Glossier’s new serum is perfect for retinol newbies

Universal Pro-Retinol is the latest  formula in Glossier’s steady stream of product launches. Pegged as a retinol serum for all skin types, Stylist’s beauty director Shannon Peter puts it to the test.

What I’m about to say will come as no surprise to any skincare obsessive: retinol is the gold standard when it comes to skincare ingredients. Loved by formulators, dermatologists, facialists and beauty editors alike, this vitamin A derivative is famed for its ability to deliver both instant and long-term results when it comes to accelerating cell turnover, ring-fencing collagen supplies, minimising patches of hyperpigmentation, nursing post-acne inflammation and boosting radiance.

But before you ask, yes, there is a downside to retinol. And a pretty annoying one at that. Given its efficacy, retinol can cause sensitivity and irritation and even trigger a bout of skin peeling as it gets to work. That’s why anyone looking to dip their toes in these glowy-skinned waters needs to start with a low percentage of this active ingredient, build up frequency of usage slowly and use alongside a militant regime of skin hydrators and SPF. But it’s also why so many people give up on retinol after only a few days.

A born problem solver, Glossier noted down this global feedback and decided to do something about it with its newest launch. Universal Pro-Retinol, the brand says, was specifically designed for all skin types, “whether you’ve got oily skin and texture, or dry skin and fine lines, are new to the world of retinol, or a seasoned pro.”

It contains two key ingredients. The first, 0.5% retinyl sunflowerate, a pro-retinol derivative that contains both retinol and fatty acids sourced from (you guessed it) sunflower seeds that help maintain the stability of retinol over time. While this low percentage is enough to yield some results – and there are plenty of stronger formulas, even without prescription – it also seriously raises the rate of tolerance. The second key ingredient is stevia leaf extract, which works a little like retinol in that it also smooths skin and plumps up fine lines.

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But – and this is the vital bit – Glossier’s product formulators have also funnelled plenty of those necessary humectants (like my favourite, glycerin) into the formula, which help to pacify the skin while the retinol swings into action.

In theory, the result is a retinol product that’s much, much easier for all skin types to handle. But in reality? As someone with skin that descends into perioral dermatitis hell at the mere sight of a harsh active ingredient like retinol, I decided to put the formula to the test to see if even my fragile skin could handle it.

Glossier Universal Pro-Retinol review

First thing to note is that – like pretty much all retinol formulas – this one is best used at night time as it can increase skin’s photosensitivity. Using just a pea-sized blob each evening, I slid this product into my existing PM routine, omitting all other potential irritants such as exfoliating acids, just to give my skin the best shot at getting used to it.

With a light, creamy texture not too dissimilar to the brand’s Priming Moisturizer, £18, it’s a dream to blend. To apply, I simply pat mine into my cheeks and forehead, dodging the delicate skin around the eyes but also avoiding my lips and chin, simply because this is where my dermatitis usually strikes. On day one, I braced myself for a bit of an initial itch but felt only a mere tingle which, by day five, had pretty much subsided. 

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Two weeks later and while I’m yet to see any major changes to my overall complexion, I’m remaining patient as I know it can take a fair while for results to show up. What I have noticed, however, is that my skin hasn’t entered one of its usual post-retinol meltdowns and that’s a major feat in itself. Sure, I’ve followed up with a ceramide-rich moisturiser and applied SPF with the kind of generosity I usually reserve for butter on toast, but I do truly believe it’s the gentleness of the retinol formula itself that has kept my skin on track.

Put it this way: if you’re a retinol newbie, have sensitive skin or simply want to avoid the usual retinol fallout, this formula is a pretty good place to start.    

Shop Glossier Universal Pro-Retinol at Glossier, £30

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Images: courtesy of Glossier

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