Ideal for all skin types and a number of concerns
Great for sensitive skin
Results take time
Your skin has to build up a tolerance for more regular use
Glossier Universal Pro-Retinol
We put the Glossier Universal Pro-Retinol to the test after receiving a complimentary sample from the brand. Keep reading for our full product review.
I am probably exactly who retinol was meant for. I just turned 30, and when I’m not dealing with acne, I’m inspecting my skin for fine lines. As of right now, the only anti-aging aspect of my skincare routine is diligently applying sunscreen. Like many, I've heard the buzz about retinol and have tried to work it into my skincare routine but to no avail.
Retinol has a reputation for being a miracle anti-aging product, it handles fine lines, acne, hyperpigmentation, dullness... the list goes on. However, the powerful ingredient also has its downsides: dry skin, irritation, breakouts, and photosensitivity. For that reason, I haven't been able to stick to a retinol routine. Using it can get complicated—especially if you don't know how your skin is going to react. Rather than risk any adverse side effects with my occasionally sensitive skin, my retinol serums and creams sit collecting dust after the first use.
When Glossier revealed they would be launching "uncomplicated" retinol, I was more than willing to try. "Somehow, this most celebrated skincare 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; for whether you’re a first-time user or a retinoid expert looking for the ultimate forever formula," said Chenaya Devine-Milbourne, Senior Director of Product Marketing and Development at Glossier, of the launch.
Making retinol less complex is pretty in line with the beauty company's identity—consider their right-to-the-point serums Super Bounce, Super Pure, and Super Glow, whose results are quite literal. With that in mind, I was sold on trying it out and couldn't pass up a chance to test Glossier's Universal Pro-Retinol. Keep reading to find out in my full review.
Best for: All skin types
Uses: improve the appearance of dull skin, uneven tone and texture, dark spots, pores, and fine lines.
Active ingredients: Retinyl Sunflowerate, Stevia Extract, and Mondo Grass Root Extract
About the brand: Glossier makes skincare, makeup, body care, and fragrance under the belief that beauty is about having fun, wherever you are in your journey. The products create dew, glow, and follow a "skin first" ethos.
About My Skin: In Need of Balance
I have combination skin, so like a true libra, I’m all about finding balance in my skincare routine. However, my eagerness to balance out my skin and deal with hyperpigmentation does leave me prone to over-exfoliating. Occasionally, I’ll find myself dealing with dull, sensitive skin and a damaged skin barrier. Outside of that, I can usually expect a hormonal or stress-related breakout and congestion on and around my nose.
The Feel: Lightweight and Silky
The texture was super lightweight and left a silky finish. I'd say it felt comparable to a light moisturizer or a primer when applied. While it felt slightly moisturizing, it didn't feel too heavy, or like it was sitting on my skin, it absorbed quickly and sat comfortably under my moisturizer.
You can apply this directly to dry skin after cleanser or after applying a hyaluronic acid serum; I opted for the latter my first time trying it. I'm still something of a retinol newbie, and it's not part of my current routine, so I was expecting some burning or sensitivity. A few days later, I applied it again without a hyaluronic acid serum first and had little-to-no reaction. I did notice that even without the layer of serum, my skin still felt moisturized. My skin was also super soft, like I had just exfoliated.
Retinyl Sunflowerate: The star ingredient, this retinol derivative is a mix of retinol and fatty acids from sunflower seeds. The ingredient is said to be less irritating than regular retinol but still as effective. The percentage in this formula is 0.5%.
Stevia Extract: Stevia extract, which you’d typically find sweetening up your coffee, is the second most important ingredient in this formula. Sourced from the stevia plant, this helps smooth skin.
Mondo Grass Root Extract: A plant-based humectant, this helps draw moisture into the skin and reduces irritation. You'll also find glycerin, another humectant, in this formula.
The Results: Moisturized and Glowing
So now the moment of truth, how irritating was this retinol? Honestly, not at all. I fully expected to have to clean it off some of the more sensitive areas of my face but my skin hardly reacted. No stinging or burning and just some slight activity that went away soon after.
After the first use, my skin felt drier the next day, which I remedied with hyaluronic acid, heavy moisturizer, and an oil to seal it in. My skin didn't peel or flake but I did experience some minor breakouts, I'm not sure if it's related to the retinol or if my skin is just temperamental at the moment. Before testing this out, I was experiencing some breakouts as well.
After a few days, it feels like we're getting somewhere but we're not quite there yet. Since retinol is somewhat of a long-haul product I wasn’t expecting visible results overnight. It’s not exactly known for working quickly. In fact, Glossier's clinical study took place over about 4 weeks.
What I did notice immediately was that my skin looked less dull and felt soft. Like, freshly-exfoliated soft. Definitely not the immediate result I was expecting. Bracing myself for the retinol scaries, I was pleasantly surprised there was no peeling or irritation. The fact that it also felt moisturizing offset some of the dryness, I wasn't as hesitant to use it again a few days later.
Overall, it was easy to use a pea-sized amount on dry skin 1-2 per week.
The Value: Worth It
At $35, it’s a decent price at pretty standard value for retinol products, unless you’re opting for retinol from an ultra-affordable brand like The Inkey List or The Ordinary. The fact that it's gentle and universal definitely makes it unique. I've had my eye on pricier serums that promise similar results, so I love that this is in my price range. This isn't a product I'll finish and then never buy again.
Similar Products: You have options
Versed Press Restart Gentle Retinol Serum: Made for sensitive skin and first-time retinol users, this serum ($22) combines 0.03% encapsulated retinol and bakuchiol. This non-irritating treatment can also be used nightly.
Shani Darden Retinol Reform: Another gentle formula with encapsulated retinol, this serum ($88) has minimal side effects. Lactic acid smoothes skin even further while apple extract reduces signs of aging and provides anti-oxidants.
As someone who is prone to overdoing it when it comes to skincare, Glossier’s retinol was a good place to start. The gentleness keeps it user-friendly especially if you’re not experienced with retinol. Humectants, keep this gentle but powerful formula from drying your skin out and reduce irritation. It's straightforward, easy to use and when you've built up a tolerance you can incorporate it into your night routine more often.
- Product Name Universal Pro-Retinol
- Product Brand Glossier
- Price $35