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I'm a beauty expert, here's why Medik8's Crystal Retinal is my holy grail skincare product

Medik8's Crystal Retinal has hundreds of five-star reviews. (Medik8/Yahoo Life UK)

Retinol is a skincare ingredient that packs a punch. It's one of the most efficient tools for treating acne, texture, pigmentation, pore size and the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. Despite its brilliant benefits, the ingredient — derived from Vitamin A — is not one you want to slather on your skin twice a day. Due to its potency, side effects such as temporary dryness and sensitivity can occur. Want to incorporate retinol into your skincare routine but don't know where to begin? I'm here to help.

Quick overview

One retinol product I've been using for years is the Medik8 Crystal Retinal 3 Stable Retinal Night Serum, and it's by far the best. It's both fast-acting and hydrating, and is quick to improve texture and combat hormonal acne — my biggest skincare concerns. An added bonus it's currently on offer in Lookfantastic's January sale, so now's a better time than ever to try it yourself. Here's why I love it and think you will too.

Medik8 Crystal Retinal 3 Stable Retinal Night Serum: Quick overview

🛍️ Product reviewed: Medik8 Crystal Retinal 3 Stable Retinal Night Serum
Tested it for: Two years
Rating: 5/5
💸 Reasons to buy: It causes minimal irritation, and brightens, smooths and firms my acne-prone, sensitive skin
Reasons to avoid: Usually costing £49 it's a luxury buy, but in my experience is well worth the investment
💰 Best deal we've found: It's currently included in Lookfantastic's January sale, reduced to £38.70 - one of the best deals we've seen all year

My skincare routine wouldn't be without Medik8's coveted Crystal Retinal. While I use strength 3 (which is good for beginners), there are numerous other variations for your skincare needs. 

£39 at Lookfantastic

💸 Reasons to buy

Alongside Vitamin A, it's formulated with hyaluronic acid and glycerin, two humectants that hydrate the skin, which combined, will minimise dryness. It's a cream-based serum, designed to be applied during your evening routine onto cleansed skin and followed by your moisturiser.

I love how it's fast-absorbing and has a very gentle but inoffensive scent - two pumps is plenty to cover my whole face. Of the many retinols I've tried as a beauty journalist, this has caused the least amount of irritation. I use it three times a week in my routine and occasionally there's a tiny bit of dry skin on my nose, but that's all.

It doesn't disrupt how my make-up sits, and makes my rosacea, acne-prone, sensitive skin feel brighter, smoother and firmer. One tube will typically last me three to four months, and that gets me to the very last drop.

Medik8 is the best investment in my skin I've ever made. (Yahoo Life UK)
Medik8 is the best investment in my skin I've ever made. (Yahoo Life UK)
Medik 8 retinol review
The retinol comes in six different strengths. (Medik8)
A little goes a long way, so the serum will last quite a while. (Medik 8)
A little goes a long way, so the serum will last quite a while. (Medik 8)

£38.70 £49 at LookFantastic £39.20 £45 at Debenhams £45 at Medik8

The brand offers its Crystal Retinal formula in five variations, 1, 3, 6, 10 and 20 (1 being the gentlest on the scale and 20 being the strongest). For beginners, number 1 or 3 are a great place to start if you've never used vitamin A before and have sensitive skin. I use Retinal 3.

What makes it unique is its use of retinaldehyde - another Vitamin A derivative that works quicker than retinol to increase cell turnover and leave your complexion smoother, softer and brighter.

It's important to be patient too when first incorporating retinol into your routine. You won't see any change in your skin overnight, instead it can take up to 12 weeks before you notice a result. Stick with it though and you won't be disappointed.

Reasons to avoid

It's no doubt this is an expensive splurge, but while £45 is certainly an investment, I believe it's worth adding to your skincare regime.

And I'm not the only one, there are over 230 five-star reviews on Lookfantastic, one customer said, "Can already see that there has been a difference in the youthfulness of my skin".

Some reviewers have said that they didn't notice a difference immediately after using the product. It's worth noting that you should typically see an improvement in fine lines and wrinkles after around six weeks of continued use. So it may take a while to see the results, you just have to stick with it.

💰 Best deal we've found

The biggest saving we've spotted is a saving of just over £10 off in Lookfantastic's January sale, reduced from £49 to £38.70.

Also offering a saving is Debenhams who have a saving of 20%, down from £45 to £39.20.

At numerous other stockists, such as John Lewis and directly from Medik8's site, it's still full price. So we'd make the most of nabbing a deal while you can.

Shop it now: Medik8 Crystal Retinal 3 Stable Retinal Night Serum | £38.70 (Was £45) from Lookfantastic

Shop at LookFantastic Shop at Medik8 Shop at Debenhams Shop at John Lewis Shop at Space NK Shop at Cult Beauty

Medik8 is of course a luxury brand, but if you're looking to spend less, there are many other affordable retinols delivering promising results. Here's a handful we'd recommend trying.

The Inkey List is another one of my go-to's for affordable skincare and its retinol serum is a budget-friendly way to introduce this powerhouse ingredient into your routine. Also included in the lightweight formula is squalane, a hydrating, lightweight humectant that's suitable and soothing for all skin types.

£10 at Lookfantastic

CeraVe is a reliable brand for fuss-free skincare. Its retinol serum caters specifically to sensitive skin and is formulated to tackle acne marks, uneven skin tone and strengthen your skin barrier. I've tried it over a period of three months and have found the texture is like a gel moisturiser that's fast to absorb, contains no fragrance and leaves skin feeling silky smooth immediately after application. When the purse strings feel a bit tighter, this is a fantastic compromise without sacrificing results. 

£21 at Cult Beauty

This retinol serum from Naturium uses bot retinol and a plant-derived retinol alternative to deliver radiance, improve texture and reduce the appearance of fine lines without causing irritation. Suitable for acne-prone, ageing and combination skin, it's one of the most highly-rated retinols on the market. It has a very thin, watery texture, so a little can go a long way, but it leaves behind no tackiness or greasy feeling. 

£22 at Space NK