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  3. 10 Best Retinol Serums UK 2023 | Olay, Super Facialist and More
  • 10 Best Retinol Serums UK 2023 | Olay, Super Facialist and More 1
  • 10 Best Retinol Serums UK 2023 | Olay, Super Facialist and More 2
  • 10 Best Retinol Serums UK 2023 | Olay, Super Facialist and More 3
  • 10 Best Retinol Serums UK 2023 | Olay, Super Facialist and More 4
  • 10 Best Retinol Serums UK 2023 | Olay, Super Facialist and More 5

10 Best Retinol Serums UK 2023 | Olay, Super Facialist and More

Retinol serums are the latest beauty ingredient you can't miss out on if you're 25 years old or over. Whether your skin is in need of a pick-me-up or you've started to notice some wrinkles or sneaky fine lines making an appearance, it's worth investing in a retinol serum. These serums are ready to rescue your skin and keep it looking youthful and smooth, even minimising pores and fighting acne. 


Check out our buying guide to discover the top benefits of a retinol serum and find a suitable product for your skin. We've also selected and reviewed the best drugstore and high-end options from Amazon, Boots, ASOS and more to save you browsing aimlessly, with serums from top skincare brands like Olay, Sunday Riley and The Ordinary. 

Last updated 07/06/2023
Felipe Partarrieu
Expert
Dermatologist
Felipe Partarrieu

Felipe Partarrieu is a dermatologist, who is GMC registered with a full licence to practise in the UK. Specialising in cosmeceuticals, facial skin care, and hair disorders, we worked with Felipe to bring you top quality information to help you make informed buying decisions and understand more about what goes onto your skin.

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Table of Contents

With Specialist Consultation From Dermatologist Felipe Partarrieu

With Specialist Consultation From Dermatologist Felipe Partarrieu

Felipe Partarrieu is a final year dermatology resident, who is GMC registered with a full licence to practise in the UK. Specialising in cosmeceuticals, facial skin care, and hair disorders, we worked with Felipe to bring you top quality information to help you make informed buying decisions and understand more about what goes onto your skin.

How to Choose a Retinol Serum in the UK

Key Points to Consider
  1. Go for a Night Serum As Retinol Increases Your Skin's Sensitivity to UV Rays
  2. Start with 0.1% to 0.5% Strength Serums for Beginners
  3. Search for Other Beneficial Ingredients Such As Hyaluronic Acid and Vitamin C
  4. Choose a Serum with a Pump, Tip, or Pipette to Prevent Wastage
  5. Beginners Should Start with A Small Bottle of Serum (under 30ml)
1

Choose a Night Serum as Retinol Breaks Down in Sunlight Making Your Skin More Sensitive to UV Rays

Choose a Night Serum as Retinol Breaks Down in Sunlight Making Your Skin More Sensitive to UV Rays

Although some retinol serums are designed for use as part of both your morning and evening routine, it is preferable to go for one you can apply at night time because retinol breaks down in sunlight and makes your skin more sensitive to it. 


This means that you'll be more susceptible to sun damage when you're using retinol products, so even if you do only apply it at night, make sure you keep an SPF handy and apply it if you're going out in the sun or even if you sit in a window. If you know you might be in the sunlight a lot one week, it's best to apply less retinol. 


Applying a serum in the evening is also relaxing and can become a great part of a skincare routine, especially one that you might not have time for on a busy morning.


Check out these vitamin C serums for the ultimate skin-beautifying duo.

Felipe Partarrieu
Dermatologist Felipe Partarrieu

All retinoids, over-the-counter and prescription, should be applied at night to prevent degradation by sunlight, even though not all of them are equally susceptible to this process. If you religiously apply high-SPF sunscreen in the morning, it can be possible to use retinol serums during the day.


Moreover, the continuous use of retinoids makes the skin more sensitive to sunlight, making the frequent use of sunscreen of paramount importance to avoid complications such as sunburns and hyperpigmentation.

2

0.1% - 0.5% Strength Serums Are Ideal for Beginners : To Start, Apply Retinol Once or Twice a Week

0.1% - 0.5% Strength Serums Are Ideal for Beginners : To Start, Apply Retinol Once or Twice a Week

You may have heard about retinol causing irritation for some people, this is because it retrains your skin to turn over cells at a faster rate. This is why selecting the right percentage of retinol is important, especially if you haven't used it before. This will also help you avoid very dry and peeling skin. 


The lowest strength you'll find is 0.1% (any lower and it will not work on your skin) and the highest is about 2%. For beginners, it's definitely wise to pick a lower strength and test it out for a few weeks. If you can't see any effects of using up to 0.5%, then it's time to go for something around 1% or slightly higher. 


We highly recommend that the first thing you do is carry out a patch test before using any retinol serum. However, you may have to put up with a bit of redness and inflammation (not excessive peeling or pain!) for the first few weeks, even when it's advised to only apply your serum once or twice a week to start off with. 

Felipe Partarrieu
Dermatologist Felipe Partarrieu

In principle, all people can tolerate Retinol given its relatively low irritating potential compared to other retinoids. However, some people do suffer from redness, dryness, itchiness and flaking after they use it for the first time. 


If this happens, another option to playing with different concentrations is to space out the application, using the product every third night for the first two weeks. If the skin does not get irritated after this period, you can increase to every other night for another two weeks until the skin does not get red and flaky anymore. Once this happens, it's safe to apply retinol every night.

3

Retinol Targets Fine Lines and Wrinkles, Look For Additional Ingredients Like Hyaluronic Acid and Vitamin C to Hydrate Skin and Even Out Skin Tone

Retinol Targets Fine Lines and Wrinkles, Look For Additional Ingredients Like Hyaluronic Acid and Vitamin C to Hydrate Skin and Even Out Skin Tone

Retinol is utilised in serums as it promotes cell renewal and boosts the levels of collagen in your skin, making it look firmer and smoother. Therefore, most serums you will come across are marketed as anti-ageing and are directly targeted at reducing fine lines and wrinkles. However, retinol can also improve your skin tone and minimise pores, so it's not just for anti-ageing.


If you'd like to get glowing skin or focus on hydrating or moisturising too, keep an eye out for added ingredients such as hyaluronic acid and squalane, which can help to plump and improve hydration. Vitamin C and other antioxidants are renowned for their brightening effect, while soothing additions like aloe vera, rose and plant-based oils can help to minimise irritation. 


It's a win-win situation if you can target all your beauty goals with one product, but it is probably more likely that you will need to use a few to get your dream skin. It's also worth remembering that retinol serum isn't really suited to younger skin with no visible signs of ageing, but can be used by anyone in their mid-20's and older


Here are our favourite hyaluronic acid and anti-ageing serums too while you're here.

Felipe Partarrieu
Dermatologist Felipe Partarrieu

Retinol exerts anti-ageing effects through several mechanisms, such as increasing collagen production, an evening of the skin tone, anti-oxidant capacity, amongst others. 


This action can be enhanced by the addition of other active ingredients (within the same product or as part of a multi-step skincare routine) that act synergistically with retinol or increase penetration of this retinol through the epidermis. 

4

If You Want to Avoid Wasting Product, Pick a Serum Bottle With a Pump, Tip or Pipette

If You Want to Avoid Wasting Product, Pick a Serum Bottle With a Pump, Tip or Pipette

Retinol serum will usually be stored in a bottle with a pump or a pipette for application. Pipettes and tubes with tips are useful as you only need a few dabs, especially when introducing retinol into your regime, and they aren't too difficult to control. With a pump bottle, you might accidentally get too much out and end up wasting it. 


The application method will also usually indicate the texture of the serum and how thick it is. For example, pipettes are used for more watery serums while pumps hold thicker serums which are more similar to a moisturiser – this can help you to choose your preferred texture when shopping online. 


Retinol serums can also come in capsule form, which is useful if you don't want to measure out the serum every time you apply it. They're also handy if you're travelling abroad as you can just pack a few and not worry about your beauty products being under 100 ml or spilling in your bag. However, they aren't always the best value for money as you will most likely get more serum in a bottle. 

Felipe Partarrieu
Dermatologist Felipe Partarrieu

The use of pump, tips or pipette to dispense the product is more a matter of personal preference, although methods that avoid direct contact between the content of the bottle and the hands (such as a pump and capsules) are preferred to keep the product as sterile as possible before it touches the face.

5

Try a Small Bottle of Serum Under 30 ML if You Haven’t Used Retinol Before to Make Sure It’s Suitable for Your Skin

Try a Small Bottle of Serum Under 30 ML if You Haven’t Used Retinol Before to Make Sure It’s Suitable for Your Skin

It's wise to purchase a smaller bottle of serum if you're a first-time retinol buyer, as you don't know exactly how your skin will react to it. If you purchase 50 ml or more and it doesn't suit your skin, you'll have wasted your money, and we all know how frustrating that is. 


On the other hand, if you have used a retinol serum before and you're familiar with the percentage and strength that suits your skin, then go all out and focus on a bigger bottle to save you money in the long run! 

Felipe Partarrieu
Dermatologist Felipe Partarrieu

Nobody wants to spend money unnecessarily, especially on a product that might have undesired side effects. Although most people should be able to tolerate retinol, some skins are more sensitive than others and might take longer to recover from the 'retinization' process. Therefore, first-time users of retinol might be more comfortable purchasing a smaller bottle to test their tolerance.

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10 Best Retinol Serums in the UK

This ranking has been compiled by the writing team at mybest UK via careful evaluation of the points made in the buying guide and thorough research of each product and comparing multiple verified customer reviews across the EC sites used.
Popularity
Products
Image
Click to purchase
Key features
1

Olay

Regenerist Retinol24 Night Serum

 Olay  Regenerist Retinol24 Night Serum 1枚目

Retinol Complex With 24 Hour Hydration to Transform Your Skin

2

The Ordinary

Retinol 0.5% in Squalane

The Ordinary Retinol 0.5% in Squalane 1枚目

Highly Effective and Popular 0.5% Retinol Serum From The Ordinary

3

The Inkey List

Retinol Serum

The Inkey List Retinol Serum 1枚目

1% Retinol Serum to Boost Collagen Production

4

Elizabeth Arden

Retinol Ceramide Capsules Night Serum x60

Elizabeth Arden  Retinol Ceramide Capsules Night Serum x60 1枚目

Award Winning Serum Capsules Recommended by 94% of Users

5

Super Facialist

Retinol+ Anti-Ageing Restoring Serum

Super Facialist Retinol+ Anti-Ageing Restoring Serum  1枚目

Restorative Treatment With Hyaluronic Acid to Reverse Visible Signs of Ageing

6

NIP+FAB

Retinol Fix Serum Extreme

NIP+FAB  Retinol Fix Serum Extreme 1枚目

Improve the Tone, Texture and Elasticity of Your Skin

7

Revolution Skincare London

0.5% Retinol Super Serum With Rosehip Seed Oil

Revolution Skincare London 0.5% Retinol Super Serum With Rosehip Seed Oil 1枚目

Ideal for Retinol Beginners and Those With Sensitive Skin

8

Skin Generics

Retinol Anti-Aging Serum

Skin Generics Retinol Anti-Aging Serum 1枚目

Focus On Moisturising and Firming as Well as Signs of Ageing

9

Sunday Riley

A+ Retinoid Serum

Sunday Riley  A+ Retinoid Serum 1枚目

A Luxury High-Strength Serum for Experienced Retinol Users

10

First Aid Beauty

Pure Concentrate Retinol Serum 0.25%

First Aid Beauty  Pure Concentrate Retinol Serum 0.25%  1枚目

Ideal for Beginners With a Low 0.25% Retinol Strength

If you don't see the product you're looking for, you can request that it be listed.
No.1

Olay Regenerist Retinol24 Night Serum

Regenerist Retinol24 Night Serum Image 1
Source:amazon.co.uk
Regenerist Retinol24 Night Serum Image 2
Source:amazon.co.uk
Reference price
£13.12
Reference price
£13.12

Retinol Complex With 24 Hour Hydration to Transform Your Skin

Olay's night serum contains a retinoid complex and popular ingredient niacinamide to target wrinkles and fine lines while also making your complexion brighter, smoother and with a youthful glow. It's fragrance-free too, so the likelihood of irritation is limited for those with sensitive skin. 


In addition, this non-drying serum will keep your skin hydrated for 24 hours while targeting problem areas to help you reach your beauty goals. The Olay 40 ml is slightly bigger than the popular 30 ml sizes on the market, so you get that little bit extra included for a very reasonable price. With five-star reviews across the board, this is a clear winner! 

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No.2

The OrdinaryRetinol 0.5% in Squalane

Reference price
£8.99

Highly Effective and Popular 0.5% Retinol Serum From The Ordinary

The Ordinary are known for their effective serums but this retinol product is particularly popular due to its 0.5% strength, making it ideal for beginners. If you're looking for something to improve wrinkles and fine lines but also the texture of your skin, then this could be for you. 


It's definitely worth treating yourself to this serum and testing it out as it's such a bargain. The fact that it is in a stable, water-free squalane solution means that it is much more moisturising than most, too. The Ordinary suggests only using this product at night and with a pipette for easy application, you'll look younger in no time. 

No.3

The Inkey ListRetinol Serum

Reference price
£9.99

1% Retinol Serum to Boost Collagen Production

Enhance your collagen production on a daily basis with this retinol serum that works to reduce wrinkles with a retinol strength of 1%. This product is designed to be used at night, and also contains squalane for hydrating, moisturising and reducing irritation.


If your beauty focuses are vanishing fine lines and wrinkles, this product will work wonders for you. It also helps to even out your skin tone resulting in a fresh, balanced complexion

No.4

Elizabeth Arden Retinol Ceramide Capsules Night Serum x60

Reference price
£67.50

Award Winning Serum Capsules Recommended by 94% of Users

Looking to splash out and invest in a retinol serum from a renowned brand? We recommend this for those who would like the best outcome, as you can't go wrong with Elizabeth Arden. This particular serum contains moisturising ingredients and directly focuses on ageing, promising results after just a week


The capsules make application easy and you will never be wasting any serum, just smooth on one capsule a day in the evening after washing your face and removing makeup. This product will last you approximately two months as it includes 60 capsules. An amazing 94% of women would recommend this product to family or a friend and it even won the 2019 Glamour Beauty Awards for Best in Retinol. 

No.5

Super FacialistRetinol+ Anti-Ageing Restoring Serum

Reference price
£10.20

Restorative Treatment With Hyaluronic Acid to Reverse Visible Signs of Ageing

Beat your ageing skin by using this Retinol+ serum daily before your day or night cream. Don't forget to only use a little bit if you will be in direct sunlight though! Application is made easy with the tube as it has a small pump tip for squeezing directly onto your face. 


Super Facialist's restorative serum is ideal for those in search of something cheaper with many skincare advantages, including radiance improvement from its antioxidants and the near-vanishing of wrinkles. Give this one a go if you want fast effective results!

No.6

NIP+FAB Retinol Fix Serum Extreme

Reference price
£15.57

Improve the Tone, Texture and Elasticity of Your Skin

Nip + Fab's 'Extreme' retinol serum actually contains a low 0.3% of retinol so isn't as extreme as it sounds! It's absolutely suitable for beginners while still being strong enough to notice its effects, and is to be applied at night for maximum results.


Not only will wrinkles and fine lines be targeted with this serum, but also the elasticity, tone and texture of your skin thanks to the added peptides. If you're a fan of the pump bottle and looking to invest in a larger 50 ml of serum that you'll know you'll use, then this could be the perfect one for you.

No.7

Revolution Skincare London0.5% Retinol Super Serum With Rosehip Seed Oil

Reference price
£10.00

Ideal for Retinol Beginners and Those With Sensitive Skin

Making this Super Serum particularly 'super' is the fact that it teams up with other ingredients to target firming of the skin, making it popular for anyone over the age of 25. It also encourages a smoother, more even skin tone as it minimises the first signs of ageing. 


As well as being fragrance-free, its formula calls on coconut oil, almond oil and rosehip seed oil to soothe, hydrate and condition the skin as it gets to work. The reasonable price and low 0.5% of retinol mean this serum is suitable for beginners, too. 

No.8

Skin GenericsRetinol Anti-Aging Serum

Reference price
£32.95

Focus On Moisturising and Firming as Well as Signs of Ageing

This Skin Generics 2% retinol serum specifically targets anti-ageing so is most suitable for those over the age of 40. But it's not only wrinkles and fine lines that will improve when using this serum, as your skin will look firmer and more moisturised as well thanks to the Hawaiian algae and hyaluronic acid. 


The handy 30 ml size is ideal for travelling or keeping on the bathroom shelf, especially as you only need a few drops. It's designed for use both in the morning and the evening, though whether you do so or is up to you. Just remember to be careful if you're applying this serum before going out in direct sunlight. 

No.9

Sunday Riley A+ Retinoid Serum

Reference price
£70.00

A Luxury High-Strength Serum for Experienced Retinol Users

This serum has a 6.5% solution of stabilised retinoid blends and extracts, which sounds extremely high but is not actually pure retinol. Nonetheless, Sunday Riley recommend to begin with a two days on, two days off method for application and not to use this serum daily at first. This option would therefore be more appropriate if you've used and tested retinol on your skin before


As well as containing white honey, bisabolol extract and ginger to soothe and balance, this product is fragrance-free so it could be another good one for those with sensitive skin. Although specified as high dosage, without the exact percentage of true retinol it might be a miss for some people. 

No.10

First Aid Beauty Pure Concentrate Retinol Serum 0.25%

Reference price
£51.00

Ideal for Beginners With a Low 0.25% Retinol Strength

Just starting out with retinol serums? This could be one of the best for your skin as it has a weak 0.25% strength so it's very unlikely to cause any reactions. It's primarily for sensitive skin, in fact, so if you're a bit worried to try out a new product this one is light and the most likely to settle well with any skin type. 


However, seeing as most people testing out retinols will be looking for something for an affordable price, this might not be suitable as it does fall into the more expensive bracket. That said, with its gentle formula, at least you shouldn't end up wasting it. 

The Benefits of Retinol Serum: Derived From Vitamin A, Retinol Increased Cell Turnover and Collagen Production

The Benefits of Retinol Serum: Derived From Vitamin A, Retinol Increased Cell Turnover and Collagen Production

Retinol is a topical derivative of vitamin A that works by boosting the production of collagen in your skin and increasing the rate of cell turnover, which is why it's hailed as a firming, glow-boosting, anti-ageing superstar. Plus, it can prevent dead cells from clogging the pores, making it great for acne sufferers and anyone with larger pores. 


Vitamin A can't be made in the body, so if we want it, we have to supply our skin with it. In the past, most retinol products were animal-based, but there are plant-based options now too, known as carotenoids. This makes sense as vegetables like sweet potato, carrots and avocado are all great sources of vitamin A. 


Somewhat confusingly, retinol has turned into an umbrella term for a host of vitamin A forms – natural retinol derivatives like retinaldehyde and retinyl ester are also used in skincare – so it can be tricky to work out exactly what's in your serum. Not to worry, read on and we will tell you what to look for to ensure you pick an effective one. 

Felipe Partarrieu
Dermatologist Felipe Partarrieu

Retinol is a Vitamin A derivative that belongs to a class of compounds called ’Retinoids'. It is the precursor of retinoic acid, so it has less irritating potential than prescription retinoids, but also requires longer use to see the benefits. 


All retinoids can reverse some of the features of photoageing, photodamage, and improve postinflammatory hyperpigmentation. They also promote collagen growth beneath the skin and have anti-oxidant properties, diminishing wrinkles over time.

Written and researched by Charlotte Lillington

Top 5 Retinol Serums

No. 1: Olay Regenerist Retinol24 Night Serum

No. 2: The OrdinaryRetinol 0.5% in Squalane

No. 3: The Inkey ListRetinol Serum

No. 4: Elizabeth Arden Retinol Ceramide Capsules Night Serum x60

No. 5: Super FacialistRetinol+ Anti-Ageing Restoring Serum

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The descriptions of each product are referenced from content available on manufacturer, brand, and e-commerce sites.
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