Glossier Wants to Help You Avoid the Retinoid Uglies With Its First Retinol Product

The brand's Universal Pro-Retinol is created with all skin types in mind.

We independently research, test, review, and recommend the best products—learn more about our process. If you buy something through our links, we may earn a commission.

Glossier Launches Its First Anti-Aging Product
Photo: Courtesy

In the world of skincare, retinol is the Dolly Parton of ingredients: it's multi-hyphenate, high-performance, and beloved by skin types of all ages. But the similarities between these two legends get murky here, because unlike Parton, retinol can be confusing and hard to navigate, with so many derivatives under the retinoid umbrella at various concentrations. Not to mention the potential redness and dryness that can be experienced when using a new retinol.

However, Glossier is hoping to make its first retinol product, the Universal Pro-Retinol Nightly Renewing Complex, an exception. The formula is designed to compliment all skin types without any of the tell-tale retinol side effects, and easy to add to your nighttime skincare routine, whether you're new to vitamin A products or have been using them for years.

Like all Glossier products, the retinol is reasonably priced at $35 for 35mL. It's also available as part of a set. The Renew + Protect Duo includes full sizes of the Universal Pro-Retinol and Invisible Shield SPF for $50, since applying sunscreen in the morning is important when using any retinoid at night.

The key ingredient in Glossier's latest launch is retinyl-sunflowerate, a blend of 0.5% pure retinol and fatty acids derived from sunflower seeds. This hero ingredient can help improve the appearance of fine lines, acne, dark spots, uneven skin tone, and pores. The supporting cast of the formula is stevia extract (a naturally-derived ingredient that mimics the benefits of retinol) for extra smoothing, and plant-based humectants like glycerin and mondo extract to hydrate and give the product its creamy texture.

"One of the struggles of starting a retinoid is the potential for skin irritation, but Universal Pro-Retinol is formulated especially with this in mind," says Dr. Camille Howard, dermatologist and entrepreneur, who partnered with Glossier for the launch and provided statements on the product. "It combines the efficacy of a retinoid with ingredients that help reinforce the skin barrier such as Mondo Grass Root Extract, an exciting and innovative type of humectant that plays a crucial role in skin hydration."

Speaking of irritation, the brand says the 0.5% percentage of retinol was chosen in order to minimize the risk of irritation so all skin types can use the product and experience results.

Dr. Ewoma Ukeleghe, an award-winning medical and cosmetic doctor who also partnered with the brand for the launch, explains further in a statement. "Retinol compromises your skin's barrier, so using too much too soon can be counterproductive, but even at a low dosage retinol has great benefits, so you can definitely see the yields without the irritation. Also, it goes without saying but just in case it doesn't, always patch test."

Glossier Universal Pro-Retinol

To shop: $35;

First Impressions

Before getting into the good stuff aka the experience of using the actual serum, here's some background on my skin: I have combination skin that leans dry, prone to hormonal breakouts, have no visible fine lines or wrinkles, but do have some post-inflammatory dark spots and uneven skin texture from dehydration. I'm not new to retinol, but many formulas are too harsh for my skin, so I stick to lower concentrations (0.5% or less) and use it a couple of times a week.

Universal Pro-Retinol has a rich texture that's thicker than most retinol treatments I've tried. It has a slightly nutty-floral scent (thanks to the sunflower seed fatty acids), and absorbs quickly into skin so there's not a ton of waiting around before you top off your nighttime routine with a moisturizer or oil.

VIDEO: InStyle On: Best Beauty Buys Part 2

Final Thoughts

Retinol doesn't work overnight, it takes regular, continued use before its full benefits kick in. Because I've experienced irritation with many retinol products in the past, I've been conservative with Universal Pro-Retinol, using it three nights a week for the past three weeks (the brand sent me a sample to test ahead of its launch).

I apply two pumps of it after double-cleansing, patting on a hydrating toner, and before my moisturizer and eye cream. From the get-go I haven't experienced any redness, dryness, flaking, or tightness. Given the ease of use and its buttery texture, I enjoy using Universal Pro-Retinol, and plan to keep it in my routine to find out if I'll notice visible results in a few months.

Glossier Universal Pro-Retinol is available now for $35 at

Related Articles