The Retinol Serum I Can’t Live Without

by Gio

peter thomas roth retinol infusion pm night serum 01

So, you’ve been using retinol for a while, slowly building up tolerance like a skincare pro, and are now ready to go to the ultimate level: 1.5%.

But how do you get there without turning your skin into a red and flaky mess? Because your skin may be used to retinol but 1.5% is huge and can still bother it a bit…

Easy: look for skincare products with microencapsulated retinol, like Peter Thomas Roth Retinol Fusion PM Night Serum.

What The Heck Is Microencapsulated Retinol?

Retinol is a form of vitamin A. The only thing OTC that can really reduce those pesky wrinkles you have.

Plus, it prevent new ones from forming and fade your dark spots too. How? Three ways:

  1. It has antioxidant properties that destroy the free radicals that cause premature wrinkles and dark spots.
  2. It accelerates cellular turnover (i.e. the skin’s natural exfoliating process), reducing the appearance of dark spots and wrinkles.
  3. It boosts the production of collagen, the protein that keeps skin firm.

Retinol is a powerful weapon. And like all powerful weapons, it’s not without side effects:

  • It can make skin more prone to sun damage (that’s why it’s PM).
  • It degrades (i.e. loses a bit of its effectiveness) when exposed to light and air.
  • It can cause dryness, flaking and irritations.

Microencapsulation fixes problems 2 and 3. It’s a technology used to put retinol into a tiny capsule or sphere. This does two things:

  1. It keeps the retinol safe from light and air (that’s why the dropper bottle isn’t a problem this time).
  2. It releases retinol into your skin over a period of several hours instead than all at once. In another words, it’s way gentler on the skin.

By the way, if you’ve never used retinol before, don’t go thinking that because this is microencapsulated, you can skip to 1.5% straight away. Build your tolerance like everyone else does. Your skin will thank you.

Related: The Complete Guide To Retinol

peter thomas roth retinol infusion pm night serum 02

Vitamin C

Why, what? Don’t vitamin C and retinol make each other useless?

Here’s the deal: retinol works best at a pH of 5.5. Ascorbic acid (the pure form of vitamin C) needs a pH of 3.5. You see the problem?

BUT, that doesn’t mean they make each other useless. Retinol is protected by microencapsulation. Vitamin C may not work to its full potential but you’ll still get some brightening effects.

P.S. Vitamin C is listed after retinol in the ingredient list so it’s unlikely there’s enough of it to boost collagen anyway. Here, it’s mainly for its brightening and antioxidant properties.

Related: Mix And Match: The Skincare Ingredients You Should Never Use Together


This is derived from squalene, a natural component of sebum (your skin’s natural moisturizer).

Squalane is super moisturizing. It’s loaded with fatty acids that strengthen your skin’s protective barrier and keep your skin soft and smooth.

Plus, it has antioxidant properties that neutralise free radicals before they can wreak their damage on your skin.

The best part? Because it’s so similar to sebum, your skin recognizes it and absorbs it straight away. It leaves no greasy residue behind.

Let’s Put It To The Test: Personal Use & Opinion

Peter Thomas Roth Retinol Fusion PM Night Serum has a slightly oily, runny texture that takes a couple of minutes to absorb.

I’d say this makes it more suitable for dry skin but oily skin can use it too (squalane isn’t comedogenic 😉 ).

Although it takes months for retinol to make a dent in your wrinkles, you will notice an improvement in your skin within a few short days.

The serum makes my skin’s texture smoother. It shrink the large pores around my nose area so they look almost invisible to the naked eye. It makes my complexion glow.

Overtime, it also helps to keep my skin firm and reduce wrinkles. But, remember, we’re playing the long game here.

I don’t have any dark spots but if you do, this can help with that too.

I mean it when I say that Peter Thomas Roth Retinol Fusion PM is one of the best retinol serums I’ve ever tried. I almost cried when I accidentally poured half its contents in the sink. 😥

If you’ve reached retinol plateau and are ready to up your dose, this is a serious contender for your money.

Available at: $65.00/£62.50 at Beauty BayCult Beauty and Sephora

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What’s your fave high-dose retinol serum? Share your picks in the comments below.

Ingredients: Cyclopentasiloxane, Squalane, Retinol, Ascorbyl Palmitate, Tocopherol, Water, Pentylene Glycol, Polysorbate 20, Lecithin, Bisabolol, Alcohol

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Peter May 3, 2018 - 9:28 am

For myself I found 1.5 encapsulated retinol not strong enough. Maybe I have a snake skin, but I haven’t seen any improvements at that concentration.
Until now I have tried from Neostrata retinol+ nag with 2.5 retinol encapsulated who did a decent job with no irritation at all; image skincare ageless serum with 6.5 retinol encapsulated and others potent ingredients which I had good results with some slightly irritation and at the one I used now is from Skinmedica retinol 1.0 which I had the same results and even greater than using retina a 0.05.

Gio May 5, 2018 - 11:05 am

Peter, 1.5 microencapsulated retinol is pretty strong. But it also depends on how sensitive/resistant and how deep your wrinkles are. If it’s pretty resistant you can go high fast and see better results sooner.

Donna June 13, 2018 - 6:59 pm

Hi there! My boyfriend and I both want to start incorporating retinol into our skincare routine. He is 28 with normal skin and I am 27 with dry skin and semi oily t zone( I’m assuming combination). We have heard great things about the Paula’s Choice retinol products and we know the clinical 1% is a favorite but I have learned from you it’s not the best way to start. She has so many products with retinol that it can be a bit overwhelming. What would you recommend us to start with? We trust your opinion!

Gio June 16, 2018 - 10:01 am

Donna, hi! I think it’s great that you both want to start using retinol. It makes such a huge difference in your skin.

Paula’s Choice is a great place to start because she has serums with different retinol concentrations so it doesn’t matter where you are on your retinol journey, you’ll find something for you in this line. I’ve written about the best products from beginners here:

The post will also tell you when it’s time to upgrade and what to use then. Hope this helps.

Apple August 27, 2018 - 5:24 am

Hi Gio! If ever there is a time, when you will be needing to stop retinol (Either due to finances, or safety measures for pregnancy), what will happen to our skin?

Tatiana October 21, 2019 - 8:17 am

Hi Gio,
Does retinol stop working when used for a long period of time ?

Gio November 7, 2019 - 5:41 pm

Tatiana, no, it doesn’t stop working. But after a while, the results can plateau. In that case, you may want to consider using a stronger concentration.

Kelley November 12, 2019 - 5:28 pm

Hi Gio, I’ve been trying to figure out whether to switch from the PTR Retinol Fusion PM to a retinaldehyde (e.g., Medik8 Crystal 6) – would that be an increase in anti-aging and acne benefits because there is one less conversion step to retinoic acid? Or are they really doing the same thing? Do you have any thoughts? Thanks!

Gio December 15, 2019 - 11:13 am

Kelley, if PTR retinol serum doesn’t irritate your skin, stick to that. You won’t gain much by switching.

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