Remember the great kale takeover that dominated the zeitgeist a few years back? As production of the leafy green grew by more than 60% between 2007 and 2012, according to U.S. Department of Agriculture data, consuming the fiber-, protein-, and vitamin-packed super veggie with every meal (or at least showing your support sartorially, like Beyoncé) became the ultimate health flex.
But no matter how nutritionally choice the bitter roughage was proven to be, and how many recipes we added to our Bookmarks, we were keeping a secret: Very few of us were actually living that eat-kale-every-day lifestyle. The same applies to the mountains of research supporting retinol's status as one of the most super-powered ingredients in your skin-care routine for achieving smooth, evenly-toned, acne- and line-free skin — and the fact that most of us could benefit from using it way more than we do now.
"Patients with sun-related aging changes, fine lines, textural changes to the skin, sun freckles, and melasma all benefit from use of a retinol or [prescription-based] retinoid," confirms dermatologist and cosmetic surgeon Melanie Palm, MD. "Patients that are acne-prone may also note an improvement in their breakouts [after using a retinol or retinoid]."
But for all the good they can do, many retinol creams leave a greasy residue, feel too rich for oily or acne-prone skin, or can't rival the luxe experience of our favorite night creams — which means no matter how good they are for our complexions, many of us just aren't using retinol as much as we should. That's where retinol serums come in: The lighter formulas tend to absorb more quickly into skin, and still leave room for us to apply our feel-good moisturizers before sliding into bed every night.
Since finding a smart retinol formulation that can actually deliver the goods properly is key, we polled top dermatologists to find out which serums they reach for in their own skin-care routines. Ahead, 12 serums that are the equivalent of getting your daily dose of greens in a blended smoothie — all of the benefits with none of the drawbacks.
At Refinery29, we’re here to help you navigate this overwhelming world of stuff. All of our market picks are independently selected and curated by the editorial team. If you buy something we link to on our site, Refinery29 may earn commission.