Best Over-the-Counter Retinol Products

Some of the best over-the-counter (OTC) retinol creams on the market today are featured here.

Many of these are marketed as "deep wrinkle creams" giving the impression they exist only to treat women with established lines. But retinol creams work wonderfully as a preventative measure. Start using them when you hit 30 and your 60-something self will thank you. 

If you are starting out on a new retinol program, this is a good first product for newbies. Retinoids can cause redness and scaly skin at first as it sloughs away the top layer of skin (anyone who has tried Retin-A knows this), so a mild retinoid is a good starter cream.

This sensitive night cream is less potent than other OTC products listed here and is a good start because your skin can get used to the active ingredients. Once you've adjusted, you can move on to more potent formulas, like RoC's Deep Wrinkle Night Cream

One of the most beloved retinol creams is Peter Thomas Roth's Retinol Fusion PM. It contains 1% retinol plus a host of extras, which is always great when buying a retinol. 

Those extras include shea butter for hydration (since we know by now that retinol can be drying to the skin) and vitamins A, C and E. There's also caffeine to help with puffiness. 

This product gets rave reviews from all of the top review sites. The biggest con is that the company tests on animals. 

Skinmedica is revered for its retinol products, which come in three strengths from the least potent .25 (this means the ingredients are .25% retinol) to the most potent 1%. 

It's recommended to start with the .25% product and then move your way up to the 1% if needed. Your skin needs time to adjust to the retinol. 

This is an excellent product for most skin types because it contains not only a good dose of retinol but a nice mixture of antioxidants (vitamins C and E) and it does not include added fragrance.

Because it contains .6% retinol, it's not for sensitive skin. If you suffer from redness or rosacea you likely shouldn't be using retinols anyway because it will simply be too harsh on your already super sensitive skin. 

The only con is the price, which is more expensive than many others on this list. But yes, the price is worth it. 

This is a basic retinol product, but what makes it stand apart from the ever-growing pack of OTC retinol creams is its capsule form. Capsules keep the retinol safe from air, which is important for this particular ingredient. One capsule has all the product you need for a one-time application.

While this doesn't include antioxidants like other retinols, it's a good product on its own. Plus, you can buy it at your local drugstore. 

RoC was the brand my dermatologist recommended when I told her my super dry skin could no longer tolerate prescription-strength Retin-A, which can be very drying. 

This set gets rave reviews because it includes a retinol cream and a serum. The two together are incredibly hydrating and effective. After weeks of use, users report seeing noticeable results. 

This product is chock full of antioxidants and peptides along with the retinol that's necessary for cell turnover in skin. While pricey (you can certainly buy other products for less), the added benefits and the fact that a few drops per night is all you need, make this a great buy. 

Olay is known for its wonderful anti-aging products that can be bought at drugstores. Users love it because it goes on smoothly and works. 

Another retinol from Olay that's a bit less expensive is Olay Regenerist Intensive Repair Treatment

 Paula Begoun has been around for ages, first as the self-described "Cosmetics Cop" with several books and a huge online following. She has since parlayed her fame into her own brand of products.

Her retinoid creams get great reviews online. This particular product has licorice, oat extract and other anti-irritants help to minimize the side effects many people experience with retinols.   

You can buy a $10 trial size bottle before committing to the larger $55 bottle.

This is an incredibly mild retinol cream containing only .15% retinol plus a host of fabulous antioxidants including vitamins A, C and E. It's also very affordable, making it a great choice for women with sensitive skin or concerns about using retinol creams. 

People swear by these eye masks despite the hefty price tag. The reviews on Sephora are cult-like. Reviewers swear they leave their under-eye areas much brighter. You have to apply and leave them on for 20 minutes and for this reason (along with the price) many people use them only for special occasions, such as before a wedding or event. 

It's not clear how much retinol is in the formula. Another con is that these have been tested on animals.

This moisturizer is packed with amazing ingredients, including 2.5% retinol, Hyaluronic Acid, and Vitamin E. All of these in combination increase cell turnover and plump up the skin. I like that the ingredients are all-natural and cruelty-free. This is a beloved and fantastic OTC retinol product and at under $30, it's well-priced, too.