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Retinol is one of the most expensive skincare ingredients on the market so today I wanted to cover off what makes it so great, as well as some options in terms of finding a product that works and is within your budget!


Retinol is a form of Vitamin A and - when applied topically - it really helps renew the skin  by increasing cell regeneration and encourage collagen production. This means it has proven anti-ageing properties and can help the appearance of fine lines. You should notice your skin looking smoother, more even and clearer after several weeks of use. If you have hyper-pigmentation from old acne scars; this can also really help to fade them (just bear in mind that you shouldn't use retinol if you're on accutane). It is usually found in opaque packaging to ensure the ingredient remains stable. In terms of application - it isn't advisable to pair this with other actives like lactic, salicylic or glycolic acid or Vitamin C. You should also use sunscreen with it, as it increases the skin's sensitivity to the sun. I personally tend to use retinol at night before bed. Retinol can cause skin peeling so ensure you hydrate your skin before and after use. I'd also recommend starting with a product below 0.5% concentration and building up to something more intense once your skin gets used to it.

- £10-25 -

The Ordinary 1% Retinol in Squalane | £5.80 | This is probably the most affordable retinol I've ever come across! You can get the Ordinary's retinol in several forms but I personally like this pairing with - squalane. Squalane is a non-irritating, water-free hydrator that gives this product an oil consistency. What I like about this combination is that the squalane prevents some of the peeling you may experience with retinol so although the product is going to interact with your skin, the squalane balances things back out. I wouldn't say this is the most insanely transformative retinol I've ever tried but it does make my skin smoother and improve the overall quality of my complexion. For the price; I really can't knock this product.

Avene TriAcneal Expert | £23 | This is still on the more affordable side and is specifically targeted towards those who have suffered with acne and want to get rid of some of the scarring it can leave behind. This has a cream formula that's actually quite hydrating on the skin and contains other anti-blemish ingredients to help prevent further breakouts. This is definitely the oily-skinned person's retinol and is great for those of us in our 20s looking to try this ingredient. I've struggled to find out how much retinol this contains but I don't think it's a huge amount because it's one of the first retinol-based products I ever used and I didn't experience irritation or peeling. It's less something I'd recommend for people with mature skin types who are focused on anti-ageing. 

- £25-45 -

Skin Laundry Night Renew Treatment* | £36 | This is a really great nourishing but non-greasy night cream with a low concentration of retinol. Many skin experts actually think retinol is best taken in regular, small doses and this fits the bill perfectly. It's a good night cream that contains retinol as an added benefit. It's very much a beginner-friendly product and over an extended period of use, I definitely have noticed my skin looking and feeling softer and smoother. It isn't some big dramatic 'brand new face' effect but I just really like this product as a gentle, everyday option.

Sunday Riley Luna Sleeping Night Oil* | £45 | This oil comes in a larger bottle for twice the price but I personally still feel you're getting a proper product with this because you only need about two drops of this oil for an application. This combines retinol with blue tansy and avocado for their soothing properties. Again, this is a great combination that means I don't get peeling when I use this product, despite the fact I believe it contains around 2% retinol. It definitely has that amazing transformative effect - it's not one you're necessarily going to use every day but if you need a product to renew and refresh your skin overnight before a big event: this is it. 

- £45+ -

Drunk Elephant A Passioni Retinol Cream* | £62 (for the full size) | This retinol comes in quite a nourishing cream formula, so it does have wider skin benefits but, be warned: even my retinol-hardy skin experienced some peeling from using this product for the first couple of weeks. This contains 1% retinol which doesn't sound like loads but there are different forms of retinol and this product is seriously potent. My skin looks fresh, new and completely rejuvenated after use - it isn't cheap but if you want those 'wow' results when you invest in skincare then this has the most amazing smoothing and clarifying effect.

Algenist Elevate Advanced Retinol Serum* | £81 | I have to admit that this arrived in a package, I used it, I loved it and then I looked it up and saw the price... Investing this much money in a topical skincare product isn't going to be for everyone, but if you're open to it: I don't think you'd be disappointed in this. I personally use this at night followed by a nourishing neutral product - such as a shea butter based cream. It's a vegan retinol and it doesn't peel my skin but gives those incredible results. I just wake up in the morning after using this and it's like I'm having my best skin day every time! It's so amazing, smoothing and renewing.

Have you tried retinol? What's your favourite product?

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