Best retinol serum and cream UK tried and tested

Best retinol serums and creams UK: The top serums, treatments and creams that contain retinol for all budgets

27th February 2024 | Author: Victoria Woollaston-Webber

Here are the best retinol products including retinol serums, creams and treatments for all budgets and skin types


Retinol is widely considered a wonder skincare ingredient because it has been repeatedly shown, across various scientific studies, that it transforms the skin.

Not just in terms of wrinkles but when it comes to dark spots and hyperpigmentation.

This is because it helps to increase cell turnover, which aids in increasing the amount of collagen your skin produces as well as buffing away stubborn dark patches.

Previous studies have shown that you only need to be using a tiny amount of retinol – as little as 0.04% – in order to see these effects over a 12-week period.

Below we’ve listed the best retinol products for beginners with something to (hopefully) suit all budgets and skin types, including sensitive skin.

If you’re interested in knowing more about the science of retinol, you can then go to our: What is retinol and what does retinol do for your skin? guide. Alternatively, if you’re just getting started with retinol, we explain how to introduce it to your routine in our step-by-step retinol for beginners explainer.

FURTHER READING: Best foundation for mature skin UK


♥︎ Perricone MD Blemish Relief Treatment and Moisturiser

£47 | BUY NOW

Perricone MD REtinol Blemish Treatment and MoisturiserPerricone MD

We’ve spent the past two months putting this moisturiser to the test and can confirm it’s an absolute gamechanger. Not only is it surprisingly gentle on the skin, considering it’s a retinol product, but it also has added extras of salicylic acid, niacinamide, and an ingredient called citrulline.

Salicylic acid removes bumpiness and gets deep into the skin to clear out blemishes. Niacinamide helps brighten your complexion while citrulline is an amino acid that comes from watermelon and helps to protect the skin and reduce the signs of ageing.

This is in addition to all the anti-ageing and spot-fighting benefits of retinol. What’s more, when these ingredients are combined, they support the natural renewal cycles of your cells and aid in exfoliation and by reducing the amount of excess oil on your skin, it can make your pores appear smaller too.

What we love so much about this product is the fact that, as the name suggests, it’s a treatment and moisturiser.

It’s lightweight, so feels closer to a lotion or serum than a thick moisturiser, and with a single application, you get all benefits of a spot treatment, retinol product and moisturiser in one. It’s a pricey product but both its multi-purpose nature and its performance make it worth it.

Buy now from Perricone MD

♥︎ The Ordinary Granactive retinoid 2% in Squalene

£11 | BUY NOW

Best cheap retinol for beginners The Ordinary The Ordinary

We feature The Ordinary Granactive Retinoid 2% Emulsion in our guide to the best The Ordinary products for all your skincare concerns because it’s a cheap retinol product that has remarkably amazing results.

If you’re looking for a budget retinol product, this one’s for you.

It’s also a really good beginner’s retinol product because it’s been formulated to create less irritation.

This is due to the fact it’s been combined with highly moisturising squalene, which makes applying it more comfortable.

If you’ve tried retinol already and found it too irritating, this may also be a great place to start when looking to re-introduce retinol to your routine.

Once you get used to using this product you can then up your dose of retinol and get the 5% version of the formula that The Ordinary offers.

BUY NOW

♥︎ La Roche-Posay Retinol B3 Serum

£28.50 | BUY NOW

La Roche Posay retinol B3 serumLa Roche-Posay

The ingredient Vitamin B3 found in this La Roche-Posay serum is a welcome addition to a retinol product for beginners because it has hydrating and softening effects.

Vitamin B3 also has exfoliating and cell turnover-encouraging properties.

This is one retinol serum to choose if you want to improve your skin’s firmness and texture.

This is also a more suitable retinol product for people with sensitive skin because it contains a relatively small amount, at 0.3%.

However, as we’ve said before start slow and see how your skin reacts before you build up your retinol use of this product, or any similar product.

Buy now from La Roche-Posay

♥︎ Peter Thomas Roth Retinol Fusion PM

£55 | BUY NOW

Retinol for beginners Peter Thomas Roth Night FusionPeter Thomas Roth

The Peter Thomas Roth Retinol Fusion serum is the strongest retinol product in our selection of the best retinol for beginners. If you don’t suffer from skin conditions and are wanting to target your fine lines and wrinkles as effectively as possible, this is a great place to start.

The retinol in this night serum is released over time after application.

It comes as a thin and runny liquid that you get out of the bottle with a pipette applicator, making it easier to use and choose the amount you want to add to your skin.

The combination of retinol, Vitamin C and Vitamin E makes it a really powerful skin regenerative product that will help to lessen the appearance of your fine lines and wrinkles. The only downside is that it’s pricey.

BUY NOW

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