Skinstitut Retinol Serum - review


As you may know, I've made it my business over the past year to stock up on Skinstitut products every time Adore Beauty is running a good promotion or GWP.

Reason being, I've heard great things about Skinstitut and I feel it's in the 'Alpha-H category': meaning the products contain active and/or skin-friendly ingredients, are Australian made and owned, are cruelty-free, and better still, they're reasonably priced for what they are - plus they're widely available (in Australia at least) and are almost always available at a discount online.

So far, my overall experience with Skinstitut's range has been pretty good - but unfortunately, this particular product doesn't work for me. More on why below.

Skinstitut claims/product details:
  • A high-intensity correcting serum used to reverse, prevent and repair the appearance of skin damage 
  • Benefits: encapsulated delivery system; promotes cell-renewal by increasing collagen and elastin production (which contribute to younger, healthier skin); skin appears smoother with a clearer, lifted and more even skintone
  • Contains (SYN®-AKE), peptides, encapsulated retinol and olive extract
  • Suitable for most skin types, especially aged, breakout-prone and pigmented
  • To use: apply a pea-sized amount every other evening, building up to every evening, on clean dry skin; gently stroke outwardly in a circular motion, gradually spreading onto entire face, neck and chest, avoiding the eye area; Skinstitut Vitamin C 100% may be added to increase potency
  • RRP $45 AUD for 30ml, but do shop around (I paid about $30 AUD at Adore Beauty)


I've given so much thought to why this product hasn't worked for me (it's had so many rave reviews online), which is why I'm only reviewing it today - after using it for months and now hitting the point where I'm about to cut the tube open and scrape out the remains. 

It's a pale lemon-coloured product that I would call a hybrid serum/cream in texture when dispensed. The product's scent sits somewhere between fresh and hairspray-like, and while the scent is definitely there, it's not overpowering so it doesn't bother me - but it might bother those who don't like scents in their skincare.

When dispensed, it's thicker than I like my serums to be (I generally prefer very thin formulas), and at first I was using twice the pea-sized amount suggested in the directions because that amount didn't cover my whole face, neck and upper chest. After that I started warming it in my hands first, which helped the product to spread so I could use less - something to try if you find you're burning through any product too quickly.

It has a tacky finish that I don't love, which hangs around for a while and eventually dries down to a powder-ish film. This may be partly why I feel that it's not absorbing properly, which in turn could be partly why it's doing nothing for me. 

What also bothers me about the absorbing issue is that I feel the product leaves a coating and therefore interferes with my moisturiser's ability to penetrate and hydrate my dry skin (because this serum doesn't do that for me). 

On that, even though the directions say to apply this product after cleansing, if you have dry skin like I do, I wonder whether it'd be better to go in with a thinner serum or essence first for hydration, and then apply this product. I haven't done this during the testing period though, just in case it affected any potential results.

Worth noting is that I have Skinstitut's Vitamin C 100% powder, and after using this retinol serum for six weeks to see how it fared alone, I started adding some powder as suggested to 'increase potency'. While I'm not ready to review the powder yet because I'd like to try it with other things before doing so, what I can say is that the serum/powder combination did make my skin sting/tingle a little (in a good way), whereas before the powder addition, I got no 'potentially working' sensation from the serum after use.

Also worth mentioning is that my skin rarely agrees with retinols, which usually make me look ashy and dead, plus they burn and feel so horrific - leaving my skin hypersensitive and beyond red. (Yep, even Sunday Riley's fabled Luna Sleeping Night Oil.) 

So while it's a good thing that this Skinstitut retinol hasn't blasted the life from my face or caused any adverse reactions mentioned above, here's what I think: either it's a well-formulated product that might work for those who generally can't tolerate retinols (but doesn't work for me personally); or it's a formula that does bugger all. And yes, those things aren't mutually exclusive: as always, potential results may depend on your skin.

On the claims: no this hasn't corrected, reversed or repaired the appearance of skin damage; no it hasn't helped my skin look younger or healthier; no it hasn't made my skin appear clearer or more lifted; and no it hasn't evened-out my skintone.

BUT, here's what I'm thinking: last month I reviewed a Lancome serum (see here) that did AMAZING things for my skin. I was using that day and night, and when I introduced this Skinstitut serum, I continued to use the Lancome one only in the morning and used the Skinstitut one at night. So, since both products claim to do many similar things, it's entirely possible that all the hard work was already done by the Lancome product - so we'd hit 'critical mass' and this Skintitut one was starting in a bung lane.


The one thing the Lancome serum didn't do was target clarity and even skintone/pigmentation. That's where this Skinstitut product should have come in, and it didn't. It's done nothing for my age spots or acne-scarring, nor has it had any effect on the breakouts I always get along my jawline or clarity overall. And funnily enough, I introduced The Ordinary's Salicylic Acid 2% two weeks ago, and those annoying little jawline bumps have all but vanished. So there you go.

In sum, while I'm not calling this a bad product, I can't recommend it because it doesn't work for me. Having said this, if the online reviews are anything to go by, it works for everyone else (!) - so perhaps it just doesn't 'gel' with my skin.


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