15 Retinol Products Dermatologists Use Themselves

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15 Retinol Products Dermatologists Use Themselves featured image

Picking a retinol can be highly personal, and with all of the options out there, the process can easily become overwhelming. However, if we know one thing about skin care, it’s that retinol is the gold standard, so we have to find a way to make it work for us. “While the market brims with over-the-counter solutions, many with retinol derivatives, navigating the options can feel daunting, especially for sensitive skin,” says New York dermatologist Elaine Kung, MD. To help guide your selections, we talked to board-certified dermatologists about which retinol products they love so much they use it themselves.

Retinol products dermatologists use

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SkinBetter Science AlphaRet Overnight Cream ($135)

Fort Lauderdale, FL dermatologist Dr. Matthew Elias says SkinBetter’s AlphaRet is the best over-the-counter retinol option, combining multiple hero anti-aging ingredients into one topical. Campbell, CA, dermatologist Amelia K. Hausauer, MD highlights its “innovative combination molecule of retinoin plus lactic acid, two superb rejuvenative ingredients with decades of science behind them.”

Rochester, NY dermatologist Lesley Loss, MD notes that she has have very sensitive skin and this brand is designed for people who have sensitive skin. “I am unable to use prescription strength and many OTC retinols, this one does not dry or irritate my skin, so I love it.” Dr. Kung and Bloomfield Hills, MI dermatologist Linda Honet, MD note that they love this cream as well.

BUY NOW – $135

2 / 15

Altreno (prescription)

Miami, FL dermatologist Anna Chacon, MD and New York dermatologist Michelle Henry, MD both love using Altreno, a prescription tretinoin product. She likes the formula because it’s smooth and hydrating, doesn’t cause irritation and has a collagen base. “Tretinoin has the largest body of scientific data for anti-aging and anti-acne benefit of any skin-care product excluding sunscreen,” points out Dr. Hausauer.

Tretinoin is “the gold-standard retinoid for acne and anti-aging,” says Dr. Kung. “Studies show a 60 percent reduction in inflammatory lesions compared to placebo after 12 weeks, making Altreno a powerful tool for moderate to severe acne.”

Award Photo: Altreno (Tretinoin) Lotion, 0.05%
Award Photo: Altreno (Tretinoin) Lotion, 0.05%
3 / 15

Arazlo (prescription)

Dr. Elias thinks most dermatologists use Arazlo themselves “because it’s the most potent product in an elegant, non-irritating formulation.” Arazlo uses tazarotene instead of tretinoin, which “some studies suggest may be faster-acting for photodamaged skin,” says Dr. Kung. Arazlo’s “novel tazarotene formula boasts up to 70 percent reduction in inflammatory lesions, and nearly 30 percent of patients achieve clear or almost clear skin at 12 weeks.”

Dr. Honet uses this “very potent prescription topical tazarotene because it’s such a powerful anti-aging multitasker, boosting collagen and elastin synthesis, reversing sun damage, while improving pigment, texture and fine lines.” She notes that “much like its cousin tretinoin, it’s also effective in cystic acne and scarring.”

However, just because tazarotene works for some doesn’t necessarily mean it’s great for everyone. “My skin has been ‘retinized’ for decades since my twenties and tolerates high-potency retinoids well. I have never missed my daily dose of topical retinoid since my early career days when I started as a dermatology resident. It’s that important to me,” says Dr. Honet. “But remember that the key to success with a retinol is to start low and slow. Listen to your skin as you increase the potency as tolerated and follow the recommendations of your dermatologist.”

4 / 15

Avène Professional RetrinAL 0.1 Intensive Cream ($79)

Delray Beach, FL dermatologist Dr. Janet Allenby says her skin can’t tolerate anything too strong, so she uses this Avène formula. “I don’t get irritated, and it still helps with my fine wrinkles and sun discoloration,” she says of the cream.

BUY NOW – $79

Avene Retrinal
5 / 15

SENTÉ Bio Complete Serum ($118)

“This is perfect for those with sensitive skin struggling with both breakouts and early signs of aging,” says Dr. Kung. The unique formula pairs retinol with heparan sulfate, a hydrating and soothing superstar, while vitamin C and green tea are also in the mix to provide antioxidant protection, she details. Washington D.C. dermatologist Tina Alster, MD notes that this gentle formula is “particularly helpful during the winter months when the skin tends to be dry and more sensitive.”

BUY NOW – $118

Sente Bio Complete Serum Retinol
6 / 15

Alastin Renewal Retinol ($70)

Houston dermatologist Jennifer Segal, MD finds retinol too irritating to use on her face personally. However, she does use Alastin’s retinol on the body, noting it’s good for hands and forearms.

BUY NOW – $70

Alastin Renewal Retinol
7 / 15

Revision Skincare Revox Line Relaxer ($154)

The targeted applicator makes this retinol product a standout. In this formula, “retinol takes center stage, but botanical extracts like chamomile and green tea prevent irritation. Hyaluronic acid keeps skin hydrated and plump,” says Dr. Kung. “This is great for those with concerns about both breakouts and loss of skin elasticity.”

BUY NOW – $154

Award Photo: Revox Line Relaxer
Award Photo: Revox Line Relaxer
8 / 15

L’Oréal Revitalift Derm Intensives Night Serum with 0.3% Pure Retinol ($40)

West Palm Beach, FL dermatologist Kenneth Beer, MD says his favorite is this retinol from L’Oréal. “It’s well priced, and I think it delivers a good amount of retinol,” he says. Dr. Henry is also a fan of this product.

BUY NOW – $40

9 / 15

A Method Reti-Gel  ($109)

Dr. Alster says she goes back and forth between two retinols, one being her own retinol gel “because it’s anhydrous 0.5 percent retinol and very effective without causing excessive dryness and irritation.”

BUY NOW – $109

A Method Reti-Gel
10 / 15

SkinCeuticals Retinol 1.0 Refining Night Cream ($88)

Dr. Henry loves this retinol night cream from SkinCeuticals. This is the brand’s maximum-strength formula, but they offer a .3 and .5 option as well for retinol beginners and those with sensitive skin.

BUY NOW – $100

11 / 15

Aesthetx Skin The Core/PM Serum ($184)

Dr. Hausauer is a huge advocate for prescription retinoids, namely tretinoin. However, she likes to offset the intensity of trentinoin by using an over-the-counter retinoid instead three days of the week. The Core/PM Serum, which she helped develop, contains all-trans retinol and bakuchiol. “The combo is supercharged but provides less irritation than higher amounts of just pure retinol,” she explains.

BUY NOW – $184

Aesthetx Serum
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Farmhouse Fresh Three Milk Ageless Sleep Cream ($49)

Dr. Loss loves Farmhouse Fresh Ageless Sleep Cream if you’re looking for a retinol formula that’s a bit thicker and more hydrating.

BUY NOW – $49

Farmhouse Fresh Three Milk Night Cream
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Hopkins Dermatology RX Concentrated R & B Serum

South Lake, TX dermatologist Janine Hopkins, MD’s retinol of choice is her own formulation, which is a combination of all-trans-retinol, bakuchiol and licorice root extract. “This formula reduces the appearance of lines and wrinkles, large pores and helps the skin look radiant without redness or irritation.”

Hopkins Dermatology Retinol Serum
14 / 15

Depology Anti-Aging Retinol Night Cream ($60)

Dr. Kung likes this night cream. The formula combines retinol with niacinamide and peptides, giving it the power to “calm redness, promote collagen and address texture and tone” all at once.

BUY NOW – $60

Depology Retinol
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LovelySkin LUXE Advanced Retinol Serum ($80)

Omaha, NE, dermatologist Joel Schlessinger, MD, uses LovelySkin LUXE Advanced Retinol Serum and recommends it to many of his patients. “While it is suitable for every skin type, it’s an especially great option for those who have dry skin or have experienced sensitivity to other OTC retinols,” he says. “In addition to .5 percent retinol for cell renewal, it’s formulated with glycolipids and phospholipids, which are fats that coat the skin cell walls, helping to prevent moisture loss and restore the skin’s moisture barrier.”

BUY NOW – $80

Lovely Skin Retinol

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