This Gentle Serum Changed My Mind About Retinol

The Splurge is our new weekly column dedicated to expensive beauty products that are actually worth it. This week, why we're rebuying Shani Darden's Texture Reform Gentle Resurfacing Serum, despite the $95 price tag. 

Retinol is the gemini of skincare ingredients. Also known as vitamin A, incorporating it in your routine can be game-changing for reducing fine lines and wrinkles, treating acne, and minimizing dark spots. However, retinol is also notoriously irritating, sometimes causing redness, flaking, and dryness. As someone with sensitive skin, using retinol has always been straight up terrifying. 

What makes retinol such a powerful ingredient is its ability to speed up the cellular renewal process, which makes skin look and act younger longer. To put it simply, retinol will improve the appearance of signs of aging, breakouts, and uneven skin tone and texture. 

I've been told countless times by dermatologists that using retinol would be the best way to get rid of the post-acne dark spots on my chin and prevent fine lines. After trying a handful of products, I eventually gave up on the ingredient — even creams with low percentages of retinol caused my skin to react.

Shani Darden's Texture Reform Gentle Resurfacing Serum is the one retinol product that's been the exception. I was first introduced to the serum while interviewing Darden, a celebrity facialist who counts Jessica Alba and Chrissy Teigen among her clients, about her rise in the beauty industry. 

Her original Retinol Reform Serum is a cult-favorite product beloved by beauty editors. She formulated the Texture Reform Gentle Resurfacing Serum, which launched in 2018, as a mild, but effective alternative for her clients who have sensitive skin, but still want to experience all the benefits of retinol. It retails at $95 for a 30mL bottle. 

Texture Reform Gentle Resurfacing Serum is formulated with a mild retinoid (a form of vitamin A that works faster than retinol because of its different molecular structure), plus bacteria-fighting chemical exfoliant lactic acid, pore-smoothing niacinamide, anti-inflammatory coffee arabica fruit extract, soothing aloe vera. Together, these ingredients work to soften fine lines, brighten, smooth, and prevent breakouts. 

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Following the serum's instructions, I've been using it at night once a week with the hope to build it up as my skin starts to tolerate it more often. After the first time, my skin was incredibly smooth and radiant. I didn't experience any redness that night and no peeling during the following days. 

On the anti-aging front, I'm using this serum preventatively, so I have to trust that it's working to keep fine lines and wrinkles away. Becoming a retinol convert isn't exactly cheap, but as I get older, I've been more willing to invest in a product if it actually works and my skin responds well to it. And that means I'll be adding this Shani Darden serum to my restock list.

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