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I tried this $18 retinol serum, and I already see results after just two weeks

It visibly minimizes the appearance of fine lines and pores.
Illustration of Katie Jackson holding RoC Retinol Serum, and putting a drop on her hand
TODAY Illustration / Courtesy Katie Jackson
/ Source: TODAY

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Thanks to Neutrogena's Rapid Wrinkle Repair, I discovered the wonders of retinol at the age of 29. Since then, I haven't really leaned into this life-changing ingredient most anti-aging products swear by. Now that I've hit my 30s, I'm ready to explore this skin care must-have and its powerful effects a little bit more — and what better brand to try than the very first one to offer retinol over the counter?

RoC is known for its high-quality formulas and award-winning products, so when I saw its bestselling line-smoothing retinol serum on Amazon, I knew I had to give it a try. It currently holds a 4.4-star average rating from more than 500 reviewers, and it goes for less than $20.

RoC Retinol Correxion Line Smoothing Serum

It's only $18 on Amazon

After I traded my $70 face oil for a $20 moisturizer, I decided to commit to saving money on other skin care products as well. So, I was thrilled to see a 45% markdown from this serum's $33 list price on Amazon.

Every time I start to think $18 for this serum is a lot — the bottle only holds an ounce of product — I remember what it promises to do: smooth my fine lines, including my prominent crow's-feet. People pay thousands to have doctors and lasers do the same thing, so I think I can justify this more affordable price tag.

Courtesy Katie Jackson

So far, I've been using it for about three weeks, and I anticipate the bottle lasting me at least another two weeks. I use it twice a day, once in the morning before my moisturizer and once in the evening before bed.

Users can attest to its effectiveness

According to RoC, 94% of users noticed a visible reduction in fine lines and pore size after just one week. But perhaps the most telling statistic comes from a 2021 clinical study: 100% of users reported no irritation.

Retinol without the redness? I didn't know that was possible until trying this serum. The skeptic in me said it sounded too good to be true. However, based on my recent experience — and I have skin so sensitive I carry prescription-strength hydrocortisone cream in my purse for allergic reactions — I'm now a firm believer.

It's packed with hydrating ingredients

The star ingredient in this lightweight and silky formula has to be the ashwagandha. According to Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, ashwagandha is "a popular herb used in traditional Indian medicine (Ayurveda) for stress relief and to improve general health. It can help you relax and reduce swelling."

According to many skin care lines and dermatologists, it's also a soothing superfood for the skin. Since it's meant to de-stress your skin, I like to think it counteracts the intensity of the retinol that typically leads to irritation, redness and dryness.

Courtesy Katie Jackson

If anything, my skin looks happier and more hydrated after using this. In fact, I was recently staying at The Twelve Apostles Hotel & Spa in Cape Town, famous for its wellness spa, and a friend complimented me on my skin. She asked which facial I got. I told her I didn't get one! I had just been using this serum somewhat religiously over the last couple of weeks.

Noticeable results after just two weeks

Are my crow's-feet completely gone? No. But after just two weeks of using this serum, I've watched them become increasingly less noticeable. The lines on my forehead and around my eyes and mouth don't look as deep as they did before. Overall, I think my face looks plumper, and my pores appear smaller.

For $18, this retinol serum gives me a lot of bang for my buck. But more importantly, I love that my skin feels healthy, and the results are in the mirror, not just in my head. I seriously can't afford to live without something this affordable that works this well. What I can live without, however, are my crow's-feet and fine lines.

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