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Best Wrinkle Cream with Retinol

By: Kelly Burgess on March 30, 2017

Retinol is an anti-aging powerhouse

If you're at all concerned about trying to slow down the effects of aging on your skin, you've probably heard of retinol. Retinol is the scientific term for vitamin A and it is proven to increase the production of skin-plumping collagen, thus increasing the firmness and elasticity of skin and softening the depth and overall appearance of wrinkles over time. Retinol is also an antioxidant that helps to counteract the effects of free radicals -- which damage skin cells. Most people have no problems using over-the-counter wrinkle creams containing retinol, and are thrilled with the results.

However, wrinkle creams with retinol have some downsides. They work by encouraging rapid turnover of surface cells, and that process can cause irritation. For most people, that redness and irritation subsides after a few days or weeks and the skin looks noticeably improved, but some people with sensitive skin simply can't tolerate retinol; they're better off trying a wrinkle cream without retinol, which are covered in our discussion of the best wrinkle creams. Another tip we often see for those sensitive to retinol is to start by using a wrinkle cream that contains it every other day or every third day, and then work your way up to every day. Also, if you use a retinol-based product, be sure to be diligent about wearing sunscreen, which we cover in a separate report, as retinol can degrade in the sun.

If you think an over-the-counter wrinkle cream with retinol is right for your skin, Neutrogena Healthy Skin Anti-Wrinkle Night Cream (Est. $13 for 1.4 oz.) is a longtime favorite among reviewers because it's affordable and it works. This retinol night cream contains a notable amount of antioxidants (green tea and two forms of vitamin E), all in a moisturizing base. Beauty products expert and BeautyPedia.com site owner Paula Begoun says, "It is definitely one of the better retinol products at the drugstore," due to its high content of quality ingredients at its affordable price point.

User reviewers agree. Many praise this wrinkle cream for being an excellent value and say it produces noticeable results in the form of a more even skin tone and smoother texture. Several users also say that the Healthy Skin Anti-Wrinkle Cream does an excellent job of moisturizing skin, minimizing the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, and even reducing acne breakouts. It's lightweight and absorbs quickly, users say.

Neutrogena Healthy Skin Anti-Wrinkle Cream is fragrance- and oil-free. The upside of the lack of fragrance and sunscreen is that it's reported as very well-tolerated by those with sensitive skin (aside, of course, from those with retinol sensitivities).

However, if the retinol content in Neutrogena Healthy Skin Anti-Wrinkle Cream is a bit too strong for your sensitive skin, you might want to give RoC Retinol Correxion Sensitive Night Cream (Est. $22 for 1 oz.) a try. In testing at Good Housekeeping, this over-the-counter wrinkle cream performed as well as a much pricier (and we're talking hundreds of dollars!) retinol night cream. Those who tested it on behalf of the Good Housekeeping Research Institute (GHRI) noticed a marked improvement in minimizing both UV spots and wrinkles. They also note that it's a nice, light weight, yet feels plenty moisturizing as well.

At Allure.com, RoC Retinol Correxion Sensitive Night Cream earned a Best of Beauty for Sensitive Skin in 2016 and a Best Of Beauty for Skin in 2015. In a review there, dermatologist Ranella Hirsch recommends it for those who generally don't tolerate retinol well. Users say it's gentle enough to use twice a day -- but don't forget to add a facial moisturizer with sunscreen during the day -- and, while some say they haven't noticed a difference, others say they've definitely seen an improvement in skin tone and their skin looks smoother. We also noted a fair number of reviews from aestheticians who recommend this product for those who are just beginning to use a retinol cream as a way to get skin used to that ingredient.

What keeps RoC Retinol Correxion Sensitive Night Cream out of our top spot is that, in spite of it being targeted at "sensitive" skin, it contains a couple of ingredients that can be irritating, most notably fragrance. While most users describe the fragrance as "light," "floral," or "pleasant," the fact is that some people simply can't tolerate fragrance at all as it can cause both skin and respiratory irritation in some folks.

It's pricier (which keeps it out of our top spot), but Neocutis Nouvelle Plus Retinol Correction Intensive Anti-Aging Cream (Est. $60 for 1 oz.) gets plenty of love from experts and owners for its blend of anti-aging ingredients that includes 0.6 percent retinol. That means you may need to "proceed with caution," according to Begoun. However, she notes, this over-the-counter wrinkle cream "contains a very good mix of antioxidants," and gives it a perfect 5-star rating. It's suitable for any skin type, too.

In a roundup for Health.com, Neocutis Nouvelle Plus Retinol earns a nod from plastic surgeon Ulysses Scarpidis, who says this retinol cream contains a special microbead formulation that "helps penetrate the skin deeper with less skin irritation and less flaking." Although we found fewer user reviews for this product than for other over-the-counter retinol-containing products (probably due to the price), what we did spot was highly positive, with most saying they see greater clarity and a reduction of fine lines. There are those who found it irritated their skin, though, but most said that cleared up after about a week or so. Neocutis Nouvelle is fragrance-free.

Wrinkle creams for fast results

One over-the-counter wrinkle cream that gets good reviews for its quick results is Neutrogena Rapid Wrinkle Repair Serum (Est. $19 for 1 oz.). It makes Allure.com's list of the hottest anti-aging products for under $30. Editors there say it helps plump lines immediately, and offers long term wrinkle diminishing as well. Paula Begoun gives it 4 stars, saying it "definitely makes skin feel smoother." She notes that it may not be emollient enough for those with very dry skin. However, most wrinkle creams should be used in conjunction with a moisturizer as well -- not many are intended to be used as a stand-alone product.

Users give Neutrogena Rapid Repair generally high marks, saying it lives up to its name and they've noticed a definite improvement in their skin. Some say it does not work for them, but others point out that you have to give it some time if you've been ignoring your skin and have just started using the product. Even those who say they're disappointed in its wrinkle-reducing results say Neutrogena is a good moisturizer and goes on easily, with a smooth, non-greasy texture.

If you want a wrinkle cream that works all day, and doesn't require you to use a separate sunscreen or moisturizer, Neutrogena Rapid Wrinkle Repair Moisturizer, SPF 30 (Est. $18 for 1 oz.) might be the only skin care product you need to apply in the morning, due to its emollient properties and broad-spectrum sunscreen. It's a hit both anecdotally and in lab testing. At Good Housekeeping, consumer testers reported "improved skin tone, softened fine lines, and firmed skin." And lab tests backed up those reports, with firmer, evener skin and improved hydration.

Real-life users are a tiny bit less pleased, although most of the complaints we spotted were due to irritation -- a not-uncommon issue when dealing with retinol, especially when other potentially irritating ingredients, like sunscreen and fragrance (both of which this wrinkle cream has), are present. Still, if you want your face to have a daily dose of retinol, along with good moisturizing capabilities, this is a top choice.

Peter Thomas Roth Retinol Fusion PM (Est. $40 for 1 oz.) is more expensive than the Neutrogena products, but it gets raves from both experts and users for its noticeable effect on minimizing wrinkles. Begoun gives it her highest, 5-star rating, saying, "This is a very good non-aqueous, silicone-based serum with retinol. It also includes antioxidant vitamins C and E along with a cell-communicating ingredient and anti-irritant." She does note, however, that its high concentration of retinol (1.5 percent) can cause redness and flaking in sensitive skin. Users on the Beautypedia.com site also give it about 4.5 stars in nearly 25 reviews, saying it works well, and does not irritate even those who consider their skin sensitive.

Elsewhere, at other retail sites such as Amazon.com, Peter Thomas Roth Retinol Fusion PM gets equally high praise, with most saying that, in spite of its price, a little goes a long way, and that it noticeably smooths and brightens their skin. The dropper-style packaging helps to target application to the deepest wrinkles.

Those who have fairly significant issues with wrinkling may want to consider RoC Retinol Correxion Deep Wrinkle Serum (Est. $20 for 1 oz.). Over time, it can really work to smooth wrinkles in places where they tend to be deeper, such as frown lines, crow's feet, or where your skin creases as you sleep. It's very popular with users, who say they saw significant improvement even in deeper wrinkles and creases.

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