Paula’s Choice Clinical 1% Retinol Treatment Review (2023)

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Retinol is one of the most highly-regarded skincare ingredients for preventing and treating the signs of aging, and Paula’s Choice has a powerful product that contains a 1% concentration of this impressive ingredient. Here is our review of the Paula’s Choice Clinical 1% Retinol Treatment.

Key Takeaways

  • 1% concentration of retinol, the active ingredient
  • One of the more potent retinol products available over-the-counter (OTC)
  • Suitable for most skin types (normal, oily, combination)

Clinical 1% Retinol Treatment

Paula’s Choice Clinical 1% Retinol Treatment Review (1)

Powerful Anti-Aging Treatment

Paula’s Choice Clinical 1% Retinol Treatment

This treatment combines retinol, a powerful anti-aging ingredient, with hydrating and brightening ingredients for an even, smooth skin tone.

Skin types: All Skin Types

Best for: Fighting Signs of Aging

Tested on animals:No

How to use: Apply a pea-sized amount to clean, dry skin, starting with the cheeks. It can be applied to the neck and upper chest as well.

(Video) Dermatologist Reviews: Newly Discovered Retinoids (Retinols and Retinaldehyde) in the Last Year!

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Retinol is the gold-standard for fighting signs of aging, so this is an excellent choice for those with wrinkles, fine lines, and sun spots. The addition of soothing and hydrating ingredients helps counteract some of the potential irritating side effects of retinol.


  • Fragrance-free
  • Lightweight
  • Non-greasy


  • May irritate more sensitive skin types

This serum contains vitamin C, which brightens the skin, as well as licorice extract and oat extract, which soothe and calm redness.

Retinoids are the holy grail of anti-aging. They target all signs of skin aging, from reversing photodamage to correcting pigmentation to enhancing collagen production.

Retinols are one subtype of retinoids, the others being adapalene and tretinoin. Retinols are available over-the-counter in varying concentrations, from 0.1% to 1%. They have the same mechanism of action as tretinoin but are milder and better tolerated.

(Video) I used Paula's Choice 1% Retinol Treatment on my acne scars for 30 days | Honest Review

Product Overview

A lot of retinol products in the market do not mention the concentration of retinol used, which is often frustrating. The Paula's Choice Clinical 1% Retinol Treatment is a strong formulation with a 1% concentration of the active, retinol.

It is designed to combat signs of aging, pigmentation and photodamage.

The addition of peptides makes the formulation more expensive, but these also act to decrease fine lines and wrinkles and make the skin smoother and plumper.


The Paula’s Choice Clinical 1% Retinol Treatment is a potent and uniquely formulated retinol solution that hydrates and delivers remarkable anti-aging benefits with a controlled-release delivery system to allow for even, consistent absorption.

This treatment has an advanced hydrating complex with a light texture that absorbs quickly.

It diminishes the appearance of wrinkles, fine lines, uneven skin tone and pore size. It also has plant extracts to calm skin and ease redness.

Key Ingredients

1. Retinol (1%)

Retinol is a derivative of vitamin A, and is available OTC.

It is a proven anti-aging ingredient that can smooth wrinkles and make skin firmer by increasing collagen production.

It is also useful for acne-prone skin, as it normalizes keratinization.

2. Peptides

Peptides are fragments which trick the skin into thinking that collagen is breaking down, thus signaling the natural skin cells to produce more collagen. They also reduce inflammation in the skin.

The peptides included are:

  • Palmitoyl tetrapeptide-7
  • Palmitoyl hexapeptide-12
  • Acetyl dipeptide-1 cetyl ester
  • Palmitoyl tripeptide-1

3. Antioxidants

Tetrahexyldecyl Ascorbate is a stable, oil-soluble form of Vitamin C.

Arctium Lappa Root Extract (Burdock root) is anti-inflammatory and antioxidant. It also helps regulate sebum production.

Tocopheryl Acetate (a form of vitamin E) enhances the effect of other antioxidants.

4. Additional Ingredients

Sodium Hyaluronate (a salt of hyaluronic acid), glycerin and ceramides provide hydration to the skin, while oat meal extract soothes.

(Video) Retinol for Beginners I Paula’s Choice 1% Retinol Treatment

How to Use

  • Apply a pea-sized amount after cleansing, starting with the cheeks.
  • Avoid the lips, eyes (including eyelids) and corners of the eyes. It can be used on the perimeter of the orbital bone if desired to address crow's feet.
  • It can be applied to the neck and upper chest as well.
  • Apply it on dry skin, because damp skin can increase penetration and cause irritation, redness and itching.
  • Layer it with a moisturizer on top.

When to apply

This treatment should be used at night.

Initially, start by using the product three times per week. Gradually increase frequency to every other night, then finally each evening (as tolerated).

Listen to your skin. Pay close attention to how your skin responds and adjust usage and frequency accordingly.

Other Tips

1. Be aware of retinol sensitization

Some individuals may experience a delayed sensitized reaction to retinol. Do not assume that if no reaction is seen after a few applications that you can apply this product more frequently.

Sensitized skin will be red, flaky, itchy, painful and irritated.

If sensitization occurs, reduce frequency of use to twice a week only. If sensitization persists, discontinue use.

2. Don't skip sunscreen

Retinoids make your skin photosensitive, which means that it can react easily to light, getting red and sunburnt. Use sunscreen daily.

3. Moisturize liberally

Retinol can make your skin dry and flaky. Watch your skin for signs of dryness, and use a good moisturizer liberally.

Initially, the 'sandwich' technique of using a retinol can help. Apply a layer of moisturizer first, then the 1% retinol. Finish by sealing it in with another layer of moisturizer.

4. Using other actives

Avoid using chemical exfoliants like alpha hydroxy acids and beta hydroxy acids at the same time.

Niacinamide can be safely layered with retinol.

What to Expect

Initially, in the first 2-3 weeks, you may experience skin dryness and flaking, with visible flakes of skin peeling off.

Do not be alarmed. Just adjust the frequency of use based on how tight or dry your skin feels - you can even use it as little as only twice a week initially.

Slowly, after 8-12 weeks of consistent use, you will start to notice changes in your skin. The fine lines and wrinkles will look less prominent; the skin will look less clogged and uneven. It will have the much-hyped 'retinoid glow'.


Does Paula’s Choice retinol work?

Paula’s Choice Clinical 1% Retinol Treatment is a great product that combines retinol with other powerful ingredients to fight the signs of aging. Retinol is well-studied, and has been shown to deliver results. However, as is the case with any skincare product, in order to see those results, patience and consistency is key.

What should you not use retinol with?

Since retinol is a very powerful active, you should not layer it with other active ingredients that have the potential to irritate or dry out the skin, such as chemical exfoliators. This will only increase the likelihood of irritating the skin.

What order should I apply retinol?

Retinol should be applied to cleansed skin. After cleansing, be sure to gently pat your face with a towel and wait a few minutes to ensure the skin is completely dry. Retinol should not be applied to damp skin, as it can increase the risk of irritation. After retinol is applied, follow up with a moisturizer.

(Video) How to use Paula’s Choice Clinical 1% Retinol Treatment

The Bottom Line

The Paula’s Choice Clinical 1% Retinol Treatment is definitely a great choice when it comes to incorporating retinol into your routine. It does what it claims to do - combat signs of skin aging, from wrinkles to pigmentation.

It may not be the best choice if you're new to retinols and just starting out since the 1% can be too much for some. With retinols, the rule is always 'start low, go slow'.

About the author

Paula’s Choice Clinical 1% Retinol Treatment Review (2)

Dr. Harshal Ranglani

(Video) Clinical 1% Retinol Treatment | Paula's Choice

Dr. Harshal Ranglani is a practicing clinical and aesthetic dermatologist. She also holds the Specialty Certificate in Dermatology conferred by the esteemed Royal College of Physicians, UK. She believes in a holistic approach to skincare and skin conditions. Understanding that skincare is not 'one-size-fits-all', she individualizes skin care routines and treatments for her patients. Her recommendations are based on evidence-based skincare, backed by scientific studies and data.


Does Paula's Choice retinol 1% work? ›

Verdict. Paula's Choice Clinical 1% Retinol Treatment is a fantastic product – it's effective at treating a range of skin concerns, and it's really good value. You can't really do better unless you go with a prescription product, which might work better, but will also probably be more irritating.

Is 1% retinol strong enough? ›

For beginners, most dermatologists recommend a retinol with a concentration of 0.25 percent to one percent to see results. If your skin is not sensitive, you can usually tolerate something right in the middle; Dr.

How often to use Paula's Choice 1% retinol? ›

Start by applying the treatment up to three times a week and gradually build up frequency to every other night, and finally every night if your skin can tolerate it. Use the treatment at night after cleansing and toning. Apply a pea-sized amount to your face and neck, avoiding contact with your lips and eyes.

How long does it take to see results from Paulas choice? ›

It may take 5-14 days to see results (source) Don't give up! Initially, my reactive skin had zero irritations and redness. I was extremely relieved as most acne products were too strong for me. Just avoid eczema spots or any other sensitive areas on your face.

Why does Paulas choice work so well? ›

Paula's Choice uses scientifically backed ingredients and a no BS approach to skin care. What's in the products is just as important as what's not. Everything is formulated free of dyes, fragrances, and phthalates. The website even features a handy skin care ingredient dictionary that beauty editors love to reference.

How many times a week can you use 1% retinol? ›

You'll likely want to use retinol once or twice per week initially and work up to using it more than that. The reason: Retinol can initially be drying, especially if you have sensitive skin, so it's a good idea to give your skin some time to adjust to the change in your routine.

How many times a week should I use retinol 1%? ›

Use retinol once or twice a week at first to see how your skin reacts, and gradually work up to every other day or three times a week. Another key tip for using retinol is to incorporate it into your nighttime skincare routine only, as it makes your skin more sensitive to sunlight.

What happens if you start with 1% retinol? ›

The Ordinary suggest starting your retinol regimen with their 0,2% concentration and gradually move onto 0,5% and 1% to give your skin the chance to build tolerance. Side effects if you don't may contain redness, peeling and a burning sensation. Especially around the eyes and mouth, things can get truly flakey.

How do you know if retinol is working? ›

Retinol works for acne by preventing clogged pores. You may still see pimples for the first couple of months of treatment – your skin might even look worse (this is sometimes referred to as the retinol purge). But if you stick with it, you'll see clearer skin.

Should I use Paula's Choice retinol everyday? ›

We recommend introducing these products to your skincare routine no more than three times per week and monitoring how your skin responds. If you experience no adverse reaction, you can increase use to every other day and then every day.

How do you use Paula's Choice 1% retinol treatment? ›

Start by applying the treatment up to three times a week and gradually build up frequency to every other night, and finally every night if your skin can tolerate it. Use the treatment at night after cleansing and toning. Apply a pea-sized amount to your face and neck, avoiding contact with your lips and eyes.

Do you put moisturizer before or after retinol? ›

You should always apply retinol at night, after cleansing, and before your nighttime moisturizer. Five minutes is enough to wait for your retinol to sink in before applying moisturizer; you want to layer them, not mix them.

Should I use moisturizer after retinol? ›

Regardless of your skin type or which product you use first, a layer of moisturizer should always be applied after retinoids.

How long should you wait to apply moisturizer after retinol? ›

Retinol (leave to absorb for 10-20 minutes)

Retinol is also an ingredient that should be left to absorb sufficiently into the skin before following up with another product. “It is important to leave a 10-20 minute wait time before applying the next product.

Why am I breaking out after using Paula's Choice? ›

The most probable reason for the breakouts experienced after using a BHA is pure coincidence. The breakouts also may coincide with hormonal fluctuations, as many women tend to breakout during this time no matter what anti-acne products they're using or starting to use.

How long does purging last with Paula's Choice? ›

Purging should then last the length of time for a full cycle. While that is different for everyone, it should on average last between 4 to 6 weeks. However, if your skin isn't getting better after 6 to 8 weeks, your skin may be having an adverse reaction to the new product(s).

How long should I wait after putting Paulas choice to put moisturizer? ›

BHAs are thought to self-neutralize after about 20 minutes, so most skincare experts advise letting it fully dry for at least 15 minutes before continuing with your regular skincare routine (i.e. essences, serums, moisturizers, spot treatments).

Is Paula's Choice dermatologist approved? ›

Paula's Choice is dermatologist approved, being recommended for many years by skin experts and beauty editors alike. The effective, science-backed ingredients used in Paula's Choice products have helped create a reputable, positive view of the brand.

Is Paula's Choice good for older skin? ›

However, it's not only the RESIST products that benefit skin—all Paula's Choice skincare collections provide anti-aging benefits, thanks to ingredients that help smooth visible signs of aging such as fine lines and wrinkles.

How many days a week should I use Paula's Choice? ›

You can use Paula's Choice BHA every day— exfoliating once either in the morning or evening (pick whichever is most convenient for you). Many people with stubborn clogged pores have great results using a Paula's Choice BHA exfoliant twice per day.

Can I use retinol under my eyes? ›

Should you use retinol under your eyes? Yes, definitely. While it is true that retinol – a form of vitamin A – is a powerful ingredient and the skin under your eyes is delicate, there's no reason why you should miss out on the amazing benefits of retinol.

What happens if you use retinol too often? ›

If you use too high a strength or apply retinol more frequently than you should, you may experience further irritation, like itchiness and scaly patches. Some people have noticed acne breakouts after using retinol, though this is a rare side effect.

What happens if you start using retinol everyday? ›

So if you start using retinol every day out of the gate, you can end up with some painful inflammation and a damaged skin barrier, negating any potential positives. One way to avoid that irritation is to start slow, explains Ranella Hirsch, MD, a board-certified dermatologist in Boston.

What to avoid when using retinol? ›

Don't Mix: Retinol with vitamin C, benzoyl peroxide, and AHA/BHA acids. AHA and BHA acids are exfoliating, which can dry out the skin and cause further irritation if your skincare routine already includes retinol.

At what age should I use retinol? ›

Begin in Your Mid 20s or Early 30s

"Your mid-twenties are a great time to start using retinol," says Ellen Marmur, M.D. "Many patients who have used it for years swear by it."

Is vitamin C serum better than retinol? ›

While vitamin C is most notable for helping to brighten and improve hyperpigmentation, retinol is typically considered best-in-class for wrinkles and fine lines. And if you really want to give your skin a one-two punch to get noticeably healthier, you can certainly try incorporating both into your routine.

What happens if I don't refrigerate retinol? ›

Retinol and vitamin C products

Make sure to leave some space in your fridge for your retinol and vitamin C skincare, as these antioxidants can degrade much quicker and become unstable when exposed to heat and sunlight. Storing these products in the fridge keeps the formulas stable and helps with preservation.

What should I use after retinol 1%? ›

Mix your retinol with your moisturizer, or apply your moisturizer first and then your retinol. Always use sunscreen the morning after you apply retinol. Your skin will be especially sensitive to sunlight, so it's important to protect it.

What is the strongest over the counter retinol? ›

RoC Retinol Correxion Deep Wrinkle Night Cream

Houshmand recommends RoC's Deep Wrinkle Night Cream, which is one of the highest-strength retinol you can get over the counter, meaning you may see its resurfacing effects sooner than with other products.

Should you rub in retinol? ›

Never rub the skin, as this can lead to increased irritation. After you've applied your retinol, wait at least three to five minutes before moving on to the next step. That amount of time gives your retinol plenty of time to be thoroughly absorbed into the skin.

Why does my skin look worse after starting retinol? ›

Skin purging happens when new ingredients, like retinol, promote increased cell turnover, which causes clogging and worsening breakouts. This is particularly the case as oil and debris that is trapped deeper underneath the skin comes to the surface.

How do I know if my retinol is strong enough? ›

Those with stubborn skin concerns, like deep wrinkles and pronounced uneven skin tone may want to consider a high percentage retinol cream, serum or treatment. But what percentage of retinol is effective? Look for formulations with a percentage between 0.3% and 1%, with retinol 1% being the strongest option.

What is the best retinol for beginners? ›

Skinceuticals Retinol 0.3%: The best for first-time users

If you're new to retinol, it's best to start with a low-concentration product to allow your skin to build up tolerance to the exfoliating effects of the vitamin. This luxury product from skincare specialists Skinceuticals is an excellent introduction to retinol.

What to use after Paula's Choice retinol? ›

Apply the retinol facial cream or serum to your face, neck, and chest. If you're using a skin-brightening product too, apply it now. If you're using a booster product, apply it now. Proceed with your moisturizer, eye cream, and/or serum.

Do you put moisturizer over Paula's Choice? ›

You don't need to wait for your BHA or AHA to absorb or dry; you can apply any other product in your routine—moisturizer, serum, eye cream, or sunscreen—immediately afterward.

Should I keep using retinol if my face is peeling? ›

If you're experiencing excessive dryness and peeling from using retinol, stop using the product and consult a dermatologist. They may suggest a gentler formula or recommend that you limit your use of the ingredient (every other night or even just twice a week).

Should you use retinol on the neck? ›

Yes, you can safely put retinol creams on your neck. “Retinol can sometimes cause redness or irritation as a side effect, but it is worth the effort. Fortunately, there are beginner formulations that can get skin acclimated gradually,” Dr. Schlessinger says.

Do you need to wash retinol off in the morning? ›

When should you cleanse your face in the morning? If you used products with potent actives at a high percentage such as retinols or strong acids on your skin overnight, as a precaution, cleanse your face in the morning.

Which moisturizer is best after retinol? ›

  • La Roche-Posay Toleriane Double Repair Face Moisturizer. ...
  • CeraVe PM Facial Moisturizing Lotion. ...
  • REN Clean Skincare Evercalm Barrier Support Moisturizer. ...
  • Honest Beauty Hydrogel Cream. ...
  • Vanicream Moisturizing Lotion. ...
  • CeraVe Moisturizing Cream. ...
  • Neutrogena Hydro Boost Gel-Cream. ...
  • Aveeno Calm and Restore Oat Gel Moisturizer.
Jan 30, 2023

How many drops of retinol serum should I use? ›

With retinol, less is more. Use only a few drops of its serum over your cleansed and dry face, then use your fingers to gently massage in circular motions. Wait for it to get fully absorbed and apply moisturiser after 20 minutes.

What to pair with retinol at night? ›

Mix With Peptides

Mariwalla says it's a great idea to use both a retinoid- and peptide-based night cream at bedtime. "You get the collagen-building effects of the retinoid, but it also works to improve the penetration of the peptide cream, which can help improve skin's firmness," she explains.

Should I let retinol dry before moisturizer? ›

Step 2: Wait a few minutes until your skin is completely dry. This is important, because if your skin is at all damp, the retinol will be able to absorb more deeply into your skin and might cause irritation. We want to apply moisturizers and serums to slightly damp skin, but never retinol.

Can you put hyaluronic acid over retinol? ›

Can hyaluronic acid and retinol be used together? Unlike many other skin care ingredients out there, hyaluronic acid and retinol can be used in the same skincare routine. Not only that, but using them together can help to lessen the severity of the side effects that often come with retinol usage.

Should you put retinol on damp or dry skin? ›

Skin experts always advocate applying actives on damp skin for better absorption. However the same rule does not apply to retinol. While you must ensure that you wash your face before application, make sure the skin is dry first. “On damp skin, the retinol will get absorbed more deeply and in turn cause irritation.

Do you put serum before or after retinol? ›

Apply the hyaluronic acid serum first, then use the retinol.

How long does retinol 0.1 take to work? ›

However, it takes three to six months of regular use before improvements in wrinkles are apparent—and the best results take six to 12 months. Because retinoids can cause skin dryness and irritation, doctors often recommend using them only every other day at first and then gradually working up to nightly applications.

Does Paula's Choice 1% retinol help with acne? ›

Retinol is also amazing for reducing pore size, fighting acne, brightening skin and reducing fine lines. Retinol can cause some side effects after application such as redness, burning/tingling, dryness/tightness or skin scaling/flaking.

Can I use retinol 1 everyday? ›

Is it safe to use retinol every day? For most people, yes — once your skin is used to it, that is. That said, there are some people who may not want to use it frequently or at all.

Can you use Paula's Choice retinol every day? ›

Use it either every day or a few times per week, based on how your skin responds and which frequency of application gives you optimal results.

How can you tell if retinol is working? ›

With diligent use, most users see visible improvement to their skin tone, smoothness, and breakouts within the first few weeks. Fine lines and small imperfections take several weeks to months to start to fade, while deeper lines and more significant hyperpigmentation may take several months.

What not to use with retinol? ›

Don't Mix: Retinol with vitamin C, benzoyl peroxide, and AHA/BHA acids. AHA and BHA acids are exfoliating, which can dry out the skin and cause further irritation if your skincare routine already includes retinol.

Do you use Paula's Choice retinol before or after moisturizer? ›

Apply the retinol facial cream or serum to your face, neck, and chest. If you're using a skin-brightening product too, apply it now. If you're using a booster product, apply it now. Proceed with your moisturizer, eye cream, and/or serum.

Should you moisturize after retinol? ›

Regardless of your skin type or which product you use first, a layer of moisturizer should always be applied after retinoids.

Is 60 too old to start using retinol? ›

The good news is that it is never too late to start incorporating retinol into your skin care routine. People in the 60s and beyond have begun using retinol and still experienced results.

Do I need to exfoliate if I use retinol? ›

Can you exfoliate and use retinol in your routine? The short answer is yes. Both a chemical exfoliant and retinol help to resurface the skin, fade dark spots, clear pores and soften fine lines and wrinkles. But they don't always play nice together.

Can I exfoliate in the morning and use retinol at night? ›

If you want to use both, try exfoliating and using your retinoid on alternating evenings, or exfoliating in the morning and using the retinoid at night. Also, because retinoids increase your sensitivity to the sun, make sure you're always using a broad-spectrum sunscreen with at least 30 SPF, Dr. Lipner says.


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