OTC Retinol Skin Products 

How do you know which over-the-counter retinol skin products are worth buying? We'll break it down to a few simple tips.

There are a ton of retinol skin products on the market. Are some better than others? How do you know?

Make sure your over-the-counter retinol cream or serum contains enough retinol to be effective and is packaged in opaque contains to prevent oxidation.

Just because the package says “Retinol” on the label doesn't mean it’s going to be effective.

We all know that retinols are important for anti-aging skin care, but how much are you getting in your facial cream or serum?

Here are some things to consider

First – How much retinol does the skin cream actually contain? Is there an amount, strength, or percentage listed anywhere?

Check the back of the label before you buy any retinol cream.

Read the ingredient on the back to see where ( the ingredient retinol or vitamin A) is on the list. The closer to the bottom, the less it contains.

You could be paying extra money for a regular moisturizer cream that happens to have a small amount of retinol in it.

But are you going to experience the benefits with just a small amount thrown in as window dressing?

Second – How is it packaged? Does come in a jar or a tube that gets exposed to the air and light each time you use it?

This is very important because retinols are sensitive to oxygen and light and the longer their exposed - the quick they degrade and the less effect they become.

That’s why I’m a big fan of retinol creams and serums that come in airtight pump bottles. In order for retinol to really be effective against skin aging, a small amount needs to convert to tretinoin (retinoic acid).

The main difference between prescription retinoids (like Retin-A or Renova) and over-the-counter retinol is that prescription retinoids do not require conversion and begin to work on the skin immediately. So prescription retinoids are more potent.

That’s why for the best results, it’s a good idea to select high quality retinol skin products.

Top 3 Over Counter with retinol products

How to select a Retinol Product...Click here.

  • This  1% retinol lightweight serum can be used alone or under your face cream or moisturizer. It can also be layered under another retinol cream if you need extra oomph! Read: Why Retinol Serums?
  • It comes in a dark glass bottle with a dropper dispenser, so it stays fresher and is protected against oxidation from light and oxygen.
  • While it doesn't state the exact amount of retinol on the label, a company spokesperson told me it contains a 1% vitamin A in the form of retinyl palmitate. 

Retinol Serum 2.5%

  • While the description says it's a gel, it's more creamy, than gel like and has lots of moisturizers to keep the skin soft and hydrated.
  • It comes in a opaque container and it not too expensive.
  • Contains 2.5% retinol.

Peter Thomas Roth 1.5% Retinol Treatment:

I'm currently testing this retinol product. It contains the highest amount of retinol plus vitamin C and E.

  • Packaging is good, dark air pump bottles to protect the potency.
  • Contains a good amount (1.5%) real retinol.
  • Includes anti-aging and hydrating ingredients to help prevent dryness and flaking that most new users experience.

NOTE: I love retinol serums because I don't have to purchase yet, Another Cream! I already have a favorite moisturizer cream (CFF CBD facial moisturizer) and do not wish to add more creams to my facial regime. But with serums, like retinol, all I have to do is add a few drops to my CBD moisturizer and I can control how strong or weak I want my retinol treatment to be. 

Green Cream Retinol Level 3, 6, 9 Potency

Green Cream Retinol is a  favorite among many users, and now I understand why. They offer several levels/strengths of retinol creams (ranging from 0.3% to 0.9%) making it suitable for different skin types.

This product contains retinol (which is the whole vitamin A molecule not an ester form.) Retinol acts more closely like the prescription retinoic acid - but without the intense irritation. Since retinol converts to retinoic acid faster - results appear sooner.

The Packaging? This product line comes in airtight pump bottles that are also opaque.

Many people ask me about Roc retinol skin cream...

While I always loved Roc skincare products – I noticed the main ingredient "retinol" is way down the list. And it doesn't list the percentage of retinols in the products so you don't know how potent it is.

And the Packaging? while they don’t offer airtight bottles, their products do come in opaque containers to prevent light oxidation.

retinol skin products - caution

Remember, even over-the-counter retinols may cause dry skin, flaking, or peeling, especially for those with sensitive skin.

So it's best to slowly by using it a few times a week to see how your skin reacts.

One final thought – most over-the-counter retinol skin products available at your local drugstore are not very strong.

But if you’re looking for ones with a little more oomph (without a prescription) consider shopping online and keep the percentage and the packaging in mind. 

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