Korean skincare

Retinol Serums & Creams Review 2023

14 November 2022

 

My review of popular retinol serums for 2023!

 

Retinol needs no introduction- if you’ve been following my blog or Instagram, you’d be well acquainted with retinols. As one of the most well studied active ingredients for anti-aging and acne, retinol is also one of the trickiest ingredients to start with because of its well known side effect of retinoid dermatitis. Thankfully, skincare companies have come with innovative delivery systems and formulations such as encapsulation to reduce this problem with retinol. This review of retinol serums will also feature some of these newer delivery systems for retinol beginners or readers with sensitive or dry skin.

 

If you’d like to understand retinols and retinoids, you might want to read these Retinol Explained Simply and The Beginner’s Guide to Retinoids . I’ve also reviewed retinoid serums in 2020 in 5 Affordable & Popular Retinoid Serums Reviewed.

   

Innisfree Retinol Cica Repair Ampoule

 

Review of Innisfree Retinol Cica Repair Ampoule

 

About Innisfree

Innisfree is a South Korean brand under the AmorePacific conglomerate. Despite the brand’s strong identity for using ingredients from Jeju Island, the name “Innisfree” was actually derived from an Irish poem entitled “The Lake Isle of Innisfree”. Some of the brand’s most popular products are manufactured using ingredients such as green tea, camelia petals and orchids from Jeju island.

 

On Jeju island, Innisfree has a flagship store that provides an immersive shopping experience for visitors. Called the Innisfree Jeju House, visitors can create their own skincare products with ingredients found in Jeju island such as green tea and volcanic soil.

 

Cost of Innisfree Retinol Cica Repair Ampoule:

SGD$51 for 30ml from Innisfree shops

 

What does Innisfree Retinol Cica Repair Ampoule contain?

Retinol with liposomlogy. This means that the retinol is delivered to the deeper layers of the skin with a liposome delivery system. Liposomes overcome the hydrophobic component of the skin barrier; and have been shown to increase the therapeutic activity of their formulation1.

 

 

Any other notable ingredients in Innisfree Retinol Cica Repair Ampoule

• Niacinamide- reduces inflammation and improves skin barrier. More about Niacinamide, its benefits and how to use it are covered in Niacinamide: A Versatile Ingredient Your Skin Will Thank You For.

• Allantoin– an extract from the comfrey plant. Allantoin moisturises the skin and promotes wound healing.

• Salicylic acid– an acid for chemical exfoliation. You can learn more in A Complete Guide to Acids in Skincare & Chemical Exfoliation.

• Adenosine-one of the building blocks of DNA, adenosine may promote wound healing and reduce the appearance of wrinkles.

• Hyaluronic acid– a popular humectant in skincare for moisturising the skin. This active ingredient has been covered in great detail in Everything You Need to Know About Hyaluronic Acid.

• Ceramide Np & Phytosphingosine– these ingredients moisturise the skin and strengthen the skin barrier. Ceramide also reduces inflammation in the skin; and is frequently used by eczema patients. You can learn more in Ceramides in Skincare : A Relief for Dry & Sensitive Skin as well as How to Repair Your Skin Barrier.

• Cica/ centella asiatica– A popular ingredient in K-beauty, Cica may have some benefits in wound healing and reducing the appearance of scars. More about this ingredient in Cica in Skincare: Centella Asiatica Explained.

Green tea seed extract– Green tea contains polyphenols which confer antioxidant benefits, especially when consumed orally. More about green tea in skincare and drinks in Benefits of Topical Green Tea.

 

The good about Innisfree Retinol Cica Repair Ampoule

Innisfree Retinol Cica Repair Ampoule contains so many active ingredients that reduce irritation commonly associated with retinol; and moisturise the skin. The ampoule has a milky texture that’s very light weight and pats down easily. Dries very quickly to leave a barely noticeable feel.

My skin felt moisturised the next day after using Innisfree Retinol Cica Repair Ampoule. No scent with Innisfree Retinol Cica Repair Ampoule.

 

The bad about Innisfree Retinol Cica Repair Ampoule

Sadly, Innisfree Retinol Cica Repair Ampoule did nothing for my skin. There was no visible improvement in my skin- from texture, hyperpigmentation or fine lines.

 

My verdict on Innisfree Retinol Cica Repair Ampoule

Lovely texture but lacking in results for me. Might be suitable for users who have very sensitive or dry skin or are cautious about starting retinols. If you have oily skin- skip this.

   

Kiehl’s Micro-Dose Anti-Aging Retinol Serum with Ceramides and Peptide

 

Review of Kiehl’s Micro-Dose Anti-Aging Retinol Serum with Ceramides and Peptide

 

About Kiehl’s

Kiehl’s began as a pharmacy founded by John Kiehl in New York City in 1851. From the 1920’s to the 1980’s, Irving Morse and his son, Aaron Morse, both pharmacists, took over the reins of the store. The father and son duo developed many of Kiehl’s most popular products and propelled the growth of Kiehl’s. Besides their signature skincare products, the brand is also known for its generous gifting of product samples.

 

In 2000, Kiehl’s was acquired by the L’oreal group. Kiehl’s Micro-Dose Anti-Aging Retinol Serum with Ceramides and Peptide was released at end 2021.

 

Cost of Kiehl’s Micro-Dose Anti-Aging Retinol Serum with Ceramides and Peptide:

SGD$89 for 50mls from Sephora

 

What does Kiehl’s Micro-Dose Anti-Aging Retinol Serum with Ceramides and Peptide Contain?

Pure retinol; in micro-doses. In other words, it’s a small amount of retinol.

 

Any other notable ingredients in Kiehl’s Micro-Dose Anti-Aging Retinol Serum with Ceramides and Peptide?

• Niacinamide reduces inflammation and improves skin barrier. More about Niacinamide, its benefits and how to use it are covered in Niacinamide: A Versatile Ingredient Your Skin Will Thank You For.

• Tocopherol aka vitamin E, an antioxidant that quenches free radical damage to the skin.

• Adenosine-one of the building blocks of DNA, adenosine may promote wound healing and reduce the appearance of wrinkles.

• Ceramides Np and Hydroxypalmitoyl Sphinganine– these ingredients moisturise the skin and strengthen the skin barrier. Ceramide also reduces inflammation in the skin; and is frequently used by eczema patients. You can learn more in Ceramides in Skincare : A Relief for Dry & Sensitive Skin as well as How to Repair Your Skin Barrier.

• Peptides– these are building blocks of proteins. In-vitro studies suggest that peptides signal fibroblasts in the skin to build collagen. More about the different types of peptides in Why Are Peptide Skincare Products so Expensive?

 

The good about Kiehl’s Micro-Dose Anti-Aging Retinol Serum with Ceramides and Peptide

Kiehl’s Micro-Dose Anti-Aging Retinol Serum with Ceramides and Peptide comes in an air-tight container; so no worries about retinol degradation. The formula also contains a number of ingredients that strengthen the skin barrier and reduce irritation with retinols.

 

Kiehl’s Micro-Dose Anti-Aging Retinol Serum with Ceramides and Peptide also contains a number of emollients in the formula; and you’ll find that the texture is heavier than the lovely light texture of Innisfree’s version. It is thick; but otherwise also moisturising on its own. I could use Kiehl’s Micro-Dose Anti-Aging Retinol Serum with Ceramides and Peptide on its own without a moisturiser.

 

With Kiehl’s Micro-Dose Anti-Aging Retinol Serum with Ceramides and Peptide, I did not experience any irritation, dryness or irritation. Towards the end of the 3-4 week mark, some of the fine lines around my eyes were smoother; and my skin was more radiant. This improvement was noticed by a few of my friends too.

 

The bad about Kiehl’s Micro-Dose Anti-Aging Retinol Serum with Ceramides and Peptide

The texture it thicc. It feels heavy on the skin; and takes a while to dry. Once it does, it left a slightly sticky feel on my skin.My hyperpigmentation and comedones did not budge with Kiehl’s Micro-Dose Anti-Aging Retinol Serum with Ceramides and Peptide.

 

Related blogpost:

How to Lighten Dark Spots and Hyperpigmentation with Skincare

 

My verdict on Kiehl’s Micro-Dose Anti-Aging Retinol Serum with Ceramides and Peptide

I would recommend Kiehl’s Micro-Dose Anti-Aging Retinol Serum with Ceramides and Peptide as one for beginners. It’s got a nice balance of being effective and gentle enough on the skin.

   

RoC Retinol Correxion Line Smoothing Night Serum Capsules 

     

Review of RoC Retinol Correxion Line Smoothing Night Serum Capsules

 

About RoC

RoC is a French skincare brand founded in 1957 by pharmacist Dr. Jean-Charles Lissarrague in Paris. Dr. Lissarrague has been credited in the media as the pioneer of stabilised retinol. In Europe, especially France, RoC is a popular drugstore brand for its range of retinol products. More recently, the brand’s RoC Retinol Correxion Line Smoothing Night Serum Capsules saw a growth in demand due to its heavy feature in several popular TikTok videos.

 

In 1993, RoC was acquired by Johnson & Johnson; and by Gryphon Investors in 2019.

 

Cost of RoC Retinol Correxion Line Smoothing Night Serum Capsules:

Approx SGD$40 for 30 capsules from Amazon

 

What does RoC Retinol Correxion Line Smoothing Night Serum Capsules contain?

Retinol capsules

 

RoC Retinol Correxion Line Smoothing Night Serum Capsules

   

Any other notable ingredients in RoC Retinol Correxion Line Smoothing Night Serum Capsules?

• Dimethylmethoxy Chromanol– an antioxidant.

• Ceramide Np– moisturises the skin and strengthens the skin barrier. Ceramide also reduces inflammation in the skin; and is frequently used by eczema patients. You can learn more in Ceramides in Skincare : A Relief for Dry & Sensitive Skin.

 

Notably, RoC Retinol Correxion Line Smoothing Night Serum Capsules is devoid of water in the ingredient list; which contains only 8 ingredients. RoC Retinol Correxion Line Smoothing Night Serum Capsules contains mostly silicones (cyclopentasiloxane and dimethiconol) and Glycine Soja (Soybean) Oil.

 

The good about RoC Retinol Correxion Line Smoothing Night Serum Capsules

RoC Retinol Correxion Line Smoothing Night Serum Capsules comes in a container of 30 capsules. Just twist the neck of the capsule to release the serum. This capsule dispensing system is an easy way for beginners to estimate the right amount of serum (just a pea size) and protects the serum from oxidation.

 

Applying RoC Retinol Correxion Line Smoothing Night Serum Capsules is a luxurious experience that I enjoyed. The serum spreads easily; and dries to a velvety smooth, albeit slightly oily feel. No surprises with silicones and soybean oil being higher on the ingredient list than retinol. I did not experience any irritation or dryness with RoC Retinol Correxion Line Smoothing Night Serum Capsules

 

The bad about RoC Retinol Correxion Line Smoothing Night Serum Capsules

Results with RoC Retinol Correxion Line Smoothing Night Serum Capsules were unspectacular. Skin felt smoother around the 4th week mark; but everything else such as hyperpigmentation, dullness and fine lines remained in status quo.

 

Of all the retinol products in this review, RoC Retinol Correxion Line Smoothing Night Serum Capsules was by far the most expensive per use.

 

My verdict on RoC Retinol Correxion Line Smoothing Night Serum Capsules

RoC Retinol Correxion Line Smoothing Night Serum Capsules was underwhelming and expensive.

 

Paula’s Choice Clinical 1% Retinol Treatment

   

Review of Paula’s Choice Clinical 1% Retinol Treatment

 

About Paula’s Choice

Paula’s Choice was founded by Paula Begoun in 1995. Paula Begoun began her career in the beauty industry as a makeup artist and beautician. Besides founding her eponymous skincare brand, she is also the founder of Beautypedia, an online database of skincare ingredients. Paula’s Choice Clinical 1% Retinol Treatment was launched in 2014.

 

Cost of Paula’s Choice Clinical 1% Retinol Treatment:

SGD$75 for 30ml from Paula Choice’s website when it was on discount. The usual retail price is $88.

 

What does Paula’s Choice Clinical 1% Retinol Treatment contain?

1% retinol

     

     

Any other notable ingredients in Paula’s Choice Clinical 1% Retinol Treatment?

• Salix Alba Extract– white willow extract. The active ingredient, salicin, may offer improvements in hyperpigmentation and jawline contour; according to a study on 30 subjects without controls2.

• Arctium lappa– Burdock extract has anti-inflammatory properties and may reduce the severity of wrinkles3.

• Avena Sativa (oat)- Colloidal oatmeal extracts strengthen the skin barrier and moisturise the skin.

• Glycyrrhiza Glabra– Licorice extract lightens hyperpigmentation and reduces inflammation.

• Palmitoyl Tetrapeptide-7, Palmitoyl Tripeptide-1,Palmitoyl Hexapeptide-12- these are different types of peptides. More about the different types of peptides in Why Are Peptide Skincare Products so Expensive?

• Tetrahexyldecyl Ascorbate– a vitamin C derivative. More about vitamin C’s benefits in skincare in All About Topical Vitamin C.

• Ceramide Np– moisturises the skin and strengthens the skin barrier. Ceramide also reduces inflammation in the skin; and is frequently used by eczema patients. You can learn more in Ceramides in Skincare : A Relief for Dry & Sensitive Skin

 

The good about Paula’s Choice Clinical 1% Retinol Treatment

A significant concentration of retinol in Paula’s Choice Clinical 1% Retinol Treatment; and of all the retinol serums reviewed in this post, this product felt the strongest. It took a while for my skin to be able to use this on consecutive nights. There were periods of irritation when I first tried Paula’s Choice Clinical 1% Retinol Treatment; but no overt redness or peeling.

 

Paula’s Choice Clinical 1% Retinol Treatment also fared the best of all the retinol serums in this review. At the third week of using Paula’s Choice Clinical 1% Retinol Treatment, my skin tone was more consistent, and felt smoother. I felt that my skin felt more radiant, and my fine lines, especially my neck lines; were reduced. It’s not a miracle product, but I am pleased with these outcomes for an over the counter, drugstore retinol.

 

Related blogpost:

How to Get Rid of Neck Lines & Wrinkles

 

The bad about Paula’s Choice Clinical 1% Retinol Treatment

Lots of ingredients that moisturise and calm the skin; but Paula’s Choice Clinical 1% Retinol Treatment definitely requires a moisturiser to protect the skin. Paula’s Choice Clinical 1% Retinol Treatment is potent, so you might want to ease your way into using this gradually.

 

Although my complexion improved with Paula’s Choice Clinical 1% Retinol Treatment, there was no significant improvement in my dark spots and comedones.

 

Related blogpost:

How to Lighten Dark Spots and Hyperpigmentation with Skincare

 

My verdict on Paula’s Choice Clinical 1% Retinol Treatment

Paula’s Choice Clinical 1% Retinol Treatment is an effective retinol for smoother skin and less fine lines; but requires gradual escalation for regular use.

The Ordinary Retinol Serum 1% in Squalane

   

Review of The Ordinary Retinol Serum 1% in Squalane

 

About The Ordinary

Launched in 2013, this Canadian skincare brand is one of the world’s largest skincare brands. The Ordinary’s range is focused on single (or few) active ingredients at optimum concentrations in each product. The brand is now headed by Ms Nicola Kilner, whom I had the opportunity to interview in Nicola Kilner, DECIEM CEO, on Disrupting Global Beauty Trends with The Ordinary and NIOD.

 

I’ve also shared my review of DECIEM’s skincare products in The Ordinary Skincare Review & Ingredients Decoded and NIOD Skincare Review & Ingredients Decoded.

 

Cost of The Ordinary Retinol Serum 1% in Squalane:

SGD$16 for 30mls at Sephora Singapore

 

What does The Ordinary Retinol Serum 1% in Squalane contain?

1% Retinol

 

   

Any other notable ingredients in The Ordinary Retinol Serum 1% in Squalane

• Squalene– is a type of oil that is one component of sebum naturally produced by the skin. In skincare, squalane offers moisturising and antioxidant benefits.

• Simmondsia Chinensis (Jojoba) Seed Oil– has anti-inflammatory benefits; also helps with the absorption of some drugs4.

• Solanum Lycopersicum (Tomato) Fruit Extract and Rosmarinus Officinalis (Rosemary) Leaf Extract: antioxidants

 

The good about The Ordinary Retinol Serum 1% in Squalane

The Ordinary Retinol Serum 1% in Squalane has watery consistency that spreads easily on the skin. This oil rich product is one for fans of oil serums. It’s simple, straightforward and the most economical of all the retinol serums in this review.

 

The bad about The Ordinary Retinol Serum 1% in Squalane

The Ordinary Retinol Serum 1% in Squalane leaves an oily, sticky feel even after it finally dries. Afterall, The Ordinary Retinol Serum 1% in Squalane contains mainly oils.

 

This product was comedogenic on my face; after using it for a few days I started having more comedones and pimples. I was unable to tolerate using this for beyond a week. I also tested The Ordinary Retinol Serum 1% in Squalane on my neck; but did not see any visible improvements in the texture or fine lines of my neck.

 

My verdict on The Ordinary Retinol Serum 1% in Squalane

The Ordinary Retinol Serum 1% in Squalane might be better for very dry skin types. If you have oily or acne prone skin, you might find your acne worsening with this.

 

Related blogposts:

5 Skincare Ingredients for Oily & Acne Prone Skin

Acne: Types, Causes, Treatments & Tips for Prevention

Acne & Diet: Foods to Avoid for Less Pimples

 

 

Conclusion on retinol serums review 2023

And it’s a wrap for my review of cult favourite retinol serums of 2022/2023. This review was months in the making, and I hope that this blogpost was helpful for you. In summary, I’d recommend Paula’s Choice Clinical 1% Retinol Treatment. Paula’s Choice Clinical 1% Retinol Treatment gave the most pronounced outcomes for me; and please remember to moisturise your skin. If you’re new to retinols, I recommend Kiehl’s Micro-Dose Anti-Aging Retinol Serum with Ceramides and Peptide for a nice balance of results and gentleness.

 

And of course, please don’t forget to wear sunscreen during the day if you’re using retinoids. You can check out my recommendations and duds in Sunscreen Reviews 2021 and Sunscreen Reviews 2019.

 

References

1. Liposomes in cosmeceutics. Rahimpour and Hamishehkar. Expert Opin Drug Deliv. 2012 Apr;9(4):443-55.

2. An evaluation of the effect of a topical product containing salicin on the visible signs of human skin aging. Gopaul et al. J Cosmet Dermatol. 2010 Sep;9(3):196-201.

3. Natural Arctium lappa fruit extract improves the clinical signs of aging skin. Knott et al. J Cosmet Dermatol. 2008 Dec;7(4):281-9.

4. Jojoba in dermatology: a succinct review. Pazyar et al. G Ital Dermatol Venereol. 2013 Dec;148(6):687-91.

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