Best Retin-A for Sensitive Skin in 2018

Updated 6 years ago

There are so many great over the counter skin care products out that help our skin live its best life. Of those products, most of the anti-aging treatments include an ingredient called Retin-A. Every single skin care professional and dermatologist uses a retinol product as part of their skin care regimen. Even if you don’t (yet) know what Retin-A is, as someone with sensitive skin, you probably do know that most people think it’s a ‘no-no’ for people with sensitive skin types. We’re here to tell you that you - yes, you - can use a retinol product and have beautiful skin too. We’ll tell you what this miracle product is, what products are best for your skin type, and how to use it.

What is Retin-A?

Retin-A, or retinol, is pure Vitamin A. It was originally used and prescribed by dermatologists to help treat acne. Dermatologists started noticing that Retin-A also helped banish wrinkles and fines lines as an unintended side effect. Since then, skincare brands have taken advantage of this miracle in a bottle and launched many products formulated with Retin-A to market to women as an anti-aging product. It is used as a topical product for your skin that is used as an anti-aging skin care product. It speeds up cell turnover and it stimulates collagen synthesis to help give you more youthful, glowing, and fresher-looking skin. However, this product is highly effective because it is incredibly strong. That means it can cause irritation and flaky skin - not exactly music to the ears of those with sensitive skin. But, there are ways for those with sensitive skin to reap the benefits of this product, too.

Can I use Retin-A with sensitive skin?

Just because you have sensitive skin doesn’t mean you should have to miss out on some of the best and most effective skin care products. We’ve compiled a list of the best Retin-A products that are suitable for sensitive skin. Plus, we have tips and tricks to help reduce the chances of skin irritation.

Top Retin-A Picks for Sensitive Skin

Make SkinCeuticals Retinol 0.5

Professionals and dermatologists recommend this product that significantly helps reduce fine lines, wrinkles, age spots, blemishes, and blotchiness. This brand always delivers quality and this product is no different. Reviewers highly recommend this product, but also suggest following the directions carefully in order to reduce chances of damaging skin.

Paula’s Choice Skin Recovery Super Antioxidant Serum with Retinol

This product is great for those who want to try Retin-A, but are nervous to go all-in and try a pure retinol. This is a serum that has Retin-A in it. It is a very hydrating serum that leaves your skin glowing, moisturized, and softer. Meanwhile, the Retin-A works to smooth and refine your skin to help lessen the effects of aging. This serum can be used twice daily in order to maximize results.

Clark’s Botanicals Retinol Rescue Overnight Cream with Calming Colloidal Oatmeal

While you sleep, this product gets to work. This cream repairs, renews, and regenerates your skin throughout the night. You’ll wake up with brighter and more youthful looking skin. The oatmeal soothes your skin to help offset the retinol and won’t irritate sensitive skin.

Philosophy Help Me Advanced, Retinol Age-fighting Night Treatment

This retinol cream is here to answer your call for help. It minimizes pores, fine lines, and skin discoloration. Plus, it’s great for sensitive skin because it uses a patented time-release formula to allow the retinol to release into the skin gradually, causing less irritation. Reviewers describe this as the best retinol product they have ever used, noticing a significant impact after just a few uses.

SkinMedica Retinol Complex 1.0

SkinMedica’s retinol cream renews skin and diminishes the appearance of fine lines. Reviewers love this product because of its wrinkle reducing powers and ability to diminish fine lines. The product comes in a less potent form, which can be a safer alternative for those with sensitive skin who are first starting out using retinol products.

La Roche-Posay Redermic R Anti-Aging Retinol Serum

This sleek looking retinol visibly reduces deep wrinkles and helps even skin tone. Product users saw a visible improvement in their skin after three weeks. Dermatologists recommend this brand and product.

LilyAna Naturals Retinol Cream Moisturizer

This retinol cream is not like the others. Unlike the other retinol creams, this cream also has hyaluronic acid, Vitamin E, green tea, shea butter, and jojoba oil. These products help keep the skin smooth and calm to help balance the harsh effect of retinol. This cream will help reduce fine lines, fade sun and age spots, and help reduce acne and scars. Users found that their skin tone and texture improved after using this product. Those with sensitive skin found this product to be effective but safe for their skin.

Obagi360 Retinol

Users This Retin-A product is effective in minimizing fine lines and wrinkles but is less irritating than other Retin-A products because of an entrapment technology in the product that helps reduce skin irritation. Users saw smoother lines after using this product.

RoC Retinol Correxion Anti-Aging Sensitive Skin Wrinkle Night Cream

Those with sensitive skin love this product because it is formulated with a milder strength retinol and also has hyaluronic acid, which has additional anti-aging properties to help improve your skin’s texture and skin tone while reducing wrinkles. Hyaluronic acid is highly moisturizing, which helps offset the drying effect of Retin-A. Reviewers with sensitive skin did not experience any dryness or irritation when using this product, but did see improved skin texture and tone.

Dr. Dennis Gross Ferulic Plus Retinol Wrinkle Recovery Overnight Serum

This serum is packs a double punch with ferulic acid and retinol to smooth skin and soften wrinkles. The ferulic acid helps heal your skin from free radicals and pollution while the Retin-A gently exfoliates your skin. The serum leaves your skin moisturized and glowing. Great for those with ultra-sensitive skin who still want the anti-aging effects of Retin-A.

Murad Retinol Youth Renewal Night Cream

This product is a combination of a Retin-A and an evening moisturizer. It is extremely moisturizing with fatty alcohols and shea butter. This helps reduce skin irritation and dryness. Because it is a retinol moisturizer, it is a little less effective than other Retin-A products, but it is much better for those with sensitive skin. Reviewers who used this product saw results in just a few weeks and found their skin to be brighter and smoother.

Pure Biology Anti-Aging Night Cream with Pure Retinol

This product is another retinol that is formulated with hyaluronic acid to help keep your skin moisturized. Keep your skin hydrated while the Retin-A helps battle wrinkles and fine lines, leaving you with brighter, fuller, and smoother skin in the morning.

How to Use Retin-A

Now that you’ve selected your retinol product, it’s time to let the Retin-A get to work in revealing your truly gorgeous skin!

How to incorporate it into your skincare routine

You will typically apply your Retin-A product in the evening after cleansing your face and using toner, but before applying moisturizer.  A gentle cleanser and toner are best, as the Retin-A is strong. It is best to use a retinoid at night, unless you are using a product that is intended for morning use. Apply a pea-sized amount onto your ring finger to apply all over your face. Applying your Retin-A with your ring finger allows for a more gentle application on your face.


A great way to keep your skin hydrated and glowing is to incorporate a face mask into your skincare routine. Face masks help nourish your skin and provide needed nutrients. Check out these face masks that will greatly complement your Retin-A product.

How to ease use

Retin-A can be harsh on every skin type when first incorporated into a skincare routine. For those with sensitive skin, the risk of dry and irritated skin when first using this product is higher. When you first start using a retinol product, it is best to start by using it once per week for one week. After your skin has acclimated to the once-weekly Retin-A for one week, start using the product twice a week for two weeks, then three times a week for three weeks. If you do not experience any irritation during this product, you can start applying your Retin-A product every other night.

If you do experience skin irritation during this time, or if you are weary to try a Retin-A for fear of skin sensitivity and irritation, you can apply your retinol on top of your evening moisturizer. This helps dilute the power of the retinol with the moisturizer acting as a barrier between the retinol and your skin.

Tried all of the above methods and still feel skin discomfort? Another option is to apply and leave the the retinol product for just 15 minutes then wash off. You will still get most of the benefits of the retinol but without the discomfort.

What to do if your skin peels

Once you start using a retinol, it is very likely that your skin will become flakey. That’s normal. Even those with normal skin often experience dry and flaky skin when they first start using a retinol, as their skin adapts. You can expect to experience dry skin for the first month of using the retinol while your skin is adapting to the product. The key is not to give up. If you can stick with using a retinol, you will see a noticeable difference after a month.

Of course you should always use a sunscreen, but it is especially important to wear sunscreen and avoid excessive sun exposure when you are using a retinol. Your skin is more sensitive and prone to sunburns when using a retinol. It is best to limit sun exposure when using a Retin-A cream.

We are so excited for you to experience the many benefits of Retin-A. Even though your skin may temporarily object to the newest member of your skincare routine by way of sloughing off old skin, it will soon become your skincare saviour, revealing a beautiful glow.