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Fact: Retinols are the most effective and extensively studied skincare ingredient. Also, retinol is the scariest skincare ingredient, period. And when it comes to pigmented, uneven skin that melanin-rich Indian skin, you need to more careful about using something as dicey as retinol. That’s why we put together the best beginner retinols for Indian skin. 

Retinol is the most commonly talked about member of the retinoid family. This happy clan of vitamin A derivatives go by different names, according to their strengths, with retinol being the most popular one available over-the-counter. Touted to transform skin texture, diminish blemishes, improve cell turnover, and stave away visible ageing, retinol is the pinnacle of skincare goodness, but people always approach with caution as when it gets ugly, it gets really ugly.

When used improperly, retinol can cause your skin to go the way of a chemical peel from hell, i.e. you begin to flake hardcore, and your skin gets extra sensitive. This is a massive barrier to entry for retinol newbies, as this frightening prospect, next to the heavy amount of literature one has to parse to come to terms with what retinol is best to use. 

best beginner retinols for Indian skin

The answer, of course, is individual. While we’re here today to recommend the best retinol products for beginners, it is important to know that retinol virgins must always approach this inclusion as training for a marathon. You don’t run 42km overnight, you train your body to get there with low, slow doses.

Similarly, for retinol, you want to start with small concentrations (0.25 or 0.5 per cent) used two to three times a week, maximum, and only a pea-sized amount at a time. Your skin will show results after a couple of weeks to three months, so not seeing a dramatic change is not an excuse to heap on more product, but play the waiting game.

Also, do not forget to use SPF after retinol as your skin becomes hypersensitive to sun exposure upon application. There is little point to using retinol if you’re going to let sunlight’s ageing prowess wreck your complexion once you’re out the door.

With all this in mind, let’s look at the best retinol products for beginners to get started.

The Inkey List Retinol, Rs 1,000 (Approx)

One of the best budget retinols on the market comes from cult skincare brand, The Inkey List. This bestselling product uses a combination of squalene and a low dose of a retinol complex to better your skin, all for the low, low price, even if you count customs. It is not pure retinol, mind, but a combination of oils and vitamins with the vitamin A derivative. Great for first-timers afraid of retinol at its most intense.

Picture courtesy: Worthee Cosmetics

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The Ordinary Granactive Retinoid 2% in Squalane, Rs 800 (Approx)

Of all the retinols that The Ordinary is popular for, this one is by far the best for beginners. It’s definitely high-strength, and low-irritation and is known to solve all your hyperpigmentation issues and ageing problems. All of this without irritation, which for us is a clear winner.

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Neemli Naturals Retinol & Peptide Serum, Rs 2,250

It’s great to see homegrown labels stepping up the game when it comes to retinols, and Neemli has come up with a fantastic formulation. The plant-based Retinol & Peptide Serum renews your skin to effectively cut down visible signs of ageing, fine lines and wrinkles included. It can be used on all skin types, even acne-prone skin. It takes care of hyperpigmentation, and the Vitamin C boosts collagen production giving your skin, elasticity, and firmness. Three other fun ingredients that help do the job – Liquorice Extract that takes care of sun damage, Hyaluronic Acid for hydration, and Niacinamide for brightening.


Earth Rhythm Clear Skin with vitamin C, Bio-retinol, Salicylic Acid and Hyaluronic Acid, Rs 1,499

Trust Earth Rhythm to go all organic on their retinol, and they came with a formulation that contains an amalgamation of ingredients. Vitamin C boosts collagen and gives the necessary antioxidants; Bio Retinol helps fight skin ageing; Salicylic acid helps unclog pores; and Hyaluronic Acid helps retain moisture to the skin, which means, smoother, plumper complexion. If you want to look at more natural options, this one would fit the bill.

Dot & Key Collagen Restorative Time Reverse Retinol Serum, Rs 1,195

This new lightweight, water-based, age-defying serum is all about the power of potent antioxidants which do a lot more than just tackle ageing. They tighten the skin, boost collagen and take care of dark spots. The formulation also contains rosehip, ylang-ylang, and geranium oils along with the highly moisturizing vitamin E and A, which give the skin nourishment and soothe it.

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Pixi Collagen & Retinol Serum, Rs 2,550

This lightweight serum is packed with concentrated goodness of acacia collagen, retinol, and vitamins to give you a glowing skin. While Acacia Collagen plumps the skin and gives it hydration, retinol makes sure even skin is tackled. Chamomile calms and gives you that comforting feeling. Definitely great for sensitive skin!

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Clinique Fresh Pressed Clinical Daily + Overnight Boosters with Pure A (Retinol), Rs 3,500

We all know the Vitamin C packs are a riot at Clinique and perform beautifully. Now, add retinol to it and see the big difference in skin tone and radiance. It’s known to give you even skin and an increase of 36% glow in your skin right after the very first use. Let’s be honest this can be a bit more potent than the others in this list, but once you use it well and wear sunscreen, it works beautifully on your skin.

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Dr. Sheth's Rosehip and Retinoid Power Emulsion, Rs 1,200

One use and you can tell this retinol from Dr Sheths is a winner. It tackles pigmentation, helps with brightening, and allows for nourishment within all this. It’s prepared with great care, keeping in mind the Indian skin and its peculiar pigmentation and uneven skin tone issues. So it’s gentle overall, plumps your skin beautifully, and helps with sunspots and wrinkles. It’s beginner retinol because it comes with granactive retinoid, which is effective and perfect for sensitive skin. Bakuchiol, a natural retinol option works to speed up that process, so one can rest assured that you need not worry about irritation on the skin.

The story first appeared on Lifestyle Asia Singapore. 

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