Drugstore retinol products have come a long way over the past few years. Two of the biggest drugstore brands, Olay and Neutrogena, offer effective and affordable retinol products to help reduce the signs of aging, including wrinkles and fine lines, dullness, and loss of elasticity.
Whether you are looking for an anti-aging cream, serum, or eye cream to smooth wrinkles and fine lines and improve the texture of your skin’s surface, Olay and Neutrogena have a retinol product for you.
But how do they compare? Before we review Olay Retinol 24 vs Neutrogena Rapid Wrinkle Repair products, let’s take a look at the benefits of retinol.
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The Benefits of Retinol
Retinol is a type of retinoid, a compound derived from vitamin A. Retinoids are well-studied and offer many benefits to the skin.
Retinoids help to reduce wrinkles and fine lines and stimulate collagen production for plumper, younger-looking skin.
They increase cellular turnover, which helps to improve skin texture and tone. Retinoids also help to reduce hyperpigmentation and dark spots.
Some stronger retinoids even help to reduce acne. These potent retinoids are available by prescription only, except for adapalene (Differin), which is sold over-the-counter and has been shown to help treat acne.
For retinoids to be available in the skin, they must be converted into retinoic acid. More potent retinoids need fewer conversions into retinoic acid, while weaker retinoids need more conversions to become retinoic acid.
Retinol is not the strongest, nor is it the weakest retinoid. Retinol must be converted into retinaldehyde before being converted into retinoic acid.
While retinol won’t be as effective as prescription retinoids, it provides better efficacy than retinol esters such as retinol propionate or retinyl palmitate. These retinol esters take three conversions to become available in the skin.
Unfortunately, retinol may cause negative side effects depending on the dosage. You may experience redness, skin irritation, flaking, and peeling when starting with retinol or other retinoids.
If you start slow and gradually build up usage, your skin will become acclimated, and side effects should decrease.
For more details on drugstore retinol and some excellent affordable options, please see this post.
Olay Retinol 24 vs Neutrogena Rapid Wrinkle Repair
Both Olay and Neutrogena use their own patented retinoid complexes and different ingredients to target the signs of aging.
Olay’s retinol products are formulated with:
- Retinoid Complex
- Amino Peptide
Neutrogena’s retinol products are formulated with:
- Retinol SA (Sustained Action)
- Glucose Complex
- Hyaluronic Acid
While both product lines are very affordable, Neutrogena’s retail prices are a bit lower than Olay’s (although you can often find Olay’s products on sale).
NOTE: You may experience a tingling, redness, flaking (from exfoliation), or a warm sensation from these products, which are temporary indicators that the products are working.
If these symptoms continue or the products are causing discomfort, dial back usage to every other day, a few times a week, or even once a week until your skin can tolerate daily use.
Olay Retinol 24 Products: Ingredients
Whether you choose the original Olay Regenerist Retinol24 products or their newer Olay Regenerist Retinol 24 MAX products, Olay’s original and MAX retinol lines include a night serum, night eye cream, and night moisturizer to address the signs of aging.
Olay Retinol 24 MAX retinol products contain 20% more Retinol 24 Hydrating Complex than the original Olay Retinol 24 products.
Olay does not recommend using their retinol night serum and night moisturizer (either original or MAX) at the same time to minimize side effects since the products are quite strong.
Let’s take a look at the ingredients in Olay’s Regenerist retinol products:
Olay’s Proprietary Retinoid Complex
Olay’s Retinoid Complex goes to work on wrinkles, fine lines, and dark spots while evening out skin tone and reducing the looks of pores.
I’ve had questions from readers about how much retinol is in Olay Retinol 24. I reached out to Olay, and since Olay’s Retinoid Complex is a proprietary formula, they don’t disclose how much retinol is in their products.
The ingredient lists tell us that their Retinol 24 products contain retinol plus retinyl propionate to help reduce the signs of aging.
Retinyl propionate is a retinol ester that helps target the same concerns as retinol, like wrinkles and fine lines, but is supposed to be tolerated better and cause fewer side effects, such as irritation and redness.
Related Post: Olay Regenerist Retinol 24 Night Serum, Eye Cream & Moisturizer: Skincare Review
Niacinamide (Vitamin B3)
Niacinamide is an excellent over-the-counter ingredient that you can use to help reduce the signs of aging, like wrinkles and fine lines. What makes niacinamide so special is that it has so many benefits.
In addition to helping to reduce the signs of aging, niacinamide strengthens the skin barrier, helping skin retain moisture better. It also increases cellular turnover, which decreases the look of hyperpigmentation and dark spots.
Since niacinamide encourages the exfoliation of dead skin cells, it also helps to even out skin tone.
Niacinamide also offers benefits to those with oily and acne-prone skin. Niacinamide helps to balance oil production and decrease blemishes and breakouts.
No wonder Olay includes niacinamide in all of their Retinol 24 products!
Tropaeolum Majus Flower/ Leaf/ Stem Extract
Olay Retinol 24 MAX products also contain Tropaeolum Majus Flower/ Leaf/ Stem Extract, which, along with niacinamide, is part of their Skin Energizing Complex.
This plant extract has anti-aging benefits and supports the skin barrier.
Related Post: The Benefits of Adding Niacinamide to Your Skincare Routine
Palmitoyl Pentapeptide-4, also known as the collagen pentapeptide, or as Olay calls it, Amino Peptide, contains five amino acids attached to palmitic acid for better oil solubility.
Manufacturer-sponsored research shows that it helps to reduce fine lines, wrinkles and improves skin texture. There have been clinical studies comparing Palmitoyl Pentapeptide-4 with retinol.
One study found that Palmitoyl Pentapeptide-4 provides results similar to retinol but without the irritation that often comes along with retinoids.
Related Post: Olay Regenerist Collagen Peptide 24 Skincare Review, Olay Vitamin C + Peptide 24 Review
Neutrogena Rapid Wrinkle Repair: Ingredients
Neutrogena Rapid Wrinkle Repair products contain Accelerated Retinol SA to target the signs of aging. Accelerated Retinol SA combines Retinol SA, Glucose Complex, and Sodium Hyaluronate (Hyaluronic Acid).
Retinol SA (sustained action) works in the skin all day to renew the appearance of the skin and reduce wrinkles, fine lines, and the look of hyperpigmentation and age spots.
Neutrogena’s Glucose Complex is a Retinol SA booster to improve efficacy.
It helps speed up the skin’s surface activity to see faster results in the reduction of the signs of aging (i.e., fine lines and wrinkles).
Sodium Hyaluronate (Hyaluronic Acid)
Sodium Hyaluronate is the salt form of Hyaluronic Acid. Hyaluronic Acid is a popular active used in skincare because it can attract 1000x its weight in water.
This humectant hydrates the surface layers of the skin, which makes the skin look plump and healthy.
Olay Retinol 24 MAX Night Serum vs Neutrogena Rapid Wrinkle Repair Serum
As noted above, Olay and Neutrogena use different ingredients to target the same result: a decrease in wrinkles, fine lines, and more even skin tone and texture.
- Neither brand discloses the amount of retinol in their serums. Ingredient lists provide ingredients in order of highest concentration to lowest concentration. Olay Retinol 24 MAX serum lists retinol as ingredient #4, while Neutrogena Rapid Wrinkle Repair serum lists retinol as the 2nd to last ingredient, which is ingredient #28.
- Both serums contain the humectant glycerin, which is moisturizing and helps skin stay hydrated.
- Olay’s serum is fragrance-free while Neutrogena’s serum contains fragrance.
- While both serums are comfortable to wear, Olay’s serum is silky smooth and slightly more elegant in texture.
Olay Retinol 24 MAX Night Facial Serum
Formulated to be applied to your skin at night, Olay Retinol 24 MAX Night Facial Serum contains Olay Retinol 24’s maximum concentration of hydrators. It targets wrinkles, fine lines, and uneven skin tone.
The serum also contains niacinamide, a multi-benefit skincare active that helps restore the skin barrier to lock in moisture and provide additional wrinkle-fighting power.
Palmitoyl Pentapeptide-4, an amino peptide, helps to stimulate collagen production and firm the skin.
This is one of the silkiest serums I’ve ever used. It leaves your face very soft but don’t be fooled. It is very strong. (So strong that I can’t use it every day on my somewhat sensitive skin.)
The formula really does help diminish the look of fine lines and wrinkles.
It helps to make pores look smaller while improving skin texture. This is one of my favorite drugstore retinol serums due to the noticeable results.
Neutrogena Rapid Wrinkle Repair Serum
Neutrogena Rapid Wrinkle Repair Serum targets the appearance of wrinkles, fine lines, and age spots.
Like other products in the Rapid Wrinkles Repair collection, this retinol serum uses Retinol SA, Glucose Complex, and Hyaluronic Acid to help you get visibly younger-looking skin in just a week.
It contains Neutrogena’s highest concentration of Hyaluronic Acid, which is an all-star hydrator and helps to visibly plump the skin, making skin look smoother.
You can see immediate (temporary) results with Hyaluronic Acid.
The serum itself is lightweight. If you concentrate on areas of your face that are prone to wrinkles and fine lines like your forehead and around your mouth, you’ll only need a small amount.
This serum doesn’t feel as strong as Olay Retinol 24 MAX Serum since I’ve experienced less irritation from this serum.
Directions note that it works well as a primer under your moisturizer or makeup, but I prefer to use the serum and all retinoid products at night only, as retinoids can make your skin sensitive to the sun.
If you decide to apply it during the day, be sure to use a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher.
Retinol Eye Cream
Olay Retinol 24 Night Eye Cream vs Neutrogena Rapid Wrinkle Repair Eye Cream
Since we often see the first signs of aging around our eyes in the form of crow’s feet, fine lines, and dark circles, an affordable drugstore retinol eye cream like one of these from Olay or Neutrogena is a no-brainer.
They help to smooth and brighten skin and even out skin tone, all at drugstore prices. You can’t go wrong with either eye cream.
- Neither brand discloses the amount of retinol is in these eye creams. Ingredient lists provide ingredients in order of highest concentration to lowest concentration. Olay Retinol 24 MAX serum lists retinol as ingredient #5, while Neutrogena Rapid Wrinkles Repair serum lists retinol as ingredient #11.
- Olay’s cream is richer in consistency while Neutrogena’s cream has a thinner texture. The thin texture of Neutrogena’s eye cream makes it ideal for use under makeup.
- Olay’s eye cream should be used once a day at night only while you can build up to using Neutrogena’s retinol eye cream twice a day.
Olay Retinol 24 MAX Night Eye Cream
Olay Retinol 24 MAX Night Eye Cream goes to work on fine lines, wrinkles, dark circles while firming, brightening, and evening skin tone. It contains Olay’s Retinoid Complex, Niacinamide (Vitamin B3), plus antioxidant vitamin E.
This retinol eye cream is formulated with 20% more Retinol 24 Hydrating Complex than the original Retinol 24 eye cream to smooth fine lines and reduce uneven skin texture.
This creamy retinol cream is fragrance-free and has a silky texture, just like the other products in the Retinol 24 line.
The eye cream is gentle enough to be used every night around the delicate eye area to help reduce the signs of aging.
Neutrogena Rapid Wrinkle Repair Eye Cream
Neutrogena Rapid Wrinkle Repair Eye Cream uses a combination of Retinol SA, Glucose Complex, and Hyaluronic Acid to help reduce the look of fine lines, wrinkles, crow’s feet around the eyes, dark circles, and age spots.
This lightweight eye cream helps to brighten the skin around the delicate eye area.
This is a very thin formula that sinks in quickly. The light texture makes it an ideal eye cream to wear under makeup. It leaves skin soft, smooth and hydrated.
Retinol Face Moisturizers
Olay Retinol 24 MAX Night Moisturizer vs Neutrogena Rapid Wrinkle Repair Regenerating Cream
Both of these retinol creams from Olay and Neutrogena are customer favorites for their effectiveness. Based on the ingredient lists alone, it looks like Retinol 24 MAX contains more retinol.
Regardless of which you choose, if you are looking for a wrinkle cream, both will help reduce the look of fine wrinkles, dark spots, and uneven skin tone with continued use.
- Neither brand discloses the amount of retinol is in these facial moisturizers. Ingredient lists provide ingredients in order of highest concentration to lowest concentration. Olay Retinol 24 MAX serum lists retinol as ingredient #6, while Neutrogena Rapid Wrinkles Repair serum lists retinol as ingredient #25.
- Olay Retinol 24 Night Moisturizer is fragrance-free while Neutrogena Rapid Wrinkle Repair Regenerating Cream comes in both original (fragranced) and fragrance-free versions.
- While Olay Retinol 24 Night Moisturizer is designed for use in the evenings only, Neutrogena Rapid Wrinkle Repair Regenerating Cream is designed for use once in the morning and once at night. If you apply it during the day, be sure to use a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher.
Olay Retinol 24 MAX Night Moisturizer
Olay Retinol 24 MAX Night Hydrating Moisturizer contains Olay’s proprietary retinoid complex that works overnight to transform the look of your skin.
It helps to reduce the look of wrinkles, fine lines, and hyperpigmentation, such as dark spots. It also helps to improve skin texture and minimizes the look of pores.
Olay’s Skin Energizing Complex of niacinamide and a naturally derived plant extract, Tropaeolum Majus Flower/Leaf/Stem Extract, smoothes and brightens the skin and supports the skin barrier.
Palmitoyl Pentapeptide-4 helps to improve the look of fine lines, wrinkles, and skin texture but without the irritation that comes along with retinol.
This fragrance-free retinol face cream is super silky and rich. With continued use, it smooths and resurfaces the skin and helps to improve skin texture and tone.
- Olay Regenerist Micro-Sculpting Cream vs Olay Retinol 24 Max Night Moisturizer
- Olay Collagen Peptide 24 vs Regenerist Micro-Sculpting Cream
- Olay Hyaluronic + Peptide 24 Review
- Olay AHA + Peptide 24 Review
Neutrogena Rapid Wrinkle Repair Regenerating Cream
Neutrogena Rapid Wrinkle Repair Regenerating Cream contains Accelerated Retinol SA. This patented formula combines Retinol SA, Hyaluronic Acid, and a Glucose Complex to reduce the look of fine lines in 1 week and reduce the look of deep wrinkles in just four weeks.
It targets deep wrinkles like crow’s feet, wrinkles around the eyes, and wrinkles on the forehead and cheeks. The patented formula releases retinol slowly to minimize irritation.
This award-winning Neutrogena face cream is lightweight and absorbs easily, making it a great choice for under makeup.
If you use this cream during the day, be sure to use a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher.
Please note that there is a fragrance in this retinol cream, as pictured above, but there is also a fragrance-free option.
More Neutrogena Rapid Wrinkle Repair Products
Neutrogena has additional products in their Rapid Wrinkle Repair skincare line that target the visible signs of aging:
Neutrogena Rapid Wrinkle Repair Retinol Pro+ .5% Power Serum
Neutrogena Rapid Wrinkle Repair Retinol Pro+ .5% Power Serum targets dark spots and deep wrinkles with 0.5% pure retinol in a lightweight serum.
This is Neutrogena’s highest concentration of retinol, which can improve the look of wrinkles and fine lines in just 1 week. (My skin looks noticeably smoother and clearer after just a few nights!)
Retinol improves skin elasticity and firmness and boosts dead skin cell turnover for brighter, smoother skin.
Bisabolol from the chamomile plant helps soothe your skin and reduce irritation.
I am really impressed with this serum. It has a silky texture that quickly absorbs, leaving my skin feeling velvety smooth.
While some 0.5% retinol serums may irritate my skin, this gentle formula is very nourishing and doesn’t irritate my complexion as long as I use it no more frequently than every other night.
The serum is formulated without parabens, mineral oil, or dyes. Please note there is added fragrance in this serum.
Neutrogena Rapid Wrinkle Repair Retinol Face Serum Capsules
If you are looking for a convenient pre-measured dose of retinol, then Neutrogena Rapid Wrinkle Repair Retinol Face Serum Capsules are a great choice. The full-size jar contains 30 retinol serum capsules (the 7-day sample size is shown above).
Each capsule contains a single precise dose of retinol in a lightweight serum. They’re perfect for travel and when you are on the go.
The capsules contain only seven ingredients, including all-star anti-ager retinol, which smoothes fine lines and wrinkles and improves skin elasticity for firmer skin.
The formula also contains antioxidant vitamin E and soybean oil as the carrier oil.
The serum is fragrance-free and formulated without alcohol, mineral oil, parabens, and silicones. The seaweed capsules are water-biodegradable.
The amount of retinol in the capsules is not disclosed, but I notice a difference in my skin after using them for a few days. My skin is softer and smoother with improved clarity.
Additional Rapid Repair Moisturizers…
Neutrogena Rapid Wrinkle Repair Daily Face Moisturizer with SPF 30 fights wrinkles, fine lines, and age spots during the day with help from Retinol SA (retinol is ingredient #11 in concentration), Glucose Complex, and Hyaluronic Acid.
It has broad-spectrum UVA/UVB sunscreen protection of SPF 30, which is very important when using retinol during the day.
The chemical sunscreen protection comes in the form of Avobenzone 2%, Homosalate 4%, Octisalate 4%, and Octocrylene 2%. This daily face moisturizer is fragranced.
Neutrogena Rapid Wrinkle Repair Night Face Moisturizer is formulated with Retinol SA, Glucose Complex, and Hyaluronic Acid to smooth fine lines and wrinkles while you sleep.
Retinol is ingredient #24 out of 30 total ingredients. This night retinol moisturizer is fragranced.
Neutrogena Rapid Wrinkle Repair Retinol Oil is a lightweight retinol oil formulated with 0.3% retinol SA to fight wrinkles and reduce the look of dark spots and age spots.
For double the wrinkle-fighting power, Neutrogena suggests pairing this oil with Neutrogena Rapid Wrinkle Repair Regenerating Cream.
Final Thoughts on Olay Retinol 24 vs Neutrogena Rapid Wrinkle Repair
Which products are better? It depends. If you’re new to retinol, Neutrogena retinol products may be a better choice since it appears that retinol is present in lower concentrations than Olay retinol products.
If you prefer fragrance-free and more potent retinol products, consider Olay’s Retinol 24 (both original and MAX) products.
I like both Neutrogena and Olay retinol products. I reach for Olay’s retinol products more often, as I think they are a bit stronger, and I prefer the texture of their retinol products better, as they are a bit richer.
But remember, they’re only formulated to be used in the evening, while you can use Neutrogena’s retinol face cream and eye cream (the serum should be used only once a day) both in the morning and at night as long as your skin can tolerate it.
Regardless of which you choose, the secret with over-the-counter retinol products is to ease into use, especially if you have a sensitive skin type, dry skin, or are new to retinol.
Be sure to take it slow so that your skin gets the chance to adjust, which will improve your results. And don’t forget the SPF!
For more of the best Olay anti-aging products, please see my post: Best Olay Products For Your 40s And Beyond.
Thanks for reading!
Wednesday 15th of February 2023
Thank you SO much for such an informative article. Amazing product breakdown that I very much appreciate. Job well done and again much appreciated
Monday 20th of February 2023
Friday 10th of June 2022
Have you tested the now available hydrating moisturizer with sunscreen in the Olay Regenerist Retinol+Peptide collection?
Saturday 8th of October 2022
Yes, I've tried Olay Retinol24 + Peptide Hydrating Moisturizer with Sunscreen. You can read all about my experience in my Olay Retinol 24 review post. Thanks!
Sunday 25th of April 2021
Excellent post....I have not used retinol before. Walmart has a mini size of the original so I think I’ll start there. Thank you for your articles....Keep them coming. Claudia
Tuesday 8th of February 2022
@ZuckerRat, Thank you (@Claudia Rand) I agree with purchasing from The Ordinary. They skip on some of of 'middle men' in their production of products so that they are just as affective but easier on your wallet.
Wednesday 19th of May 2021
@Claudia Rand, I have tried both of the products reviewed. I would suggest that you skip both of them and buy a retinal serum made by The Ordinary”. Superior product at a fraction of the cost.
Sunday 25th of April 2021
Yes, that's a great idea, start with the mini size! Thanks!