review avene physiolift night smoothing regenerating balm

What do you do when you have skin so sensitive, it can’t tolerate common anti-aging actives like retinol and Vitamin C? Are you doomed to deep, early wrinkles?

Not necessarily… These days there are a handful of anti-aging actives that are sensitive skin-friendly, too. My fave is retinal. It’s a cousin of retinol: it does the same thing WITHOUT irritating skin.

You can find it in Avene Physiolift Night Smoothing Regenerating Balm. Here’s what makes it so gentle, yet effective, for your sensitive skin:

What’s In Avene Physiolift Night Smoothing Regenerating Balm?


Retinol doesn’t work. Retinoic acid does.

For retinol to work its magic on wrinkles, it must be converted into retinoic acid. The conversion goes like this:

Retinol → Retinaldehyde → Retinoic acid.

You see it now, don’t you? If you use retinaldehyde (or retinal, for short) from the start, you’d get retinoid acid in one step. And that’s what your skin is really after.

The fewer steps it takes a retinoid to convert into retinoic acid, the better it works. Don’t take my word for it. Science agrees too:

  • A 1999 study found that retinaldehyde “has many of the properties of tretinoin in its beneficial effects on photoaging”. It reduces UVA damage, boosts collagen and repairs elastin fibers.
  • A 2005 study confirms its collagen-boosting abilities and suggests retinaldehyde works even better when paired with other antioxidants (no one likes to play alone).
  • A 2013 study proves it’s just as good at fading dark spots. It works by reducing melanin concentration in the skin.
  • A 2002 study discovered its has powerful antibacterial properties that kill P.Acnes, the bacteria that causes acne.
  • A 2014 study paired it with glycolic acid and noted this combo is effective at treating mild to moderate acne even during the sun exposure period – without irritating skin.

To sum it all up: retinaldehyde fades away wrinkles, dark spots and acne – just like retinol.

Related: Does Retinaldehyde Provide The Benefits Of Retinol Without The Side Effects?

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I’m sure you’ve heard of Hyaluronic Acid. It’s a moisture magnet on steroids.

Its job is to draw much-needed moisture from the environment into the skin. It does it so well, it holds 1000 times its weight in water, and works well both in high and low humidity conditions.

Can you imagine how happy all the extra moisture makes your skin? It plumps it up, softens it, and brightens it.

P.S. Glycerin, another moisture magnet in this cream, does the same thing. But on a smaller scale.

Related: Why You Need Hyaluronic Acid In Your Skincare Routine, No Matter Your Skin Type


The base of this moisturiser is made up of silicones. It’s not as bad as you think. Silicones do a lot of good things in skincare:

  • Enhance texture: They allow the cream to glide on smoothly, without tugging or pulling.
  • Fill in fine lines and wrinkles: It’s a trick to make them look temporarily smaller.
  • Softens skin: It makes it feel silky soft to the touch.

They don’t even cause pimples: silicones have a particular molecular structure made up of larger molecules with wider spaces between each molecule. They create a barrier that keeps moisture in but still allows skin to perspire.

But if you use anything comedogenic before this moisturiser, then yes, silicones can trap them underneath their protective barrier and cause breakouts.

Bottom line: don’t use comedogenic ingredients in your skincare and you’ll be fine.


A cross between a balm and a gel, it sinks in quickly, without leaving a greasy residue on your face (or your pillow).


Fresh and subtle.

How To Use It

It’s the last step of your skincare routine at night.

Performance & Personal Opinion

Avene Physiolift Smoothing Regenerating Night Balm stands out from the other Avene moisturisers because it can moisturise skin AND fight wrinkles.

The cream glides on smoothly, creating a protective barrier that slows down water loss and keeps skin hydrated all night long. And when skin is hydrated, its texture becomes softer and smoother.

That’s the moisturising part. Retinal also helps reduce the wrinkles you already have and prevent new ones from forming. But, of course, it won’t do so overnight. It takes weeks to see a small improvement.

If you have sensitive skin that can’t tolerate retinol, this is worth the wait. It’s gentle enough to do the job without irritating or drying out your sensitive skin.

Related: How To Make The Most Of Retinol (Even If You Have Sensitive Skin)

avene physiolift night smoothing regenerating balm review

Who Is This For?

All skin types can use it, but it’s particularly suitable for sensitive skin concerned with antiaging but that can’t tolerate retinol or stronger forms of Vitamin A.

Related: Which Form Of Retinoid Is Best For You?

Who Is This Not For?

If you’re already using prescription retinoids (for example, Tretinoin), or high (1%) concentration of Retinal without irritation, this would be a step back for you.


A white tube with a pump applicator. Sleek, practical, and hygienic.

Does Avene Physiolift Night Smoothing Regenerating Balm Live Up To Its Claims?

This balm works all night long to smooth the appearance of deep wrinkles and replump the skin. True.
It detoxifies the skin and helps to eliminate signs of fatigue, rejuvenating lacklustre skin and leaving it feeling silky soft. It can’t detoxify skin (your liver and kindeys do that). But it makes skin feel softer and look younger.
100% of the women thought that skin felt refreshed and features were smooth the next morning.* The keyword here is “thought”. Avene didn’t conduct any scientific test to confirm the cream makes skin smoother. It simply asked women if they thought the cream works. There’s a huge difference.

Price & Availability

£28.00 at Dermstore, Escentual, and Feel Unique

Do You Need It?

If you have sensitive skin and are looking for an alternative to retinol your skin can tolerate, this is a good option to consider.


Dupes & Alternatives


Avene Thermal Spring Water (Avene Aqua), Isohexadecane, Dimethicone, Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride, Acetyl Alcohol, Glycerin, Cetearyl Alcohol, Pentylene Glycol, Glyceryl Stearate, PEG-100 Stearate, 1,2-Hexanediol, Tocopheryl Acetate, Ascophyllum Nodosum Extract, BHT, Ceteareth-33, Dimethicone Crosspolymer, Disodium EDTA, Fragrance (Parfum), Hesperidin Methyl Chalcone, Methyldihydrojasmonate, PVP, Red 33 (CI 17200), Retinal, Sodium Hyaluronate, Water (Aqua), Xanthan Gum.