If You Don’t Know Where to Start, These Are The Best Retinol Products For Your 20s

Best Retinol Products For 20s

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We talked a lot about skincare products for your 20s that don’t involve too much retinol. But if you’re ready to give this potent ingredient a try, we’ve rounded up the best retinol products for your 20s. The way retinol works may make things complicated if you don’t know what you’re doing. I’m talking about potential breakouts and dryness right after you start using it. But when you do know how to incorporate retinol into your skincare routine, it’s the answer to all your most annoying problems: acne and aging.

But before we dig in, it’s important to point out a couple of things about retinol so that you know what to expect from it. Retinol is a derivative of vitamin A (1). When you frame retinol as “vitamin A”, it sounds cute and innocent. But retinol is kind of a controlled irritation you inflict on the skin.

It speeds up cell renewal because it kills the existing ones. So it gets rid of the damaged cells and promotes new and healthier ones. But it’s a bumpy road.

Because retinol can cause dryness, redness, sensitivity, and peeling (2). That’s just how it works, but it doesn’t always mean that it’s okay. There’s a difference between minor redness and full-on pimples popping up on your face.

To avoid that, let your skin get used to it by using retinol 1-2 days a week at first and then move on from there. Plus, the sun doesn’t help with retinol sensitivity. When you’re using a retinol product, your skin becomes more sensitive. So always wear SPF.

Last but not least, if you’re really new to the ingredient, remember to check out our complete guide on how to use retinol to get the best results.

Whether you’re being freakishly anti-aging or reasonably anti-aging or you’re done playing around with other actives, you’ll see that there is a refreshing number of retinol products to try in your 20s.

The Best Retinol Products For Your 20s

From serums to creams, find below the best retinol products for your 20s.

First Aid Beauty FAB Skin Lab Retinol Serum 0.25% Pure Concentrate

First Aid Beauty FAB Skin Lab Retinol Serum 0.25% Pure Concentrate - Best Retinol Products For 20s

Formulated for newbie retinol users, First Aid Beauty has one of the best retinol products for sensitive skin. The serum is easy on the irritation but heavy on the anti-aging.

They amped up the anti-wrinkle effect by adding neuropeptides into the mix. Neuropeptides limit muscle movement and relax expression lines. Also, the serum contains a soothing blend to mitigate irritation.

It has aloe, oatmeal, and allantoin to calm the skin and reduce redness. It’s suitable for all skin types and is one of the best retinol products for your 20 to target acne, wrinkles, and uneven skin.

Key Ingredients: Retinol, peptides, vitamin C, allantoin.
Best For: Acne, wrinkles, uneven skin tone and texture.
Skin Type: All including sensitive skin.
Size: 1 oz/30 ml
Good To Know: Vegan, cruelty-free, fragrance-free.

The Ordinary Retinol 0.2% in Squalane

The Ordinary Retinol 0.2% in Squalane

The Ordinary offers one of the most uncomplicated retinol products you can use in your 20s. And it’s also affordable! The retinol serum is the gentlest of their bunch of retinoids.

And it’s a simple but targeted one to combat age-related issues as well as acne-related ones. Retinol is delivered with a hydrating base made with squalane.

The minimal formula is as affordable as it gets to achieve smoother, softer, and healthier skin. Keep in mind that this serum is not oil-free. So if you have oily skin, it might feel unpleasant on the skin.

Key Ingredients: Retinol, squalane.
Best For: Signs of aging, blemishes.
Skin Type: All except for very sensitive skin.
Size: 1 oz/30 ml
Good To Know: Vegan, alcohol-free, cruelty-free.

RELATED: The Best Anti-Aging Creams For Your 20s

Shani Darden Skin Care Retinol Reform

Shani Darden Skin Care Retinol Reform - Best Retinol Products For 20s

This one is great for beginners as it’s formulated with encapsulated retinol. Encapsulation assures that the active ingredient is released into the skin in a controlled manner. That way, retinol becomes easier to tolerate.

Besides retinol, the vegan serum contains lactic acid for its gentle exfoliating and skin-plumping benefits. Lactic acid is great not just for removing dead skin cells from the skin but also for increasing the skin’s hydration and radiance.

As retinol pushes up dead skin cells out on the surface, lactic acid will sweep after it for a smoother complexion. That way, you don’t need to deal with post-retinol flakiness, which can be annoying.

Key Ingredients: Encapsulated retinol, lactic acid.
Best For: Fine lines, discolorations, dehydration.
Skin Type: All.
Size: 1 oz/30 ml
Good To Know: Vegan, fragrance-free, cruelty-free.

Ole Henriksen Goodnight Glow Retin-ALT Sleeping Creme

Ole Henriksen Goodnight Glow Retin-ALT Sleeping Creme

Collectively called retinoids, there is a sea of vitamin A derivatives out there. Having derivatives makes sure every skin type has a match. For example, people with sensitive skin can go for retinol esters. Similarly, if you’re following a natural skincare routine in your 20s, plant-based retinol may be the better option.

And speaking of esters and alternatives, meet bakuchiol. It’s a plant extract that has retinol-like effects on the skin. It has proven anti-aging benefits but it’s way gentler than retinol and doesn’t usually irritate even the most sensitive skin (3). This one is a bakuchiol cream, a retinol alternative cream you can use in your 20s if you’re having doubts about using retinol just yet.

The cream also contains alpha-hydroxy acids, glycolic and lactic, to exfoliate the skin. The night cream will help with dullness, congestion, acne, scarring, and fine lines. It’s vegan, cruelty-free, and has the most aesthetically pleasing texture and color.

Key Ingredients: Bakuchiol, glycolic acid, lactic acid.
Best For: Uneven skin texture and tone.
Skin Type: Normal, dry, combination, sensitive.
Size: 1.7 oz/50 ml
Good To Know: Vegan, cruelty-free, contains fragrance.

Glow Recipe Avocado Melt Retinol Eye Cream

Glow Recipe Avocado Melt Retinol Eye Cream - Best Retinol Products For Your 20s

Retinol works great for the skin around the eyes as well. So if you’re dealing with crow’s feet, dark circles, or other under-eye issues in your 20s, you can give retinol a try. This one was an under-eye mask that was later reformulated as an eye cream. But you can still use it as a mask if you’re concerned with sensitivity.

The super-targeted cream packs everything on god’s green earth to accelerate skin turnover and cell renewal. It contains time-release retinol, meaning that it’s released gradually as opposed to instant activation when in contact with the skin.

This significantly reduces potential irritation for the delicate skin around the eyes. Additionally, it has niacinamide and coffee extract to target dark circles. Plus, the vitamin-rich avocado extract nourishes the skin while hyaluronic acid and aloe plump up fine lines and soothes.

Key Ingredients: Encapsulated retinol, niacinamide, coffee extract.
Best For: Under-eye wrinkles and dark circles.
Skin Type: All.
Size: 0.5 oz/15ml
Good To Know: Vegan, cruelty-free, contains natural fragrance.

Peace Out Microneedling Anti-Wrinkle Retinol Patches

Peace Out Microneedling Anti-Wrinkle Retinol Patches

In case you’re not aware, your retinol cream can be used as a spot treatment too. Even if you’re not using one on a regular basis, you can apply a tiny amount on a zit and wake up to see that it’s gone.

For the times when you need a retinol strength spot treatment that’s conveniently packed, these patches have your back. They can be used anywhere on your face that needs an intervention.

And not just for acne; you can also use them on wrinkles, lines, and scars. The hard-working retinol patches also contain skin-brightening vitamin C. Plus, they contain signal peptides & neuropeptides. This makes them super convenient to slap on wrinkles to soften their look.

Key Ingredients: Retinol, peptides, vitamin C.
Best For: Spot treating pimples, fine lines, dehydration lines.
Skin Type: All.
Size: 6 patches
Good To Know: Vegan, cruelty-free, fragrance-free.

Alpha-H Vitamin A Serum with 0.5% Retinol

Alpha-H Vitamin A serum With 0.5% Retinol

This one is made with retinol as well as a retinol ester. The hydrating base contains squalane as well as jojoba and evening primrose oil. While retinol increases skin turnover, you can expect some level of dryness and flakiness.

The serum reduces that with its nourishing and hydrating base that doesn’t leave the skin tight or dehydrated. It’s cruelty-free, clean, and one of the best retinol products you can use in your 20s for all your skin concerns.

Use it to prevent wrinkles in your early 20s. Use it to fade away dark spots and discolorations in your late 20s. Either way, it works and leaves the skin super soft and velvety after you wash it off!

Key Ingredients: Retinol, evening primrose oil, squalane.
Best For: Wrinkles.
Skin Type: All including sensitive.
Size: 0.85 oz/25ml
Good To Know: Vegan, cruelty-free.

So these are some of the best retinol products for your 20s. If you haven’t found what you’re looking for here, below are things to keep in mind when shopping for one.

How to Choose a Retinol Product in Your 20s

Retinol is a multi-tasker. It’ll do what it does. But to find the right product, you need to search with intention. If you need a retinol product for acne in your 20s, go for products that also contain anti-acne products like salicylic acid.

If you need something for wrinkles or preventative measures, go for retinol products that are clearly marketed as anti-aging. These can be retinol products made with antioxidants and peptides.

Why settle with only retinol when you can also collect some skin-brightening benefits? Similarly, why use an isolated retinol serum when you can get one that also exfoliates and helps with retinol flakiness?

Additionally, if you’re a beginner retinol user in your 20s, start with low-concentration retinol products or encapsulated retinol products. This will make it easier to get used to the ingredient.



  1. Mukherjee, S., Date, A., Patravale, V., Korting, H. C., Roeder, A., & Weindl, G. (2006). Retinoids in the treatment of skin aging: an overview of clinical efficacy and safety. Clinical interventions in aging1(4), 327–348. https://doi.org/10.2147/ciia.2006.1.4.327
  2. Kim, B. H., Lee, Y. S., & Kang, K. S. (2003). The mechanism of retinol-induced irritation and its application to anti-irritant development. Toxicology letters146(1), 65–73. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.toxlet.2003.09.001
  3. Chaudhuri, R. K., & Bojanowski, K. (2014). Bakuchiol: a retinol-like functional compound revealed by gene expression profiling and clinically proven to have anti-aging effects. International journal of cosmetic science36(3), 221–230. https://doi.org/10.1111/ics.12117

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