(Trial Run)

I Have Super Sensitive Skin & This New Retinol Is My New Go-To

Glowing skin without an ounce of redness.

In our series Trial Run, TZR editors and writers put the buzziest new beauty products to the test and share their honest reviews.

As if the masterminds behind Kiehl’s had read through the pages of my skin care diary, the brand recently released its Retinol Skin-Renewing Daily Micro-Dose Serum, a pure retinol formula gentle enough for all skin types. Here is a little refresher about retinol as an ingredient — it is one of the most dermatologist-loved skin care actives for its ability to ignite skin cell regeneration by promoting elastin and collagen production. The results typically include a significant reduction in the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, and overall glowier and more even-toned skin. In addition to this, retinol also can get rid of acne, which is why many dermatologists suggest using retinol for everyone from teens to mature adults.

Yet, although people love retinol, sometimes the potent ingredient can cause redness, flakiness, and dryness within the first few weeks of use. Unfortunately, however, many people experience these adverse effects well after those two weeks are up due to their skin sensitivity (like me). When I found out that the Retinol Skin-Renewing Daily Micro-Dose Serum causes almost zero sensitivity thanks to its micro-dosing technology, I jumped at the opportunity to try it out. Questions raced through my head: “How do the words ‘pure retinol’ and ‘gentle’ exist in the same sentence? Is this just going to break me out? And what in the world is a skin care micro-dose?”

Well, after testing this product for three and a half weeks, I’ve gathered my answers. Here’s how the Retinol Skin-Renewing Daily Micro-Dose Serum interacts with my skin.

My Summertime Skin Care Woes

The checklist on my skin care goals changes with the seasons — typically, in the winter, I battle dehydration and acne around my cheeks and jaw. In the spring, I tend to become oilier, which causes me to accumulate blackheads around my t-zone. However, during the summer, something changes, as if I have a switch to diminish most of my acne woes. Although my skin has been pretty blemish-free in previous years, this summer, I’ve been fighting with a few clusters of comedones along my forehead and nose. Basically, my skin just looks tired, despite my best efforts to moisturize it intensely and protect it from the harsh UV rays with SPF.

Isabella Sarlija

You may wonder, But, Isabella, you’re a beauty writer, and you surely must use retinol, right? Shouldn’t that fix all your woes? Although I love the idea of retinol, unfortunately, I still haven’t found one that is effective at helping my skin regenerate itself while being gentle at the same time.

The Science Behind The Micro-Dose Serum

Luckily for me, this formulation is specifically designed for those with skin sensitivities in mind. The Kiehl’s Retinol Skin-Renewing Daily Micro-Dose Serum uses pure retinol, the most potent form of retinol available over the counter, and quickly turns into retinoic acid after application. Let’s backtrack for a moment: Yes, I just said that Kiehl’s uses the most potent form of retinol in their formulation with sensitive skin in mind, which seems like a contradictory statement. Yet, the way the formula is designed makes it possible.

The secret to having this unpopular pair thrive is the micro-dosing technology. Dr. Nancy Ilaya, Scientific Director at Kiehl’s explains, “Originally used in medicine, micro-dosing is a technique for studying the behavior of medical treatments through the administration of low, but effective doses to minimize side effects while still garnering therapeutic benefits.”

This formula uses a small yet precise dosage of pure retinol to deliver the acne-fighting and fine line and wrinkle-banishing benefits that everyone knows and loves while minimizing adverse reactions, such as dryness, flaking, and visible redness. In addition, this formula also contains skin-building peptides to support skin strength, and ceramides to fortify the skin’s barrier and add a supple bounce to the complexion.

My Skin After Using The Micro-Dose Serum

Although this serum is said to be gentle and stable enough for either daytime and nighttime use, retinol as a standalone ingredient breaks down very quickly in the sunlight. Plus, it causes photosensitivity, meaning that it makes the skin more susceptible to sun damage. As someone with skin that is sensitive enough as it is, I stuck with what I knew and incorporated this serum into my nighttime skin care routine. I must mention that although there is no sunshine peering through my windows as I sleep at night, I *always* wear sunscreen during the day to save my skin from sun damage, just as everyone must when incorporating any new retinoid into their routine.

One of the first things I noticed about the Retinol Skin-Renewing Daily Micro-Dose Serum is its texture — unlike other retinol products I’ve tried that leave a creamy film behind, this formulation *actually* glides onto my skin like a moisturizing serum, soaking in almost immediately. (I attribute this to the added ceramides inside.) As a result, it leaves my skin feeling soft yet is lightweight enough in its texture that I never feel like I’m slathering on a heaping amount of product at the end of the day.

Isabella Sarlija

As far as the results go, I saw a change in the texture in my forehead after about two weeks of using this product every other day. I was pleased to see that I experienced almost zero dryness or flakiness with this formula, which made me almost forget I was using a retinol product in the first place. Because I didn’t see any irritation with this usage schedule, I then incorporated the formula into my routine every evening.

After the third week, I noticed a drastic change in the fine lines on my forehead and the blackheads around my nose. I am happy to announce that not *once* did I battle dry skin around my mouth or redness in my cheeks, the way I tend to do with traditional retinol formulas. Oh, and this glow I’m rocking in the picture above? I’m not wearing any makeup.

Does This Serum Warrant Its Price Tag?

For people like me, who crave the earth-shattering benefits of retinol with little to no irritation required, this formulation is definitely worth adding to your medicine cabinet. This retinol serum costs $60 per 30mL bottle, which aligns with the median price point of many over-the-counter retinol products currently on the market. However, what sets the Retinol Skin-Renewing Daily Micro-Dose Serum apart from the rest is its use of micro-dosing technology to deliver the most potent form of retinol to the skin with little to no adverse effects for those with skin sensitivities. The results are clear skin with little to no traces of fine lines and wrinkles or irritation — and if I’m honest, that sounds pretty priceless to me.