Shani Darden’s Retinol Reform Treatment Serum Changed My Skin After Years of Struggle

It cleared my stubborn cheek acne when nothing else worked.

We independently evaluate all recommended products and services. If you click on links we provide, we may receive compensation. Learn more.

Shani Darden Skin Care Retinol Reform Treatment Serum Tout

Real Simple / Pamela Jew

I have always loved trying out a new skincare routine. For my entire adult life I've been troubleshooting how to achieve perfect skin: I wanted tiny pores, no pimples, and a complete lack of blackheads. My skin would get oily throughout the day, so I bought The Ordinary's Niacinamide 10% + Zinc 1% to combat that. But hey, I still wanted to keep a gentle glow about me—so I also incorporated The Ordinary's Hyaluronic Acid 2% + B5 Hydrating Serum and a killer moisturizer for both day and night. I got pretty good at skincare over the years. It's what I'd use to treat myself. 

After all my efforts, though, one trait of my skin still plagued me. Just below my cheekbones lived a graveyard of deeply embedded pimples. They were there all the time, and even my dermatologist's prescription of tretinoin did nothing to help. I thought all hope was lost…until Shani Darden's Retinol Reform Treatment Serum changed my skin forever. 

Shani Darden Skin Care Retinol Reform


To buy: $88;

I can't emphasize it enough: Those little pus bombs under my skin were driving me up the wall. Then an acquaintance who works as an actor suggested I try Shani Darden's take on retinol. I knew to trust the source—actors rely on their faces as part of their livelihood. So I took the plunge, and I've not looked back since. 

At $88, I almost skipped out on the product because the price felt prohibitive. I realized within a week of starting usage, though, that it was worth it—at least for me. Retinol Reform is a customer favorite for a reason: On top of encapsulated retinol, the product includes AHA and apple fruit extract. The retinol it uses, too, is remarkably gentle. 

Prescription-strength tretinoin works for a lot of people, but it had me stuck in a bad cycle: Apply, moisturize like hell, peel until I looked like the queen of the lizard people, rinse, repeat. I'd been on it for years and the cycle hadn't improved. It wasn't sustainable. I expected a similar starting learning curve with Retinol Reform, but I never peeled. I never chapped. Instead, my skin took on a new glow. Within a week my cheeks had less texture and I saw fewer of those little under-skin bumps staring back at me. I also noticed an evening out of my skin tone.

RELATED: This Nécessaire Gel Changed My Relationship to Deodorant, and It’s Only $15 at Sephora

I was in awe. Honestly, it's been three years since I started using the product, and I'm still in awe. I apply it at night a few times a week. I thoroughly cleanse and dry my skin, smooth a few pumps of the retinol on my face and neck, and then apply a serum and moisturizer on top. 

Alongside a good moisturizer, Retinol Reform has become one of the most crucial elements of my skincare routine. The product also has the benefits of being vegan, cruelty free, paraben free, silicone free, fragrance free, and non-comedogenic. There's a reason the company's eponymous founder, Shani Darden, is an esthetician to celebrities. 

For me, the Retinol Reform Treatment Serum is here to stay—and if you're looking for a gentle retinol to incorporate into your nightly routine, I highly recommend it. You can shop it at Sephora for $88, or try a mini version for $30 if you’d prefer to ease into it at a lower price point.

More Must-Shop Deals

Was this page helpful?
Related Articles