28 Jan 2015

The Best New Retinol Creams

elizabeth taylor, dressing table, architectural digest, vicki archer

Retinol creams, what’s your take on them?

I have periodically tried them over the years but never been as committed as I think I should have been. I rather regret that now as they do seem to make all the difference to the quality and texture of the skin.

Having sensitive skin has put me off in the past but it would seem that with major advances in the skincare industry there are many more products available; retinol creams that do their job without harsh reaction.

Retinol has been around for many decades and always considered a youth enhancing treatment  for the skin. Retinol promotes collagen production and at the same time plumps, smoothes and unclogs pores.

That sounds nothing short of a win/win, doesn’t it?

The Retinol treatments that I have tried left my skin feeling dry and itchy and altogether too sensitive. Friends swear by it and maintain that Retinol is a treatment that has to be perservered with. The percentage of the Retinol would seem to be the all important factor, yet it is the potency that causes my irritations.

This year there is much focus on anti-aging creams and Retinol seems to be one of the ingredients most lauded.

There are a crop of new products out there for us to try and I will admit, I am in.

There are 5 new standout Retinol products on the scene from Strivectin, Lancer, Exuviance, Kate Sommerville  and Arcona.

Have you tried them? I’m starting with the Strivectin. I would love your thoughts and recommendations… xv

The Top 5 New Retinol Creams

arcona  //  kate sommerville  //  exuviance  //  lancer //  strivectin

architectural digest captured elizabeth taylor’s dressing table in her bel air, calfornia, home 

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Anita Rivera

Good morning Vicki!

OK, me too, I have attempted in the past to use retinol creams, only to have a rash and the itch. I don’t even have sensitive skin, and I also got the same reaction as you did. I put off using retinol, and just use a regular moisturizer now. However, the serums of which you spoke a few months ago are still something worthy for me to investigate! It’s hard because you have to spend quite a bit of money to at least TRY these products without knowing if they will give you a reaction. I wish there were much smaller samples you could purchase for a trial run!

Have a fantastic day, Anita


Me too!
I have seen great results with these products so I am going to try and see if they are more tolerable.

Serums are the best.. I can’t live without my serum!
I don’t think these creams take the place I think they work along side… xv


Hi Vicki
I agree with Nancy. Dermatologists sell the best retinol products. They know and understand skin science and I’ve been told by many skin specialists that derma rolling and retinol are the best two things you can do for younger looking skin. Hope you find the product that’s right for you. I use Retinol on a regular basis and my skin is on the sensitive side. W

The Enchanted Home

Thank you for this Vicki. I have taken advantage of having genetically good skin and really need to step up my game. I just got a bunch of La Prairie products which seem to agree with me and retinol is next on my list as many swear by it. It can be overwhelming with the choices out there but Strivectin does seem to be one that always makes it in the “top five or ten” lists so I am with you…..I tend to start off very committed then within a few weeks fall off…..really hope this time around it will be different!

Joan Zion

My dermatologist started me on a tiny, pea sized amount mixed with a good moisturizer (my dermatologist’s own formula), and only to be used every other day for about a week or two until my skin adjusted to it. Now I still only use it every other day because on the off days I use a prescription salicylic pad wiped over my skin for exfoliation. Just try to start off slowly until your skin adjusts. I would do this for over the counter products as well.

Karen S.

I do the same as Joan. Dermatologist prescription, pea-sized application, add some moisturizer is skin’s on dry side (or weather is), skip if irritated, use sunscreen.


Perhaps you can begin with a .025% or .05% strength or mix with a hydrating moisturizer until your skin adjusts. The latter is what I have done after a temporary pause during pregnancy. Many people experience peeling as well; although effective for rejuvenation, it can be frustrating when this happens. For me, the Clarisonic has helped tremendously with that. I use it after my morning shower and I’m left with a glowing, dewy complexion. Hang in there! It’s worth it.


I’ve used Strivectin. The trick for me was to put a thin veil on my skin and make sure it is evenly rubbed in. If I get a patch of skin that is irritated it is usually because I didn’t apply it thoroughly. In the beginning less is more and build the application as you progress.

Love the image of Elizabeth Taylor’s dressing table. Now she was a beauty.


I can’t use retinol products either. The aging process really started years ago when I was young. I grew up on the beach. I have fair Irish complexion. Not a good mix with being out in the sun all summer. My mother in law never used any kind of expensive creams and had beautiful complexion until she died at 86 years old. She also NEVER spent time in the sun playing as a child or gardening as an adult. I don’t regret for a minute the years of pleasure I’ve had doing both. There isn’t a creme under the sun that can erase my life from my face. If there is I surely couldn’t afford it or would refuse to pay the ridiculous amount the want for luxury cremes.


Hi Vicki,
I have not had much luck with retinol crèmes, they clog my pores. I’ve been using Advanced Night Repair and it really does a good job. What’s nice it that you can get a sample to try it first. I’ve also been using Skinn brand ABC Triple Action Peel to help get rid of dark spots and I love it! My skin feels so soft after I use it.
Thanks Vicki for your blog.


I don’t know that brand for pigmentation, sounds excellent… I will look it up… thanks Karen…

Mimi Gregor

I don’t have particularly sensitive skin, but, I, too, find that retinol products — even the ones that are marketed as being “gentle” make my skin red and peely. So, great… in addition to the incipient fine lines and the adult acne bouts, I have redness and flakiness on top of that? No thank you. I just moisturize and use sunscreen, and it seems that my skin looks better for doing less. In any case, nothing short of cosmetic surgery is going to make a drastic difference in retaining youthful looks. I think that as long as I eat right, stay out of the sun, and avoid too much alcohol (I never smoked), I should age pretty well.


Vicki I have just not had good results with retinol creams, (since I was very young anyway) Light buffing with the Clarisonic is better in the long run with the rest of my skin regimen!

French Artist Frederique Chemin


I guess it’s whatever works for each person’s skin type, isn’t it…
I do love teh Clarisonic too but I fear I have not peservered well enough with the retinol..


Just a note about my experience with retinols. I love going to my favorite spa for facials. I was introduced to the SkinCeuticals retinol a number of years ago. They carry both a 0.5 and 1.0 strength at a reasonable price. I believe the 1.0 is now $63. They have a wonderful line of other products as well. I was told to start with the 0.5 and work my way up to the 1.0. I have had good results, and my skin doesn’t look too bad for 64 years. Just remember to start slowly and keep moisturizing as well. I feel that there are a lot of decent products on the market at different price points. The secret is make sure you are consistent in their use. If you want to get started with retinol to see if you like it, try a reasonably priced brand available in the grocery store – like the Neutrogena line. Also, protect your face from the sun if you can. We have a little roadster and love driving through the countryside, and I always make sure to wear a brimmed hat at all times. Even with my SPF 40 on my face I did develop one small dark spot on the side of my face that I take extra care to keep in check. Ladies, remember to try to embrace this “maturing” process and enjoy every day. Thanks Vicki for all your great posts.


I think the most important word here is “consistent”… that’s where I fall down from time to time..


I am 68 have been using plain Retin-A 1/2% for a year and the results are quite amazing…smooth, plump and glowing. Yes there was some flaking at the beginning, but that is normal and so worth enduring!
If combined with moisturizer, the unpleasant side effects in the beginning are diminished…I am looking forward to upping the percentage strength and seeing even more amazing results!

Angela Muller

Ok, Vicki, this is where I definitely have an opinion. I’m 68 years young with some very light crows feet wrinkles around the eyes and light forehead wrinkles. I have used the Strivectin and Kate Sommerville retinol products, but while they didn’t irritate my skin, I saw no visible signs of improvement. What I now use and love is the Peter Thomas Roth Unwrinkle Pads and his PM Retinol Serum followed by a nighttime moisturizer. Crows feet wrinkles…gone; forehead wrinkles so diminished, I can barely tell they’re there. The texture of my skin is soft and radiant with no visible pores. Longtime friends asked if I had injections or some plastic surgery procedures because my skin looked so much younger. All of this took about 3 to 4 weeks before I saw dramatic results. I’m relieved to finally have a stable skincare routine with reliable benefits. Of course, everyone’s skin is different, as are their expectations, but for me, this is gold.


Amazing Angela.. I am going to research these products and find them so i can share about them here… Thank you.. :)


I have tried Retin-A of different strengths from my dermatologist. I have tried other retinol products. My skin just looks red, blotchy, and flaky. I have given up on them. I do adore the Clarisonic. I am finding that the Rodin face oil at night makes my skin so soft — a big help in parched Southern California


I have used prescribed retinol for about 2 years now and it has made a tremendous difference to my skin. You have to start on a low dose and then increase as your skin becomes accustomed to it. It can make the skin a bit dry and flakey if you overdo it.


I recently started using a retinol cream. It was recommended that I use it every other day to start and to use a plain moisturizer like Olay on top.

Marian from UK

I can’t help thinking back to those Nonnas! Remember what we all felt about that post? Yes, look after your skin and always always moisturise and never never use soap. But is Retinol really going to stop us ageing? Shouldn’t we grow older softly with gentle care so that our lines, whilst present, are soft and feminine? At the end of the day, it’s the drug/chemical/beauty industries that win. Needs a lot of thought before spending money on something that has potential to irritate and therefore harm the skin I think…


Vicky, I recently started using Retinol as well and I’m truly liking the one from Skinceuticals, plus my dermatologist highly recommends it. They have different levels of it so maybe you may want to start with the lowest level until you have built up a resistance? I haven’t been peeling or have had any irritation. Maybe you can try it out. M-


When I first read about Retin A 20 years ago I started using it . I persevered through the peeling and redness for a couple of months and have never looked back. It has done wonders for me. I always wear strong sunblock as I live in a sub tropical climate and have very few wrinkles at the age of 58.My dermatologist always comments on my good skin. I think the reason it has not really taken off is because if you get a doctors script for it, it is very reasonably priced and the major producers of beauty creams etc do not make any money from it as they are not allowed to produce the cream at prescription strength.

Glenice lightly

Vicky having visited a skin specialist once the advise given was that no creams etc will help ageing of the skin and the best treatment is to stay out of the sun and to use only a sun screen moisturiser.
This is of course very hard for fair skin of my ancestors (Irish). The creams sold are very expensive but I believe exfoliating and moisturiser is enough.


I use a retinol cream nightly, I had to build up to using it starting with a low does and using every other night to using daily at a higher dose. I have not used a commercial brand but choose to use one that is prescribed by my doctor ‘Retrieve’. One thing to note I have been told I do not need to use a separate exfoliate while using this. I love using a Retinol cream – vitamin A and can notice the difference in my skin texture and would highly recommend.


Everyone needs healthy Vitamin A.
For me – and after using prescription Stevia at various percentages – I am not without my Rationale DNA Reactivating Night Cream every night (actually, all of their Essentail Six is incredible).
It changes your life.

Miss Diane

Having a very sensitive skin, I also had a very bad experience with retinol (itch, dryness and redness). I now use a serum that leaves my skin soft and nice. The secret is to moisturize your skin when you’re young and never stop. When damages are done, the only solution is the scalpel or botox and co.

Merci Vicki pour vos bons conseils.


Hello VIcky forget about all the expensive creams and go and get a course of IPL treatments from a good cosmetic surgeon. Don’t go to a beautician as the machines they use aren’t strong enough. iF you don’t need to use a numbing cream first then the machine isn’t strong enough to make a difference. I’ve been doing this and some revlite laser treatments as maintenance for the past 8 years and the difference to my skin is unbelievable. I went from spotty pigmented ageing skin to smooth glowing complexion. You just have to remember to keep out of the sun and always use a sunscreen or the pigment comes back. It’s not cheap but it is definitely much better value than facials and creams. Jacqualine (Sydney)


Vicki, I have a very dear friend who has used prescription Retin A for at least 25 years or more. She will be 68 in just a few weeks and her skin is absolutely glowing! One would think she is in her late 40’s. I however was never able to use Retin A … much too drying. I know there is a way, i.e. adding a rich moisturizer about 30-60 min after applying the Retin A, but I never seem to remember or fall asleep before its time! I think I will try Angela’s suggestion of Peter Thomas Roth products. We’ll see…


Hi Vicki, I work for a Dermatologist and I have been using Retrieve 0.05% at night and it is AMAZING. You must acclamatise your skin to the regime, by starting with leaving the cream on only for 1/2 an hour and then removing and gradually increasing to be able to leave it on for full every 2nd night and then progress to nightly. Most importantly you must use an SPF in the morning with any Vitamin A treatment. You will find that the ‘cosmetic’ brands cannot offer the same strength as prescription only, and hence they will work but will take much longer to see any visible results. I personally feel that using something as strong as Vit A, that you really should use professional products and a treatment plan.
Also a note to your younger readers that you cannot use Vit A products if you are pregnant,.. something the cosmetic counters do not mention, but as said the concentration in their products is very minimal.
I hope you persevere and try a Retin A product, as they really are very good, especially combined with SPF.
Always so interesting to receive your blog. Love Margaret (Sunburnt country of Australia).

Liz Thomas

Here in the US I have used a Retinol-A cream by Neutrogena for years. It is very reasonably priced and has virtually eliminated brown spots on my face. I use it every day. At 54 you really need to rely on these things. What I like about the Neutrogena Healthy Skin is it also has SPF in it at the same time!


I tried Retinol creams for several years. The ones I like were from Paula’s Choice. However, I don’t feel as if they really work on wrinkles. So what did I do? Got myself some Retin A or Trentoin. I have been using the .025 cream now for about 6 months. I see a difference. I am in my 60’s. Really, the prescription creams are the only way to go. They are about $90.00 and a tube lasts 6 months. I am going to get the .050 next week. Retinol is fine but go for the guns, they work!


I love the Night Renewing serum from Rodan &Fields skincare line! They also have a roller you use with it and it’s the best thing I’ve found for my acne scarring especially. I have sensitivity with retinol and so I use it sparingly but still get great results!


I love the results of Rapid Wrinkle Repair ( retinol night cream by Neutrogena) and it’s only $23. I have used Stri vectin and Roc products, this responds well to my sensitive, mature skin. No redness or peeling. But the most important daily regimen is to use sunscreen: I use Badger Organic Zinc Oxide Sunscreen everyday.

Leslie in Oregon

As is the case so often, my skin became sensitive as I grew older. My long-time dermatologist counselled me unequivocally to never use Retinol or any product touted as reversing or diminishing the effects of aging. Instead, I use one of several very gentle moisturizers, as well as gentle cleansers, that she recommended, and I am told that my skin looks very good for my age (67). (That I have never sunbathed, although I spend a lot of time outdoors, and started moisturizing at age 22 undoubtedly has helped.)

Segreto Secrers

Thanks so much for sharing! I love lotions and potions of all sorts -this will come in handy!
xo. Leslie
Segreto Finishes

Tracy Wood

Hi Vicki, I have been using Strivectin on and off for a few years now. Love it , and have never had any problems. My advice is, always ask for samples before buying. Space NK in London is
pretty good about giving out samples, and I usually travel with a few for short trips.


My dermatologist started me on one of these years ago and I still use it today. I think they do make a tremendous difference and my skin is quite sensitive. I’d get your dermatologist’s recommendation. It’s true that they have the best ones. Of course, I think you have lovely skin as it is!
xo, pamela


Hi Vicki – what timing you have – I too did not use retinol because I’m very try and hyper sensitive but you are right- they can work miracles and can get rid of crows feet! Apparently they gravitate on their own – anyway my friend has been using them and she too is dry and sensitive so she used the lowest percentage from her dermatologist and only twice a week until now, two years later she is able to use it every night. Her skin looks fantastic and has not needed botox. She is thinking of filler so that’s where I am, beginning the whole process over 50 but I still think it will help me! Thanks for the post – I know nothing of the brands. Most people I know get them via prescription. xxoo

Mary Beth

I have just started using an over the counter retinol cream, so it will be a while before I can see if I get good results. Prescription strength was too harsh for my skin. I have been considering getting the Clarisonic brush that you recommend, and am wondering if it is safe to use if you use retinol cream. Do you know? Thank you.


I think your skin needs to be the judge and i will possible use mine a little more cautiously as I commence the Retinol. Altough I think some mentioned that they found the Clarisonic useful for any scaliness or peeling due to the Retinol…


The retinol in over the counter creams is minimal. The only worthwhile retinol is by prescription. If it irritates your skin you can do one of 2 things: 1. use it every other night and 2. rather than wait 30 min. after applying it to put on night cream, put the cream on right after. My dermatologist as well as a pharmacist told me all those expensive creams are “marketing”. You are paying for the nice perfume, the packaging and hype. None of those hyped benefits can penetrate the dermis and do what they claim. There are two known products to help aging skin: 1. retinol and 2. glytonic acid. My mother is 98 years old and doesn’t have a wrinkle. People stop and comment about her not having any wrinkles. Her secret: She washes her face at night with Noxema! :-)

Keri | Ivy Clad

I’ve read that using emu oil after retinol treatments can reduce the irritation because of the emu oil’s anti-inflammatory properties. There’s an American neuro-surgeon whose work I follow who says a day without emu oil on the face is a wasted day. I’ve been trying it for winter and it seems to really help with the scaliness. Best of luck. Beauty is serious business. ;)

Nancie Bartley

I started using Alpha Hydroxy Acids in my 30s, upgraded to Retin-A products from the dermatologist in my 40s and have never looked back. I’m 59 now and yesterday had someone tell me I didn’t look old enough to have a 17 yr old. (And she’s my baby.) I also have Rosacea and the Retin-As help immensely with that. I’ve been in Colorado the last two years where it is soooo dry and now use Jojoba oil on my face daily as a moisturizer. Sometimes I will skip a day if my skin feels very dry but every dermatologist I talk to/read about recommends Retin As as the NUMBER ONE way to keep your skin looking younger. This is one instance where you shouldn’t waste time at the beauty counter. Go direct to the dermatologist.


I too lived in CO for 10 years and it really ruined my skin. I didn’t realize it until I moved to the East Coast, where many people have beautiful, smooth skin, and when my CO friends come and visit, they look 5-10 years older than their age. Be careful out there!


Most products only contain a miniscule amount of Retinol. There is a brand on Amazon that is a fraction of the costs of the bigger brands but is marked with strength like the percriptions. It is called Skinceuticals Retinol 1 and comes in 1% and .05%. I think you get your moneys worth with this brand compared to the cosmetics brands


I used to use retinol creams, until I learned of the “Never List” from BeautyCounter. Had no idea they can lead to skin growths and cancer. Now I stay away from retinol or any Vitamin A product. I read that doing glycolic acid peels are a good alternative, so that’s what I’ve just started doing. I’ll see if it works! So far, so good. I do believe, though, that ultimately “good” skin is more related to genetics, what you eat/drink, and how much you protect your skin from the sun. So I’m trying that route as well.


I have sensitive skin that can not handle most retinals. I am currently loving Neostrata foaming glycolic wash. Used morning and night it makes a huge difference. Since it is on for only moments at a time it is effective with out causing a negative reaction. I also use the clairisonic twice daily with Cetaphyl.. Then I lotion up. It has been a long process figuring out what works for me. So happy now. Good luck to you.


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