I Tried the Drugstore Retinol Influencers Keep Advertising

olay retinol night serum

Olivia Muenter/Byrdie

If you follow influencers (especially those that might fall into the same niche—say fashion, beauty, or lifestyle), then you’ve probably also noticed a few key products popping up again and again. Maybe it’s a certain dress from a fashion brand, a type of tea, or a specific piece of home decor. Whatever it is, most of us can probably recall one we saw so often that it’s still stuck in our minds—whether we want it to be or not. For me, that was Olay’s line of retinol products. In past months, I’ve seen content creators (both those I trust and some new to me) promote Olay’s retinol eye cream, overnight moisturizer, and night serum. It seems all those ads did their job because weeks later, I was still thinking about if I, too, needed to add the drugstore retinol to my routine.

As a former beauty editor I had tried more expensive retinol serums (Olay’s Regenerist Retinol24 Night Serum is priced at $39 and regularly on sale) and creams over the years but hadn’t found one that was sustainable for my budget. I also tried different products so often that I rarely used a single retinol for more than a week or so. But these Olay retinol products (specifically, the Night Serum) seemed like they could easily fit into my daily routine. I’d been reading for years that retinol is one of the most proven and effective skin care ingredients out there when it comes to brightening and smoothing skin. If there was a retinol that I could easily add to my daily routine, was effective, and I could actually afford to repurchase it every couple months, then I figured it was at least worth trying. So I ordered it online and began using it most every night for 45 days. Here are the results. 

olivia muenter
Olivia Muenter/Byrdie

Olay Regenerist Retinol24 Night Serum

Star Rating: 4/5

Best for: Those with fine lines, dark spots, or sagging skin

Uses: To brighten, tighten, and smooth your skin

Active Ingredients: Olay's proprietary retinoid complex

Byrdie Clean: No, contains polyacrylamide

Price: $39

About the Brand: Olay is a popular drugstore beauty company owned by Proctor & Gamble. Olay offers skincare products at an accessible price point.

olay retinol24 night serum
Olay Regenerist Retinol24 Night Facial Serum $39
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The Feel: Lightweight, serum-y texture

The word "serum" is a completely accurate descriptor here. The texture is essentially that of an ultra super lightweight moisturizer—comparable to any other serum you might have in your medicine cabinet. It absorbs almost instantly and there’s no hint of oiliness or stickiness This makes the serum perfect for mixing into a moisturizer. I combined it nightly with my Weleda Skin Food and found that to be a perfect combination.

The Scent: Nothing!

This product is fragrance-free.

olay retinol night serum
Olivia Muenter/Byrdie

The Results: They're real, but not immediate

While the brand claims that you will see results in 24 hours after using this product, this wasn’t the case for me. However, after a few weeks, I did start to notice that older scars and acne spots faded more easily and my skin seemed to feel consistently firmer and smoother. When comparing the before and after photos, though, it’s hard for me to see a drastic visible result other than an overall brighter complexion. Since I tested this product out from June through July, I was in the sun quite a bit, and even though I was using sunscreen religiously, this sun exposure would obviously affect my skin as well and is only fair to mention. The best part of using this product, though, was that it was easy. I mixed it into my moisturizer each night, I loved the texture, and I experienced zero irritation. 

olay retinol night serum review
Olivia Muenter/Byrdie

The Value: Incredibly affordable

If you have a fairly simple skincare routine like me, spending $40 every two months or so (or more often) on a product might seem like a lot. But in comparison to other products on the market, this one is incredibly affordable. And much like SPF, the best retinol is always going to be the one you actually use consistently. Having said that, this product is an incredible value in my opinion.

Similar products: You have options

Marie Veronique Gentle Retinol Night Serum: This product is a slightly “cleaner” version of a nightly retinol serum and contains no isoparaffins (a blend of mineral oils) unlike the Regenerist product. It is also $110.

Versed Press Restart Gentle Retinol Serum: At $22, this retinol serum is an even cheaper option than the Olay version, but it is slightly (only .3 ounces) smaller in size than Regenerist version.

Our Verdict: A great, affordable option

This may not produce drastic results overnight, but it is a great option for people who are new to retinol products and looking for an affordable product to introduce into their nightly routines on a regular basis. 

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