As I get older, long gone are the days when I feel uncomfortable or embarrassed in my own skin. A blemish used to make me feel like I needed to hide at home until it disappeared. But unfortunately, I used to only make things worse. Harsh ingredients, fear of adding moisture or oils to my skin left me even more red, pigmented and scarred. Discovering a love for skincare and most importantly, ingredients, has only benefited my skin and my self esteem. Now that I'm in my 30's, I have a more sense of self and feel comfortable walking out of the house with just a little tinted moisturizer and blush. One of the ingredients that has helped heal my skin and help with pigmentation and texture is Retinol. There are different types of Retinols as well as different strengths. I personally believe in the theory of using something more frequently at a lower percentage vs. using something at a very strong percentage less often. I believe in formulas that are gentle and nourishing...believe me, I've learned the hard way. Ever since I removed all of the dry, stripping formula's from my closet, my skin has been so happy! So today I'm sharing with you my 3 favorite products containing a form of Retinol. And if you ask me to pick a will be VERY hard!

Votary Intense Night Oil 1.7fl oz $196*


Ingredients: vitis vinifera (grape) seed oil, prunus armeniaca (apricot) kernel oil, persea gratissima (avocado) oil, helianthus annuus seed oil, rosa canina (rosehip) fruit oil, fusanus spicatus kernel oil, solanum lycopersicum (tomato) seed oil, caprylic/capric triglyceride tocopherol, hydroxypinacolone retinoate, spilanthes acmella (paracress) flower extract, calendula officinalis (calendula) flower extract, dimethyl isosorbide, dalbergia spp, rosa damascena (rose) flower oil, linalool+, citronellol+, geraniol+, benzyl benzoate+, +naturally occurs in essential oils


You all know I'm already a huge fan of Votary. So when I heard they were adding a retinol to the line, I was giddy with excitement. This formula was introduced to me while having a lovely breakfast in Soho with the stunning Arabella and Charlotte. They spoke to me about how amazing this formula is and how gentle it is for everyday use. And boy were they right. Nourishing Grapeseed, Avocado Oil, Apricot Kernel, regenerating Rosehip, tomato seed, soothing calendula and of course Hydroxypinacolone Retinoate.  From my research, HPR is an ester of Retinoic Acid and works similar to Tretinoin (Retin–A) but without the irritation. I've read that studies shown after 21 days of continued use, there was no irritation and 50% of participants noticed improvement in skin roughness and 40% improvement in skin surface scaling. And with the presence of Roseship, known for helping nourish skin and help with appearance of wrinkles...this combo was sure to be a win!  

I began using this oil every night for about 4 weeks. Sometimes I applied a cream over it or a serum...but it worked beautifully either way you apply it. I noticed my skin was plump every morning after use. It didn't feel oily or greasy from the night before. My acne marks were slowly diminishing and overall, my skin looked brighter, felt healthier and just had an overall glow. I experienced zero irritation and absolutely no sensitivity. I was able to use African Botanics Nutrient Molecule Serum which has Vitamin C in it without any side effects that one may experience after using Retinol. This formula is perfect for my normal/combo/hormonal acne skin. It helped balance and heal my spots so quickly...that I am truly astonished with its capabilities. A truly gorgeous formula.

African Botanics Intensive Recovery Oil 1fl oz. $250*


Ingredients: Citrillus Lanatus (Kalahari Melon)* Seed Oil, Sclerocarya Birrea (Marula)* Seed Oil, Jasmine Grandiflorum (Jasmine) Flower Oil, Adansonia Digitata*, Rosa Damascena (Rose) Flower Oil, Rosa Moschata (Rosehip) Seed Oil, Caprylic Capric Triglyseride, Cylindrotheca Fusiformis (Microalgae) Extract, Tocopherol (Vitamin E), Helichrysum Angustifolium (Immortelle) Oil, Oenothera Biennis (Evening Primrose) Oil, Myrothamnus Flabellifolius (Resurrection) Extract, Aspalathus Linearis (Rooibos)* Extract, Bulbinella Nutens (Bulbinella) Extract, Schinziophyton Rautanenii (Mongongo)* Oil, Cyclopia (Honeybush) Extract, Ubiquinone (CoQ10), Calendula Officinalis (Marigold) Flower Oil, Glycine Soja (Soybean) Oil, Tetrahexyldecyl Ascorbate (Vitamin C Ester), Retinol (Vitamin A), Rosmarinus Officinalis Extract. *Wild-Harvested. Not tested on animals. 


How do I love thee, let me count the ways. African Botanics has been a brand that I quickly became a fan of this year after discovering their Pure Marula Cleansing oil, Nutritive Molecule Serum (quite possibly the best Vitamin C formula ever! I did a post here) as well as having other favorites...and then Julia (co-founder) sent me this. It was love after the first use. First, the smell is so beautiful. Jasmine and Rose mixed with a little green earth. It's stunning. This formula is really nourishing and has incredible ingredients like Immortelle Oil (this oil is incredible! and so expensive to source), Vitamin C Ester, Rosehip, Marula, Evening Primrose and things I haven't heard of until now like Bulbinella which helps heal dry skin and Honeybush which helps with wrinkles (both are indigenous to South Africa). And of course you have Retinol. This formula worked a little quicker than Votary's. I saw results within a couple weeks of use. My skin felt juicier, brighter and overall illuminated. And after just one use, you notice a slight change in appearance. As though I got a full nights sleep...which if you know me, I never get. A+ formula with carefully selected ingredients...this one is incredibly worth every penny.

Allies of Skin Approx $101 (converted from 139 SGD) 50ml


Ingredients: Aqua (Water), Glycerin, Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride, Propanediol, Argania Spinosa Kernel Oil (Organic), Sodium Acrylates Copolymer, Hydrolyzed Candida Saitoana Extract, Sodium Stearoyl Glutamate, Albizia Julibrissin Bark Extract, Dimethyl Isosorbide, Galactoarabinan, Palmitoyl Tetrapeptide-7, Palmitoyl Oligopeptide, Caprooyl Tetrapeptide-3, Cassia Angustifolia Seed Polysaccharide, Sodium Hyaluronate (L), Oxycoccus Palustris (Arctic Cranberry) Seed Oil, Rubus Chamaemorus (Cloud Berry) Seed Oil, Niacinamide, Withania Somnifera (Indian Ginseng) Root Extract, Citrus Aurantium Dulcis (Orange) Callus Culture Extract, Retinal (Retinaldehyde), Pterostilbene, Ellagic Acid, Phenyl t-Butylnitrone (Spin Trap), Ergothioneine (L), Glutathione (L), Mirabilis Jalapa Flower/Leaf/Stem Extract, N-Hydroxysuccinimide, Chrysin, Glutamylamidoethyl Imidazole, Lonicera Caprifolium (Honeysuckle) Flower Extract, Lonicera Japonica (Honeysuckle) Flower Extract, Lavandula Hybrida (Lavendin) Oil, Pentylene Glycol, Butylene Glycol, Cyclodextrin, Caprylyl Glycol, Steareth-20, Citric Acid, Xanthan Gum, Dextran, Acetyl Tributyl Citrate, Potassium Sorbate, Phenoxyethanol


If you're not a fan of oils and you want a gentle retinol formula that delivers insane your new BFF. This creamy, light and airy mask can be applied every night on it's own, over a serum/oil and it performs like a gem. It has my favorite Argan oil along with ingredients I can't even pronounce...but jeez are they amazing. After just one night of use, my skin was incredibly hydrated, smooth and looked as though I slept all night. I was so impressed with the performance of this formula. It helped reduce a blemish overnight, soothed a rough patch and made my skin look healthy. After a few nights of use, my skin just kept looking better and better. Zero irritation, zero sensitivity, 100% healthy looking skin. I've been really impressed with the products I've tried from this brand so far...and one is getting a dedicated post soon :)

So...if you ask me which one my favorite is..I couldn't tell you. I love all 3! Granted no one needs 3 retinol formulas. I use them the formulas depending on what my skin needs. If I need a quick blemish, redness fix, I'll go with African Botanics. If I need a bit more hydration, blemish control, I'll go with Allies of Skin and Votary when my skin is doing well and needs a boost of freshness. So here's a cheat sheet of how to choose which one's right for you:

  • Dry, dull skin that likes a light oil packed with healing and nourishing plant oils that also helps with acne and wrinkles...get Votary
  • Dry, dull, pigmented and showing signs of aging that likes a light oil with nourishing plant oils and regenerative extracts...African Botanics
  • Dry, dull, pigmented, acne prone that does not like face oils but still wants an incredible product...Allies of Skin

I hope you found this review helpful. I'm sure there are a lot of amazing formula's out there that I just haven't tried yet (aka Jordan Samuel Etoile with Retinol) but these are just 3 of my personal favorites right now.

Disclosure: Products with a * were gifted, otherwise I purchased it on my own. Any product gifted is never guaranteed a review unless I absolutely love it! My thoughts are always my own. No affiliate links were used in this post.

Revisit True Moringa

Revisit True Moringa

My Love Story with de Mamiel

My Love Story with de Mamiel