Retinol has become one of the most in-demand ingredients because of its proven and dermatologist-touted ability to achieve a variety of skin-care goals. By stimulating cell turnover, the vitamin A derivative offers its consistent, long-term users a host of benefits.
“Retinol has been shown to improve tone and texture, dyspigmentation, dryness, and fine lines,” board-certified dermatologist Caroline Chang, MD has told Allure. It has even shown effectiveness at helping to prevent acne breakouts and the marks and scarring those breakouts can leave behind. There’s just one catch.
“Retinols and retinoids can be helpful to make skin cells turnover and regenerate, but they can be really irritating or drying,” says New York City-based board-certified dermatologist Anthony Rossi, MD. It’s this risk that has kept many people with more sensitive skin from trying or sticking to a retinol-inclusive routine, prompting some to seek out so-called “retinol alternatives” like bakuchiol (which we love, but there ain’t nothin’ like the real thing, baby).
However, there is a way to reap the rewards of real retinol with less irritation: retinol oils. To put it simply, “retinol oils put the retinol in an oil base,” Dr. Rossi says, explaining that this allows for more moisture that can “combat the dryness of the retinol.”
But does the less penetrative nature of oil mean the retinol won’t work its magic on your skin? “Even though the retinol is mixed with a hydrophobic oil, you will still get the benefits of the retinol,” Dr. Rossi says. “It doesn’t decrease the effectiveness, but it helps mitigate the irritation.”
Here, you’ll find 15 of the best retinol oils at different prices to try out, even if you struggle with sensitive, reactive skin. And remember this smart tip from Dr. Rossi: to go the extra mile in preventing retinol-induced discomfort, “it is best to apply [retinol oil] on a freshly washed face that is slightly wet,” he recommends. “The oil will help lock in the moisture, and the wet skin also helps combat the irritating effects of retinoids.”