Retinol For Men: What to Know and What to Buy

retinol for men

Retinol. You’ve probably heard of it. It has something to do with anti-aging, but it’s drying and something about acne, right? Yes, you’re right. But I want to help clarify exactly what retinol for men is all about, and why you, manly man of Mt. Manliness, need to be incorporating it into your routine.

To get a little scientific, retinol is a derivative of Vitamin A. You may have heard of this concept in various terms: retinoid, retinoic acid, and basic retinol. Retinod basically covers the category, whereas retinol and retinoic acid are two different delivery systems. Retinoc acid (typically referred to by a brand name Retin-A) is a prescription strength topical cream or gel that was originally developed to help fight severe acne. It was later discovered that this Vitamin A variant packs a powerful punch in anti-aging. So, leave it to the scientists to create retinol,  a more skin-friendly, over-the-counter variation that is found in tons of skincare products today.

Okay, that’s a whole lot of stuff you may not particularly care about, so we’ll get down to business: Why the hell am I insisting that you start using this stuff? It’s simple — this is really the only proven component in any skincare product to reverse wrinkles. I repeat: reverse wrinkles. On top of that, it also smooths out skin’s texture, helps diminish acne scarring, and lightens hyper-pigmentation (those dark spots from ingrown hairs or too much sun). Basically, it’s a very important part of preventing and reversing damage done to your skin. All that being said, the key thing to keep in mind when using a retinol product regularly is that there may be slight dryness, redness, and sensitivity to sun because you are bringing fresher, newer skin to the surface. Typically, the dryness and redness go away as your skin adapts to the product, but the sun sensitivity means a daily sunscreen is a must. Not joking here, guys – if you don’t wear a sunscreen during the day when using a retinol product, it can actually make your skin more sensitive to environmental stressors that cause age, so it ends up doing you no favors.

Why does it do all this? Remember that part about acne we breezed over pretty quickly? This tantalizing topical treatment actually increases cell-turnover, helping your skin to move through it’s natural life cycle more quickly. Think of it like this: Exfoliating your skin removes the dead, dry stuff to keep pores from clogging while also revealing fresh, bright skin. Retinoids basically exfoliate at high-speed, allowing your skin to regenerate more often and, therefore, fix it’s own problems (which at first, was all about acne). Once it was discovered the added benefit against skin aging, it quickly became one of the most sought-after ingredients in skincare.

So, after all that, you don’t think I’m going to let you fend for yourself now do you? I have come up with a great selection of products for any man, on any budget. Keep reading, do some research, and get excited about your new, youthful handsomeness. You’re welcome.

For Guys Just Getting Started

Dermalogica Overnight Retinol Repair- $87

Dermalogica Overnight Retinol Repair

These products are perfectly designed for first timers. Dermalogica Overnight Retinol Repair let’s you control the dosage. The recommended starting dose is one part Overnight Retinol Repair and up to three parts Buffer Cream. Over time, as your skin acclimates to the retinol, you can go down in buffer cream until you don’t need it at all.

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The Ordinary’s Granactive Retinoid 2 percent in Squalane – $10

The Ordinary Granactive Retinoid

Another great option for those a bit reluctant to commit is The Ordinary’s Granactive Retinoid 2 percent in Squalane. This low dose of a non-irritating retinoid will ease your skin into a retinol regimen while easing your wallet into the new routine. It’s under $10. In case you’re wondering, that’s insane.

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For Guys Around The Eyes

Neutrogena Rapid Wrinkle Repair Eye Cream – $22

Neutrogena Rapid Wrinkle Repair Eye Cream

A good eye cream with retinol gets to work where right where you need it most. The eyes are one of the first areas to show signs of aging (you’ve heard all about the fine lines, crow’s feet, dark circles, and all that jazz), so if you want to start targeting them first, something like this Neutrogena Rapid Wrinkle Repair Eye Cream is a great and affordable go-to.

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Verso Super Eye Serum – $80

Verso Super Eye Serum

For something a little more intense, this Verso Super Eye Serum uses Super Retinol 8, which is, you guessed it, eight times more powerful than a regular retinol and half as irritating. This means, worn under a sunscreen, this is a more daytime-friendly option. Don’t let the term “serum” confuse you either; this can be worn as your only eye treatment, or under something more moisturizing for added benefits.

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For the Multitasking Guys

iS Clinical Pro-Heal Serum Advance Plus – $148

iS Clinical Pro-Heal Serum Advance Plus

A serum is meant to be worn first, prior to your regular moisturizer, because they are more concentrated and penetrate to deeper layers of the skin. The iS Clinical Pro-Heal Serum Advance Plus antioxidant-rich serum with a modest dose of retinol goes deep-down to fight rosacea, hypersensitive skin, and acne.

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PCA Skin Retinol Renewal Serum with RestorAtive Complex – $90

PCA Skin Retinol Renewal Serum

The Retinol Renewal Serum with RestorAtive Complex from PCA SKIN is a retinol serum that’s perfect for younger skin or for guys who might be sensitive to stronger retinols. Given it’s lower dose, it’s a great serum for daytime use under a good moisturizer with sunscreen.

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For the Lazy Guys

Peter Thomas Roth Retinol Fusion PM Overnight Resurfacing Pads – $52

Peter Thomas Roth Retinol

Listen, I hear ya. If you’ve made it this far, you’re interested, but maybe you want something that is going to give maximum results for minimum effort. Remember those OXY pads you used to use in high school? Well think of these as that, but for grown-ups. These Retinol Fusion PM Overnight Resurfacing Pads from Peter Thomas Roth exfoliate and resurface skin every night yielding results by the time you wake up. Added Vitamin C helps brighten too!

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Dr. Dennis Gross Ferulic + Retinol Wrinkle Recovery Peel – $88

Dr. Dennis Gross Ferulic and Retinol

If you feel like you want a little more action for a little less work, you can try the Ferulic + Retinol Wrinkle Recovery Peel from Dr. Dennis Gross. A potent concentration of retinol to attack wrinkles and the powerful plant-based antioxidant ferulic acid to help skin’s against sun-damage. Use these bad boys two or three times a week for an added boost to your establish skincare regimen.

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For the Classic Guys

SkinMedica Retinol Complex 1.0 – $93

SkinMedica Retinol Complex

Sometimes you just want to go with what you know, and a lot of guys know they put on a cream at night. So the SkinMedica Retinol Complex 1.0 is a strong retinol cream that goes a long way in fighting wrinkles. Starting two to three times a week and increasing frequency as your skin adapts, this is an easy way to get your vitamins, as it were.

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SkinCeuticals Retinol 1.0 – $76

SkinCeuticals Retinol

Another high-concentration, pure retinol cream is this Retinol 1.0 from SkinCeuticals. Recommended for those familiar with retinol, this tube looks small, but boy is it mighty. A little goes a long way and to target lines, wrinkles, skin-discoloration, acne, and blemishes. All this, and it is designed not to clog pores.

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For the Advanced Guys

Pestle & Mortar Superstar Retinol Night Oil – $109

Pestle and Mortar Superstar Retinol Night Oil

For most, “oil” is typically followed by “free” for anything having to do with their face, but forget what you’ve heard. Oils are everywhere now and a high-quality oil actually works well on men’s skin due to our thicker dermis and higher sebum levels. Oil like oil, right? So this Superstar Retinol Night Oil from Pestle & Mortar is bad ass, it’s as simple as that. Cold-pressed grape seed oil is the base of the nighttime treatment, and it works well with men’s natural oils. The additional oils blended in (including rose hip, pomegranate, and jojoba) work together to make your skin look better than ever. Seriously, this oil is no joke.

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Sunday Riley Luna Sleeping Night Oil – $55

Sunday Riley Luna Sleeping Night Oil

There is something to be said for the feel of a calming, soothing oil at the end of the day. If you have ever put it in your beard, then you can put it on your face. This next-generation retinol oil, Sunday Riley’s Luna Sleeping Night Oil, works throughout the night to reduce lines, wrinkles, pores, and balance tone, texture, and redness.

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For the Rule-Breakers

RoC 5-in-1 Daily Moisturizer with Built In Sunscreen Broad Spectrum SPF 30 – $17

RoC Daily Moisturizer

As we have already discussed — ad nauseam — about retinol: You know you are supposed to use it at night and wear a sunscreen during the day. Well, that’s not wrong, but it’s not exclusively right anymore either. Technology has made it possible to create potent retinols that are less irritating allowing them to actually do their job during the day. Roc was a pioneer in bringing retinol to the masses and this 5-in-1 Daily Moisturizer with Built In Sunscreen Broad Spectrum SPF 30 kicks ass without taking any names. The unique Hexinol has been shown to provide results in half the time as other forms, and is actually affordable enough to buy from any drug store.

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StriVectin Advanced Retinol Day Moisturizer Broad Spectrum SPF 30 – $99

StriVectin Advanced Retinol Day Moisturizer

StiVectin — a brand who came to fame due to its ability to make stretch marks practically disappear — knows a thing or two about preventing and reversing skin damage. The Advanced Retinol Day Moisturizer Broad Spectrum SPF 30 is a cult favorite and keeps up the good fight even during your waking hours. That’s something unheard of when these Vitamin A derivatives were only fighting acne. Retinol, you’ve come a long way, baby.

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