Best retinol or retinaldehyde cream: Dermatologist Review (updated: Feb 2018)

Written By Dr Surbhi, MD Skin

Last updated: 22/02/18

“Doctor, Which is the best retinol or retinaldehyde cream? What does retinol do for your skin? "

These are the questions, that I often encounter in my dermatology practice. Firstly, the term retinoid and retinol are not same. Retinoids are the group of compounds that have a chemical structure similar to Vitamin A. As per my research across scientific journals, there are 3 types of retinoid:

  • Retinoic acid or tretinoin is best anti-ageing retinoid, but it is available on prescription only because it is potent enough to cause reactions on your skin. Therefore, it should be used under the supervision of dermatologist only.
  • Retinol and its derivatives like retinyl acetate, retinyl propionate, and retinyl palmitate is the most common constituent of anti-ageing cream including the most famous and popular brands. However, it is unstable and 20 times less potent than retinoic acid. It is least likely to cause a skin reaction. 
  • Retinaldehyde is the best retinoid available without the prescription. Studies show that retinaldehyde at the concentration of 0.05% for 3-4 months increases the thickness, collagen production and elasticity of your skin.

Before I discuss retinoids in details, I must emphasize that retinoids can make your skin dry and therefore should NOT be used in dry or sensitive skin. They are best for oily skin type that does not have rosacea or sensitive skin. Read further to know best retinoid based anti-ageing cream available in India, US, UK and Canada.

You can click on the links below to directly read the sub-topics discussed in this article:


Tips to find the best retinoid based anti-ageing cream:

The best retinoid based anti-ageing cream should have:

  • Retinaldehyde as an active ingredient.
  • It should also have other potent anti-ageing or anti-oxidant ingredients.
  • Should not contain irritating, comedogenic, and harmful ingredients.
  • Should be packed in an airtight and tinted or opaque bottle because retinoids oxidizes on exposure to light or air. Therefore, I have NOT included retinoid based anti-wrinkle cream with open jar packing in my review because they are unlikely to help.
  • It should be manufactured by reputed brand because retinol is unstable in nature. Therefore, few reputed brands have patented technology to preserve the potency of retinol.

Best Retinoid/retinol cream in India, US, UK and Canada



Our opinion

Detailed review

Avene YstheAl Anti-Aging Anti-Wrinkle Cream

This best choice for oily skin that is not prone to sensitivity breakouts. This is the only brand with retinaldehyde form of retinoid. It has a powerful combination of Retinaldehyde for anti-aging, Glycylglycine oleamide for skin tightening and pre-tocopheryl for skin repair. Go for it. However, it is expensive.

Check price on: 



  • Has Retinaldehyde, that is more potent than retinol.
  • It also has pre-tocopheryl a potent anti-oxidant.
  • Skin tightening with help of Glycylglycine oleamide (GGO
  • It has thermal spring water that soothes skin.
  • Free from parabens and other controversial ingredients
  • Nice pump packing.
  • Manufactured by Avene laboratories, reputed skin care brand.


  • The concentration of retinaldehyde is not mentioned.
  • Avene claims that this cream can be used for dry and sensitive skin, however, we do not agree. Peptide-based anti-ageing products are best for dry skin, while retinoids are best for combination to oily skin.

Skinceuticals Retinol 0.5 and 1

The best thing about this brand is concentration, it is clearly mentioned and we trust what they claim. However, it costs a fortune. Check out for yourself on 



  • Comes in 2 concentration 0.5% and 1%.
  • Manufactures says, “Retinol 1.0 is ideal for problematic and sun-damaged skin that has been pre-conditioned with the use of Retinol 0.5.” Thus, you can begin by 0.5 % and shift to 1 % gradually, by starting once in a week to alternate night and then daily.
  • Skinceutical is reputed brand and claims that Unlike products that utilize traditional encapsulation technology, Retinol 1.0 employs an innovative delivery system that captures and stabilizes the active ingredients while protecting the product’s potency. Retinol 1.0 works with the skins’ natural lipid structure to promote optimal absorption.
  • Also, has chamomile to soothe the skin


  • Price is high
  • Has controversial ingredient: Methylisothiazolinone.

Dr. Reddy's ReVibra A15 Pure Retinol Cream, 28 Vegicaps

It's a good choice because the innovative packing ensures the potency of retinol that comes in more pure form than other brands.

This is available with dermatologist and online on in India.


  • Has an innovative packing with capsule that contains retinol 0.15 % in a stable form by preventing contact with air or sunlight
  • The pure form of retinol.
  • Free from colours, preservatives, fragrances
  • Manufactured in Italy and marketed in India by Dr Reddys


  • Retinol in the capsule form is better, however, is less potent then retinaldehyde.
  • Doesn’t have any other anti-ageing or anti-oxidant.

Olay Professional ProX Deep Wrinkle Treatment

It has 2 major types of anti-aging ingredients, namely retinoid and peptides along with Vitamin E and B5. Wondering what is the cost of this anti-ageing cream? Check on


  • Has retinol in the form of Retinyl Propionate 0.2 %, that is more stable form than retinol
  • Has another potent anti-ageing ingredient called Palmitoyl pentapeptide-3 and dipeptide
  • Also, has Vitamin B5 and Vitamin E
  • Pump packing.
  • It has a published a study done for 24 weeks to supports its potency.
  • Olay is reputed brand known for anti-ageing products.


  • Has controversial ingredients, DMDM Hydantoin.
  • Retinyl palmitate is not as active as retinaldehyde.

Yugard Anti-ageing cream:

It is a trusted brand of India, however, packing could be better. Check how much bucks you need to spend, by clicking on



  • Has 0.15 % concentration of retinol
  • Also, has Vitamin C in form of potent ascorbic acid and ascorbyl palmitate.
  • Free from parabens and other controversial ingredients
  • Was brought in Indian market by SunPharma.


  • Has retinol, which is less potent than retinaldehyde.
  • Tube packing.

Neutrogena Healthy Skin Anti-Wrinkle Night Cream, 41ml

It is a trusted brand, however, does not mention the concentration of retinol and has some controversial ingredients. It is available in supermarkets and cosmetic counters; you might like to check its prize on


  • Has retinol, though percentage not mentioned.
  • Also has Green tea, Vitamin B5 and Vitamin E
  • Airtight jar packing.
  • Comes with the trust of  Johnson & Johnson.


  • Retinol is less potent than retinaldehyde
  • Concentration of retinol not mentioned
  • Has controversial ingredients like parabens, BHT.

Neutrogena Rapid Wrinkle Repair Night Moisturizer, 29ml

It is a trusted brand, however, does not mention the concentration of retinol and has some controversial ingredients. You can buy it in the cosmetic counters or on



  • Has retinol SA that is a combination of retinol and retinyl palmitate. According to product website “Accelerated Retinol SA combines the highest concentration of Neutrogena's Retinol SA with glucose complex, an exclusive booster that delivers pure stabilised retinol into the skin's surface quickly and effectively, leaving skin feeling smoother and younger-looking.”
  • It also has ascorbic acid and Sodium Hyaluronate
  • Pump packing.
  • Comes with the trust of  Johnson & Johnson


  • Retinol is less potent than retinaldehyde
  • Concentration of retinol not mentioned
  • Has controversial ingredients like parabens, BHT

Roc Retinol Correxion Deep Wrinkle Night Cream, 1-Ounce

Though, this brand does not mention the concentration of retinol used. It has a perfect combination of good Anti-aging(retinol), exfoliating(Glycolic acid) and antioxidant(Vitamin C). Secondly, Roc specialises in manufacturing retinol based products and is one of the most popular brands in US. It is more expensive in India as compared to the US.

It is only available on



  • Has retinol, concentration not mentioned
  • One of the trusted brands for retinol based wrinkle creams. The Roc website says” If exposed to light or air, retinol can degrade and lose its effectiveness. This is why our skin care scientists developed innovative processing guidelines that limit product exposure to light and oxygen, preserving the integrity and strength of RoC® Retinol.”
  • Has Glycoloic acid and Vitamin C that too in most potent form of Ascorbic acid,
  • Has perfect combination of good Anti-aging(retinol), exfoliating(Glycolic acid) and antioxidant(Vitamin C).
  • Unlike most tube packing the nozzle is thin to minimise exposure to air or sunlight. The company claims that it is a special packing that is made to preserve the unstable retinol.


  • Has parabens.
  • Retinol is less potent than retinaldehyde.

Radha Beauty Retinol Moisturizer Cream

Has 2% retinol, which is more than the concentration used in most studies. Check the reviews on this cream by clicking on 






Kindly note: Uptown, Pure majestic, Body merry and Radha beauty have somewhat similar composition. Interestingly, there packing is also similar.


  • Has retinol 2 %,
  • Also has Organic Aloe, Green Tea, Jojoba oil, Shea Butter
  • No fillers, harmful fragrances, dyes or parabens.
  • Pump packing.


  • Claim to have 2% active retinol, however, most studies done with a concentration of retinol ranging from 0.1% to 1 %. Also, 2 % active retinol might cause dryness and sensitivity.
  • Retinol is less potent than retinaldehyde.


What are retinoids?

Retinoids are the group of compounds that have a chemical structure similar to Vitamin A. According to Wikipedia, there are three generations of retinoids:

  • The first generation includes retinol, retinal, tretinoin (retinoic acid), isotretinoin, and alitretinoin.
  • The second generation includes etretinate and its metabolite acitretin.
  • The third generation includes adapalene, bexarotene, and tazarotene.

All of the above retinoids are used in various skin disorders, for example:

  • Adapalene and Isotretinoin for acne.
  • Acitretin and tazarotene for psoriasis.
  • Tretinoin and Retinol for skin ageing.

KINDLY NOTE: RETINOIDS SHOULD BE AVOIDED DURING PREGNANCY and LACTATION because they might cause birth defects when taken orally. We do not recommend topical application as well to be on safe side.

How to use retinol/retinaldehyde creams?

Wrong skin care product or even, right skincare product used in a wrong way can harm your skin. Retinoid is one such ingredient that should be used with caution as given below:

  • Retinoid should be used by oily to combination skin types that is NOT prone to sensitivity breakouts. It should not be used for dry or sensitive skin.
  •  Always use retinoids at night.
  • Ensure that you apply sunscreen 30 minutes before going out in the bright sun because retinoids increase the tendency of your skin to react with the sun.
  • Apply only a small amount of retinoid cream on your T-zone, followed by cheeks. End by applying a small amount on the delicate skin below of your eye.
  • Use retinoid cream for at least 3 months (maximum 6 months) to reap the anti-aging benefits. You can alternate retinoids with other anti-aging products like one of these Vitamin C serum.
  • Keep your expectations realistic. Do not expect a totally new look as shown in the advertisement, retinoid help in improving skin texture, fine lines and age spots. For further details, read this article, what to expect from anti-ageing creams?
  • Discontinue use if your skin develops redness, irritation or a rash. In such cases, wait until reaction subsides and restart slowly as follows:
    • Once a week for 2 weeks.
    • Twice a week for 2 weeks.
    • Alternate night for 2 weeks.
    • Finally, every night.
    • If you get the reaction again, discontinue and consult a dermatologist.


What does retinol do for your skin?

Retnoids including retinol work by attaching to the receptors present in the nucleus of your skin cells and modulate the growth and differentiation of these cells. Though the mechanism is too complex to understand, in simple language, retinoids make skin cells in the outer layer of your skin to grow more efficiently, and they also increase the collagen and elastin fibre in the deeper layer of skin. Studies show that there is some degree of reversal of skin ageing both clinically and at the microscopic level after using retinoids for 3 to 12 months.


Is retinol really the most potent anti-ageing ingredient?

No, tretinoin rather than retinol is the most potent anti-ageing retinoid. It has been proven to be effective in reversing signs of skin ageing especially photo ageing in many trials. However, tretinoin is available by prescription only. Secondly, it can cause skin reaction in the form of redness, irritation, burning, rash etc; dermatologically termed as the retinoid reaction. Retinaldehyde is second most potent retinoid followed by Retinol and its derivatives.

I have compared the 3 common retinoids used for anti-ageing in the table given below:




Available only with the prescription.

Available without a prescription.

Available without a prescription.

Most potent anti-ageing retinoid.

Retinaldehyde is less potent than tretinoin but more potent than retinol.

Retinol is least potent.

Tretinoin does not get spoiled easily on storage.

Retinaldehyde does not get spoiled easily on storage.

Retinol is unstable and gets spoiled on exposure to air or sunlight.

Most likely to cause retinoid reactions

Retinoid reaction is less with Retinaldehyde.

Retinoid reaction is less with retinol.

All that glitters is NOT gold, take advantage of our research to know which skincare products are really the best: