I Tried The Retinol With A 100,000 Person Waiting List & It Changed My Skin

Photo by Jacqueline Kilikita.
Whether you're acne-prone, want to treat fine lines or are looking to minimise pigmentation, you've probably heard dermatologists and skin experts recommend one particular all-rounder ingredient: retinol.
Derived from vitamin A, retinol acts in a similar way to an exfoliator, producing new skin cells to replace old ones at lightning speed. Although certain percentages of retinol may result in skin shedding, flaking and sensitivity, long-term results include skin that appears smoother, clearer and more plump over time. It's no wonder, then, that most beauty brands are getting on board, formulating moisturisers and serums with the wonder ingredient.
You might already be familiar with popular and effective retinol products such as SkinCeuticals Retinol 0.3, £65, and La Roche-Posay Retinol B3 Serum, £38. Lately though, one particular retinol serum is making waves among skin specialists, beauty editors and influencers alike. Enter: No7 Advanced Retinol 1.5% Complex, £34. Available at Boots, the product amassed a waiting list of over 100,000 people in the days after it launched in May and reviewers noticed a big difference in lines and skin texture in just a couple of weeks, with hardly any irritation at all.
As a beauty editor, I've tried countless retinol products to keep my uneven skin texture and hormonal spots under control. I know what works for me (Drunk Elephant and occasionally prescription Differin, acquired via an online pharmacy consultation) but even I couldn't resist the hype. And I'm very impressed.
What's in No7's Advanced Retinol 1.5% Complex?
There are a couple of things you need to know before heading out to buy No7's new retinol serum. If you read the fine print, you'll discover that the retinol inside the product is actually 0.3%. This is a low but effective dose which is enough to provide skin with all the benefits of retinol without the irritation. The 1.5% on the packaging refers to the formula it sits in, which includes ingredients such as matrixyl 3000, a protein thought to increase collagen production and promote plump skin.
What are the benefits of No7's Advanced Retinol 1.5% Complex?
The brand claims a reduction in the appearance of fine lines, deep wrinkles and pigmentation but this serum does so much more. Personally, I have noted fewer blackheads and under-the-skin breakouts, smaller pores, smoother skin and a noticeable glow after almost three weeks of consistent nightly use.
Although much more popular in skincare nowadays, retinol products can still be expensive. At £34, this serum is just a bit more affordable than offerings from cosmeceutical skincare ranges, and a little really does go a long way.
How should you use No7's Advanced Retinol 1.5% Complex?
As a retinol regular who is used to higher concentrations, I haven't experienced any flaking or redness. If you do, it might be a good idea to start slowly, using it just two to three times a week so that your skin builds up tolerance.
Referred to as a nighttime concentrate, the product is essentially a serum-meets-moisturiser: not too thick but not so thin that it doesn't moisturise skin. In fact, the texture is very similar to The Ordinary's Granactive Retinoid 2% In Emulsion, £8: milky, light and absorbs almost instantly. Dermatologists and skin experts recommend applying retinol in the evening after cleansing, as it can often break down in sunlight and skin cells typically regenerate while you sleep, helping the ingredient work its magic. Apply two or three pumps to clean skin as part of a bedtime routine.
If you're a retinol beginner, you might want to avoid your eyelids and lips, as these are sensitive areas. You could protect them with a balm, such as Vaseline Lip Therapy Original, £1.95, or Glossier Balm Dotcom, £10. Lastly, it's so important to wear a high factor, broad spectrum sunscreen during the daytime, as retinol can make skin sensitive to sunlight.
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