2017 Guide to Retinol Creams | Smarter Reviews

Your Comprehensive Guide to Retinol Creams

We'll Show You What To Look For In An Effective Anti-Aging Product

Your Comprehensive Guide to Retinol Creams

Fine lines, wrinkles, discoloration, and a loss of elasticity are common skin complaints among people everywhere. This is largely due to the fact that from age 20, we produce about one percent less skin-supporting collagen each year.1 

This is why dermatologists have been prescribing some form of retinoid for decades. Since hundreds of retinol creams and lotions are available over the counter, how do you know which are safe and effective? We'll show you what retinoids are and what to look for in a quality product

How Do Retinoids Work?

To understand how retinoids work, we need to first know a little about collagen. Collagen is a protein that provides structure to the body, as well as sustaining firmness and elasticity. Any decrease in collagen causes our skin to become thinner. Aging of the skin is due to two factors: intrinsic (which includes our genetics, as well as the natural act of aging) and extrinsic (which includes damage from the sun’s UV rays, smoking, and pollution).2

Our cells are always going through a constant regeneration process, but it begins to slow down with age, and collagen manufacturing also gets reduced. This is where retinol creams come in. When you apply retinol topically, the enzymes in your skin convert them at the cellular level to retinoic acid, which has been clinically shown to address the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles.3

Retinoids are chemical derivatives of Vitamin A that have been proven in numerous studies to be effective in boosting cell turnover in the skin’s top layers, as well as stimulating the synthesis of collagen.4

Tips For Safe And Effective Use

  • Give It Time. Nonprescription levels of retinol based products can take up to 3 to 6 months of daily usage to achieve a noticeable difference.

Less is more. Use a pea-sized amount because more can cause irritation.
Use at night on clean, dry skin.

Avoid Using With Certain Products. Combining use with acne treatments, serums and masks containing benzoyl peroxide, sulfur, resorcinol or salicylic acid can worsen irritation.

Limit Time In Sun. Apply sunscreen with SPF of 30+ and avoid exposure during peak hours.

Ingredients to look for / additives to avoid

  • Retinyl Palmitate - The most stable form of Vitamin A
  • Peptides - Send signals to our skin cells to help them properly function 
  • Antioxidants - Protect skin by limiting the production of free radicals
  • Sulfates - Corrosive ingredient used in floor cleaners 
  • Parabens - Synthetic preservatives that can effect hormone levels
  • Heavy mineral oils - Clog pores and suffocate skin 
  • Petroleum - Also clogs pores and can't be metabolized

What to look for in a retinol cream

 Finding a retinol cream with the ingredients listed above is important, but there are some other factors we recommend considering:  

Transparent list of ingredients 

Many popular retinol creams on the market fail to list all of their ingredients on their labels. This means that you might be using a product with potentially harmful or unwanted chemicals. Look for a brand that isn’t afraid to list all of its active ingredients clearly on both its product label and its website. 

The Right potency 

Retinol uses retinyl palmitate, an ester of Vitamin A. Because Vitamin A is not stable, it can lose its potency. Look for formulas that are stabilized or encapsulated to protect the integrity of Vitamin A. Additionally, sometimes creams contain too much retinol, which can inflame your skin. Unless your dermatologist prescribes more, try sticking to formulas with 1% retinol. 

Quality moisturization 

Properly hydrated skin is key to a clear, even tone. Studies suggest that hydration helps maintain the skin’s barrier and promote regular melanin production. To get the most comprehensive results, look for a retinol cream that doesn’t just help smooth your complexion, but moisturizes skin, too.3

money-back guarantee 

Americans spend millions of dollars every year for youthful skin, and they still find themselves unhappy with an apparent lack of results. It’s better—and safer—to invest in a product that offers a 100% money-back, no-questions-asked guarantee to show the company's faith in the potency of its product.

What Not to do when buying a retinol cream

Forget the Research

Contrary to popular belief, not all retinol moisturizers are the same. Brands use different formulas, so check that they contain the ingredients listed above.

Rely on Amazon Reviews

Up to 65% of Amazon reviews are written by paid individuals, and some of them might not have tried the product.

Prioritize Price Over Quality

We found that the some brands tended to fall short on potency. Focus on quality ingredients to avoid compromising on your health.

Our unique ranking system

At Smarter Reviews, we employ a comprehensive evaluation system to analyze and measure the full value of products, by looking at the ingredients, safety, projected effectiveness, return policies, and overall customer satisfaction. This method is known as the Smarter Reviews Ranking System.

THE 5 BEST retinol creams ON THE MARKET

Based on our own extensive research, the metrics provided by our Smarter Reviews Ranking System, and consideration of numerous reviews by Smarter Shoppers just like you, we've compiled a list of what we've found to be the top five products
to help promote the appearance of flawless, smooth, even-toned skin.

1. Age-defying retinol moisturizer

Total Ranking

287 votes

9.7/10

A

Overall Grade

  • Ingredient Safety
    8.2 Avg.

    9.7/10

  • Projected Effectiveness
    8.5 Avg.

    9.8/10

  • Value
    8.5 Avg.

    9.7/10

  • Return Policy
    8.7 Avg.

    9.5/10

  • Customer Satisfaction
    8.6 Avg.

    9.7/10

    Vote and Review

Vote and Review

5/10

PROS

  • Natural nutrients like aloe leaf juice and chamomile flower extract
  • Clear list of ingredients
  • 1% Retinol
  • Peptides and natural botanicals for healthy radiance
  • No sulfates, fillers, or synthetic components
  • 30-day, risk-free, money-back guarantee

CONS

  • Frequently out of stock
The Bottom Line

The Age-Defying Retinol Moisturizer by Simple Beauty ranks #1 on our list of top five retinol creams. Simple Beauty's retinol moisturizer delivers the effects of 1% retinol along with all the beneficial ingredients we mentioned above. The Age-Defying Retinol Moisturizer is formulated with retinyl palmitate, the most stable form of vitamin A, peptides, and botanicals like aloe vera leaf juice and chamomile flower extract. 

Our Smarter Shoppers noticed positive results with this cream, and when we called Simple Beauty's service number, we were immediately connected to a friendly and knowledgeable customer representative. Simple Beauty's risk-free return policy includes a 100% 30-day, no-questions-asked guarantee. With all this in mind, we decided to put the Age-Defying Retinol Moisturizer by Simple Beauty in our top spot.  

*Results are based on the Smarter Reviews Ranking System and do not necessarily reflect typical results from the use of these products. Please visit product websites for more information.

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2. SkinCeuticals Retinol 1.0


Total Ranking

367 votes

9.2/10

A-

Overall Grade

  • Ingredient Safety
    8.2 Avg.

    8.9/10

  • Projected Effectiveness
    8.5 Avg.

    9.6/10

  • Value
    8.5 Avg.

    8.8/10

  • Return Policy
    8.7 Avg.

    9.5/10

  • Customer Satisfaction
    8.6 Avg.

    9.2/10

    Vote and Review

Vote and Review

5/10

PROS

  • Noticeable results
  • Stabilized retinol
  • Includes botanicals
  • Decent return policy

CONS

  • Product contains a mineral oil derivative
  • May be too potent for new users
The Bottom Line

Our #2 retinol cream is SkinCeuticals Retinol 1.0, a high-concentration, pure retinol cream recommended for experienced retinol users. This product is formulated with the most up to date stabilizing and delivery technologies for effectiveness. SkinCeuticals Retinol 1.0 contains botanicals for hydration and antioxidant properties.. SkinCeuticals contains c13-14 isoparaffin, which is derived from petroleum-based mineral oil and its potent retinol concentration is not recommended for new users.  For those reasons, SkinCeuticals landed in the #2 spot.*

*Results are based on the Smarter Reviews Ranking System and do not necessarily reflect typical results from the use of these products. Please visit product websites for more information.

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3. Rapid Wrinkle Repair® Regenerating Cream



Total Ranking

364 votes

9.0/10

A-

Overall Grade

  • Ingredient Safety
    8.2 Avg.

    8.6/10

  • Projected Effectiveness
    8.5 Avg.

    9/10

  • Value
    8.5 Avg.

    9.4/10

  • Return Policy
    8.7 Avg.

    9.1/10

  • Customer Satisfaction
    8.6 Avg.

    9/10

    Vote and Review

Vote and Review

5/10

PROS

  • Specialized Formula
  • Noticeable results

CONS

  • Contains fragrances
  • Unknown concentration of retinol
  • Fewer antioxidants than similar products
The Bottom Line

Neutrogena's Rapid Wrinkle Repair® Regenerating Cream came in at #3 on our list of top five retinol creams. It includes retinol blended with hyaluronic acid and glucose complex. While these are effective ingredients, Neutrogena doesn't specify the concentrations. Also, the cream does not contain the botanicals and antioxidants of other products. The formulation also contains fragrances. Customers did report good results, so Neutrogena's Rapid Wrinkle Repair® Regenerating Cream earns a #3.* 

*Results are based on the Smarter Reviews Ranking System and do not necessarily reflect typical results from the use of these products. Please visit product websites for more information.

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4. RETINOL FUSION PM NIGHT SERUM


Total Ranking

367 votes

8.0/10

B

Overall Grade

  • Ingredient Safety
    8.2 Avg.

    8.4/10

  • Projected Effectiveness
    8.5 Avg.

    9.2/10

  • Value
    8.5 Avg.

    8.6/10

  • Return Policy
    8.7 Avg.

    6/10

  • Customer Satisfaction
    8.6 Avg.

    8/10

    Vote and Review

Vote and Review

5/10

PROS

  • Time-released retinol
  • Mostly positive reviews 

CONS

    • No botanicals
    • Some users lacked results
The Bottom Line

Retinol Fusion PM Night Serum by Peter Thomas Roth uses a solution of time-released Microencapsulated Retinol at 1.5%. It also includes Vitamins C and E, and is free of oils and fragrances. Most Smarter Shoppers noticed results, but some were left disappointed. This may be because it doesn't contain botanicals needed to help boost skin health.  With that in mind, we decided to put Retinol Fusion PM Night Serum by Peter Thomas Roth at #4.*

*Results are based on the Smarter Reviews Ranking System and do not necessarily reflect typical results from the use of these products. Please visit product websites for more information.

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5. Retinol Cream



Total Ranking

259 votes

7.8/10

C+

Overall Grade

  • Ingredient Safety
    8.2 Avg.

    7.4/10

  • Projected Effectiveness
    8.5 Avg.

    7.4/10

  • Value
    8.5 Avg.

    7.8/10

  • Return Policy
    8.7 Avg.

    8.6/10

  • Customer Satisfaction
    8.6 Avg.

    7.8/10

    Vote and Review

Vote and Review

5/10


PROS

  • Nourishing effects of vitamin A
  • 1-Year Return Policy

CONS

  • Contains parabens 
  • Jar packaging 
  • No botanicals or antioxidants
The Bottom Line

We put Puritan's Pride Retinol Cream takes #5 on our list of top five retinol creams. Puritan's Pride contains 100,000 IU of vitamin A. The company  includes a generous 1-year return policy for unused portions. However, the retinol cream is packaged in a jar, which does not provide for stability of the retinol. The formulation includes parabens and no botanicals or antioxidants. For these reasons,  Puritan's Pride rounds out our ranking at #5.*

*Results are based on the Smarter Reviews Ranking System and do not necessarily reflect typical results from the use of these products. Please visit product websites for more information.

Learn More

Citations

  1. https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/why-does-skin-wrinkle-wit/
  2. Mayo Clinic http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/wrinkles/in-depth/wrinkle-creams/art-20047463
  3. US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2699641/
  4. US National Library Of Medicine, National Institutes of Health https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2841824/

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