You already know about retinol (opens in new tab). You know that you should be using it (because it smooths fine lines, brightens dark spots, fades acne scars, prevents wrinkles, and treats acne), and you know that you have a billion options to choose from on the market. But what I’m guessing you don’t know is which one is the best of the best. Luckily, that’s where the internet comes in.
Because one retinol is currently rising above the rest in the unofficial competition for Best Cheap Retinol That Is Very Effective Yet Easy to Buy and Also Won’t Burn Your Face Off. Unsurprisingly, the competition is stiff. Surprisingly, the one product the internet seems to be obsessed with is a $19 jar of cream from Amazon. Yes, Amazon.
The Cult Following
Introducing Baebody Retinol Moisturizer (opens in new tab), the number-one bestselling retinol on Amazon, with more than 3,300 glowing reviews from real people. “I can definitely tell that my skin is tightening up and pores are smaller,” reads one comment (opens in new tab), while another verified-purchase user writes (opens in new tab), “The fine lines are nonexistent and the deeper lines are far less noticeable after using for over 6 months religiously.” Read through the next 1,000 reviews, and you’ll get pretty similar happy vibes.
But here’s where my bullshit meter goes off: Based on the ingredients list, the retinol isn’t filled with anything magical—in fact, its formula is pretty average. Sure, it’s definitely more moisturizing than some other retinol creams, using aloe vera, sunflower and jojoba oils, and shea butter to moisturize, along with a dose of green tea to calm skin, but the retinol is, uh, just plain ol’ retinol. No magic, no fairy dust, just retinol (although, ask any dermatologist, and they’ll probably tell you that retinol is magical in itself).
The only difference between this cream and others at the drugstore is that it’s got a pretty high percentage of pure retinol—2.5 percent, to be exact—which will definitely show you faster, more “impressive” results that you won’t get as quickly from a gentle formula. Of course, that also means that this product is strong, which means you should keep it away from skin that’s sensitive or rosacea-prone.
Still, even if there’s nothing groundbreaking about its formula, the Baebody moisturizer is, in the end, a really, really good anti-aging moisturizer. Which means there’s virtually no harm in buying it (it’s only $19!) and testing it out on yourself to see if it’s actually worth the 3,300 positive reviews. Just promise you’ll keep me updated, okay?
And if you're not ready to take the plunge into the pool of retinols, yet, try one of these anti-aging serums that plump up your itty-bitty fine lines fast.
The 5 Best Anti-Aging Serums That Actually Get Rid of Fine Lines
Olay Regenerist Regenerating Serum
This silky serum is filled with the same type of collagen-building peptides you'd find in high-end and prescription formulas, but at a trillionth of the cost. It may not have the fancy name or packaging, but this stuff simply and seriously works.
Olay Regenerist Regenerating Serum, $20
BUY IT: amazon.com.
Elizabeth Arden Prevage Anti-Aging Daily Serum
Free radicals sound like a music group from the '60s, but they're actually environmental pollutants that cause dark spots, wrinkles, and irritation. Luckily, the antioxidant idebenone (AKA what this serum is filled with), cancels 'em out and improves the lines and wrinkles you already have.
Elizabeth Arden Prevage Anti-Aging Daily Serum, $162
BUY IT: ulta.com.
Alpha Skin Care Rejuvenating Serum
Not for the sensitive-skinned, the 14-percent glycolic acid in this night serum loosens up the glue-like bonds between your skin cells to increase turnover and generate newer, brighter, and tighter skin.
Alpha Skin Care Rejuvenating Serum, $18
BUY IT: amazon.com.
Dr. Brandt 2% Retinol Complex Serum
Retinol will forever be the golden child of wrinkle-fighting ingredients, because it really, truly works. And this lightweight serum is filled with not only two-percent retinol, but also brightening antioxidants, making it a true anti-aging powerhouse.
Dr. Brandt 2% Retinol Complex Serum, $69
BUY IT: sephora.com.
Paula's Choice Resist 10% Niacinamide Booster
If the idea of incorporating another product into your skincare routine sounds straight-up annoying, try this niacinamide-based booster, which strengthens the skin's moisture barrier and shrinks fine lines. Just add a few drops to your normal moisturizer and apply.
Paula's Choice Resist 10% Niacinamide Booster, $42
BUY IT: amazon.com.