The Best Retinols For All Skin Types (Yes, Even Sensitive)

As we’re sure you’re aware by now, retinoids are veritable superheroes when it comes to skincare ingredients. And when we say superheroes, we mean the all-singing, all-dancing, superheroes-to-end-all-superheroes.

While haters see retinoids as nothing more than aggravating instigators of peeling skin, there’s no denying their ability to affect gene expression, enhance collagen production and assist in all manner of aging annoyances by working at a profound level, deep within the skin’s surface. In fact, second to sunscreen, retinoids are some of the most effective anti-aging ingredients available. They’re the must-have for just about everyone and we’re yet to meet a derm who doesn’t use some kind of retinoid on their own skin or, at least recommend it to the majority of their clients.

If you’re not sure what retinoids are, simply put, they encompass everything from super-potent, prescription-only retinoic acid, to the darling of anti-aging, retinol. Still confused? Then read what Walnut Creek-based facial plastic surgeon, Dr. Haena Kim has to say about the whole subject right here…

Now, back to business. Retinoids are the wonder-ingredients of the anti-aging skincare world, you get it now, yes? But are they seriously something you need to apply on a regular basis? Well, answer us this: do you have major concerns about skin aging issues such as pigmentation, fine lines, wrinkles, poor texture or acne? If the answer is yes, then retinoids have your name all over them – even if you DO have sensitive skin.

Here are some of our favourite medical-grade retinol treatments to suit various skin types. All are highly recommended by derms nationwide (as well as a few HintMDers) and just waiting to be incorporated into your very own personalized beauty plan.

Best For Acne: PCA Skin R-OH Retinol Solutions Intensive Clarity Treatment: 0.5% Pure Retinol Night

Part of PCA’s latest Retinol Solutions collection, this little gem packs a powerful punch against acne and the scars it often leaves in its wake. Brimming with acne-clearing ingredients like salicylic acid, and lilac stem cell extract to reduce excess sebum and inflammation, call this your go-to for fighting breakouts, increasing cell turnover and helping to create the clearer complexion you deserve.

Best For Sensitive Skin: Neova Dual Matrix [Retinol + DNA]

Sensitive skin types are understandably the most cautious when it comes to retinol treatments. But ease yourself in slowly with a ‘once a week’ routine to begin with and your skin can reap the benefits just as much as the next person.

“Personally, I’ve tried many different formulations – from a topical tretinoin to over-the-counter products purchased in department stores,” explains Dr. Haena Kim.

“And I can honestly say, some of the best results I’ve seen have been from Neova Dual Matrix. I often have sensitivity issues with tretinoin, but this nightly retinol treatment which is enhanced with moisturizers gives me no irritation – and it works!”

Best For Dry Skin: Jan Marini Age Intervention Retinol Plus

Hydrating ingredients such as hyaluronic acid and shea butter combine to give this award-winning retinol major gold stars for anyone with dry or slightly dull skin. In clinical trials, 97 percent of testers saw a noticeable improvement in skin texture, radiance and pore size after using this for just 12 weeks, and the combination of retinol with advanced peptides and other antioxidants means you can also look forward to the kind of healthy glow you would never achieve with a mainstream moisturizer.

Best For Oily Skin: SkinCeuticals Retinol 1.0

Oily skin types generally tolerate retinol pretty well so if this is you, firstly, fist pump and secondly, don’t be afraid to look for higher concentrations of retinol to really hit aging hard. A concentration of 1 percent is a great place to start and this SkinCeuticals Retinol 1.0 couldn’t come more highly recommended. It’s also formulated to help minimize those annoying breakouts often associated with oily skin. Double bonus.

Best For Discolorations: Neocutis Nouvelle + Retinol Correction Cream

Retinol is highly effective at lightening the skin and brightening the complexion due to its ability to stimulate cell replication and collagen production, which helps to improve and even reverse sun damage. Our product pick for tackling such issues? Neocutis Nouvelle + Retinol Correction Cream which includes 0.6 percent retinol as well as the brand’s patent-pending, hydroquinone-free Melaplex ® to help diminish the appearance of dark spots and uneven skin tone.

PS: obviously anyone with pigmentation issues needs to apply plenty of broad-spectrum sunscreen on a daily basis. There is only so much a retinol treatment can do if you’re going to keep subjecting your skin to UV damage. Warned you have been.

Written by: Georgia Gould