Retinol undoubtedly gets a lot of hype, and if you ask us, it’s well-deserved. This powerhouse ingredient can help visibly firm the skin and diminish the appearance of fine lines (and that’s just for starters). But in order to reap these benefits, you need to find the best retinol product for your needs. The options are far from limited—there are so many retinol creams and serums available on the market. There are also several different forms of retinoids, from pure retinol to pro-retinol and other related compounds.
While having options is undoubtedly great, we recognize it can sometimes feel like you need a Master’s degree just to figure out which is the best retinol cream or serum for you. To help, we’ve put together this guide to Kiehl’s best retinol products. Ahead, you’ll learn a little bit more about retinol and discover how to use our retinol products in your anti-aging skincare routine. Read on for your crash course on choosing retinol products (no advanced degree required).
How Do I Know What Retinol To Use?
As we explained, there are a lot of different retinol products out there to choose from, but serums and face creams with retinol are among the most common. These retinol products can vary widely in their strength and benefits, from gentle options suitable for daily use to more potent formulas designed for once or twice weekly usage. Determining which is the best retinol for your needs ultimately boils down to your skin type, concerns, and what you’re looking to get out of your retinol product.
At Kiehl’s, we have two different retinol formulas on offer. Learn more about our retinol serums and their respective benefits below.
Micro-Dose Anti-Aging Retinol Serum with Ceramides and Peptide
If you’re new to retinol, we recommend getting your feet wet with Micro-Dose Anti-Aging Retinol Serum with Ceramides and Peptide. The fast-absorbing face serum contains a precise daily dose of pure retinol, plus ceramides and peptide. This formula delivers visible anti-aging results with minimal dryness or discomfort. It promotes gentle skin surface turnover and is clinically-demonstrated to visibly reduce fine lines and wrinkles while firming the skin.* Over time, it also helps refine the skin’s texture, making it appear smoother and more even. The cream-like serum is suitable for all skin types (even sensitive skin) and integrates easily into your skincare routine.
*Results based on expert grading in a clinical test for subjects showing improvement after 12 weeks of use.
Kiehl’s Tip: We’ve covered the benefits of retinol, but what about ceramides and peptides? The former can help keep skin hydrated and care for the skin barrier, while the latter are often used in anti-aging skincare products to improve the appearance of visible signs of aging.
Retinol Fast Release Wrinkle-Reducing Night Serum
Those who’ve been using retinol for a while and find that their skin tolerates it well may want to consider switching to a higher concentration of retinol. If you fall into this category, we suggest trying Retinol Fast Release Wrinkle-Reducing Night Serum. Containing our highest concentration of pure retinol, this potent serum absorbs quickly, providing immediate benefits. It’s clinically-demonstrated to rapidly reduce the appearance of fine lines, while consistent use firms the skin for a visibly more youthful appearance.* The unique delivery system mixes the powder retinol and serum at the time of use, so it remains fresh and potent for maximum results.
__Results based on expert grading in a 10-week clinical study with 60 panelists*.
How Do You Use Kiehl’s Retinol?
In order to get the best results from your chosen retinol product, there are a few rules we recommend you follow. Keep reading to learn how to use our retinol serums in your routine.
Always Use Sunscreen
Retinoids can temporarily make your skin more sensitive to sunlight—so if you’re using retinol in your routine, proper sun protection is a must. In addition to following sun safety habits (like sticking to the shade and avoiding direct sunlight at midday), we recommend incorporating a broad-spectrum sunscreen into your daily skincare routine. Try Super Fluid Daily UV Defense Daily Facial Sunscreen SPF 50+, which provides broad-spectrum SPF 50+ protection against UVA and UVB rays and absorbs quickly with a lightweight, matte finish. Apply it in the morning at least 15 minutes before going outside, and reapply roughly every two hours or after sweating or swimming.
Keep Your Skin Hydrated
It’s impossible to overstate the importance of keeping your skin adequately hydrated when using retinol. Moisturizing morning and night is, of course, a must, but you can also boost hydration by adding an overnight mask, such as Ultra Facial Overnight Hydrating Mask with 10.5% Squalane, to your regular routine. This concentrated sleep mask provides intense hydration and traps in moisture to help visibly improve the appearance of dry, flaky skin overnight. It also helps strengthen your skin’s natural moisture barrier, improving its resilience against harsh external aggressors that can contribute to dryness. This unique treatment can be used three times per week as an overnight face mask, or as needed as a one-minute treatment to help give your skin a bit of added moisture (bonus: it also makes for a great cleansing balm).
Don’t Neglect Your Eye Area
While Kiehl’s retinol products shouldn’t be applied to the eye area, this skin still needs hydration. Keep your eye area nourished and healthy-looking with a gentle eye cream, like Avocado Eye Cream. This classic Kiehl’s formula with shea butter and avocado oil provides instant and long-lasting hydration and immediately improves the under-eye skin texture. The concentrated eye cream is clinically-demonstrated to de-puff and brighten the under-eye area, and it helps protect against digital fatigue brought on by blue light.* Plus, it’s suitable for all skin types and won’t migrate into your eyes—you can even wear it underneath makeup.
*Results based upon expert grading evaluated with product in a 4-week clinical test.
How Often Should I Use Kiehl’s Retinol?
Both of our retinol serums are designed to be suitable for everyday use. With that said, some people may not have tolerance for daily use. If you experience irritation, it may be beneficial to begin with less frequent application and work your way up based on your skin’s reaction.
Beyond frequency, time of a day can also be a factor in application. Micro-Dose Anti-Aging Retinol Serum with Ceramides and Peptide can be used morning or night (not both), while the Retinol Fast Release Wrinkle-Reducing Night Serum is, as the name suggests, intended for nighttime application. Whichever you choose, we recommend applying your retinol serum after cleansing and toning but before moisturizing for the best results.
Can You Use Retinol If You Have Sensitive Skin?
While some may believe retinol isn’t right for sensitive skin, that’s not necessarily true: Our Micro-Dose Anti-Aging Retinol Serum with Ceramides and Peptide, for example, is carefully formulated to be suitable for all skin types.
That said, there are also plenty of alternatives to retinol face creams if you prefer. Super Multi-Corrective Anti-Aging Face and Neck Cream is one of our favorites. This lightweight face moisturizer with phytomimetic vitamin A works to target the most visible signs of aging on the face and neck. It’s clinically-demonstrated to visibly reduce wrinkles and even skin tone within just four weeks, while continued use over time leaves the skin firmer, smoother, and more radiant-looking.* The super-charged moisturizer is suitable for all skin types, including sensitive skin, and it can be used morning and night.
*Results based on a 12-week clinical study of 53 panelists in the US.