9 Effective Retinol Products for Acne Breakouts

You may already be familiar with retinol, a highly-effective remedy known to help promote a blemish-free complexion. However, the amount of retinol products available on the market is seemingly endless, which poses a challenge for those with acne-prone skin looking for their perfect fit. In order to help you find an option that will work for your specific needs, we’re breaking down the best retinol products for acne. 

What is Retinol?

Retinol is a vitamin A derivative that is perhaps best known for its ability to diminish signs of aging, including fine lines, wrinkles, and loss of firmness and elasticity. It can also help clear and prevent breakouts, and improve uneven skin tone and texture.  

While retinol isn’t technically an exfoliant, it does help speed up skin cell turnover, which is great for targeting congested pores and improving skin tone. It also works to increase the production of collagen and elastin. These proteins are responsible for keeping our skin looking firm and youthful, but we produce less as we age. By stimulating the production of these proteins, retinol helps counteract this loss to provide anti-aging benefits. 

Retinoid vs. Retinol

The terms “retinoid” and “retinol” are often used interchangeably, but it’s important to note that there are differences between the two. Retinol falls under the larger umbrella of retinoids, but not all retinoids are retinol.

Retinoids and retinol are both forms of vitamin A, and generally work in the same way. However, prescription-based retinoids are more potent and work more quickly compared to their over-the-counter retinol counterparts. This is because with OTC retinol products, the retinol needs to first be converted into retinaldehyde, and then converted to retinoic acid, which is the active ingredient. By contrast, prescription-based retinoids already contain retinoic acid, which makes them more powerful. 

While dermatologist-prescribed retinoids are often going to lead to the best results, there are still powerful OTC formulas that can help those with acne-prone skin target their concerns. 

How Does Retinol Treat Acne?

By increasing skin cell turnover, retinol works to clear away dead skin cells and debris that can clog the pores, helping to prevent future breakouts from forming. This process – along with the collagen-boosting abilities – also makes retinol a great option for those looking to minimize the appearance of hyperpigmentation and acne scars. 

While the products below are exclusively retinol-based products, another option to consider if you prefer more nature-powered formulas is bakuchiol. Bakuchiol is often touted as the natural alternative to retinol, and may be beneficial for those with acne-prone skin.  

Retinol Side Effects

As effective as retinol may be, one of the biggest drawbacks is the side effects. Retinoids in general are known to cause redness, dryness, and irritation, especially when the skin is first adapting to this new ingredient. 

While retinoids are well-known for their side effects, it’s important to note that over-the-counter retinol products typically don’t have as high of a risk of side effects, since they aren’t as potent. Many of these formulas are also thoughtfully made with hydrating and calming ingredients to help counteract some of the negative effects. 

That said, OTC retinol can still aggravate the skin. With that in mind, it’s important to work it into your routine slowly to allow your skin to adjust. 

Retinol When Pregnant or Breastfeeding

If you’re pregnant or breastfeeding, it’s important to note that you shouldn’t use retinol during this time, as it may pose a risk to the baby. Bakuchiol is often considered to be a pregnancy-safe alternative, but it’s crucial that you first run this by a medical professional before adding it to your routine. 

How I Reviewed Each Product

Now, let’s go over the product recommendations. While researching the options to include in this guide, there were a few factors I wanted to keep in mind. Of course, a top priority was looking for expertly crafted solutions that have been specifically tried and well-reviewed by consumers with acne-prone skin. With that in mind, all products below have either been tested by me or a member of the GoodGlow team. I also referred to consumer reviews to get a more complete look at how products work for a larger sampling of people.

Beyond that, I wanted to include formulas that are specifically made with ingredients that are safe for acne-prone skin. The solutions included below shouldn’t clog pores and lead to more breakouts. I also sought out formulas made with calming and hydrating ingredients that can minimize inflammation tied to current breakouts, and help counteract the potential negative side effects of retinol. 

The Best Retinol for Acne Summary

OverallDifferin – Adapalene Gel 0.1% Acne Treatment
On a BudgetThe Ordinary – Retinol 1% in Squalane
For Hormonal AcneNeova – Dual Matrix Retinol DNA
For Acne ScarsCeraVe – Resurfacing Retinol Serum
For HyperpigmentationPaula’s Choice – 1% Retinol Treatment
For Sensitive SkinFirst Aid Beauty – FAB Skin Lab Retinol Serum
ExfoliatingShani Darden – Retinol Reform Treatment Serum
Overnight CreamLa Roche-Posay – Redermic R Retinol Cream
Skin PeelAlpha-H – Beauty Sleep Power Peel
Slow-Release TreatmentDermalogica – Retinol Acne Clearing Oil

Best Overall:
Differin – Adapalene Gel 0.1% Acne Treatment

This Differin acne treatment is available over-the-counter, but is made with a prescription-strength retinoid concentration that effectively treats breakouts.

GoodGlow Score

4.5 /5 4.5/5 Product Rating
Skin Type

Skin Type

Suitable for all acne-prone skin types, although those with sensitive skin should use caution.

Clinically Proven


Formula has been approved by the FDA for treatment of acne.



Treatment is highly effective, yet offered at an affordable price.

Protecting Skin


While it was once only available through a prescription, you can now get this prescription-strength topical retinoid OTC.

Active: Adapalene 0.1% (retinoid). Inactive: Carbomer 940, Edetate Disodium, Methylparaben, Poloxamer 182, Propylene Glycol, Purified Water, Sodium Hydroxide.


May contain hydrochloric acid to adjust pH.

While it used to only be available through a prescription, as of 2016, you can get the Differin – Adapalene Gel 0.1% Acne Treatment over-the-counter (note that the 0.3% concentration still requires a prescription). This prescription-strength treatment is FDA-approved for acne, and is one of the absolute best options available on the market. 

This Differin treatment is made with a 0.1% concentration of adapalene, a topical retinoid. The gel is designed to be applied all over the face to help unclog pores and prevent breakouts.  

Unlike many of the other options available on the list, this formula is super simple, and isn’t made with additional hydrating or calming ingredients that support the skin. However, it’s an excellent option for anyone who wants a potent, budget-friendly, and dermatologist recommended retinoid to tackle their acne. 

Differin Adapalene Gel 0.1% Acne Treatment Pros:

  • Prescription-strength retinoid that is FDA approved for treating acne. 
  • Budget-friendly. 

Differin Adapalene Gel 0.1% Acne Treatment Cons:

  • Tested on animals.
  • Not formulated with hydrating or calming ingredients.

Best on a Budget:
The Ordinary – Retinol 1% in Squalane

This retinol treatment from affordable skincare brand The Ordinary combines retinol with moisturizing and calming ingredients to treat while reducing the risk of dryness and irritation. 

GoodGlow Score

4.6 /5 5/5 Product Rating
Skin Type

Skin Type

Suitable for all skin types.


Moisturizing and Calming

Squalane, jojoba oil, and rosemary leaf extract improve moisture levels while minimizing irritation.


Vegan and Cruelty-Free

Formula is vegan and not tested on animals.


Potent Retinol Concentration

A 1% concentration of retinol works to clear blemishes while improving tone and texture and minimizing signs of aging.

Retinol 1% in Squalane

If you’re looking for a budget-friendly retinol for your acne-prone skin, check out The Ordinary – Retinol 1% in Squalane. What makes this formula particularly great is that it combines a 1% concentration of retinol with squalane. 

Squalane is a non-comedogenic ingredient that is derived from sugar cane, and has a lightweight oil-like texture. It improves hydration levels and supports the skin barrier, making it an ideal ingredient for counteracting the drying effects of retinol.

In addition to squalane, this formula features jojoba seed oil, which moisturizes and nourishes the skin. Anti-inflammatory rosemary leaf extract also helps calm inflammation, which can be great for those currently battling breakouts. 

Keep in mind that, since this is an oil-based solution, it can feel a bit greasy on the skin. Considering the fact that this formula should only be used at night, this shouldn’t necessarily be a huge drawback, but those with oilier skin may prefer to go with a lighter formula (like the gel-based Differin treatment). 

The Ordinary Retinol 1% in Squalane Pros:

  • Combines a potent concentration of retinol with moisturizing and soothing ingredients to counteract negative side effects.  
  • Budget-friendly. 
  • Vegan, cruelty-free, and fragrance-free. 

The Ordinary Retinol 1% in Squalane Cons:

  • Some reviewers note that the formula can feel oily on the skin.

Best for Hormonal Acne:
Neova – Dual Matrix Retinol DNA

This serum from Neova combines a next generation retinoid with other ingredients to tackle breakouts and improve visible signs of aging without aggravating the skin. 

GoodGlow Score

4.4 /5 4.5/5 Product Rating
Skin Type

Skin Type

Suitable for all skin types.


Repairs Damage

Formula is made with micrococcus lysate to repair visible signs of damage.


Hydrates and Soothes

Shea butter, squalane, and glycerin calm the skin while improving moisture levels.


Innovative Retinoid

Formula features hydroxypinacolone retinoate, a retinoid that was designed to offer the full benefits of traditional retinoids with a lower risk of causing irritation.

Water (Aqua), Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride, Cyclopentasiloxane, Coco-Caprylate, Polyglyceryl-10 Dipalmitate, Glycerin, Propylene Glycol, Stearyl Alcohol, Behenyl Alcohol, Butyrospermum Parkii Butter, Polymethylsilsesquioxane, Arachidyl Alcohol, Micrococcus Lysate, Hydroxypinacolone Retinoate, Squalane, Dimethyl Isosorbide, Arachidyl Glucoside, Sodium Stearoyl Lactylate, Carbomer, Xanthan Gum, Hydroxyethyl Acrylate/Sodium Acryloyldimethyl Taurate Copolymer, Phenoxyethanol, Phytic Acid, Sodium Hydroxide, Ethylhexylglycerin, Polysorbate 60, Lecithin.

For those with hormonal acne, I highly recommend the Neova – Dual Matrix Retinol DNA. This fast-absorbing formula was specifically made to tackle spots caused by hormonal fluctuations. It also minimizes signs of photodamage, working to smooth fine lines and wrinkles and improve uneven tone and texture. While it’s a potent formula, it’s still made to be gentle enough for sensitive skin. 

This Neova serum is made with hydroxypinacolone retinoate (HPR), also known as granactive retinoid. This next generation retinoid speeds up skin cell turnover, and is known to offer the benefits of traditional retinoids but with a lower risk of aggravating the skin. HPR is joined by micrococcus lysate, a DNA repair enzyme that tackles visible signs of damage to the skin. 

In addition to these star ingredients, this formula features a range of other ingredients that lightly moisturize and calm inflammation tied to hormonal breakouts while counteracting negative side effects. This includes shea butter, glycerin, and squalane. 

Neova Dual Matrix Retinol DNA Pros:

  • Contains an innovative vitamin A derivative that is created to offer traditional retinoid benefits with a lower risk of irritation or dryness. 
  • Not tested on animals. 
  • Fragrance-free. 

Neova Dual Matrix Retinol DNA Cons:

  • Expensive.

Best for Acne Scars:
CeraVe – Resurfacing Retinol Serum

This affordable CeraVe retinol serum works to improve uneven skin tone and texture while also fighting breakouts and signs of aging.

GoodGlow Score

4.6 /5 5/5 Product Rating
Skin Type

Skin Type

Suitable for all skin types, although those with sensitive skin should use caution.

Clinically Proven

Dermatologist Developed

Formula was made by dermatologists, and is non-comedogenic, paraben-free, and fragrance-free.


Soothes and Moisturizes

Ceramides, niacinamide, licorice root, and other ingredients calm while improving moisture levels.

Protecting Skin

Improves Texture and Tone

Retinol and other ingredients work together to fade discoloration, minimize acne scars, and improve uneven texture.

Aqua/Water/Eau, Propanediol, Dimethicone, Cetearyl Ethylhexanoate, Niacinamide, Ammonium Polyacryloyldimethyl Taurate, Dipotassium Glycyrrhizate, Hydrogenated Lecithin, Potassium Phosphate, Ceramide NP, Ceramide AP, Ceramide EOP, Carbomer, Cetearyl Alcohol, Behentrimonium Methosulfate, Dimethiconol, Lecithin, Sodium Citrate, Retinol, Sodium Hyaluronate, Sodium Lauroyl Lactylate, Cholesterol, Phenoxyethanol, Alcohol, Isopropyl Myristate, Caprylyl Glycol, Citric Acid, Trisodium Ethylenediamine Disuccinate, Pentylene Glycol, Phytosphingosine, Xanthan Gum, Polysorbate 20, Ethylhexylglycerin

Anyone looking to minimize the appearance of acne scars should check out the CeraVe – Resurfacing Retinol Serum. This drugstore retinol serum was developed specifically to improve texture and tone, helping to minimize discoloration and acne scars while refining the appearance of pores. The lightweight formula also soothes and supports the skin’s barrier for a comfortable complexion. 

This non-comedogenic, dermatologist developed CeraVe serum contains encapsulated retinol, which gently resurfaces skin texture while helping to minimize blemishes and soften signs of aging. It’s joined by three essential ceramides, which lock moisture into the skin and improve barrier function. At the same time, niacinamide soothes while refining the appearance of enlarged pores. 

In addition to these ingredients, this serum features licorice root extract. This extract calms the skin while brightening the complexion, helping to lessen hyperpigmentation for a more even skin tone. 

What’s also great about this serum is the formula texture. Compared to The Ordinary serum recommended above, this has a more lightweight, fast-absorbing texture. The lighter formula may make it more ideal for those with oily skin (although this solution is suitable for all skin types). 

CeraVe Resurfacing Retinol Serum Pros:

  • Improves texture and tone while calming the skin and supporting the barrier. 
  • Dermatologist developed formula that is non-comedogenic, fragrance-free, and paraben-free. 
  • Budget-friendly.

CeraVe Resurfacing Retinol Serum Cons:

  • May irritate more sensitive skin.

Best Retinol for Hyperpigmentation:
Paula’s Choice – Clinical 1% Retinol Treatment

This Paula’s Choice formula combines retinol with additional ingredients that brighten, promote a more even skin tone, soothe, and hydrate the skin.

GoodGlow Score

4.6 /5 5/5 Product Rating

Diminish the appearance of wrinkles

Antioxidant vitamins C &E paired with hydrating hyaluronic acid and skin-firming peptides help deliver advanced anti-aging results

Protecting Skin

Reduce the appearance of wrinkles

Robust formula also helps prevent signs of aging and softens the look of post-acne marks

Skin Type

Skin type

For normal, combination, dry, & oily skin


No fragrance, no parabens, no fluff

Science-backed formulas that target any concern from wrinkles to breakouts

Water, Dimethicone, Glycerin, Butylene Glycol, Isononyl Isononanoate, Castor Isostearate Succinate, Glyceryl Stearate, C12-15 Alkyl Benzoate, Dimethicone Crosspolymer, PEG-33, Polysorbate 20, Behenyl Alcohol, PEG-100 Stearate, Pentaerythrityl Tetraisostearate, Polymethylsilsesquioxane, Tetrahexyldecyl Ascorbate, Retinol, Ceramide NG, Palmitoyl Tetrapeptide-7, Palmitoyl Hexapeptide-12, Sodium Hyaluronate, Dipotassium Glycyrrhizate, Glycyrrhiza Glabra Root Extract, Avena Sativa Kernel Extract, Arctium Lappa Root Extract, Salix Alba Bark Extract, Glycine Soja Sterols, Lecithin, Allantoin, Tocopheryl Acetate, Hydrolyzed Soy Protein, Sorbitan Laurate, Acetyl Dipeptide-1 Cetyl Ester, Disodium EDTA, Hydroxyethylcellulose, Palmitoyl Tripeptide-1, Sodium Hydroxide, Tribehenin, Caprylyl Glycol, Ethylhexylglycerin, Pentylene Glycol, PEG-75 Shea Butter Glycerides, PPG-12/SMDI Copolymer, PEG-10 Phytosterol, PEG-8 Dimethicone, PEG-14, Magnesium Aluminum Silicate, Arachidyl Glucoside, Arachidyl Alcohol, Sclerotium Gum, Carbomer, Phenoxyethanol, Benzoic Acid

One of my personal favorite over-the-counter retinol products is the Paula’s Choice – 1% Retinol Treatment. As it says in the name, this high-strength formula contains a 1% concentration of retinol, which works to improve uneven skin tone while firming, softening lines, fighting breakouts, and smoothing skin texture. A controlled-release delivery system works to minimize the risk of irritation while still allowing the retinol to get to work. 

What makes this treatment a particularly great choice for anyone dealing with hyperpigmentation is the addition of vitamin C. This antioxidant brightens the complexion, and is known to help fade the appearance of discoloration. It also provides additional anti-aging benefits. 

This formula also features licorice root and oat extracts, which work to calm irritation for a more comfortable complexion. Ingredients like glycerin, sodium hyaluronate, and ceramides also improve moisture levels. 

Paula’s Choice 1% Retinol Treatment Pros:

  • Combines retinol with vitamin C to maximize anti-aging benefits and improve uneven skin tone. 
  • Supporting ingredients hydrate and calm the skin.  
  • Fragrance-free, vegan, and cruelty-free. 

Paula’s Choice 1% Retinol Treatment Cons:

  • On the pricier side.

Best for Sensitive Skin:
First Aid Beauty – FAB Skin Lab Retinol Serum

This gentle retinol serum is perfectly formulated for those with sensitive skin looking to diminish signs of aging and prevent breakouts without aggravating the skin. 

GoodGlow Score

4.4 /5 4.5/5 Product Rating
Skin Type

Skin Type

Suitable for all skin types, including sensitive skin.


Clean Formula

Fragrance-free formula is made with clean ingredients, and is vegan and cruelty-free.


Calming Complex

Aloe, hyaluronic acid, oatmeal, ceramides, and other ingredients soothe and hydrate.

Clinically Proven

Low Retinol Concentration

Serum features a 0.25% concentration of retinol to offer full benefits with low risk of irritation.

  • Retinol: Supports natural collagen, nurtures skin, and diminishes the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles.
  • Peptides: Visibly smooth skin and minimize the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles.
  • Skin Saver Complex: Helps soothe, nurture, and support skin.

Aqua (Water, Eau), Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride, Polysorbate 80, Butylene Glycol, Persea Gratissima (Avocado) Oil, Dimethicone, Glycerin, Retinol, Magnesium Ascorbyl Phosphate, Tocopherol, Ceramide NP, Hydrolyzed Hyaluronic Acid, Colloidal Oatmeal, Acetyl Hexapeptide-8, Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Juice, Triolein, Allantoin, Phytosteryl Canola Glycerides, Oleic Acid, Palmitic Acid, Linoleic Acid, Maltodextrin, Glycine Soja (Soybean) Oil, Acrylates/C10-30 Alkyl Acrylate Crosspolymer, Xanthan Gum, Lecithin, Polysorbate 20, Stearic Acid, Leuconostoc/Radish Root Ferment Filtrate, Phenoxyethanol, Sodium Benzoate, Sodium Hydroxide, Citric Acid, Potassium Sorbate.

If you have sensitive and acne-prone skin, you can still safely add retinol to your routine. One of the best options on the market is the First Aid Beauty – FAB Skin Lab Retinol Serum, which was specifically made to be gentle enough for sensitive skin. It contains a lower 0.25% concentration of retinol, and offers the full benefits of this vitamin A derivative with a minimized risk of irritation. 

This fragrance-free serum is formulated with peptides that work alongside the retinol to soften fine lines and wrinkles and smooth the skin. A complex of powerful ingredients also works to soothe, nourish, and protect the complexion while also boosting overall skin health, ensuring even the most sensitive skin stays comfortable. This complex includes hyaluronic acid, allantoin, colloidal oatmeal, aloe, ceramides, and vitamins C and E. 

First Aid Beauty FAB Skin Lab Retinol Serum Pros:

  • Low concentration of retinol provides anti-aging and breakout-fighting benefits without causing irritation.
  • A complex of ingredients soothe and moisturize the skin. 
  • Clean formula that is vegan, cruelty-free, dye-free, and fragrance-free. 

First Aid Beauty FAB Skin Lab Retinol Serum Cons:

  • On the pricier side. 

Best Exfoliating:
Shani Darden – Retinol Reform Treatment Serum

If you want a retinol serum with added exfoliating benefits, try this Shani Darden product, which works to clear blemishes while promoting a youthful and radiant complexion. 

GoodGlow Score

4.4 /5 4.5/5 Product Rating
Skin Type

Skin Type

Suitable for all skin types, although those with sensitive skin should use caution.


Clean Formula

Vegan and cruelty-free formula is made without fragrances or parabens, and is also non-comedogenic.


Lactic acid chemically exfoliates, promoting a smoother and more even complexion.


Slow-Release Retinol

Encapsulated retinol provides anti-aging and breakout fighting benefits, but with a lower risk of irritation.

  • Encapsulated Retinol: Non-irritating retinol that improves the look of fine lines, texture, and elasticity.
  • AHA: Exfoliates to improve texture and uneven tone for smoother, brighter-looking skin.
  • Pyrus Malus (Apple) Fruit Extract: Antioxidant that helps reduce visible signs of aging and defend against pollution.

Aqua (Water, Eau), Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride, Glycerin, Pyrus Malus (Apple) Fruit Extract, Lactic Acid, Hydroxyethyl Acrylate/Sodium Acryloyldimethyl Taurate Copolymer, Lactobacillus Ferment, Isohexadecane, Retinol, Copernicia Cerifera Cera (Copernicia Cerifera (Carnauba) Wax, Cire de Carnauba), Glucosamine HCl, Plankton Extract, Camellia Sinensis Leaf Extract, Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Juice, Tocopheryl Acetate, Niacinamide, Hydrogenated Lecithin, Linoleic Acid, Glycine Soja (Soybean) Sterols, Phospholipids, Propanediol, Sodium Cocoamphoacetate, Sorbitan Isostearate, Polysorbate 60, Oryza Sativa (Rice) Bran Extract, Rosmarinus Officinalis (Rosemary) Leaf Extract, Helianthus Annuus (Sunflower) Extract, Tocopherol, Cyamopsis Tetragonoloba, (Guar) Gum, Maltodextrin, Xanthan Gum, Lecithin, Hydrolyzed Algin, Xylitylglucoside, Anhydroxylitol, Xylitol, Tetrasodium Glutamate Diacetate, BHT, BHA, Sodium Hydroxide, Phenoxyethanol, Caprylyl Glycol, Ethylhexylglycerin, Hexylene Glycol.

One of the best exfoliating retinol-powered serums is the Shani Darden – Retinol Reform Treatment Serum. This multi-tasking formula is designed to promote a clearer, firmer, and more youthful complexion. 

This non-comedogenic serum is made with encapsulated retinol, which is slowly released to the skin to offer the full benefits while minimizing the risk of irritation. It works alongside the chemical exfoliant lactic acid, an alpha hydroxy acid that clears away dead skin cells and debris on the skin for a smoother and brighter complexion. 

These ingredients are joined by antioxidant-rich apple fruit extract, which defends the skin against damaging free radicals. Glycerin, aloe, niacinamide, and other ingredients also work to soothe and hydrate the skin. 

Shani Darden Retinol Reform Treatment Serum Pros:

  • Multi-tasking formula uses both retinol and lactic acid to target multiple skin concerns.
  • Packed with antioxidants, as well as hydrating and calming ingredients. 
  • Vegan, cruelty-free, fragrance-free, and non-comedogenic. 

Shani Darden Retinol Reform Treatment Serum Cons:

  • On the pricier side. 
  • May irritate sensitive skin.

Best Overnight Cream:
La Roche-Posay – Redermic R Retinol Cream

This lightweight La Roche-Posay cream combines retinol with other ingredients that prevent blemishes while promoting a smoother, firmer, and more youthful complexion.

GoodGlow Score

4.5 /5 4.5/5 Product Rating
Skin Type

Skin Type

Suitable for all skin types.

Protecting Skin

Safe for Acne-Prone Skin

Lightweight cream is non-comedogenic and oil-free.


Hydrating and Calming

Thermal spring water and glycerin counteract the negative side effects of the active ingredients.


Diminishes Acne and Signs of Aging

Retinol and lipo-hydroxy acid work together to banish breakouts and tackle signs of aging.

Aqua / Water, Isostearyl Neopentanoate, Glycerin, Octyldodecanol, Propylene Glycol, Pentylene Glycol, Acrylamide/Sodium Acryloyldimethyltaurate Copolymer, Cetearyl Alcohol, Glycine Soja Oil / Soybean Oil, Triethanolamine, Isohexadecane, Sodium Hyaluronate, Retinol, Retinyl Linoleate, Adenosine, Capryloyl Salicylic Acid, Caprylyl Glycol, Polysorbate 80, Phenoxyethanol, Parfum / Fragrance.

The La Roche-Posay – Redermic R Retinol Cream is the perfect option for anyone looking for a cream-based retinol option. This formula is ideal for acne-prone skin, as it is oil-free and non-comedogenic, and is made with ingredients that are ideal for keeping breakouts at bay. Additionally, despite it being a cream, it has a lightweight texture that quickly absorbs into the skin without feeling greasy. 

This dermatologist tested La Roche-Posay cream is made with a gradual release retinol that tackles fine lines, wrinkles, uneven texture and tone, loss of firmness, and blemishes. It works alongside lipo-hydroxy acid, a derivative of salicylic acid that exfoliates the skin and fights acne. 

Like most other products from the brand, this cream also contains antioxidant and mineral-rich thermal spring water from La Roche-Posay, which soothes and nourishes the skin. Glycerin also ensures the skin remains hydrated and soft. 

La Roche-Posay Redermic R Retinol Cream Pros:

  • Retinol and lipo-hydroxy acid work together to tackle signs of aging, uneven tone and texture, and acne. 
  • Made with calming and hydrating ingredients. 
  • Dermatologist tested formula that is non-comedogenic, oil-free, and paraben-free.

La Roche-Posay Redermic R Retinol Cream Cons:

  • Not cruelty-free. 
  • On the pricier side.

Best Skin Peel:
Alpha-H – Beauty Sleep Power Peel

This Alpha-H resurfacing treatment revitalizes the skin as you sleep, treating and exfoliating to help transform dull, congested, and dehydrated skin. 

GoodGlow Score

4.3 /5 4.5/5 Product Rating
Skin Type

Skin Type

Suitable for all skin types, although those with sensitive skin should use caution.


Vegan and Cruelty-Free

Clean formula is 100% vegan and isn’t tested on animals.


Soothing and Hydrating

Blue tansy oil, shea butter, and other ingredients support a hydrated and comfortable complexion.

Protecting Skin

Promotes a Bright and Clear Complexion

Glycolic acid and retinol work in tandem to fight blemishes, signs of aging, and uneven texture and tone.

Aqua (Water), Glycolic Acid, Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride, Dimethicone, Cetearyl Alcohol, Glyceryl Stearate, Peg-100 Stearate, Cyclopentasiloxane, Euglena Gracilis Extract, Potassium Hydroxide, Ceteareth-20, Sodium Carrageenan, Glycerin, Stearic Acid, Hydrolyzed Wheat Flour, Phenoxyethanol, Maltodextrin, Simmondsia Chinensis (Jojoba) Seed Oil, Dimethicone Crosspolymer, Parfum (Fragrance), Butyrospermum Parkii Butter (Vitellaria Paradoxa (Shea) Butter), Mangifera Indica (Mango) Seed Butter, Prunus Amygdalus Dulcis (Sweet Almond) Oil, Retinol, Tocopheryl Acetate, Vitis Vinifera (Grape) Seed Oil, Panthenol, Tanacetum Annuum (Blue Tansy) Flower Oil, Gluconolactone, Allantoin, Disodium Edta, Sodium Benzoate, Aloe Barbadensis (Aloe Vera) Leaf, Calcium Pantothenate, Xanthan Gum, Caprylyl Glycol, Proline, Serine, Sodium Hyaluronate, Urea, Magnesium Lactate, Papain, Ethylhexylglycerin, Calcium Gluconate, Alanine, Magnesium Chloride, Sodium Citrate, Limonene, Linalool.

The Alpha-H – Beauty Sleep Power Peel is a potent treatment that works as you sleep. It’s largely powered by a 10% concentration of glycolic acid, an alpha hydroxy acid. This ingredient exfoliates the surface of the skin, working to improve tone and texture while promoting a more youthful appearance. 

In addition to the glycolic acid, the formula contains a 0.5% concentration of retinol. While this is a fairly low amount, it still helps to firm the complexion, decongest the pores, and soften lines and wrinkles. 

This nighttime peel also contains a range of ingredients that calm inflammation and improve moisture levels. This includes blue tansy oil, shea butter, jojoba oil, and sweet almond oil. 

Alpha-H Beauty Sleep Power Peel Pros:

  • Uses the power of glycolic acid and retinol to transform the complexion. 
  • Made with soothing and moisturizing ingredients. 
  • Vegan, cruelty-free, and clean formula. 

Alpha-H Beauty Sleep Power Peel Cons:

  • Expensive.
  • May irritate sensitive skin.

Best Slow-Release Treatment:
Dermalogica – Retinol Acne Clearing Oil

This oil-based retinol treatment combines slow-release retinol with salicylic acid and nutrient-dense oils to promote a clear, smooth, and soft complexion. 

GoodGlow Score

4.4 /5 4.5/5 Product Rating
Skin Type

Skin Type

Suitable for all skin types.


Nourishes and Softens

Jojoba, argan, and rosehip seed oils promote a soft and strong complexion.

Exfoliates and Decongests

Salicylic acid unclogs pores for a clear complexion.


Gently Fights Acne and Signs of Aging

Slow-release retinol treats the skin without causing aggravation.

Coconut Alkanes, PPG-15 Stearyl Ether, Rosa Canina Fruit Oil, Simmondsia Chinensis (Jojoba) Seed Oil, C13-15 Alkane, Coco-Caprylate/Caprate, Argania Spinosa Kernel Oil, Salicylic Acid, Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride, Isopropyl Lauroyl Sarcosinate, Retinyl Propionate, Butyl Avocadate, Phenylethyl Resorcinol, Tanacetum Annuum Flower Oil, Sclareolide, Triolein, Cetyl Alcohol, Hydroxymethoxyphenyl Decanone, Tocopherol, BHT, Propyl Gallate.

If you want a slow-release retinol treatment to help minimize the risk of aggravating the skin, try the Dermalogica – Retinol Acne Clearing Oil, a unique treatment that is specifically made for acne-prone skin. 

This oil combines slow-release retinol with salicylic acid, which work in tandem to unclog pores and speed up skin cell turnover for a clearer complexion. At the same time, these ingredients also refine pores, fade hyperpigmentation, improve uneven texture, and soften fine lines and wrinkles. 

As these active ingredients get to work, a range of oils nourish and moisturize the skin, leaving it feeling soft and comfortable. This includes argan, rosehip seed, and jojoba oils. 

Dermalogica Retinol Acne Clearing Oil Pros:

  • Retinol and salicylic acid both banish breakouts for a clear complexion. 
  • Made with oils that soften and nourish the skin. 
  • Cruelty-free and fragrance-free. 

Dermalogica Retinol Acne Clearing Oil Cons:

  • Expensive.

Originally Published: February 23, 2023

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Analyzed by Kyra Heenan
Kyra is a Los Angeles-based content writer. She started her career after graduating from Santa Clara University, and has since worked with countless companies and online journals in the greater health, wellness, and beauty industries.

In the skincare space, she has partnered with numerous skin and beauty companies, helping to create informative content for their businesses. This includes popular skincare lines, men’s grooming brands, beauty tool companies, and natural supplement brands. She also works regularly with online publications (like GoodGlow!), writing review pieces and educational articles on acne treatments, anti-aging practices, viral skincare trends, and everything in between.

As someone who has been a skincare fanatic since her teens, she enjoys helping others learn the intricacies of skincare so that they can create a routine that works perfectly for their unique needs and lifestyle. She spent plenty of time making skincare mistakes as a teenager, and hopes to steer others in the right direction! The world of skincare can be complicated, so she aims to break down the endless information so that readers can take actionable steps. She also believes caring for your complexion holistically is essential. Being consistent with the solutions we put on our skin is equally as important as being mindful of what we are putting in our bodies.

Kyra is always on top of industry trends, and loves testing out new products and exploring new-to-her ingredients to see how they stack up. That said, she believes that following the tried-and-true science (and having a bit of patience!) is key for getting your best skin yet.

When not obsessing over skincare (and helping friends and family members perfect their routines), she can be found exploring her other interests in the health and wellness world, including meditation, yoga, cooking, and hiking. She is also an avid traveler, and runs her own travel blog. Read more of Kyra's articles.

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