

The product has 1,700 reviews and 75% 5-stars on Amazon and users with sensitive skin say that it made their skin soft and smooth with minimal irritation. At $55 for 30 capsules, it costs less than a comparative brand’s 1 oz. retinol serum and as a plus, the capsules are even biodegradable! 

One capsule per use should suffice but you may need more if you’re also applying it to your neck.

Our Verdict: Leave your skin feeling and looking young with the Elizabeth Arden Retinol Ceramide Capsules Line Erasing Night Serum using retinol, ceramides, peptides, and emollient oils!

Pro Tip: Take your skincare routine to the next level and use the brand’s highly moisturizing 8 Hour Cream after applying the serum.

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RoC Skincare Retinol Correxion Deep Wrinkle Serum
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5
best budget

RoC Retinol Correxion 
Deep Wrinkle Serum

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Best For:

✅ Visible Radiance
✅ Uneven Skin Texture
✅ Wrinkles & Fine Lines

Key Ingredients:

⭐ Retinol
⭐ Vitamin E
⭐ Vitamin C
⭐ Zinc Gluconate
⭐ Copper Gluconate

Key Features:

👍 11K+ Reviews
👍 70% 5-Stars
👍 Budget Friendly

At less than $20/oz, the RoC Skincare Retinol Correxion Deep Wrinkle Serum provides award-winning anti-aging solutions without burning through your wallet!

The company has established itself as a reputable brand since 1957 and it continues to revolutionize skincare to this day as this retinol serum was awarded the best facial serum during the 2019 Allure Best of Beauty Awards.

It contains a mix of:

  • Retinol: smoothens wrinkles and uneven skin
  • Vitamin E: protects skin cells from damage
  • Vitamin C: slows down visible appearance of aging and reduces acne scars
  • Zinc Gluconate: regulates sebum and treats acne
  • Copper Gluconate: promotes regeneration of skin cells

According to RoC, the antioxidants (vitamin E, vitamin C) and chelating agents (zinc gluconate and copper gluconate) help prevent retinol degradation. A company study further shows that after 8 weeks, 97% of users had an overall improvement in photodamage and 100% noticed visibly radiant, younger-looking skin. 

However, it is worth noting that the % of retinol in this product is not disclosed.

With over 12,000 reviews and 70% 5-stars on Amazon, we can say that this serum has been tried and tested. Just don’t forget to apply a hydrating night cream afterward to avoid drying out your skin.

Our Verdict: The RoC Skincare Retinol Correxion Deep Wrinkle Serum uses retinol, antioxidants, and chelating agents to provide maximum anti-aging effects at a minimal price. It’s an excellent budget option for beginners to retinol and fans of the RoC skincare line.

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SkinMedica Retinol Complex 0.5
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HIGHEST RATED

SkinMedica 
Retinol Complex 0.5

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Best For:

✅ Professional Quality
✅ Maintain Cosmetic Procedure Results

Key Ingredients:

⭐ 0.5% Retinol
⭐ PhytoShield Complex

Key Features:

👍 2K+ Reviews
👍 84% 5-Stars!
👍 Highly Potent

With over 2,000 reviews and 85% 5-stars, dermatologist grade SkinMedica Retinol Complex 0.5 is the highest rated retinol serum on our list and for good reason!

This product contains 0.5% retinol, which is considered high strength (Paula’s Choice). This makes it excellent for addressing fine lines, deep wrinkles, and uneven texture. 

What’s great about this serum is that despite the higher concentration, it has been formulated to work even for sensitive skin types. It uses PhytoShield Complex (an antioxidant complex) to improve the skin barrier and minimize irritation.

It also employs a number of soothing ingredients such as:

  • Niacinamide: boosts collagen production and improves hydration
  • Soybean Oil: reduces inflammation 
  • Ceramides: locks in moisture and prevents dry skin
  • Bisabolol: promotes skin rejuvenation

SkinMedica’s retinol serum comes in at over $70/oz but we can say that it’s well worth it. All the negative reviews on Amazon were written 4-5 years ago and are directed towards knock-offs. To avoid this, we suggest that you check the seller before buying - look for sold by Amazon or Skinmedica.

Meanwhile, those who left positive reviews speak of how it made a noticeable difference on their mature skin.

Our Verdict: Get the highest rated retinol serum with SkinMedica Retinol Complex 0.5 and its hydrating, anti-aging formulation! If you’re looking for another top-reviewed product to consider, check out Sunday Riley A+ High-Dose Retinoid Serum.

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Murad Resurgence Retinol Youth Renewal Serum
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BEST FOR ANTI-AGING

Murad Resurgence 
Retinol Youth Renewal Serum

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Best For:

✅ Anti-Aging
✅ Wrinkles
✅ Fine Lines
✅ Crow's Feet
✅ Age Spots

Key Ingredients:

⭐ 3 Types of Retinol
⭐ Swertia Flower Extract
⭐ Hyaluronic Acid

Key Features:

👍 500+ Reviews
👍 77% 5-Stars
👍 Not Fragrance-Free

The Murad Resurgence Retinol Youth Renewal Serum may be the closest you can get to finding the fountain of youth.

Murad utilizes Retinol Tri-Active Technology which combines three types of retinol:

  • A fast-acting retinoid: works on the skin immediately and delivers instant results.
  • A time-released retinol: slowly releases retinol into the skin and minimizes skin irritation.
  • A retinol booster: amplifies the effects of retinol and increases skin cell turnover.

All of these work to address fine lines and wrinkles, crow’s feet, age spots, and dull skin. Then there are ceramides to improve skin texture, hyaluronic acid to hydrate the skin, urea to boost barrier function, and swertia flower extract to brighten and soothe skin.

A company study showed that after two weeks, 93% of users noticed a reduction in lines and wrinkles, 98% saw smoother skin, and 85% saw more radiant skin. 500 reviews and 77% 5-stars on Amazon also reflect that this retinol serum is great for all skin types and can be used for both preventative and corrective purposes.

You may have to work your way up to nightly use, but a user has found it so gentle that she even uses it during the day. Just make sure not to overdo it and to use the serum under moisturizer and sunscreen.

Our Verdict: At $90/oz, the Murad Resurgence Retinol Youth Renewal Serum is the most expensive among all retinol products on this list, but it’s worth including in your skin care regimen. Its formulation of Retinol Tri-Active Technology and hydrating ingredients leads to firmer, smoother, and brighter skin with minimal irritation!

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