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H&B experts recommend: best retinol serums

04 Aug 2022 • 8 min read

Have you heard some great stuff about retinol serums? Are you already using one and are curious to see if you’re using the best one?

Or perhaps you just can’t get enough of them and love reading all about them?

Or maybe, just maybe, this is your first venture into the world of retinol serums….and if is, then welcome!

Because once you discover the world of retinol serums, you’ll want to know all there is to know about them…

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What is retinol serum?

Retinol is a derivative of Vitamin A that’s a major deal within the skincare industry.

Pretty much everybody, the experts included, have raved or are raving about its abilities on fine lines and general skin quality.

Back in the day, the main way of getting your hands on it was via a skincare professional. But over the years, it’s made its way into mainstream skincare ranges.

Because of this, it’s more readily available over-the-counter, and there’s lots of choice, ranging from retinol serums and creams, to retinol eye cream, oils and gels.

Just so you know, ‘pure’ retinol is only available via prescription, but there are lots of retinol products readily available online and on the shelves.1

How does it compare to retinoid creams?

Ah, yes, which one should you choose? Is there a difference between retinol serum and cream? Does it matter?

Generally speaking, if you have dry or sensitive skin, then you might want to opt for a retinol cream, which will contain some form of moisturising ingredients. Check out this article regarding the best serum for sensitive skin if you have a complexion that's easily irritated and prone to redness and itching.

Not to mention the fact that retinol can initially dry your skin out, so if you already have dry skin, then you’ll want to keep it as moisturised as possible.2

If you have oily or combination skin, then it may be worth using a retinol serum because most of them are water-based.

You may even want to use your retinol serum as a moisturiser, save having to put too many products on your skin.

An important note before we move on…

No matter what strength retinol serum, cream, gel or oil you’re putting on your skin, always, always wear an SPF 30 or higher.

This is because retinol makes your skin more sensitive to UV rays and sunlight can impact how effective it is.3

Note: this is one of the reasons why most retinol guidance recommends you apply it at night, so it won’t be broken down by being exposed to the sun).4

For more best practice advice on applying retinol read our beginner’s guide to retinol and retinoids.

Which retinol serum is the best?

Knowing which are the best retinol products isn’t easy because there are so many different retinol serums, creams, oils and gels out there, right?!

But it’s not impossible to find the best products, you’ve just got to know where to look (as well as know what you’re looking for).

In terms of knowing where to look, you’re definitely in the right place, especially now that we’re going to share some of the best retinol serums with you.


  • Retinol serum is a derivative of vitamin A that is primarily used in skincare products for its pro-ageing effects and ability to help with blemish-prone skin.
  • It works by increasing regeneration and unclogging pores.
  • You can get retinol products in a range of concentrations, from 0.025% to 1%.

9 of the best retinol serums

  1. Grounded Egyptian Gold Retinol Facial Serum 50ml

Egyptian Gold Retinol Serum will help stimulate the production of new skin, leaving your skin looking super youthful with an amazing shining glow.

Key benefits

  • Targets fine lines and wrinkles, pigmentation and dull skin for a healthy glow
  • Aids the renewal of skin to support healthy ageing
  • Vegan friendly as it’s made with only plant-based ingredients

What our customers think

Lou lou – Great product – 5/5 stars
“Good price, great for my sensitive skin. Leaves skin feeling lovely and smooth.”

Cat lady – Love this face serum – 5/5 stars
“Bought this last month having used it last year and love the dewy texture it gives to mature skin. Use it twice daily after usual cleansing routine. A little goes a long way. Great product and great service from Holland & Barrett online.”

How to apply it

Drip a little bit of Egyptian Gold Retinol serum on to the face and neck and massage it in. Make sure to rub the serum into the skin. Then leave it on to work its magic.

  1. Vitaskin Vitamin A Rejuvenating Night Serum

Suitable for vegans, this rejuvenating serum is packed with retinoid and carrot seed oil, containing high levels of Vitamin A and Vitamin E to help promote softer, smoother and visibly younger-looking skin.

Key benefits

  • 99% natural ingredients used to make this product
  • Vegan friendly thanks to its plant based ingredients
  • Nourishing vitamin A and E to help bring about smoother and softer skin

What our customers think

Padre – Smoother and brighter skin in a bottle – 5/5 stars
Great strength of retinol supported by ingredients to stop any sensitivity and keep skin soft and hydrated. My skin is looking smooth and bright. My skin is able to tolerate a nightly use of this serum. Like it”

Lizzie22 – Great serum – 5/5 stars
“Really nice lightweight serum that absorbs into the skin quickly I’ve already noticed a difference in the redness in my skin and will defo carry on using it my skin feels fab after using it!! Will be buying again as it’s great for my sensitive skin.”

How to apply it

It’s recommended you apply this night serum to your skin after cleansing as part of your night-time skincare routine and before you apply your moisturiser.

  1. Vitaskin Vitamin A Intense Cell Renewal Oil

Vitaskin’s Vitamin A Intense Cell Renewal Oil is a lightweight oil that contains retinoid and carrot seed oil.

It contains high levels of Vitamin A and Vitamin E to help promote softer, smoother and visibly younger-looking skin.

Key benefits

  • 100% natural ingredients so you don’t have to worry about any hidden nasties
  • Vegan friendly as it contains only plant-based ingredients
  • Nourishing vitamin A and E to counteract any dryness

What our customers think

Tashie – Beautiful serum – 5/5 stars
“I'm in my early 40s and my skin is dryer than before. This serum is rich and a small amount goes a long way. My skin soaks it up. It leaves a gentle sheen on my face, this could be because I use too much! Love it.”

Jojoj79 – Leaves my skin looking beautifully clear – 5/5 stars
This has a lovely smell and leaves your skin looking amazing. I use this at night after I’ve washed my face so it can soak in whilst I’m sleeping. The only reason I use this overnight is due to it leaving an oily feel to your face but if you don't mind that then you can use it whenever. Great product”

How to apply it

Apply as a final step in your skincare routine. For best results, combine with the full Vitaskin Vitamin A range.

  1. Oleus Retinol Serum 50ml

Oleus Retinoid Serum is a 100% vegan and natural lightweight serum that’s known for aiding collagen production to encourage a youthful-looking complexion.

Key benefits

  • Tightening lightweight serum with retinol that supports collagen production
  • Naturally delivers plant-based retinol from sunflower seed oil, carrot seed oil and retinyl palmitate
  • 100% vegan-friendly support for dehydrated and mature skin

What our customers think

Fe portsmouth – Smooth – 5/5 stars

“Lovely smooth serum.. Really moisturising... Makes my skin look great"

Donna MS – Good value for money – 5/5 stars

“Bought on offer, feels light, a little goes a long way, good value for money.”

How to apply it

Massage 2 to 3 drops of Oleus Retinol Serum on to cleansed skin on face, neck and/or body. Can be combined with the Oleus moisturiser

  1. Evolve Bio Retinol + C Booster 15ml

Evolve combines both Bio Retinol and C Booster in one handy serum. With vitamins A, C, E and F blended into a natural and gentle base of rosehip oil.

Key benefits

  • Rosehip oil, vitamins A, C, E and F to help increase collagen production, hydration and skin radiance
  • Rich in natural extracts including bakuchiol oil (100% natural functional analog of retinol) and sea buckthorn oil which is packed with vitamin C, omega fatty acids and beta carotene
  • Vegan with 94.5% organic and 100% natural ingredients

What our customers think

Skyepup – Well worth the money – 5/5 stars

“I add a couple of drops to organic rose hip oil. For a night-time moisturiser. This product works well.”

How to apply it

Apply 1 to 2 drops on cleansed skin or mix directly into your moisturiser or serum.

  1. Evolve Bio Retinol Gold Mask 60ml

Okay, we know this isn't a serum, but this particular face mask works on skin to deliver the same rejuvenation benefits that retinols offer.

However, unlike retinol, which can make skin sensitive to the sun, Evolve’s Gold Mask can be used at any time, all-year round, making it the perfect way to nourish and protect your skin and enhance your summer glow.

It also contains rosehip oil and argan oil, making it rich in Omega 3 and 6 that help to look after and moisturise to create glowing skin.

Meanwhile, the gorgeous golden shimmers come from the sustainably-sourced mineral, mica, making it an extremely luxurious face mask. It’s also natural, vegan and certified COSMOS Organic.

Key benefits

  • Naturally good for you with 100% natural, vegan and 85.1% organic ingredients plus gold sparkles to help you glow!
  • Plant-based retinol-like extract from the Bidens Pilosa plant that helps rejuvenate the skin and promotes cellular renewal, without the sensitivity some other retinol-based products can cause.
  • Rosehip oil and argan oil also feature in this mask, which are rich in omega-3 and -6 fatty acids to help nourish and moisturise your skin.

What our customers think

Denise – Beauty Gold Mask – 5/5 stars
“The best mask I have ever had! There are so many gold masks on the market, but I am happy I chosen evolve beauty range. The price is reasonable, and I can already see the results on my skin. Would definitely recommend!”

How to apply it

Apply a thick layer on cleansed skin. Leave for 5 minutes. Rinse clean with warm water.

  1. Disciple Dreamy Skin Retinyl Oil 20ml

Packed with potent fatty acids to help moisturise the skin, this night oil provides all the benefits of retinol with the moisturising effect of rosehip oil too.

Key benefits

  • Regenerate while you sleep with Retinyl – a pure form of vitamin A that supports collagen and elastin production, boosting firmness and reducing the appearance of pigmentation
  • Rosehip seed oil is a rich source of essential fatty acids (an impressive 80%!) to help maintain good skin texture and appearance
  • Prebiotic burdock root supports good bacteria on the skin’s surface and helps control breakout-causing bacteria and free-radicals

What our customers think

CleanJunkie – Fave night oil – 5/5 stars
“I’ve been using this oil for over a year and overjoyed that HB now sell it. It’s changed my skin. I used to use a similar oil from a more expensive brand (it’s blue colour) but this half the price and as good. Pores are smaller and skin looks brighter. I think it’s also faded my dark spots!”

How to apply it

Gently massage 3-4 drops into cleansed face and neck in the PM. Use SPF in the morning.

  1. REN Bio Retinoid™ Youth Concentrate Oil

Designed to reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, this natural retinol oil from REN is suitable for sensitive skin, with nourishing and replenishing qualities.

Key benefits

  • Plant alternative to retinol Bidens Pilosa help to reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, with less chance of sensitivity
  • Rosehip oil provides the essential fatty omega acids 3 & 6 to support natural skin renewal
  • Sea buckthorn oil helps to visibly improve skin firmness and reduce roughness

What our customers think

Kerry P. – REN Love – 5/5 stars

“I love it! A great cream that sinks in effortlessly without and grease. With a full REN routine I have definitely noticed a difference in my skin and it’s smoothness. Other people have commented on how nice my skin looks too! I will definitely reorder and now have lots of family and friends using it too x”

Lesley W. – I use morning and evening – 5/5 stars

“Nice formula quickly absorbed with no greasy residue. I use on its own in the morning and over a serum in the evening.”

How to apply it

At night, warm 5 drops in the palm of your hand and apply by gentle patting over the face, neck and décolleté. Natural sediments may appear, shake well before use.

  1. Dr Organic Pro Collagen Plus Bakuchiol Moisturiser

And last but by no means least, this collagen stimulating moisturiser from Dr Organic is perfect if you’re looking for the best retinol cream rather than serum. Plus, it’s derived from retinol’s plant-derived sister – bakuchiol! Not heard of this?

Check out our article on everything you need to know about bakuchiol for more details.

Key benefits

  • Naturally moisturising pro-collagen complex is rich in hyaluronic acid, biotin, blackberry leaf extract and other natural skincare favourites
  • Bakuchiol oil (plant-based retinol alternative) supports collagen production, helps to reduce the appearance of fine lines and improves skin tone
  • 100% vegan friendly and can be used day and night to help smooth, firm and plump your skin

What our customers think

Ren123 – Love it! – 5/5 stars

“I've been using it for 3 months now and I absolutely love it. My skin is moisturized, looks firmer, skin tone has improved, and it has a nice, fresh glow. I definitely recommend.”

H J Williams – A new moisturiser – 5/5 stars

“I normally use Dr. Organic Anti Ageing moisturiser with Dragons Blood but thought I’d try this new cream for smoother skin, anti wrinkle and firmer skin with Bakuchiol plant based retinol alternative. I’m really pleased with this moisturiser! I have been using this for over a month now and can say that, so far, I’m extremely pleased with the smell, the consistency and it’s claims about skin firming are definitely true.”

Is retinol good for skin?

Is retinol good for skin?

If you’re looking to learn more about this popular product, you’re in the right place.

Best serum for sensitive skin

Best serum for sensitive skin

Here’s what to look out for if you have a complexion that’s easily irritated and prone to redness or itching.

The final say

There are a wide range of retinol serums for you to try – from differing concentrations to added beneficial ingredients and vitamins.

But just remember to start small, and gradually build up your concentration and increase your use slowly over time.

Feeling all raring to go with retinol now?

We hope this article has helped you get your head around it and given you a useful steer on some of the retinol serums that are already working wonders for some people.

Or if you’re looking for a complete low down on this wonder ingredient, read our beginner’s guide to retinol for more information and advice.

The advice in this article is for information only and should not replace medical care. Please check with your GP or healthcare professional before trying any supplements, treatments or remedies. Food supplements must not be used as a substitute for a varied and balanced diet and a healthy lifestyle.

Last updated: 4 August 2022


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