What is retinol? Five of the best retinol creams and products under £20

11 January 2019, 17:31 | Updated: 31 January 2019, 11:43

Retinol should make a really positive and noticeable difference to the appearance of your skin
Retinol should make a really positive and noticeable difference to the appearance of your skin. Picture: Pixabay

By Nicola Bonn

Retinol is a hero skincare ingredient that we could all do with adding to our routines. Heart's Beauty Editor Nicola Bonn recommends some excellent budget Retinol products that really do the job.

Retinol is an anti-oxidant derivative of Vitamin A and according to just about every skincare specialist is a skincare ingredient that you can believe in. Endless research has proven that it can diminish the look of fine lines and wrinkles, even out skin tone, unblock pores, improve collagen production and help to reduce pigmentation.

You can spend hundreds on a great Retinol if that's your thing but the fact is that you can also get excellent results with the many budget options that are on offer.

Before I list my favourite budget Retinols, two words of warning. Firstly, some people can react to retinol as it is a strong ingredient. I would always start with a low percentage (0.5% or less) or use a retinoid (see The Ordinary below). You can help your skin acclimatise to Retinol by mixing it with your moisturiser and using it every few days to start with.

Also, please promise me you will use an SPF (UVA and B) when you use Retinol. It makes your skin far more sensitive to the sun.

Right...lecture over. Here are some great, affordable options for you:

The Ordinary Granactive Retinoid 5% in Squalane is great for sensitive skin
The Ordinary Granactive Retinoid 5% in Squalane is great for sensitive skin. Picture: brand/media agency

My first recommendation comes from The Ordinary. Rather than going for their 1% Retinol which is retinol in its purest form and can cause irritation to the skin, I would recommend their Granactive Retinoid 5%. It has the same benefits as the Retinol but is less likely to cause you any problems, particularly if your skin is sensitive. I tend to use this layered under my moisturiser at night time. The Retinoid is £11.95 from Cult Beauty and having used it on and off for the past year, comes highly recommended by me.

Inkey List Retinol
Inkey List Retinol. Picture: Press/Brand

Another brand that shares a lot in common with The Ordinary, not least the great price points, is The Inkey List. Their aim is break through all the beauty jargon and get straight to the point with fantastic ingredients that do exactly what they say on the tin (or in the case of The Inkey List, on the actual packaging).

Look out for their Retinol Serum which retails at £9.99 and contains a mixture of 1% Retinol and 0.5% Granactive Retinoid, combined with soothing squalene. This is coming soon to Cult Beauty.

Indeed labs retinol reface
Indeed labs retinol reface. Picture: brands/press

I'm a huge fan of Indeed Labs. They have great price points and their products often surpass expectations. At £19.99 you really can't go wrong with their retinol serum. It contains three different types of retinol and is available from Boots and Feel Unique.

La Roche-Posay Retinol - another winner for sensitive skin
La Roche-Posay Retinol - another winner for sensitive skin. Picture: brand/picture agency

French-Pharmacy favourite La-Roche Posay have a great budget option that is suitable for sensitive skin. Redermic R retails for around £19.99 and contains 0.3% retinol. It's a great choice for those starting out their retinol journeys. You can get this from most chemists although you can usually find good deals at Feel Unique.

Follow Nicola on Instagram @OutspokenBeautyPodcast and make sure you check out her chart topping beauty podcast Outspoken Beauty