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The Best Retinol Serums of 2024

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Written by Ashley Neese

Derived from Vitamin A, retinol has the power to achieve many things for skin. It combats dark spots and blemishes, softens wrinkles, improves elasticity, and improves your overall skin texture and tone. To help you reap the benefits of this effective skin treatment, we’ve rounded up the best retinol serums of 2024, along with a short guide you can use to learn more about this product and make an informed selection. Our top pick is La Roche-Posay’s retinol B3 serum for its gentle anti-aging properties, but we’ve included several worthy contenders that will make an excellent addition to your skincare regimen.

Retinol Serum: A Buying Guide

When you search for an anti-aging product and go through its ingredient list, you’re likely going to come across retinol. Over the past couple of years, this ingredient has become one of the most highly researched skincare ingredients in the world, as well as one of the most highly recommended ones to use to combat aging and promote overall skin health.

Despite its increasing popularity, most people still don’t entirely understand how exactly this ingredient works and how they’re supposed to be using it to get the maximum benefits. With this guide, you’re going to learn everything you need to know before heading out to get yourself one of these retinol serums.

Benefits of Retinol Serums

Retinol, Vitamin A, and tretinoin ingredients are often grouped together. However, most people don’t realize that while each of these ingredients may be connected, they are quite different. Retinol is a much weaker compound than the other two. It's an over-the-counter version of tretinoin, which is also a Vitamin A derivative but is only obtained with a prescription. Retinol, however, is most readily available.

Retinol serum can effectively treat acne, reverse sun damage, significantly improve skin texture and tone, combat skin discoloration, decrease fine lines and wrinkles by increasing elasticity, and decrease inflammation and redness. It promises to speed up skin renewal and achieve an overall even skin tone that's healthier and more radiant.

Regardless of the potency of the retinol serum, it will deliver results. All you need to do is stay consistent with usage and be patient. With a weaker concentration, the results may take longer, but you’ll expose your skin to less of a risk. Ideally, you should wait at least 12 weeks to see proper results. A lower retinol concentration in these serums is perfect for a first-time user. Work up from there, but never start straight away with a higher concentration. When it comes to skincare, patience is key.

How Does Retinol Work?

Retinoic acid is the active agent present in retinol, this agent is what allows retinol to increase cell turnover. Retinol works by passing through the cell membrane and binding to the cell’s receptors. This is where it starts to work on cell growth. The same acid blocks collagenase production.

Collagen is what keeps your skin firm and prevents your skin from sagging and fine lines and wrinkles from appearing. By blocking collagenase production, retinol serum combats aging and promotes plumper, firmer, and overall younger-looking skin.

How to Use Retinol Serums

If you’re a first-time retinol user, start off with a low percentage, between 0.01% to 0.03%. If you start off with a higher concentration right off the bat, you’re exposing yourself to the risk of skin irritation. Dermatologists also recommend using retinol serums in the evening or at night.

Before applying the serum, remove any and all makeup from your face and then wash it thoroughly to remove all dirt and other impurities from it. Next, apply some toner. Then, pick up your retinol serum and squeeze out a pea-sized bit of it onto the tip of your finger. Dot the serum on your forehead, cheeks, chin, and jawline, then gently rub it into your skin. Follow this up with some moisturizer. Make sure that you’re applying the retinol serum 10 to 20 minutes before moisturizing.

If you have sensitive skin, then you can apply a thin layer of moisturizer before the retinol. Ensure that you’re not putting on too much moisturizer before the retinol serum, or the serum won’t be very effective. Use the serum no more than two to three times per week for the first week or two of use. With the regularity of usage and some patience, you’ll likely start seeing results after two to three months.

The Best Retinol Serums


La Roche-Posay Retinol Serum


  • Perfect for people with sensitive skin
  • Contains niacinamide for anti-aging benefits
  • Retinol concentration lowers risk of skin irritation
  • Triple anti-aging complex


  • Not fragrance-free

La Roche-Posay’s retinol B3 serum is a special formula concocted for individuals with especially sensitive skin, suffering from skin problems like enlarged pores, dehydration, pigmentation, fine lines, and wrinkles. Most people might think that the concentration of retinol in this serum is too low for them to see actual results, but a lower concentration also lowers the risk of irritation, without actually cutting down on the benefits.

This retinol serum also contains niacinamide, which enhances the overall formula by providing it with the ability to tighten pores, significantly reduce pigmentation, and add a protective layer to your skin. The retinol B3 triple anti-aging complex with its pure retinol, niacinamide, and hyaluronic acid mixture, provides optimal effectiveness and gentleness for the skin. The efficient formula and amazing results of this product make it the top pick on our list.


Neutrogena Retinol Serum


  • Low retinol concentration for safe usage
  • Dry oil makes it long-lasting
  • Extremely fast-acting results
  • Free of parabens, dyes, and mineral oil


  • Fragrance may irritate some skin types

Neutrogena’s Rapid Wrinkle Repair retinol oil has a lightweight and fast-absorbing formula that promises overnight anti-aging. It will provide your skin with nourishment, renewal, and replenishment. It's a dry oil that contains retinol SA, which combats fine lines, wrinkles, and dark spots, all in just one week. With the overnight results, you’ll notice a lot of your wrinkles and pigmentation start to disappear.

This retinol serum contains 0.3% retinol, which makes it safe to use for first-time retinol users, and Vitamin E for enhanced moisturizing. This formula guarantees younger looking skin in just a few days and has been dermatologically proven to be safe to use for all skin types. It's also free of all kinds of parabens, dyes, and mineral oils. 


CeraVe Retinol Serum


  • Brightens with licorice root extract
  • MVE technology for constant moisturization
  • Non-comedogenic and fragrance-free
  • Significantly reduces acne scars


  • Not suitable for very sensitive skin

You can’t go wrong with CeraVe’s resurfacing retinol serum. This serum contains retinol, as well as hyaluronic acid, niacinamide, and dimethicone, all of which are great for nourishing the skin in terms of anti-aging, moisture-retention, anti-pigmentation. This combination of ingredients makes this formula perfect for dealing with aging skin. The retinol in this serum can smooth out the texture of your skin by significantly reducing blemishes, acne scars, minimizing pores, and improving the overall look and feel of your skin.

The formula also includes licorice root extract that acts as a brightening agent. Additionally, it includes three essential ceramides that work in unison to lock moisture into your skin and restores the skin’s natural barrier to protect it against environmental agents that lead to aging. This fast-absorbing, lightweight resurfacing retinol serum is a great choice for anyone looking to restore their even skin tone to get a healthy glow and stay looking younger.


RoC Retinol Serum


  • Vitamin E to promote hydration
  • Thin consistency for easy application
  • Leaves behind no residue or grease
  • Offers long-term anti-aging benefits


  • May require more uses to see results

There’s a lot to love with RoC’s Retinol Correxion night serum capsules. The first thing that stands out is that the formula is contained within individual single-use capsules, which keeps it fresh and hygienic and also ensures minimal wastage. The product is super easy to apply and doesn’t leave behind any pesky residue on the skin after application. Apart from retinol, it also contains ceramide NP, dimethyl methoxy chromanol, and Vitamin E for added protection and hydration.

The consistency of this formula is thin and slippery, which makes it easy to rub around on the skin. It absorbs into the skin pretty quickly and doesn’t leave the skin feeling greasy or too packed with product and unable to breathe. There’s no scent to this serum, which decreases the risk of irritation, especially for those with sensitive skin. In the short term, you may not notice a lot of results, but with continual usage, you’re sure to see your skin starting to get a glow and more even texture.


Tree of Life Beauty Retinol Serum


  • Fast-acting retinol concentration
  • Witch hazel for skin perfection
  • Cruelty-free and dermatologically-tested
  • Premium-quality ingredients


  • May be drying for some

Tree of Life’s retinol serum contains 2% retinol and 10% hyaluronic acid, as well as a bit of jojoba oil, green tea, witch hazel, and Vitamin E. Together, these ingredients work to provide your skin with a ton of nourishment and the ability to fight wrinkles, fine lines, and other signs of aging. These ingredients will also ensure that your skin does not experience any kind of irritation from the retinol, but will do so without minimizing the effects of the retinol.

This retinol serum is created using entirely cruelty-free methods, is dermatologically tested, and is suitable for all skin types and tones. The ingredients that are used to make this serum are all premium-quality and chosen carefully to ensure that customers are getting nothing but the best of the best. The retinol concentration in this formula promises fast results in terms of improving cell turnover for younger and brighter looking skin in a matter of just a few days.

People Also Ask

  • Q: Can I apply retinol serum under my eyes?

    A:Yes! The skin under your eyes is especially thin, so that is likely to be the first place to start showing signs of aging. The collagen-stimulating effect of retinol serum will benefit this area.

  • Q: Can I use retinol serum and hyaluronic acid serum together?

    A:Yes! In fact, it's recommended. Retinol serum will dry your skin out, so the hydrating properties of hyaluronic acid would work well to counter that drying effect and serve as the perfect complementary product.

  • Q: Can I use retinol serum and Vitamin C together?

    A:This combination is not recommended because of how strong both ingredients are. If used correctly, the two can give you great results, but you have to carefully consider your skin type and routine to make that happen. If you’re using both, use them at different times of the day.

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At Us Weekly, we aim to inform readers to make smart purchasing decisions, saving you both time and money. Our editors are obsessed with finding products in a variety of categories from fashion and beauty, to home and fitness.

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By Ashley Neese

Ashley Neese graduated from Auburn University with a bachelor’s degree in journalism. She enjoys writing about a little bit of everything. In my free time she loves to read and play with her pets.
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