These 11 Affordable Retinol Serums Are Just as Good as Their Expensive Counterparts

Anyone at all interested in skincare has no doubt heard about the many benefits of using a retinol serum. The powerhouse ingredient is mostly known for its ability to address key signs of skin ageing such as fine lines, wrinkles, and pigmentation, but also has benefits for congested and textured skin, too.

Derived from vitamin A, a key nutrient needed for skin cell function, retinol (along with retinal and retinyl derivatives) sits under the umbrella term of retinoids. All retinoids work by increasing skin’s cell renewal process which stimulates the production of collagen and elastin in order to smooth, brighten, and even skin’s appearance.

I first started using retinol in my late twenties. Initially, I used it to help clear my acne breakouts and the stubborn hyperpigmentation they left behind. Over the years, I’ve also noticed that retinol has really helped to improve my overall skin tone and texture and to reduce the lines on my neck and forehead. To be honest, I can’t imagine a time when a retinol serum won’t feature within my daily skincare routine.

Affordable retinol serums

(Image credit: @ALLLISONHO)

Of course, one of the main concerns people have before using a retinol serum is whether they’ll experience any dryness and irritation. It is very normal for retinol to cause some issues with sensitivity when you first start using them, however I’ve found that as long as the rest of my skincare routine is comprised of hydrating and barrier-strengthening products, then my skin is totally fine. The key, as well, is to start with a low dose retinol and build your skin up to using a stronger percentage.

While retinol can be found in everything from moisturisers to peels, it’s best applied via a serum. Serums are thin in texture and highly concentrated, which makes then a great vehicle for active ingredients like retinol as they can absorb quickly. They’re also formulated to be used daily, which allows you to maintain the consistency needed to achieve the promised results.

The thing about serums (and especially retinol-based serums) is that they can be pricey. So, below I’ve compiled an edit of the best affordable retinol serums. Expect all the results, minus the price tag.

The best affordable retinol serums:

1. The Ordinary Retinal 0.2% Emulsion

2. Naturium Retinol Complex Serum

3. Beauty Pie Super Retinol

4. CeraVe Resurfacing Retinol Serum

5. Versed Press Start Gentle Retinol Serum

6. The Inkey List Super Solutions 1% Retinol Serum

7. Byoma Sensitive Retinol Oil

8. The Ordinary Granactive Retinoid 5% in Squalane

9. Super Facialist Retinol+ Anti-Ageing Restoring Serum

10. Minimalist Retinol 0.3% Face Serum

11. e.l.f. Cosmetics Youth Boosting Advanced Night Retinol Serum

Freelance Beauty Editor

Grace Day is a beauty editor and content creator. She has over 10 years of beauty-industry experience, spanning editorial, retail, and e-commerce, which gives her a unique understanding into how people shop for their beauty routines. While studying for a history degree (specialising in the history of beauty) and working as a beauty adviser in department stores, Grace started writing her own beauty blog in order to share the products she discovered while dealing with acne. After graduating, she moved to Beauty Bay as beauty editor and content manager. Grace is currently a beauty contributor to Who What Wear. She has also written for Hypebae and PopSugar and works as a brand consultant and copywriter.