I Tried Glossier’s New £30 Retinol On My Texture-Prone Skin

Few beauty ingredients are both widely beloved and debated as retinol. What percentage is best? Is it even worth it to get non-prescription retinol? Do you have to spend a lot to make it worth it? It's perhaps for that reason that it's taken Glossier nine years to put their name on one. "When it comes to many skin frustrations, retinoids are that thing — a catch-all ingredient touted for improving nearly everything from texture and blemishes to fine lines and uneven tone," explains Chenaya Devine-Milbourne, Glossier's Senior Director of Product Marketing and Development. "But somehow, this most celebrated skin-care ingredient is also the most complicated, and we were craving a more straightforward experience. One that didn’t compromise on powerful, visible results, but held your hand a bit more." Enter from stage left, Glossier Universal Pro-Retinol. The startup beauty company's debut retinoid is here, and ahead of the highly-anticipated launch, I tested out an early-bird sample to see if it's truly the retinol of my dreams.
Photo: Courtesy of Glossier.
My primary skin concerns are addressing breakouts and hyperpigmentation, and retinol has helped me greatly with both. That's because retinol works to help speed up skin cell turnover, which can help with a host of skin concerns, from acne to fine lines. As a teen, I swore by prescription retinoid tubes like Tretinoin cream to help calm aggravated acne. Texture-wise, Glossier's retinol had a similar feel: Thick but not heavy, and fast-absorbing with a matte texture. The general rule of thumb with testing a new retinol is to gently ease into it. Going too hard (or with too high a percentage of active ingredients) can cause peeling and irritation. Since my skin was already used to the stuff, I began incorporating Glossier's Pro-Retinol into my routine every other night. Everyone responds to retinol differently, but I personally didn't get any irritation or peeling even after my first few nights.

I noticed brighter, smoother skin within a week — especially around my chin and jawline where I have the most texture plus discoloration from acne scarring.

Karina Hoshikawa, R29 Beauty & Wellness Writer
The active ingredient in the product is a 0.5% concentration of pure retinol with sunflower seed fatty acids to hydrate and soothe. That's where the "universal" in Universal Pro-Retinol comes from; enough of an active ingredient to notice a difference, but gentle on most skin types. Other supporting stars include plant-based hydrators (like glycerin and mondo grass root extract) that work to gently balance the harsher effects of retinol.
Photo: Courtesy of Karina Hoshikawa
Lab sample bottle featuring a few pumps of product.
While there's no magic potion to transform skin overnight, I will say, I noticed brighter, smoother skin within a week — especially around my chin and jawline where I have the most texture plus discolouration from acne scarring. I'm not saying it's totally gone, but it's certainly on the right track. One thing to note: Since retinol can make your skin photosensitive, always, always, always wear sunscreen during the day (which, you hopefully are already doing) to avoid sunburn and damage. To make it even easier, Glossier has even unveiled two bundles that include Invisible Shield along with the shiny new drop: The Renew + Protect Duo and a second, four-piece kit featuring picks by a board-certified dermatologist, Dr. Camille Howard, DO FAAD.
While my test run with the product was too limited to show up noticeably in photos (maybe after a month!), Glossier's site features a few snaps of testers' complexions before and after a more extended four-week period along with a smattering of early-access customer reviews. One self-proclaimed lazy skincare enthusiast shared: "My biggest problem with keeping retinol in my routine has been that I am just not very consistent with it! With most retinol, this means I'm constantly stuck in the weird peeling phase and that's just not a great look. The fact that the Universal Pro-Retinol is much milder and more hydrating means it works much better for my routine (more like random skincare indulgence night) (it's not really a routine) than other ones I've tried. After a couple of weeks of use, it has not caused any peeling or irritation and it's definitely added a glow to my skin!" While another likened the Universal Pro-Retinol to a magical elixir for the skin: "So I’ve never used this kind of skincare product before (I’d actually been afraid of it; I thought it would be irreversibly rough on my skin.) I received it as a preview gift and decided to give it a go! After about a week of using this, I found that my enlarged pores tightened up considerably. It also helped wake up my sometimes dull skin and gave it a glow." The overall onsite consensus from Glossier reviewers seemed to be that the Universal Pro-Retinol is a great buy for retinoid beginners due to its soothing, hydrating, and nourishing properties.

After two weeks of use, my skin feels moisturized, and my pores are less noticeable. There were a few post-acne marks on my cheeks that have vanished.

GLossier Reviewer
Photo: Courtesy of Glossier.
To cop or not to cop? I honestly think it comes down to what your skin needs and concerns are. If you have generally clear skin and aren't super concerned about things like wrinkles and texture, then you probably are fine sitting this out. However, if you're looking for a potent yet gentle product that's a one-and-done way to address a variety of concerns, then this is a solid choice. It's also a great intro formula for the retinoid-curious both in regards to formula and price. Retinols (aside from ones you find at the pharamcy) tend to be expensive; at under £35 for 1.18 fl oz (35mL) of product, it's vastly more affordable than many similar products I've tried. (Not to mention, if you use it even nightly, it should last you at least a few months.) As for me, I'm excited to continue using Pro-Retinol and hope it continues living up to its excellent first impression.

Overall, if you love skincare but are a little bit lazy about it this is the retinol for you. If you've never used retinol before I think this might be for you too!

Glossier REviewer
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