Fashion & Beauty

Why is Retinol Serum So Popular?

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Lately, it seems like everyone we know is on a mission to up their skincare routine.

Maybe it’s because we put so little effort into our wardrobe choices throughout the quarantine. Maybe it’s because it gave us a new purpose in 2020 when we were cooped up for months on end. Maybe it’s because we’ve read ALL the blogs on the importance of self-care.

Or maybe it’s because we’ve all realized that we’re not getting any younger.

Whether you’re in your teens or twenties or fighting those evil 11 lines and crow’s feet in your forties, it’s never too early (or too late) to adopt an anti-aging skincare routine.

No matter the reason for our newfound skincare fixation, we can all benefit from taking better care of our skin. And one product that seems to be able to do that is retinol serum.

Not sure why retinol serum has become the must-have skincare product that everyone is all of a sudden using?

Here’s why retinol serum is so popular, plus our recommendations for the seven best products to try!

What is Retinol?

Woman using a serum in front of her mirror

Retinol is a derivative of Vitamin A and is one of several skincare product ingredients that fall under the category of retinoids.

Erica Suppa with Fresh Faced Skincare gave us the 411 on this special serum. “Our skin naturally makes Vitamin A, so when retinol is introduced topically, it can be utilized efficiently by our skin. Vitamin A in its active form is available through prescription only and can be pretty irritating to your skin. Retinol has grown in popularity because it is an inactive form of Vitamin A that after application metabolizes to the active form over time. This allows you to use it more consistently without irritation.”

Despite being less potent than some other retinoids, retinol provides a variety of benefits to the skin, making it one of those ingredients that beauty scientists everywhere are incorporating into their skincare products.

How Does Retinol Improve the Skin?

One reason why retinol is so popular is that it does a multitude of different things. 

For one, it boosts collagen production and promotes cell turnover, which helps to plump skin from the inside out and reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. This is why retinol is found in so many anti-aging skincare products.

Retinol also has the ability to reduce visible signs of aging by exfoliating the skin, brightening your skin tone, fading dark spots and evening out hyperpigmentation. It’s an excellent option for people with discoloration on the skin and those who want a more even, smooth tone. 

Because it’s an exfoliator, retinol also helps to improve the overall skin texture, making it a powerful product ingredient for people with all sorts of skin concerns.

But nothing is without consequence …

It is important to note that retinol does have some side effects.

All types of retinoids can potentially cause dryness and make the skin prone to flaking or peeling. This is usually the case in people with sensitive skin or in people who are new to using retinol products. But there is a way around that. 

Use retinol prior to moisturizing, and then hydrate the skin by applying your moisturizer as the final step in your nighttime skincare routine. The application of moisturizer on top of retinol can keep the skin hydrated and prevent visible signs of peeling and flaking.

If you’ve never used a retinol product before, do so with caution. Start with a low amount of concentrate and a small amount of product. For retinol newbies, it’s always best to start with a lower strength to give your skin a chance to get used to its effects.  

Related: 15 Best Products For Glowing Skin [An Easy Skincare Routine]

Are Retinol Serums Better Than Retinol Creams?

Retinol comes in different forms, and retinol serum is only one option to consider. Retinol also comes in the form of lotions and creams.

So is one better than the other?

Both retinol serums and retinol creams are effective, but there are a few reasons why retinol serums are becoming the preferred choice of beauty pros everywhere.

In general, serums are more beneficial because they have a higher concentration of active ingredients. Some serums contain amounts of retinol as small as 0.25 strength, while others use as much as 1.0 strength.

In comparison to lotions and creams, serums are a great option for people with oily skin. A few drops of retinol serum on targeted areas of the skin are all you need to see improvement!

Because serums are more concentrated with high levels of active ingredients, they also have the ability to penetrate the skin faster, which also means you’ll see results faster.

7 Retinol Serums to Try Now

Ready to add a retinol serum to your daily skincare routine? Here are some of the best retinol serums on the market, with different strengths and other effective ingredients to benefit different skin types.

Eva Naturals Vitamin C Serum Plus 2% Retinol

Eva Naturals Vitamin C Serum Plus 2% Retinol

The Eva Naturals Vitamin C Serum Plus 2% Retinol contains all sorts of powerful ingredients, including hyaluronic acid for hydration, salicylic acid to combat blemishes and breakouts, and niacinamide, which supports the skin barrier and makes your pores look smaller. 

This product includes 20% Vitamin C to keep the skin hydrated and glowing. It also contains 2% retinol to help fight the anti-aging battle and improve the overall texture and tone of the skin.

It also has aloe, essential oils and other natural ingredients, making it a great option for people looking for a multi-purpose serum at an affordable price.

RoC Retinol Correxion Deep Wrinkle Retinol Serum

RoC Retinol Correxion Deep Wrinkle Retinol Serum

The RoC Retinol Correxion Deep Wrinkle Retinol Serum is ideal for people with mature skin that have already developed deep lines, crow’s feet and dark circles.

This retinol serum won the 2019 Allure Best of Beauty award for the best facial serum. Dermatologists, skincare experts, and beauty fanatics love it and support its claims that it’s clinically proven to make your skin look 10 years younger.

In clinical studies, this serum visibly reduces wrinkles in four weeks. In eight weeks, you’ll see more radiant, younger-looking skin. After twelve weeks of use, 89% of subjects studied said that even their deep wrinkles were reduced.

Wearing sunscreen with SPF is a must whenever you’re outdoors. RoC stresses this fact and recommends that you wear a minimum of SPF15 whenever you use this product.

Neutrogena Rapid Wrinkle Repair Retinol Face Serum Oil

Neutrogena Rapid Wrinkle Repair Retinol Face Serum Oil

Surely you’ve seen those commercials with Jennifer Garner (and no, we’re not talking about the ones where she tries to get you to sign up for a certain credit card). We’re talking about the ones where she’s looking fresh as a daisy as a result of using Neutrogena’s Rapid Wrinkle Repair.

The Neutrogena Rapid Wrinkle Repair Retinol Face Serum Oil isn’t just a Jennifer Garner go-to. More than 30,000 Amazon reviewers have given this product 4.5 stars!

With 0.3% retinol, this serum is proven to smooth wrinkles, minimize dark spots, and create younger, more radiant skin. That’s pretty much what we’re all striving for!

La Roche-Posay Redermic R Anti-Aging Serum

La Roche-Posay Redermic R Anti-Aging Serum

Fragrance-free and made without oil or parabens, the La Roche-Posay Redermic R Anti-Aging Retinol Serum has made its way onto just about every “best of” skincare list that exists. 

Before we get into the deets on this specific formulation, we have to clue you in on what makes the La Roche-Posay such a favorite:


Almost every beauty and skincare product includes some amount of water, but this brand uses a signature thermal spring water that comes from the town of La Roche-Posay in France. The water that comes from this spring is antioxidant-rich, and scientists have actually proven that it has healing properties.  

This product is sort of a hybrid of a serum and a lightweight gel. In addition to retinol and that oh-so-powerful water, it contains salicylic acid to improve acne-prone skin and lipo-hydroxy acids to smooth the skin’s texture.

Related: Everything You Need To Know About A Men’s Skincare Routine

The Ordinary Retinol 0.5% in Squalane Serum

The Ordinary Retinol .5% in Squalane

The Ordinary is known for its wide range of science-based skincare products, but if you haven’t already used this brand, then you might not know that it’s also ridiculously affordable.

The Ordinary Retinol 0.5% in Squalane Serum is a water-free solution that contains pure retinol and squalane, an antioxidant that keeps your skin super hydrated and looking as young as can be. It’s cruelty-free, it’s vegan and a one ounce bottle costs less than $6. Need we say more?

If you’ve never used a retinol serum before, The Ordinary also makes a version of this serum with 0.2% retinol, which is a good stepping stone to start with to get your skin used to the product.

Tired of shelling out hundreds of dollars for skincare essentials? Check out How to Build a Skincare Routine with The Ordinary Products

Murad Retinol Youth Renewal Serum

Murad Retinol Youth Renewal Serum

Want younger looking, more radiant skin for minimal effort? The Murad Retinol Youth Renewal Serum is proven to improve skin elasticity, boost radiance, and plump up the skin where you have lines and wrinkles.

This hydrating serum is a bit on the pricey side, but clinical results show that 93% of users saw a reduction in lines and wrinkles after using it for just two weeks!

Safe for use on dry, oily, normal and combination skin, this retinol serum contains all sorts of powerful acids and natural extracts. It’s formulated with Murad’s Retinol Tri-Active Technology to fight wrinkles, Swertia flower extract to make the skin firmer, and hyaluronic acid to provide an extra dose of hydration to the skin.

If your problem area is the skin around your eyes, Murad also makes a retinol eye serum that can be used around the eyes as well as on the eyelids.

First Aid Beauty FAB Skin Lab Retinol Serum 0.25% Pure Concentrate

First Aid Beauty FAB Skin Lab Retinol Serum 0.25% Pure Concentrate

The First Aid Beauty FAB Skin Lab Retinol Serum 0.25% Pure Concentrate is the perfect choice for first time retinol users, as the low concentration gives your skin a chance to adjust to the product before using a more intense concentration.

But it’s not just the low concentration of retinol that makes this serum so great for new users. The fact that this serum is formulated with all sorts of ingredients to counterbalance the effects of retinol irritation is what makes it so worthwhile.

This FAB serum contains hyaluronic acid for hydration. It has aloe, which has the ability to soothe and heal the skin when burned. It also contains colloidal oatmeal and ceramides to further calm and soothe the skin.

If you have sensitive skin or are concerned that retinol might have adverse effects on your skin type, this is the serum to try.

Is Retinol Good for the Skin?

When used in the right strength as part of a daily regimen, retinol serum can make a massive improvement in your skin! From reducing fine lines and wrinkles to brightening and evening out your skin tone, retinol is an effective ingredient that most people can benefit from.

As with any product, if you see signs of irritation, consult your dermatologist. And if you take any prescribed medications or use any other serums on a daily basis, be sure to make sure that they’re safe to combine with retinol.

For most people, retinol provides great effects! But as impressive and popular as retinol serum may be, there’s no one product that works for everyone. 

You might also be interested in: Why You Should Adopt a 10-Step Skincare Routine Today

Best Retinol Serums: 

  1. ​​Eva Naturals Vitamin C Serum Plus 2% Retinol
  2. RoC Retinol Correxion Deep Wrinkle Retinol Serum
  3. Neutrogena Rapid Wrinkle Repair Retinol Face Serum Oil
  4. La Roche-Posay Redermic R Anti-Aging Serum
  5. The Ordinary Retinol 0.5% in Squalane Serum
  6. Murad Retinol Youth Renewal Serum
  7. First Aid Beauty FAB Skin Lab Retinol Serum 0.25% Pure Concentrate

Jessica Heston

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