June 3, 2023

I have a confession to make: I don’t use retinol. (Cue the gasps and the “quelle horreur!”) Trust me, as a beauty journalist, I get a lot of stick for this from my peers, but I stand by my position. You see, my skin is temperamental at its best and downright angry at its worst. It’s oily, congested and spot-prone, making it the ideal subject for retinol. But my skin is also very reactive and sensitive, meaning even one wrong application will inevitably leave it upset for weeks. So for the most part, I’ve steered clear of retinol and have been happy enough to do so.

Having said that, I have always wondered what my skin could look like should I ever stumble across the perfect retinol formula. I can’t deny the science: retinol is proven to be the most effective ingredient in skincare. And a part of me has always wanted a piece of the pie.

Glossier Universal Pro-Retinol: @shannonlawlor

Until recently, finding a retinol that suited me wasn’t worth the months of tragically upset skin that I would have to endure. Sure, every now and again I’d try a new retinol out of curiosity, but nine times out of 10, it would result in irritation or breakouts, and I’d toss the retinol to the side and go back to my retinol-free routine. But a few weeks ago, a top-secret launch dropped on my metaphorical desk, and I just knew I had to give it a go.

The secret packaging contained Glossier’s new Universal Pro-Retinol. While I have had a tumultuous relationship with Glossier skincare in the past (I love 95% of the line-up, but I have had shocking experiences with some of its products), something about its Universal Pro-Retinol called out to me. 

First of all, I knew it would be relatively gentle (that is Glossier’s thing, after all). But most importantly, it promised to take all of the fuss out of the retinol application process. Instead of creating a serum designed to be used on its own and layered with other products, Glossier identified the potential issues of mixing other active ingredients with retinol and instead created one easy-to-use, retinol-infused moisturiser that’s designed to be used with no other products. It’s a slap-it-on-and-hit-the-hay sort of retinol.

And that is something I can get on board with. So I tried it. On the first pump, I thought the cream would be too rich for my oily skin, but I was determined to give it a go. On the first application, my skin didn’t flare up or even redden the way it does when I use other retinols. So I tried it again the next night, and the next, and the next. I’m now three weeks in, and I’m shook.

Glossier Universal Pro-Retinol
Universal Pro-Retinol

Not only does my skin look plumper, more hydrated and generally more radiant, it’s also smoother, less congested and clearer. Containing an innovative blend of retinol and sunflower-seed fatty acids, Universal Pro-Retinol delivers the line-reducing, pore-refining, tone-correcting and blemish-reducing properties of retinol without any of the usual upset. At the same time, it uses glycerin and mondo-grass-root extract to deliver just the right amount of moisture and keep skin happy and healthy.

Is this a serious, high-octane product suited for seasoned retinol users? Probably not. Do I think that Universal Pro-Retinol is the perfect entry-level retinol for those who, like me, have struggled with the ingredient in the past? Absolutely. In fact, this has been the only evening skincare product I’ve been using for the past three weeks, and I don’t intend to change that until the bottle runs out.

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Next up, 7 cheap anti-aging moisturisers that are just as good as these expensive ones.