Almost every single person I know over 30 has a love-hate relationship with retinoids. Touted as the “gold standard” of skin care, the multi-purpose ingredient is a beauty routine Swiss Army Knife. This class of ingredients stimulate cellular turnover (AKA brings healthy cells to the surface of the skin), thereby combatting and treating blemishes, reducing signs of aging, and evening out the complexion. Retinol is a gentler form of retinoid that you can get over the counter.
But even though retinols are generally not as potent as the derm-prescribed stuff, a lot of products out there can still leave skin irritated (think: redness and inflammation, flaking, and burning). As someone who’s been burned (literally) again and again by retinol serums and creams, I’m always careful with how I go about testing the retinols that get sent to me for review.
When I received Dermalogica Dynamic Skin Retinol Serum ($92), I began applying it twice a week to see how it reacted with my skin. After two weeks went by with no negative side effects, I upped the ante. After a month, I was applying the serum every single night. Every morning, I woke up with brighter, softer, smoother, acne-free skin—and the fine lines on my forehead also appeared softer.
“Retinoids can cause dryness and irritation,” board-certified dermatologist Hadley King, MD, previously told W+G. “Retinization is the adjustment period during which the skin adapts to the use of topical retinoids. During this time the skin may become irritated, resulting in dryness, peeling, scaling, and redness or a burning or stinging sensation.” But the Dyanmic Skin Retinol Serum had been gentle enough to bypass the irritation.
What makes the Dynamic Skin Retinol so effective?
The formula contains three main ingredients: 3.5 percent retinoid complex (which gives it its skin-smoothing powers), squalane (an ultra-hydrating ingredient that surges skin with intense, long-lasting moisture), and beta-glucan (a type of soluble fiber that’s fights redness and inflammation and supports the barrier). The unique formulation provides the super-strength retinol with a buffer, so that you get all the benefits of retinol without the discomfort. You can truly have your cake and eat it, too.
For some context, I’m almost 33 and I have oily-combo skin that’s prone to hormonal acne (ever since stopping birth control, my blemish flare-ups have become more severe right before my period and if I’m stressed at any point of the month), slight rosacea that materializes on my forehead and nose, and small lines across my forehead as well as around my mouth. Dynamic Skin Retinol has been a key player in my preventative treatment skin-care plan, and it has also helped tremendously with the breakouts and uneven complexion. Most days, I don’t even feel the need to wear foundation, which is not something I would have felt great about going without a year ago.
It has stellar reviews
Overall, the serum has a 4.7-star rating with over 700 reviews so far (it launched in December 2022). Shoppers—of all ages—have praised this serum. One 60-year-old shopper with combination skin says, “I’ve been using the dynamic skin retinol for a few weeks. I noticed my skin tighter, brighter and very smooth. I try to alternate days to avoid flaking. I am very happy with this product.”
Another customer in their 30s writes, “I’ve been trying to find a retinol product that does not burn my face and I finally found it. I’ve been applying this product every single night for the last two weeks since I bought it, and I’ve never had any issue with dryness or skin irritation. I wake up every morning with my face tight and smooth. I use this with other Dermalogica products.y family and friends really notice my glow. Definitely a game changer.”
A few reviewers who say that they have sensitive skin note that it can cause irritation. If you do have sensitive skin, definitely spot test it first before applying all over. And while many shoppers like the fresh, subtle fragrance, it’s not fragrance-free. It’s also not quite hydrating enough to be worn in its own (since it’s a serum—not a moisturizer), so I’ll layer it with one of my PM moisturizers (lately that’s been Farmacy 10% Niacinamide Overnight Mask).
A little bit more about Dermalogica
Dermalogica, a professional-grade skin-care brand founded by skin therapist Jane Wurwand, is a trusted brand that delivers on high-impact results. The products aren’t cheap—but they’re a great OTC skin-care solution, and they’re always reliable. (We also love the brand’s Hydro Masque Exfoliant and the Dynamic Skin Recovery SPF Moisturizer.) So it’s no wonder we’re adding yet another superstar product to our beauty routine lineup.
Our editors independently select these products. Making a purchase through our links may earn Well+Good a commission.