skinceuticals 0.5 retinol refining night cream review

Have you been using retinol for a while and are now ready to up your dose?

0.5% is a good concentration for intermediate users. And one that’s hard to find. Most products out there either give you a tiny smidgen or go straight to high 1% concentrations.

One of the few options in between is Skinceuticals 0.5 Retinol Refining Cream. Is it worth the splurge?

What’s In Retinol 0.5 Refining Night Cream?


A form of Vitamin A, retinol promotes cellular turnover and increases the production of collagen. Translation: it helps reduce the wrinkles you already have and prevent new ones from forming.

A 2007 study, conducted on 36 elderly people, found that a topical 0.4% retinol lotion applied up to 3 times a week for 24 weeks “improves fine wrinkles associated with natural aging.“ It reduces hyperpigmentation too.

Like that weren’t enough, retinol also helps treat acne and reduce the appearance of pores. If you’ve got oily, acne-prone skin, this is a good addition to your skincare routine.

Retinol works even in small concentrations, like 0.5%. But, being that powerful has its drawbacks. Retinol can cause dryness, peeling and irritations – especially if you’ve never used it before.

The trick is to start with a small concentration (smaller than 0.5%) a couple of nights a week and build up both dose and frequency gradually.

Related: Retinol Side Effects: What They Are And How To Deal With Them


Retinol takes it time to work. Several weeks, if not months. But your wrinkles look smaller straight away. How’s that?

Silicones. They form the base of Skinceuticals Retinol 0.5 Refining Night Cream. Silicones work by filling in fine lines and wrinkles, so they look smaller. But, of course, the effects are only temporary. Remove the silicones, and your wrinkles are still there.

But, at least, they don’t suffocate skin. Yes, really. Silicones have a special molecular structure, made of big molecules with wide spaces between them. That means the barrier they create still allows skin to perspire (not breathe; skin doesn’t have lungs. That’d just be weird).

Related: Are Silicones In Skincare Bad?

Need help creating an anti-aging routine that really works? Sign up to the newsletter below to receive the “Anti-Aging Skincare Routine Cheatsheet” (it includes product recommendations, too!).


Not lightweight, but not thick. Something in between, and fast-absorbing too.


It’s fragrance-free. But the ingredients themselves don’t smell too nice.

How To Use It

In the evening, straight after cleansing.

If you’ve never used retinol or have just started to up your dose, use it once or twice a week. Increase frequency to every other day gradually.

Performance & Personal Opinion

I’m happy that Skinceuticals 0.5 Retinol Refining Night Cream is fragrance-free. Fragrance can irritate sensitive skin, and retinol is already irritating enough on its own.

But, it doesn’t smell that nice. What you’re smelling is the ingredients, by the way. It doesn’t stink so bad to make me want to throw it out the window, but it doesn’t make application pleasant, either. It doesn’t linger too, so I’ll put up with it. Ah, the things I’ll do for retinol…

You know how I always tell you to go slow with retinol? Use it a couple of days a week and all that? Idiot that I am, I used it every day for four days.

My skin started peeling and flaking pretty bad. A normal reaction to retinol. I thought I could get away with it because I’ve been using retinol for years, but the chilly London weather has been drying my skin pretty badly lately, making it more susceptible to the side effects of retinol.

So, I went back to the beginning. I’m using it twice a week, and increasing frequency slowly. Now, my skin is absolutely loving it. It didn’t make my wrinkles disappear, of course (retinol works, but slowly), but it made them that tiny bit smaller.

Its texture looks smoother, too. Pores look smaller. And everything is softer.

Good job, retinol.

skinceuticals 0 5 retinol refining night cream

Who Is This For?

Intermediate retinol users. You’ve been using <0.5% concentrations for a while without side effects and are ready to upgrade.

Who Is This NOT For?

  • Anyone under 25 – unless you’ve got acne, you don’t need it
  • Anyone who’s never used retinol before
  • Anyone who’s using retinol 1% or prescription retinoids
  • Sensitive skin


A white tube that keeps the retinol stable and effective until every last drop’s been squeezed out of it.

Does Skinceuticals 0.5% Refining Night Cream Live Up To Its Claims?

A concentrated night cream with pure retinol improves the appearance of visible signs of aging and pores while minimizing breakouts. True.
Promotes cell turnover. A fancy way to say it aids the skin’s natural exfoliating process – true.
Improves the appearance of fine lines, wrinkles, discoloration, pores, and blemishes. True, but be patient. It takes way more than a few days to see results.
Formulated to minimize irritation commonly associated with the use of retinol night creams. May be true, but retinol always has the potential to be irritating, especially if you’re a first time user.

Price & Availability

$76.00 at Dermstore

Do You Need It?

If you’re looking for a 0.5% retinol cream, this is worth the price. It works.

Dupes & Alternatives


aqua / water / eau, propanediol, dimethicone, cetearyl ethylhexanoate, alcohol denat., dipropylene glycol, ammonium polyacryloyldimethyl taurate, allyl methacrylates crosspolymer, acrylamide/sodium acryloyldimethyltaurate copolymer, hydrogenated lecithin, isohexadecane, retinol, phenoxyethanol, caprylyl glycol, polysorbate 20, isopropyl myristate, sodium citrate, boswellia serrata gum, polysorbate 80, dimethiconol, trisodium ethylenediamine disuccinate, bisabolol, bht, sorbitan oleate, citric acid, propyl gallate