Are you on the hunt for the best retinaldehyde serum to add to your skincare routine? Look no further! In this article, we’ll be discussing the benefits of retinaldehyde, how it differs from retinol, what to look for in a retinaldehyde serum, and our top pick for the best retinaldehyde serum on the market!

What is Retinaldehyde?

Retinaldehyde, also referred to as Retinal, is the strongest form of vitamin A available on the market without a prescription. Often confused with its less powerful relative Retinol, Retinaldehyde is ideal for sensitive and even ultra sensitive skin types. Retinaldehyde facilitates cell turnover, an important process in revealing new skin cells and its anti aging effects include reducing the the appearance of fine lines, wrinkles, and uneven skin tone.

Benefits of Retinaldehyde

Retinaldehyde helps improve skin health in a number of ways, including:

  1. Anti Aging Benefits: Retinaldehyde helps achieve smoother skin by facilitating cell turnover faster than Retinol. By boosting collagen production, it can help reduce fine lines and the appearance of deep wrinkles. Additionally, it acts as an antioxidant, rejuvenating and improving skin health on a cellular level by neutralizing free radical damage.
  2. Skin Brightening Benefits: As retinaldehyde converts into retinoic acid much faster than even the best retinol serums, it is also the best helper ingredient in addressing hyperpigmentation. It can help reduce the appearance of dark spots on even the most sensitive skin such as the face, hands, bikini line, underarms and under the eyes, leading to a brighter, more even complexion.
  3. Improving Skin Texture: Because retinaldehyde promotes cell turnover, it uncovers new skin cells, smoothing out uneven texture.
  4. Fighting Acne: Retinaldehyde has been shown to be effective in reducing the appearance of acne by unclogging and subsequently shrinking enlarged pores. Because acne prone skin is typically synonymous with particularly sensitive skin, retinaldehyde can be the perfect ingredient to address various skin challenges with only minimal irritation, if any.
  5. Gentle on Sensitive Skin: Even though it's stronger than pure retinol, retinaldehyde is a gentler retinol alternative, making it a great option for those with sensitive skin who may not be able to tolerate the more intense effects of retinol.


Retinaldehyde vs. Retinol: What's the Difference?

To understand the difference between the two, we have to get a little scientific:

  • Retinoic acid is the active form of Vitamin A that produces the results discussed above. Both retinol and retinaldehyde must convert into retinoic acid in order to produce those results.
  • Retinol is further away from converting into retinoic acid than retinaldehyde. This makes it tougher on skin and prolongs the process. Compared to retinol treatments, retinaldehyde can reveal results up to 11 times faster!
  • Because retinaldehyde has a shorter way to go to retinoic acid, it is most appropriate for dry or sensitive skin and is often recommended by a board certified dermatologist before prescribing other Rx-only formulas.

When choosing between a retinol serum and a retinaldehyde serum, it’s important to consider your skin type, concerns and other ingredients present:

  • Retinol is significantly more likely to cause irritation and is not recommended for someone with a sensitive skin type.
    • Because it sensitizes skin, retinol creams and serums should not be combined with other exfoliating ingredients or known irritants in the same routine such as Vitamin C, alpha hydroxy acids, or glycolic acid. These will either irritate your skin further or cancel out their effectiveness if used in the same application.
    • It has been found to be relatively safe to use in combination with salicylic acid and lactic acid, especially if you have normal or oily skin that is not sensitive.
  • Retinaldehyde is like a gentle retinol serum that works faster and is ideal for sensitive skin types!
    • It can be used with AHA and BHA acids, which shows
    • Just like retinol, it should not be used directly before or after Vitamin C. But if your skin can handle it, you can first apply high-absorption Vitamin C, then your best retinaldehyde serum after 30 minutes!

PRO TIP: Do not use products that claim to combine Vitamin C and retinol or retinaldehyde in the same product. Because the two products stabilize each other, the product will not be effective!

It’s important to note that both retinol and retinaldehyde can cause some initial irritation or dryness, especially when combined with other ingredients.

They are best reserved for use in a night serum as it reduces your exposure to the sun, which can irritate your skin and diminish results.


What to Look for in a Retinaldehyde Serum

When shopping for the best retinaldehyde serum, there are a few key factors to keep in mind:

  1. Concentration: Look for a serum with a concentration of at least 0.05% retinaldehyde for maximum efficacy. The best serums will have 0.1% concentration, but you will want to make sure that they also contain skin soothing ingredients to reduce chance of irritation.
  2. Additional Ingredients: Look for a serum that contains other beneficial ingredients, such as antioxidants, peptides, or hyaluronic acid, but be sure to avoid ingredients such as glycolic acid or lactic acid in the same product!

If you have more sensitive skin, look for ingredients that are great at soothing skin such as hyaluronic acid and Niacinamide.

If you are addressing a specific skin challenge such as hyperpigmentation, avoid ingredients that will irritate your skin such as hydroquinone. (In fact, avoid hydroquinone at all costs unless prescribed by a board certified dermatologist!)

  1. Packaging: Retinaldehyde can be unstable when exposed to light and air, so look for a serum that is packaged in an opaque, airtight container to ensure maximum potency.

Top Pick for the Best Retinaldehyde Serum

After researching and testing various retinaldehyde serums on the market, we’ve found that the best retinaldehyde serum for all skin tones and types is the ILLUMINATE Skin Brightening Serum with Retinaldehyde, Kojic Acid and Licorice Root from MOOD Skin Care.

Specifically formulated to deliver glowing skin while protecting the skin barrier, this serum is our choice for the following reasons:

  • Concentration: This serum contains 0.1% retinaldehyde, which is the highest concentration we'd recommend, allowing anti aging results such as smoother skin to show up faster - see the before & after below!
  • Additional Ingredients: A high concentration of retinaldehyde is best supplemented with soothing ingredients that protect the skin barrier. MOOD's skin brightening serum includes the highest concentration of non-intoxicating CBD on the market. At 1000 MG, it is truly effective in providing anti-inflammatory benefits that make this serum a gentle formula for all skin types. It also contains Niacinamide to balance oil production and triple-weighted Hyaluronic Acid to hydrate skin.
  • Skin Brightening Ingredients: The potent, yet safe, ingredients used in this serum can be beneficial to anyone wanting glowing skin, even if dark spots are not a concern for you. ILLUMINATE contains Turmeric, Kojic Acid and Licorice Root, which inhibit melanin over-production and are safe for all skin tones unlike hydroquinone.
  • Packaging: It comes in an opaque, airtight, glass bottle to ensure maximum potency. And it's stylish - we love that!

We also love that this serum is cruelty-free, vegan, and free from parabens, sulfates, and fragrances!

How to Use a Retinaldehyde Serum

To use a retinaldehyde serum, start by thoroughly cleansing your skin but avoid using harsh exfoliants. You can use a gentle exfoliant like lactic acid.

Next, apply a non-toxic toner. If you follow our recommendation of the best retinaldehyde serum, you can skip this step! and toning your skin.

Then, apply a dime-sized amount of serum to your face and you can do the same for your hands. While we would typically recommend avoiding the eye area if you are using retinol products, retinaldehyde serums like ILLUMINATE can be gentle enough to use under the eyes.

Follow up with your favorite moisturizer!

A retinaldehyde or retinol serum is recommended as a night serum, but be sure to apply plenty of sunscreen the next day as it can increase skin sensitivity to UV rays.

It’s important to note that retinaldehyde can cause some initial irritation or redness, especially if you’re new to using vitamin A products. Start by using the serum once or twice a week, gradually increasing the frequency as your skin becomes more accustomed to the ingredient.

Final Thoughts on Retinaldehyde

Retinaldehyde is a highly effective ingredient in skincare, and a great alternative to retinol cream for those with sensitive skin who may not be able to tolerate retinol. When shopping for a retinaldehyde serum, be sure to look for a concentration of at least 0.05%, additional beneficial ingredients, and proper packaging to ensure maximum potency.

Our top pick for the best retinaldehyde serum is the ILLUMINATE Skin Brightening Serum from MOOD Skin Care, which contains a blend of beneficial ingredients safe for all skin tones and types, and comes in an opaque, airtight glass bottle.

Remember to start slowly when introducing retinaldehyde into your skincare routine, and always wear sunscreen during the day. With the right retinaldehyde serum, you can achieve smoother, brighter, and more youthful-looking skin.


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