When it comes to anti-aging skin care products, retinol almost always comes up. It is considered the gold standard for its ability to reach deeply into your skin, renew skin cell production, and push renewed skin to the surface, minimizing fine lines and wrinkles. It has also been raved about for its ability to give you youthful and glowing skin! However, as much as it is praised, retinol is also often misunderstood and feared.
We're here to put those fears to rest! We have prepared a buying guide to help you understand how retinol works and how to integrate it into your skincare routine. Dermatologist Dr. Meg Sison also shares some of her comments and tips regarding this topic! Later on, we'll also share our picks for the best retinol serums in the Philippines!
Dr. Sison is a board-certified dermatologist who practices in the Philippines and sees both medical and cosmetic dermatological cases on skin, hair, and nails.
Our recommendation articles are carefully researched and crafted by the mybest Philippines team of writers and editors. To stay true to our company’s mission and vision to help users’ selection process easier, we also collaborate with experts from various fields to ensure that our content stays factual and useful.
The expert oversees the Buying Guide only, and does not determine the products and services featured.
Table of Contents
Retinol, a derivative of vitamin A, holds a prominent place in skincare routines due to its remarkable benefits. Retinol can effectively address hyperpigmentation and combat the signs of photoaging. One of its key mechanisms is stimulating collagen production, a crucial factor in maintaining the skin's elasticity and firmness.
Retinol is a type of retinoid that is an umbrella term for structural and functional analogs of vitamin A. Retinoids are classified according to first, second, or third generation. First-generation retinoids include tretinoin, isotretinoin, and alitretinoin. Second-generation retinoids are acitretin and etretinate. Third-generation retinoids include adapalene, tazarotene, and bexarotene.
Retinols (retinol esters) are over-the-counter retinoids commonly found in skin care products like moisturizers and serums. They are the least irritating among all retinoids, but they require three steps before they can be converted to tretinoin and see their benefits on the skin.
Although retinol is well-received by all skin types, we must warn, though, that it is not for everyone. As advised by our expert, pregnant and lactating individuals cannot use retinol. This is because high concentrations of vitamin A can affect the development of the fetus.
Retinol has different levels of concentration, and its application depends on whether you are a bonafide user or a newbie to it. It's not as simple as selecting one with the highest potency in hopes of seeing immediate results. It is meant to be incorporated into your skincare routine gradually; otherwise, you'd risk irritation.
If it's your first-time retinol user, it is best to incorporate it into your skincare routine low and slow. A concentration of 0.25% or less and applying it twice a week is what many dermatologists recommend. Keep in mind that retinol is a potent ingredient, so even the lowest concentration can bring benefits to your skin.
For those who will be using retinol for the first time, start with the lowest concentration and use it twice a week before gradually increasing the frequency of usage.
Make sure to apply first on a small area (for example, back of ears or jawline) and observe for any reactions like stinging, burning, peeling, itching, or redness within 24 to 72 hours. You can also apply moisturizer before and after applying retinol to lessen the chances of skin irritation ("retinoid sandwich").
For those who have already incorporated retinol in their skincare routine and feel like low-strength retinol serums bring minimal to no effects, try concentrations between 0.3%-1%. Since this is more potent, you can expect more significant effects on your skin's appearance.
For those who want to use higher-strength retinol, start twice a week. You can also opt to use this 2 to three times a week instead of every night to lessen the chances of skin irritation. The retinoid sandwich technique is recommended to prevent skin irritation, redness, or peeling.
Retinol, when used alone, can be quite drying, so many serums incorporate ingredients that bring moisturizing and nourishing effects. Learn more about the best ingredients to pair with retinol and what not to mix with retinol below.
Dermatologists maintain that retinol paired with ingredients that have moisturizing properties are a must. Furthermore, there are also ingredients that can amplify the benefits of using retinol.
While certain ingredients enhance retinol's effects, combining it with others can lead to adverse reactions. Using retinol alongside AHAs, BHAs, benzoyl peroxide, and enzyme exfoliators can harm your skin as it over-exfoliates it. This can dry the skin, making it more susceptible to irritation.
Chemical exfoliants like AHAs and BHAs can increase cellular turnover like retinol, so they should not be used at the same time to avoid skin irritation. You can use a face wash that contains these ingredients but make sure to apply moisturizer prior to applying retinol on your face.
Serums are often housed in pumps and droppers, which aren’t just for aesthetic purposes. It also has something to do with the product’s efficacy and shelf life. Retinol is relatively unstable; this means that when you take it out to use it, it oxidizes a little.
When shopping for serums, opt for a dark-colored bottle; this is to protect it from exposure to sunlight as it could spoil easily and render it useless. Pump bottles are great as it protects the product from being oxidized, seeing as you can just pump what you need. It is also great when you want to use your hands to apply the product.
Look for retinol serums packaged in dark bottles or pumps, as they prevent the retinol from becoming unstable. Ensure that the dropper does not touch your face and neck when applying the retinol serum to prevent contamination by microorganisms. Your hands should also be clean before applying the product to your face and neck.
Disclaimer: These products are recommendations made by our team at mybest Philippines. Our expert, Dr. Meg Sison, is not affiliated with, nor is she endorsing any of the brands we mention below.
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Resurfacing Retinol Serum
A Mild Yet Effective Retinol Serum for Sensitive Skin
Ceramides, Niacinamide, Licorice Root Extract
The Inkey List
A Potent Yet Gentle Retinol Serum
Squalene, Tocopherol (Vitamin E)
0.5% Retinol Serum
Supplement Your Skincare Routine With Powerful 0.5% Retinol
Panthenol, Green Tea Leaf Extract, Sunflower Seed Oil, Sweet Almond Oil, Grapeseed Oil
Retinol 0.5% in Squalane
A Squalane-Infused Retinol Serum for All Skin Types
Rapid Wrinkle Repair® Serum
Rapidly Improves Skin's Appearance
Hyaluronic Acid, Glucose Complex
Some by Mi
Retinol Intense Reactivating Serum
Combines Retinol and Retinal for Enhanced Skin Texture and Wrinkle Reduction
Bakuchiol, Niacinamide, Panthenol
Retinol Skin-Renewing, Daily Micro-Dose Serum
A Low-Dose Retinol You Can Use Everyday
Peptide, Ceramide, Niacinamide, Tocopherol (Vitamin E), Sunflower Seed Oil
Regenerist Retinol 24 Night Serum
A 24 Hours Solution to Your Best Radiant Skin Yet
Niacinamide, Amino Peptides, Dimethicone
La Roche Posay
Retinol B3 Pure Retinol Serum
Brighten Up Your Dull Skin for a Healthy-Looking Complexion
Niacinamide, Hyaluronic Acid, Dimethicone, Soybean Oil
0.3% Retinol Skin Renewing Serum
An Affordable Choice for Those Who Want to Try Retinol
Vitamin A, Carrot Root Extract, Allantoin
If you're interested in trying retinol but have sensitive skin, this serum may be perfect for you. It contains gentle retinol that's less likely to cause irritation, as well as licorice root extract, which brightens the skin, and three essential ceramides, which help restore the skin's natural barrier. Plus, its lightweight and non-greasy texture makes it ideal for acne-prone and oily skin as well.
If you're new to using retinol, CeraVe recommends using this every third evening to avoid side effects such as redness and drying. Once you've built up tolerance, you can then increase use. Many satisfied users noticed smoother skin and improved appearance of fine lines and wrinkles with continued use.
|Notable Ingredients||Ceramides, Niacinamide, Licorice Root Extract|
|Net Weight||30 mL|
The Inkey List's Retinol Serum is a gentle, effective way to improve the appearance of your skin. It contains 1% RetiSTAR and 0.5% granactive retinoid in a slow-release formula, which makes it less irritating than other retinol forms. This serum can help to reduce the appearance of fine lines, wrinkles, and skin texture. It also contains squalane to hydrate and soothe the skin.
Even if it has a 1% concentration, users found that the formula is quite gentle on the skin, making this product a good option for those new to retinol or those with sensitive skin yet want to use a high-strength formula. The serum also has a lightweight, milky consistency that absorbs quickly into the skin. Additionally, it is fragrance-free and non-comedogenic, making it suitable for all skin types.
|Notable Ingredients||Squalene, Tocopherol (Vitamin E)|
|Net Weight||30 mL|
|Notable Ingredients||Panthenol, Green Tea Leaf Extract, Sunflower Seed Oil, Sweet Almond Oil, Grapeseed Oil|
|Net Weight||30 mL|
With 0.5% retinol, this serum stimulates skin cell renewal, reducing fine lines and wrinkles and improving skin texture and tone. Plus, its water-free formula enhances the serum's stability and shelf life compared to other serums, allowing for more effective results.
The inclusion of squalane takes hydration to the next level. As a natural moisturizing agent also found in skin, squalane enhances surface-level hydration and counters the dryness often linked to retinol use. This combination of retinol and squalene makes it suitable for all skin types, including sensitive skin.
|Net Weight||30 mL|
This serum boasts Neutrogena's combination of retinol SA (sustained action), glucose complex, and hyaluronic acid. Unlike other retinol forms, it is said that retinol SA can penetrate the skin deeply, thus enhancing its effectiveness.
Not only does this serum help brighten the skin and reduce wrinkles and fine lines, but it can also fortify the skin's barrier, reducing irritation. Note that since this comes in a 0.5% concentration, you may experience redness or irritation, especially if it's your first time using retinol, so we suggest doing the sandwich method (moisturizer-retinol-moisturizer).
|Notable Ingredients||Hyaluronic Acid, Glucose Complex|
|Net Weight||29 mL|
|Notable Ingredients||Bakuchiol, Niacinamide, Panthenol|
|Net Weight||30 mL|
|Notable Ingredients||Peptide, Ceramide, Niacinamide, Tocopherol (Vitamin E), Sunflower Seed Oil|
|Net Weight||50 mL|
Working long hours and need a pick me up for your skin? Olay’s Regenerist Retinol24 works deeply into the skin, leaving it supple and fresh for 24 hours. Aside from niacinamide, this serum is also enriched with amino peptides for firmer skin, ensuring a fresh face after every usage!
Upon application, users noticed that the product was quickly absorbed and penetrated deeply into the skin. This formula is also fragrance- and dye-free, making it suitable for sensitive skin. It is a great option if you want to improve your skin’s overall appearance, as it claims to deliver visible results in 28 days, reducing wrinkles, fine lines, and even brightening dark spots.
|Notable Ingredients||Niacinamide, Amino Peptides, Dimethicone|
|Net Weight||30 mL|
|Notable Ingredients||Niacinamide, Hyaluronic Acid, Dimethicone, Soybean Oil|
|Net Weight||30 mL|
This retinol serum is a good place to start if you want to experience the effects of retinol serums without breaking the bank. It comes at a very affordable price, which many buyers appreciate. But more than that, this serum packs a punch with its 0.3% potent formula that can effectively improve uneven skin tone, acne, fine lines, and wrinkles.
This product also contains allantoin, a calming ingredient that will help minimize irritation, and carrot root extract that helps protect the skin from environmental stressors. Many users like that it's also fragrance-free, and they have noted milder and tolerable side effects compared to other retinol serums or rejuvenating products.
|Notable Ingredients||Vitamin A, Carrot Root Extract, Allantoin|
|Net Weight||30 mL|
To jumpstart your journey to younger-looking skin, here are some of Dr. Meg SIson's answers to the most asked questions on the web!
Start at the lowest concentrations (twice a week at night for at least 1 month), especially if it's your first time, and gradually increase the frequency of application once you are able to tolerate it.
Take note that we do not need higher concentrations because they can result in skin irritation, leading to discontinuing the retinol altogether. Make sure to wear broad-spectrum sunscreen during the day.
Retinol serums have the potential to cause purging, but this is only temporary. Not all individuals will experience purging from retinol.
Retinol serums are recommended for nighttime use because they can make your skin more sensitive to UV rays if used during the day. In addition, sunlight can also degrade retinol which can make it less effective.
Retinol isn't the only skincare ingredient to maintain youthful-looking and glowing skin. If you're not a fan of retinol or want a much gentler alternative, here are other skincare products you could use!
Re-editor: Danielle Trinidad
Our buying guide was carefully researched and crafted by the mybest team of writers and editors, in collaboration with the expert featured in this article. We used the buying guide as a basis for choosing and ranking the product recommendations, and we looked at reviews and ratings from different E-commerce sites like Lazada, Shopee, and more.
No. 1: CeraVe｜Resurfacing Retinol Serum
No. 2: The Inkey List｜Retinol Serum
No. 3: Klued｜0.5% Retinol Serum
No. 4: The Ordinary｜Retinol 0.5% in Squalane
No. 5: Neutrogena｜Rapid Wrinkle Repair® Serum
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