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

Best Retinol Products For Your 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 and include a good moisturizer in your skincare routine. 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 active ingredients, you’ll see that there is a refreshing number of retinols to try in your 20s. From serums to creams, find below the best retinol products for your 20s.

Best Retinol Products For Your 20s

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

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

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

2. The Ordinary Retinol 0.2% in Squalane

The Ordinary Retinol 0.2% in Squalane - Best Drugstore Retinol Product For 20s

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

3. 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

4. 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. If you’re dealing with crow’s feet, dark circles, or other under-eye issues, this is a gentle retinol eye cream for your 20s.

The super-targeted cream contains time-release retinol, meaning that it’s released gradually as opposed to instant activation when in contact with the skin, to reduce 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 soothe the skin.

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

5. Peace Out Microneedling Anti-Wrinkle Retinol Patches

Peace Out Microneedling Anti-Wrinkle Retinol Patches - Best Retinol Products For Your 20s

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 and peptides. This makes them super convenient to slap on wrinkles to soften their look.

Quick Tip: If you’re somewhat familiar with retinol, try Peace Out Retinol Face Stick. It’s a higher-concentration retinol balm you swipe over your face like a conveniently packed night cream. And the best part is that because retinol is formulated into this balmy formula, there’s minimal to no dryness.

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

6. 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/25 ml
Good To Know: Vegan, cruelty-free

7. The Inkey List Retinol Fine Lines and Wrinkles Serum

The Inkey List Retinol Fine Lines and Wrinkles Serum - Best Retinol Products For 20s

If you’re in your early 20s and you’re looking for a gentle and affordable retinol serum, you can get started with this beginner-friendly formula.

It contains slow-release retinol as well as a type of retinoid called Granactive Retinoid, which basically translates to all the benefits of retinol without irritation.

The only downside with this one is that it’s not a super pleasant serum to use. You’ll have long-term benefits in the form of smoother brighter skin but it doesn’t tickle your instant gratification.

Quick Tip: If you have very sensitive skin or if you’re following a natural skincare routine in your 20s, consider plant-based retinol, which is also known as vegan retinol and bakuchiol. It’s a plant extract that has retinol-like effects on the skin but it’s way gentler. The Inkey List Bakuchiol Retinol Alternative Moisturizer is a good way to get started on bakuchiol if you’re not ready for retinol.

Key Ingredients: Retinol, Granactive Retinoid, squalane
Best For: Wrinkles and fine lines
Skin Type: All
Size: 1 oz/30 ml
Good To Know: Vegan, cruelty-free, fragrance-free, gluten-free

So these are some of the best retinol products for your 20s. Remember that retinol is only one aspect of proper skincare. Establish a skincare routine in your 20s that also includes regular exfoliation, a moisturizer, and a cleanser suitable for your skin type.

If you haven’t found what you’re looking for here, below are things to keep in mind when shopping for retinol.

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 ingredients.

FAQs

References:

  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
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