Let's talk about retinol. You've probably heard of it — in fact, you're probably stocking some skincare products containing this potent ingredient in your medicine cabinet. So why isn't everyone using it? And even more importantly, why does a product that promises and actually delivers smoother, brighter and younger looking skin while fighting acne have a semi-bad rap? Long before over-the-counter products were available, you had to purchase retinol in its strongest form: prescription strength Retin-A, a powerful and sometimes harsh treatment. But that was then, and unbelievable skin-changing OTC progress is now.
Unlike their predecessors, the new generation of retinol products can be used during the day, as their effects kick in gradually and aren't as harsh on skin. You still get cell turnover, but it's in a more controlled way. In addition, new retinols also come mixed with antioxidants, sunscreen and even moisturizers — making them much less irritating than they used to be. (Make sure you continue to be very cautious and diligent about applying SPF, even if you purchase a retinol cream with UV protection, as your skin will be more senstive as it becomes acclimated to the new product.)
Which leads us to the very important question: Who should not be using any form of retinol? For starters, retinol is not considered safe for pregnant women or women who are breast-feeding. According to a study done by the Mayo Clinic, Vitamin A excess, which retinol is a derivative of, "has been associated with birth defects…[and] is excreted in human breast milk." Similarly, patients with hyper-sensitive skin like "rosacea or eczema…shouldn't use retinol," explains New York dermatologist, Debra Jaliman in an article for The Huffington Post.
If you think retinol is safe for you and your skin needs a big change, then check out these 5 great retinol products that you can purchase without a prescription and still obtain the results you're looking for.
1. The Serum
Not a fan of heavy night creams but still want to reap the benefits of a retinol cream? We suggest you try a serum like this one instead. With an advanced combination of encapsulated retinol, citamins C and E, this potent serum ensures both stability and maximum efficacy when it comes to skin renewal. Peter Thomas Roth Retinol Fusion PM $65
Fight wrinkles while you slumber by applying this powerful night cream before you hit the sheets. Safe for sensitive skin, this retinol cream is both hypoallergenic and non-comedogenic. And at under $20 a pop, how could you turn down a formula that promises brighter and younger looking skin? RoC Retinol Correxion Deep Wrinkle Night Cream $17.99
3. Day Time
This light moisturizer uses a patented MICROSPONGE system that releases retinol gradually, minimizing the risk of irritability. Another added benefit of controlled release is that you can wear this hydrating cream during the day without being maniacal about sunscreen. Philosophy Help Me SPF Retinol Day Treatment $47
4. Best All Around
Skip several steps in your morning routine with this multi-tasking lightweight lotion. In addition to retinol, it's got moisturizing properties, antioxidants and broad SPF coverage. But the best thing about this product is how quickly it works. In less than a week, you'll notice a sizable difference — we're talking notably brighter and smoother-looking skin. Neutrogena Rapid Tone Repair Day SPF 30 $19.99
5. Eye Miracle
This nourishing eye cream revitalizes the eye area with time-released retinol and a unique ruby crystal complex meant to smooth the appearance of lines and wrinkles. Additionally, this miracle worker keeps the eye area nice and hydrated by binding water to the skin, an effect that helps prevent moisture loss. Dr. Brandt Skincare Glow Revitalizing Eye Cream $55
Top image via IMAXtree