This Retinol Serum Doesn't Make My Skin Burn and Tingle

No retinoid uglies here.

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.

Shani Darden Retinol Reform
Photo: Courtesy/InStyle

As someone with sensitive skin, most retinol products freak me out. I've tried many serums and moisturizers over the years and they all make my skin red and flaky, even when I gradually introduce them into my routine.

Luckily, there are alternative ingredients that have similar benefits to retinol for people with temperamental skin like mine, one of them being retinyl palmitate, a vitamin A derivative that's less intense. It still helps speed cell turnover, which can smooth skin and even out discoloration, boost collagen to reduce the appearance of wrinkles, and declog pores.

It's the star ingredient of Shani Darden's Texture Reform, the gentle sister of the celebrity facialist's cult-favorite Retinol Reform serum.

After going through a bottle of Texture Reform without any irritation and seeing a vast improvement in my post-acne dark spots, I decided it was time to take my training wheels off and try Retinol Reform, the original, more potent formula from her line.

Darden's Retinol Reform is a favorite among her A-list clients, including Jessica Alba, Chrissy Teigen, January Jones, and Rosie Huntington-Whiteley to name a few. This serum contains encapsulated retinol, lactic acid for additional exfoliation, and pyrus malus (apple) fruit extract for antioxidant protection.

Shani Darden Retinol Reform Review

To shop: $88;

Since this Retinol Reform is designed to be stronger than Texture Reform, I took things slow with this serum, starting off by using it twice a week, adding a day each week until I was using it every night. And I'm happy to report that in about a month of use I've experienced no retinol side effects — just clearer, brighter skin, and a continued improvement in the stubborn dark spots that are all over my jawline from a bad hormonal breakout that lasted all spring and summer.

While Retinol Reform contains soothing ingredients like aloe vera juice to prevent retinol-related side effects, I think the fact that it contains 2.2% encapsulated retinol is what makes it agree with my skin. The encapsulation forms a protective barrier enveloping the retinol, allowing for a time release, which can help minimize the risk of irritation.

VIDEO: When You Apply Sunscreen in Your Skincare Routine Actually Matters A Lot

Some might argue the $88 price point is expensive for 30mL, but since I'm seeing results and not experiencing any of the uncomfortable side effects I've had with past retinol products — that's priceless if you ask me.

So, Retinol Reform is now a permanent part of my skincare routine.

The Splurge is our recurring column dedicated to expensive beauty products that are actually worth it. This week, why we're rebuying Shani Darden Retinol Reform, despite the $88 price tag.

Related Articles