beauty . Reviews & Tips

Review: Will This Retinol Serum Give You Smooth Skin Without Irritation?

Testing the Kiehl's Retinol Skin-Renewing Daily Micro-Dose Serum

Retinol is one of the anti-ageing holy grails in skincare because of its ability to smoothen skin texture and improve firmness. In fact, dermatologists recommend introducing some form of it in your skincare routine in your late 20s as a form of prevention. As someone who’s in her mid-20s, I've been curious to try a retinol serum but have been avoiding it as I heard of its tendency to irritate the skin. But the Kiehl's Retinol Skin-Renewing Daily Micro-Dose Serum promises to take away that fear by introducing a micro-dosage approach to retinol. Let’s see how it fares.

*The product was sent as a press gift. The views and opinions of the reviewer are independent and purely editorial.

First impressions, claims, packaging


Kiehl's Retinol Skin-Renewing Daily Micro-Dose Serum packaging

The Kiehl's Retinol Skin-Renewing Daily Micro-Dose Serum.

The Kiehl's Retinol Skin-Renewing Daily Micro-Dose Serum promises to provide retinol's skin-improving benefits without the typical discomforting effects such as redness, dryness and peeling. It does so through micro-dosing, where the retinol is formulated to a precise dose that's just enough to stimulate cell renewal. The serum claims that with continued use, it will help strengthen the skin barrier and train it to be more tolerable to retinol as the days go by. It also contains peptides and ceramides that the brand claims will help further strengthen your tolerance to retinol. All this set my expectations that I would have little to no negative reaction to the product upon application. But was this promise fulfilled after a two-week trial?

Upon testing, the first thing I noticed was the packaging. The serum’s glass bottle packaging added a touch of luxury to my first retinol experience. It felt quite hefty in my hand, which I tend to expect from products of the same price point. The serum comes with a pump to easily dispense a pea-sized amount of the product, the recommended amount as per the brand. The serum has a mustard yellow hue, which is the typical colour of retinol products. In terms of consistency, it felt like a mix between a gel and a lightweight cream formula, which I like as I have combination skin. It also carries a mild fragrance, but it dissipates almost immediately when the product is applied to the skin.

I've always trusted Kiehl's products to not irritate my skin, but I still swatched the retinol serum to double-check my skin’s tolerance to the product. I applied some on my wrist, inner elbow, and neck. I was pleased to see that my skin didn't experience any stinging or tingling sensation. The product was also fairly quick to dry, which I believe is due to its lightweight formula.

Use and application


Kiehl's Retinol Serum swatch comparison

The Kiehl's retinol serum's bright yellow colour is commonly found in retinol formulas.

Once I knew that my skin wasn't sensitive to retinol, I carefully pumped out one dollop of the serum on my fingers. Though it may seem like it's not a lot, one pump is enough to cover my face, neck, and upper chest. I typically spend two to three minutes (though it’s recommended to wait at least 20 minutes before applying another product) just massaging the product into my skin before applying my moisturiser. Within the following hours, my skin felt noticeably softer and more supple. The dry patch of skin on my eyebrows also disappeared after a few days of introducing the serum into my routine.

While the brand claims you can use the serum either in the morning (with SPF) or at night, I opted to use retinol in the evening to get all the benefits of beauty sleep as well as decrease chances of photosensitivity. ICYDK, retinol may potentially cause irritation to your skin or lose its potency when exposed to direct sunlight. I also consciously chose to use the product with mild skincare products — the Kiehl's Calendula Toner and the Cetaphil Night Cream — to give my skin its best chance at preventing irritation.

After two and half weeks, I've noticed that the mild bumpy texture on my forehead and chin has considerably improved. I also observed some minor improvement in the (very) shallow expression lines around my mouth and between my forehead.

Final thoughts

Officially joining the retinol collective.

Thanks to the Kiehl's Retinol Serum, I am now a believer in retinol's anti-ageing effects. Because I didn't experience any discomfort, I can confidently say that it was a nice introduction to retinoids.

The product does have a hefty price point of ~USD98.02 for 50ML. However, you're paying for the gentle, precise formulation as well as the glass packaging. If you're willing to treat yourself, this is a good option. The Kiehl's Retinol Skin-Renewing Daily Micro-Dose Serum is available in the Philippines through the brand's boutiques and Lazada store. It's also available in Singapore and Malaysia.

Looking for nourishing cleansing oil? Read our review on the Pai Skincare 'Light Work' Rosehip Cleansing Oil.