• Anastasia Pentias

TBN: Retinol Edition- Products for different budgets and skin types


I am relatively new to the retinol game, considering this is my third winter of use. I now understand why it's the golden standard of skincare: combined with the suitable acids for your skintype, it will give you unparalleled clarity and glow, a tighter face and softer lines. Like I read a few years ago, when I was still comtemplating jumping on the wagon, 'you can spot a retinol face a mile away, it's the picture of health'. All true. In this post, I refer to all Vitamin A derivatives as 'retinol'. There's no point in explaining the specifics of retinoids, retinoic acid, retinol etc. I'm just going to share what works for my skin, because there is a good chance it will work for you.

Below are my favourite formulas, all effective enough to make a difference. No weak ones here. It's very important to be careful when introducing retinol to your skin. Start by once or twice a week, at night. Apply the product to clean, dry skin and let sit for at least 15 minutes, then apply a hyaluronic acid serum and a moisturiser on top, to minimise the peeling that comes with retinol. Please remember to apply your SPF in the morning to shield your skin from the sun. Then, slowly increase to every other night. With higher strength products there is a purge period at first (some acne, texture, peeling). For me this lasts one week and it's barely visible but keep in mind I have consistently used very high concentrations of acids for twenty years and retinol for three- I have developed a high tolerance. Your face might react more severely; I'm afraid you have to stick it out to get the full benefits of retinol. If you want to go nuclear with your retinol routine, go to your dermatologist and they will subscribe even higher strengths than the ones proposed here. Those are a LOT cheaper too. But you will get the full bad side of retinol so it's not something I personally choose to do, at least for now.

Medium Strength Formulas:


The Ordinary Granactive Retinoid 5% in Squalane: this is a beautiful formula. It makes a visible difference to your skin, particularly in pores, smoothness and glow, with absolutely zero irritation or purge period. The price is ridiculously low, so, honestly, there is not one bad aspect to using this product. I used this throughout the summer and, with my SPF 50 in the morning, I never had any adverse reaction to the sun. I find it's not potent after two months, so I throw it away and start a new one. Retinol oxidizes very quickly and this bottle doesn't help matters. For the low price, I don't mind. It would be a good idea to use this in the back of your hands and decolletage to avoid wasting a good product. It is available to buy here: https://bit.ly/2GySvyy


REN Bio Retinoid Anti-Wrinkle Concentrate: This is very similar to the Ordinary's one in categories but better in two respects: it's a little pore potent and I like its consistency more. I find it's also more plumping. This didn't oxidize on me that quickly, I used the whole bottle with the same good, consistent results. It is available to buy here: https://bit.ly/2EMlKMz


Indeed Labs Retinol Reface Retinol Skin Resurfacer: This product is the best value-for-money retinol I have found. The concentration is obviously high: when you use this, you know it. It's a hard worker and a great performer, and my second favourite after the Neostrata product discussed below. I use this after the summer ends, I avoid it during extended sun exposure. It is available to buy here: https://bit.ly/2GEZ56V


Sunday Riley Luna Sleeping Night Oil: this is the most hyped retinol on the face of the earth. This blue oil got legions of fans as soon as it launched. Some hate the smell (I LOVE it), some hate that they have added colour to it (I don't really care but I don't understand why they did that). So, is it good? Oh, yes. It's lovely actually. My skin adored this and I had no irritation at all. What a glow! I have used two bottles, so I definitely recommend it. Would I buy it again? No. It's too expensive for my multiple-steps routine. Either I pay a big price for big results or combine affordable products for maintenance. If you are not willing to go through the strong retinol purge phase and just want one medium-strength product that will give you a boost, this could be your thing. It is available to buy here: https://bit.ly/2Re6NIZ

Higher strength formulas:


Lixirskin Night Switch Retinol 1%: This is by my beloved Lixir range, an excellent, potent retinol. You mix this in with your moisturiser and they suggest using it every night for three weeks, then switching to acids for a few weeks, then back again. I don't stick to that kind of routine. I like to alernate nights with retinol and acids; that's what works for me. But as a high-concentration retinol at a good price, you'll love this. As with all strong retinols, you can expect slight irritation, although nothing as bad as a full purge. It is available to buy here: https://bit.ly/2Tbh9XD


Dr. Dennis Gross Skincare Ferulic + Retinol Wrinkle Recovery Overnight Serum: this is an antioxidant, regenerative powerhouse. You want a sophisticated retinol formula? This is it. I have an allergy to ferulic acid, so after a while I had to give this up. I knew beforehand and I still wanted to give this a try because of all the triumphant reviews, it's not the product's fault. Bottom line: it's very expensive but it's very good. It is available to buy here: https://bit.ly/2GDjol9


Neostrata Skin Active Retinol NAG Complex: This is my favourite retinol, but please proceed with caution. I use this in the heart of winter when the sun doesn't hit my face at all. It's very strong but you get serious results. Apart from the glow, the smoothness, the plumpness and firmness, it's the only product I have used that actually erased a forehead wrinkle and brightens discolourations so effectively. You do get irritation, please ease into it by starting every three nights. Be sure to use your hyaluronic product, but, still, expect your skin will peel. This product has devoted fans and haters alike. Some can simply not tolerate it. It sounds more serious than it is: if you're curious, give it a try, the time is now, in the winter. If you are a Greek consumer, you can find it discounted in online pharmacies. All consumers can find it a good price here: https://bit.ly/2Re6QVr

Ok, that's it for the 2018. Wishes for a healthy, productive and fabulous 2019! All my love- and thank you for the support!

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