Skin-Care Tips

Retinol Body Lotion Is the Secret Weapon Your Skin Needs From the Neck Down

Zoe Weiner

Photo: Getty Images/Anna Bizon

Retinol has long been lauded as the gold standard of skin care. Derms say that everyone should integrate the ingredient into their routines by the time they hit 30, and it's a catch-all solution for treating everything from acne to wrinkles. Considering retinol's hero status in our facial regimens, it was only a matter of time before the ingredient migrated south into body care. Recently, it's become a staple in our below-the-neck lotions and creams, too, and according to skin pros, it's about time: Retinol body lotion (or a retinol body cream, if that's your thing) can have big benefits for your body skin.

Retinoids are the most proven anti-aging topical option, and as Hadley King, MD, a board-certified dermatologist based in New York City puts it: "There's no reason their benefits should be limited to the face." She explains that retinoids work by binding to retinoic acid receptors in your skin, which stimulate cell turnover. This process pumps up your natural collagen production, gets rid of the old, tired top layer, and reduces discoloration, which means you can tangibly see its effects on your complexion.

"The skin around the body can benefit from an ingredient that helps reduce fine lines, address hyperpigmentation, and smooth the texture," says David Petrillo, a cosmetic chemist and founder of Perfect Image, a beauty and skin-care company. And this is where retinol comes in. According to Dr. King, retinol body creams can be particularly helpful on sun-damaged and acne-prone skin, since they aid in fighting discoloration and unclogging pores, which can help with fighting acne on your back, chest and extremities.

Even if you aren't dealing with those issues, using a retinol body lotion or cream can still bring its fair share of benefits. "Retinol body cream can help improve the evenness of the skin’s texture and soften the skin while also reducing the appearance of fine line," says Petrillo. "If the formula has hyaluronic acid, it can also be hydrating, and if there are butters incorporated into the mix it can also have moisturizing and protective properties."

Since most retinol body lotions pair the ingredient with humectants and butters, they're generally gentle enough to be used on all skin types. But if you've got sensitive skin or a condition like eczema or psoriasis, Petrillo suggests checking with your dermatologist before slathering one all over yourself. Your best bet for reaping the products full benefits is to apply it at night, when your skin kicks into repair mode, and you'll wake up in the morning with a smooth complexion all the way down to your toes.

Shop retinol body lotion

Paula's Choice Retinol Skin-Smoothing Body Treatment — $29.00

With a 0.1 percent concentration of retinol, this stuff is intense. The good news? It’s also got hydrating emollients and natural oils so that you can use it all over without having to worry about irritation.

retinol body lotion
Photo: Chantecaille
Chantecaille Retinol Body Treatment — $102.00

The encapsulated retinol used in this product makes it extra gentle while still packing a major smoothing-and-firming punch. The ingredient is combined with a powerful humectant to draw moisture into the skin, and edelweiss extract gives the formula an antioxidant boost.

Josie Maran Whipped Argan Pro-Retinol Body Butter — $46.00

This product isn’t technically retinol, but it will give you the same results as the real deal. It’s made from a pink algae extract known as “pro-retinol,” which helps to stimulate cell turnover to reduce fine lines and wrinkles. It’s also packed with potent antioxidants to fend off environmental stressors and prevent free-radical damage, plus Josie Maran’s legendary, ultra-nourishing argan oil.

The Glow Fairy The Body Glow Wand — $45.00

Not into lotions or creams for your body? Try a balm instead. This one comes in an easy-to-apply stick form that glides over your skin, delivering a mix of retinol, squalane, and vitamin E.

Pharm to Table Hemp Oil Retinol Body Lotion — $17.00

If you favor a retinol body lotion that’s super-moisturizing, this hemp-infused formula might be the one you’ve been looking for. It contains glycerin, shea butter, and coconut oil to condition skin—plus green tea and coffee bean extracts for a dose of antioxidants.

Truly Vegan Collagen Anti-Aging Body Cream — $28.00

As the name suggests, this vegan body cream is loaded with plant-derived collagen—but more importantly, it has retinol to revive dull skin and vitamin C to protect against environmental stressors. And of course, it’s cruelty-free.

iS Clinical Body Complex — $72.00

This retinol body treatment is powerful, yet it isn’t harsh on skin. That’s thanks to a highly hydrating formula with hyaluronic acid, aloe, and glycerin—all of which help the body look and feel smooth and well-moisturized.


Got more questions about retinol? Check out the video below. 

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