Retinol for Lips – Do You Need It & What to Buy

By PMUHub Editorial Team| Last updated on March 25, 2024
retinol for lips
⏱️ 7 min read

This is an objective, non-biased article. We base our product choices on various factors, such as product reviews, ingredient analysis, and overall reputation of brands. It does, however, contain affiliate links for featured products.

If you’re looking to improve the appearance of your lips by evening out both the texture and the tone, you’ve probably tried all sorts of different active ingredients and treatments that promise impossible results.

But, did you know that the solution may lie in something you already know a lot about and maybe even own? We’re talking about retinol for lips!

So, if you want to learn all about how it works and what benefits are in it for your lips, you’ve come to the right place! In this article, we’ll try to answer all your questions, and give you our top product recommendations!

Our Top Products: The Best Retinol for Lips

As promised, we’re going to give you our picks for the best Amazon finds!
Check out our favorite retinol for lips products below!

The Best Retinol Lip Serum: Verso Skin Care Moisturizing Lip Serum with Retinol

If you’re looking for a lip serum with retinol, this one is absolutely the best choice you can make!

It’s okay to use for all skin types and skin tones, and it combines the powers of retinol with some moisturizing abilities as well!

The only thing to keep in mind is that this luxury product comes at a luxury price, but since you’ll be using it in tandem with – not instead of – your favorite lip balm, a tube should last you a while.

• Moisturizing                              • Okay for all skin types                              • Luxurious

• Proven results
• Convenience
• Clinical strength

The Best Retinol Lip Balm: bareMinerals Ageless Phyto-Retinol Lip Treatment

As you can see from the name of this lip balm, it is made using phyto-retinol, which works exactly the same as the retinol we know and love, but is plant-based.

On top of that, the formula also includes rosemary extract which has antioxidant and protective properties, and hyaluronic acid for long-lasting hydration!

• Hydrating                                    • Plant-based                                         • Rich in antioxidants

• Pretty affordable
• Quick results
• Comes with free biotin supplements

The Best Retinol Lip Balm in a Jar: E. Burnham Retinol Lip Bliss

For those who prefer their lip products to come in jars, we chose this one because it also combines some great properties in one formula.

Of course, the active ingredient is retinol which will lessen the visibility of fine lines. Other than that, there’s also cocoa butter in the formula for some added moisturization.

• Unscented                                    • Intense moisturizer                                  • Affordable

• Lighter than a helmet
• Requires very little time to work
• Looks better than the other options

The Best Retinol Lip Mask: bareMinerals Ageless Phyto-Retinol Lip Mask

When it comes to lip masks with retinol, we chose another bareMinerals product. Like the lip balm, this mask is also made with the plant-based phyto-retinol and contains hyaluronic acid for hydration.

On top of those, there are also papaya enzymes in the formula which contribute to the overall smoothness of your lips.

• Plant-based                                   • Unscented                                       • Great extra ingredients

• Easy storage
• Scientific approach
• Takes just a few minutes a day

The Best Retinol Alternative for Lips: Burt’s Bees Renewing Lip Treatment with Ceramides

If you’re not the biggest fan of retinol but still want to reap all the benefits of using it on your lips, don’t worry – we’ve got you covered!

Our favorite alternative for a retinol lip balm is this Burt’s Bees treatment. The formula comes with a core enriched with ceramides and an outer layer infused with a natural retinol alternative.

On top of the great ingredients, this formula has no parabens, phthalates, petrolatum, or SLS, meaning that it’s all-natural.

Plus, the packaging is recyclable too!

• Natural formula                            • Has ceramides                               • Recyclable packaging

• Super convenient
• Doesn’t take up too much time
• More comfortable than some of the other options

Can I Use Retinol for Lips?

Yes, but be careful. Retinol can be used on and around the lips in most cases. By that, we mean that the average person’s skin isn’t so sensitive that it can’t handle retinol and won’t be harmed in any way.

However, there is a possibility that your skin will have a bad reaction. This reaction will start with a stinging sensation and escalate into redness and visible irritation around the lip area, especially if you ignore the first warning signs.

So, if you start to notice something feeling off after using lip retinol, we advise you to wash it off ASAP. You can try again in a few days after those first negative side effects wear off, but if it hurts then as well, you might want to look for an alternative.

can i use retinol for lipsImage source: Freepik

What About Retinol for Dark Lips?

No matter the color of your lips, retinol is perfectly safe to use, but in moderation and while exercising reasonable caution. As effective as it can be at improving both texture and color, experts warn that excessive use of retinol on the lips can cause irritation.

Although this irritation is (fortunately) nothing serious, it will cause a countereffect and make your lips dry and chapped.

A mistake people often make is thinking that this side effect stems from the cold weather or other usual culprits and continuing to use retinol even when it’s doing them a disservice.

So, to summarize: retinol is safe to use on lips of all colors, as long as you monitor how your lips are doing and stop when you notice the first signs of irritation.

The Biggest Benefits of Retinol for Lips

As you probably already know, retinol speeds up skin cell turnover, unclogs your pores through chemical exfoliation, and boosts the production of collagen. These processes are what’s happening on your skin, and there’s no difference with using it on your lips, too.

One of the most popular uses is applying retinol for lip pigmentation. Retinol has proven its effects when it comes to helping lighten hyperpigmentation and even out skin tone – both on the face and on the lips.

But be careful – if your lips start to turn pinkish, you might think that it’s the retinol doing its job at lightening them.

However, if that pink color is accompanied by stinging or any other negative sensations, you might just be experiencing some mild irritation and need to take a break from retinol for at least a couple of days.

Other than that, retinol is used to fix fine lines that appear as a result of aging. This is the same mechanism that helps reduce fine lines on the face – a combination of exfoliation and increased collagen production.

Tips & Tricks for Retinol Lip Treatment

Retinol can be aggressive. This is something that thicker skin can handle with no problem, but the thin skin around the lip area may be more prone to a reaction – which is why we advised so strongly for you to monitor how the retinol feels on and around your lips.

Another useful tip for using retinol for lips is that you should start gradually incorporating it into your routine and remember that this isn’t a substitute for your regular lip balm or lip gloss.

Just like when you were first starting to apply retinol onto your face, it’s best to only use it a few times a week and see how it feels. After that, you can gradually increase the frequency until you feel comfortable using it every (or every other) day as part of your normal routine.

Finally, it’s important to note that you need to wear an SPF lip balm in tandem with the retinol since the retinol increases your skin’s sensitivity – even more so when we’re talking about the sensitive skin around the lip area.

Should I Try Retinol for My Lips?

Our definitive answer here is yes but with caution.

Retinol can be a great addition to your lip care routine, but it can also cause irritation. So, if you start to notice anything stinging or turning red, it’s time to either pause the retinol use for a few days or find an alternative.

Thankfully, after the recent retinol ban scare, there are plenty of alternatives available! All in all, you can access all the benefits – with or without retinol itself.

Learn more about the best retinol alternatives here.

Cover image source: Freepik



Exclusive insights into the PMU industry right in your inbox.

FREE newsletter. 100% good stuff.