review kiehl's midnight recovery concentrate

Did you know your skin never sleeps? It spends the night repairing itself from all the damage it sustained during the day. Kiehl’s Midnight Recovery Concentrate claims to help this process. Kiehl’s says it “works with the skin’s natural nocturnal activity to dramatically restore skin”.

If you don’t know what that means, it’s marketing lingo for “we want people to believe this serum helps skin repair itself at night but we can’t say that because it isn’t true. In other words, keep the claim vague enough so it means everything and nothing and you won’t get in trouble with the law. How can you prove this stuff doesn’t do what it claims when you don’t even know what it claims?

But, it’s not all bad. Kiehl’s Midnight Recovery Concentrate does have a few good things going for it. But they come at a cost…

About The Brand: Kiehl’s

The first Kiehl’s store opened all the way back in 1851, on the corner of 13th Street and Third Avenue in New York. Fast forward three years, pharmacist John Kiehl buys the apothecary and begins trading under the name of “Kiehl Pharmacy”. The name reflects the brand’s approach to pharmaceutical skincare – an approach that sadly hasn’t lasted to our days.

Most of Kiehl’s skincare products are basic moisturisers. There’s a place for that in your stash but, that’s not exactly the pharmaceuticals skincare your skin needs to fight wrinkles, acne, and dark spots.

But I’m giving kudos to Kiehl’s for being one of the first skincare brands in the USA to let people try their before buying them and list their ingredients on their products. Plus, their stores are pretty awesome. It feels like stepping back in time into an apothecary – there are even skeletons in the shops – how cool is that?

In 2000, L’Oreal bought Kiehl’s, making it part of a portfolio that also includes Skinceuticals, Garnier and Lancome. The brand has grown a lot since its infancy and currently has around 250 stores all over the world.

Key Ingredients In Kiehl’s Midnight Recovery Concentrate: What Makes It Work?


Squalane is one of the very few oils that doesn’t make fungal acne worse. It’s safe literally for everyone. Squalane is a natural component of your skin. That means your skin recognizes it and absorbs it quickly. It doesn’t leave a super greasy residue behind as other oils do.

Plus, it’s super moisturizing. It creates a barrier on the skin that slows down water loss, keeping it hydrated and soft for longer. No wonder Kiehl’s Midnight Recovery Concentrate is so moisturizing.

Related: How To Treat Fungal Acne


I’m not surprised Kiehl’s Midnight Recovery Concentrate choose evening primrose oil. It’s a multitasker:

Related: Is Evening Primrose Oil The Best Oil For Sensitive Skin?


If you’re a regular here, you know that rosehip oil is my fave natural oil. It’s derived from the hip (the radish-like ball the rose leaves behind after it blossoms) of roses and can fix any skincare woe:

Unlike other oils, rosehip oil doesn’t tend to be comedogenic, so even people with oily and acne-prone skin can use it.

Related: Why Rosehip Oil Is My Go-To Oil For Every Skin Woe


So far, we talked about all the good things about Kiehl’s Midnight Recovery Concentrate. It’s super moisturising and can help you fight wrinkles BUT… way too many irritants are lurking in this serum.

Rosemary, coriander and lavender oils all have fragrant components that make this oil smell amazing. I know for a lot of women, a pleasant scent enhances the experience of using the oil. I get it and I still tell you these oils have no place in the serum. The fragrant components that make them smell so good can irritate skin, especially sensitive skin. No bueno. 🙁

Related: 7 Natural Ingredients That Can Irritate Your Skin

The Rest Of The Formula & Ingredients

NOTE: The colours indicate the effectiveness of an ingredient. It is ILLEGAL to put toxic and harmful ingredients in skincare products.

  • Green: It’s effective, proven to work, and helps the product do the best possible job for your skin.
  • Yellow: There’s not much proof it works (at least, yet).
  • Red: What is this doing here?!
  • Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride: Derived from coconut oil and glycerin, it has moisturising fatty acids that make even dry skin soft and smooth. It can also be used to thicken the formula and enhance penetration of other ingredients.
  • Dicaprylyl Carbonate: This multitasker is an emollient that makes skin softer and a solvent that helps enhance the absorption of other ingredients in the formula.
  • Jojoba Seed Oil: One of the few non-comedogenic oils, this is the closest thing to human sebum. Your skin immediately recognises it, allowing it to sink in into your skin quickly without leaving a greasy residue behind. Super moisturising, it creates a protective barrier on the skip that traps moisture in and keeps irritating germs out.
  • Tocopherol: A form of Vitamin E, it has powerful antioxidant properties that fight free radicals. It has also preservative-like properties that help extend the shelf life of your skincare products.
  • Pelargonium Graveolens Flower Oil: A.k.a. geranium oil, it makes the oil smell good, but it can also irritate sensitive skin.
  • Linalool: A fragrant component of lavender and coriander that needs to be listed separately because it’s a common allergen. If you’re allergic to it, you need to be able to tell just by looking at the ingredient list.
  • Citronellol: It gives geranium its characteristic grassy, citrus-like scent. But it can cause allergies and irritations in sensitive skin.
  • Geraniol: A volatile fragrance ingredient extracted from geranium, it’s listed separately on the ingredient list because it can cause allergies and irritations.
  • Cucumber Fruit Extract: Made up of 95% water (the remaining is mostly antioxidants), it has powerful hydrating and anti-aging properties.
  • Turmeric Root Extract: An antioxidant with powerful anti-inflammatory properties, it prevents wrinkle and reduces irritations.
  • Limonene: A fragrant component found mainly in citrusy and minty oils and extracts. It smells devious, but it’s a common allergen that may irritate sensitive skin.
  • Citral: Found in citrus fruits, it’s a fragrant component that smells like lemon. It must be listed separately on the label because it’s a common allergen.
  • Sclareolide: Fermented from clary sage, it makes skincare products smell good. But it can cause allergies and irritations.
  • Rose Flower Oil: It has antioxidant and antibacterial properties. It also makes skincare products smell good, but it can be irritating.
  • Jasmine Extract: It softens skin, but it can irritate it as well.
  • Sunflower Seed Oil: A moisturising oil that strengthens the skin’s protective barrier and makes your complexion softer and suppler.


Even though it’s an oil, its texture is fairly lightweight and absorbs quite quickly into your skin. It doesn’t leave a greasy residue behind, unless you apply too much of it. Just a couple of drops go a long way.


The oil has a strong lavender scent. It’s a beautiful, flowery herbal scent that reminds me of hot summer days. But, there’s a reason lavender smells so good. Its fragrant components are poisonous to predators are there to prevent the plan from getting eaten. Humans are not insects, so to us, these fragrant components aren’t poisonous. But, if you have sensitive skin, they can still irritate it.

How To Use It

You can use this oil alone or mix it with your moisturiser. If you’re using it alone, this oil is the last step of your skincare routine. Warm a couple of drops between your hands and gently massage them into your skin. If you’re mixing it with moisturiser, use a few drops and apply it as normal. You can use this moisturising mix in the morning in between serum and sunscreen, or in the evening as the last step of your skincare routine.


Kiehl’s Midnight Recovery Concentrate comes in a sleek blue bottle that does look beautiful on your vanity. It has a dropper applicator that’s easy to use and dispenses just the right amount of product you need, so that none gets wasted. It’s also hygienic and prevents bacterial contamination as much as possible.

Performance & Personal Opinion

Kiehl’s Midnight Recovery Concentrate is super moisturising. That alone makes my skin soft and glowy and plumps it up so that my fine lines look smaller. No wonder so many people are fans. But let’s face it, any oil or moisturiser does that. It’s part of the job description. I’m pleased it does what it says on the tin, but I want something extra.

Unfortunately, the only extra you’re getting here is the potential for irritation. Lavender & co can easily trigger a bad reaction in sensitive skin. Stay away. I also don’t recommend it to oily skin. Although the serum sinks in quickly and doesn’t cause any problems on my dry winter skin, it’s a bit too oily for oily skin. And it may give you a breakout.

Oils always have the potential to clog pores and your skin’s already prone to them. Do your skin a favour and stick to oil-free moisturisers instead.

Related: How To Care For Oily Skin

Kiehl’s midnight recovery concentrate review

How Does Kiehl’s Midnight Recovery Concentrate Compare To The Other Concentrates From The Brand?

You’ve guessed it by now: I’m NOT a big fan of Kiehl’s Midnight Recovery Concentrate. What about the other Concentrate products from Kiehl’s. Are they better? Let’s find out:

  • Kiehl’s Cannabis Sativa Seed Oil Herbal Concentrate ($55.00): This has the same issue as the Midnight Recovery Concentrate. Cannabis oil is very moisturising, is loaded with antioxidants to fight premature aging, and has powerful soothing properties to calm down redness and irritations. But the concentrate has a super high concentrations of fragrant oils that can irritate sensitive skin. I personally don’t recommend it.
  • Kiehl’s Daily Reviving Concentrate ($59.00): This has a very similar formula to the Midnight Recovery Concentrate, but with two differences. Instead or anti-aging rosehip oil, you get hydrating sun flower oil. Instead of the lavender scent, you get a citrusy scent – and yes, that’s irritating! I recommend you stick to Midnight Recovery Concentrate. It still has an irritating fragrance, but better anti-aging properties.
  • Kiehl’s Night Refining Micro-Peel Concentrate ($65.00): This concentrate uses urea, a humectant with exfoliating properties. It attracts and binds to the skin a lot of extra moisture and dissolves the “glue” that holds skin cells together for a glowy and smooth appearance. Urea is a great choice for sensitive skin. The catch? As most Kiehl’s products, this concentrate has citrus extracts that can irritate sensitive skin.

You’ve guessed it, I’m NOT a fan of any of Kiehl’s concentrates. They’re full of moisturising oils AND irritating fragrances. Why use them when there are sooooo many other oils that don’t irritate skin?

What I Like About Kiehl’s Midnight Recovery Concentrate

  • Lightweight, fast-absorbing texture.
  • Moisturising, makes skin softer and smoother.
  • Plumps up fine lines and wrinkles, so they look smaller.
  • Gives skin a luminous glow.
  • Has some anti-aging properties that help fight wrinkles.

What I DON’T Like About Kiehl’s Midnight Recovery Concentrate

  • It has too many fragrant essential oils that may irritate sensitive skin.

Who Should Use This?

It’s best fro dry, non-sensitive skin. Instead, I DON’T recommend it for:

  • Acne-prone skin: The oils in here may aggravate acne.
  • Oily skin: It’s loaded with oils, so it can cause breakouts.
  • Sensitive skin: All the essential oils in here are a recipe for irritation.

Does Kiehl’s Midnight Recovery Concentrate Live Up To Its Claims?

One night. A few drops. Younger-looking skin by morning.True. Its moisturises skin and anything that does that makes skin look temporarily younger.
Midnight Recovery Concentrate replenishes skin as you sleep, supplementing its natural overnight recovery process, to reveal a rested and restored appearance by morning. This claim is quite vague. Replenishes skin in what way? Supplementing its natural recovery process how? They won’t say because all the oil does is moisturise skin.

Is Kiehl’s Cruelty-Free?

No, Kiehl’s is not cruelty-free. They sell their products in mainland China, which still requires animal testing.

Price & Availability

Available at: $50.00/£37.00 at Feel Unique, Sephora, and Ulta

The Verdict: Should You Buy It?

I personally don’t recommend it. This concentrate has what it takes to make your skin softer, suppler, and brighter – but so do so many other skincare products that do NOT contain the high numbers of skin sensitisers this has. If you have resistant skin, they may not bother you. Sensitive skin? Stay away.

Dupes & Alternatives

  • Herbivore Emerald + CBD Deep Moisture Glow Oil ($58.00): Loaded with Squalane and jojoba oil (the two oils that resemble human sebum they most), it’s very moisturising and fast-absorbing. It contains a couple of irritating fragrant extracts, but nowhere near as many as Kiehl’s. If you have an allergy, read the label carefully. Everyone else, you can use it safely. Available at Beauty Bay, Credo Beauty, Cult Beauty, Nordstrom, Revolve, and SpaceNK.
  • Jordan Samuel Skin Soothing Facial Oil ($33.00): Rich in moisturising oils with antioxidant properties, like sweet almond oil and cranberry, it makes skin softer and smoother and helps prevent premature aging. Available at Cult Beauty.
  • Paula’s Choice Moisture Renewal Oil Booster ($38.00): Loaded with non-fragrant moisturising oils and ceramides, this booster strengthens the skin’s protective barrier, moisturises even the driest of skin types, and soothes irritated skin. Available at Dermstore and Paula’s Choice.


Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride, Dicaprylyl Carbonate, Squalane, Rosa Canina Fruit Oil, Evening Primrose Oil, Jojoba Seed Oil, Coriander Seed Oil, Tocopherol, Lavender Oil, Pelargonium Graveolens Flower Oil, Linalool, Rosemary Leaf Oil, Citronellol, Geraniol, Lavandula Hybrida Oil, Cucumber Fruit Extract, Turmeric Root Extract, Limonene, Citral, Sclareolide, Rose Flower Oil, Jasmine Extract, Sunflower Seed Oil