Like the retinol you use on your face, retinol in a body lotion can make your skin more sensitive to the sun, so it’s best to use it at night. (It’s pretty much a given at this point, but it bears repeating that you should also be applying sunscreen on your body during the day to protect your skin against damage — after all, sun damage is what many of us are trying to correct with retinol, says Dr. Yadav.)
The idea of using your retinol-infused facial moisturizer on your body may have crossed your mind, and while we appreciate the desire to be efficient, this may not be the best idea. For one, the retinol moisturizer you use on your face is likely more potent than a retinol lotion formulated for your body, meaning the face product may be irritating on some skin types. Also, facial moisturizers are often housed in smaller packaging, which means you’d go through them too quickly if you were to use them for your entire body. Finally, retinol body lotions are often formulated alongside other more moisturizing ingredients, so you’ll still be getting the smooth, moisturizing benefits of a traditional body lotion (unlike a facial cream that may not provide ample hydration for the body).
What other ingredients should you look out for in a retinol body lotion?
As much as we sing retinol’s praises, the ingredient doesn’t come without its fair share of side effects, one of them being how it can disrupt the skin barrier and strip it of natural lipids like ceramides. “Ceramides act like the ‘grout’ between your skin cells’ ‘bricks’ and help prevent moisture from escaping,” explains Dr. Yadav. “Using a body lotion with ceramides can inhibit transepidermal moisture loss and keep skin comfortable and balanced.” Aside from ceramides, seek out moisturizing plant butters like shea and cocoa, which can help “counteract the dehydrating effects of retinol, helping skin look moisturized, soft, and conditioned,” says Dr. Yadav.
Now that you’ve been briefed on the benefits of retinol, we rounded up the nine best retinol body creams, lotions, and serums to add to your skin-care routine for all-over pampering.
Our Top Picks
- Best Overall: Nécessaire The Body Retinol, $55
- Best for Dry Skin: Versed Press Restart Gentle Retinol Body Lotion, $18
- Best For Treating Sun Damage: Beauty Pie Youthbomb Body 360° Repair Concentrate, $125
- Best for Sensitive Skin: Naturium Skin-Renewing Retinol Body Lotion, $25
Best for Tackling Signs of Aging: Nécessaire The Body Retinol
Once you get past the aesthetically-pleasing minimalism of body and hair care brand Nécessaire, scoop up the editor-approved The Body Lotion. The formula has one main mission, and that’s to reduce signs of aging on the body including the appearance of fine lines, crepiness, uneven texture, and hyperpigmentation. You have 0.1% pure encapsulated retinol to thank for that, which sits alongside other heavy hitters like mandelic and glycolic acid (gentle chemical exfoliators) and vitamin C (a skin-brightening antioxidant) for undeniably smoother skin.
Best for Sensitive Skin: Naturium Skin-Renewing Retinol Body Lotion
Itching to reap the benefits of retinol products but afraid your sensitive skin may react? Not an issue with the Naturium Skin-Renewing Retinol Body Lotion, which is free of potentially aggravating ingredients like fragrance, AHAs, and BHAs. Instead, it features sensitive-skin-friendly ingredients like moisturizing glycerin, calming allantoin, and conditioning shea butter. On top of that, it’s made with encapsulated retinol, which slows down absorption and is, therefore, less likely to irritate skin.
The Best-Smelling One: Josie Maran Whipped Argan Pro-Retinol Body Butter
Sure, the Josie Maran Whipped Argan Pro-Retinol Body Butter comes in an unscented version, but the vanilla scent has our hearts when we’re craving something sweet. A milder form of retinol (retinyl palmitate) in the formula does its job without contributing to irritation while the brand’s signature use of argan oil provides skin with a noticeable dew. The deliciously buttery formula is perfect for quenching your skin’s thirst during the fall and winter, or all year round for drier skin types. And don’t fret: The nongreasy after-feel won’t delay your getting-dressed process.
Most Lightweight: Paula’s Choice Retinol Skin-Smoothing Body Treatment
If you’re looking for a dose of lightweight moisture, Paula’s Choice Retinol Skin-Smoothing Body Treatment won’t disappoint. Yes, the star of the show here is 0.1% retinol which improves the skin’s firmness, but we couldn’t gloss over the fact that it manages to make rich emollients like shea butter and grapeseed oil feel virtually weightless on the skin.
Best for Dry Skin: Versed Press Restart Gentle Retinol Body Lotion
Dry skin, you’ve met your match with the Versed Press Restart Gentle Retinol Body Lotion. The formula is packed with cocoa butter, squalane, and vitamin E for the neck-to-toe moisture your body craves. Plus, 0.1% encapsulated retinol helps rebuild and boost collagen and leaves skin feeling smooth and supple.
Best Serum-Moisturizer Hybrid: Topicals Slather Exfoliating Body Serum
If your skin can handle it, Dr. Yadav recommends an exfoliating body lotion like the Topicals Slather Exfoliating Body Serum, which contains a winning combination of retinol and glycolic and lactic acids, which are alpha-hydroxy acids that help to “reduce fine lines and discoloration as well as remove dead skin cells on the surface,” says Dr. Yadav. This allows the retinol to better penetrate the skin for deeper treatment — especially helpful if you’re trying to combat rough texture or a skin condition like keratosis pilaris.
Best Hydrating Cream: Chantecaille Retinol Body Treatment
It only takes one application to see that the Chantecaille Retinol Body Treatment is well worth the price tag. This gloriously lightweight formula offers the same skin-softening benefits of a traditional body lotion, but also acts as a true reparative cream, boasting encapsulated retinol to refine skin’s texture as well as elastin-boosting edelweiss extract and sodium hyaluronate (a form of hyaluronic acid) to promote hydration. Massage onto areas prone to crepiness like elbows, knees, and décolletage to level up your body-care routine.
Best Multitasking Face & Body Treatment: Gold Bond Age Renew Retinol Overnight Body & Face Lotion
It’s rare to find a lotion that works on the face and body, but the Gold Bond Age Renew Retinol Overnight Body & Face Lotion proves it’s absolutely doable. This easily spreadable formula is non-comedogenic (so it won’t clog your pores) and is formulated with several hydrating ingredients that will combat the potentially drying effects of retinol: macadamia seed oil, shea butter, cocoa seed butter, and peptides. Work the fragrance-free lotion onto any rough areas of your body at night for renewed skin come morning.
Best For Treating Sun Damage: Beauty Pie Youthbomb Body 360° Repair Concentrate
If you’ve spent a little too much time outdoors and your skin is paying for it in the form of sunspots, try the Beauty Pie Youthbomb Body 360° Repair Concentrate. The retinol-laced lotion works hard to brighten the discoloration à la niacinamide and glycolic acid and never feels tacky or greasy.