Following on from my last post on ‘Everything You Need To Know About Retinoids’, it’s The Medik8 Crystal Retinal 1 Serum review. 

I am 5 weeks into using this so this will be my initial thoughts. At 3 months, I will update this post to include my thoughts again! As we’ve seen from my previous post, you need at least 3 months of consistent retinoid use to see the true benefits.

Find out if I plan to stick with the Crystal Retinal Range or move on! 💥

Just to say – remember, reviews should only ever be used as a guide. The results you may see from using the same products could differ because of age, climate of where you live, your current skincare routine… and the list could go on! Worth mentioning I thought  💕.


BRAND: Medik8

PRODUCT: Crystal Retinal 1

INGREDIENTS: See bottom of the page


  • Contains 0.01% encapsulated, stable retinaldehyde
  • Alcohol-free
  • Cruelty-free/vegan formulation
  • Contains vitamin E and C
  • Contains sodium hyaluronate

I’ve Got *Insert Skin Type Here* Skin, Can I use It?

Medik8 doesn’t actually state what skin types this range is suitable for. As we have seen from my previous blog post though, all skin types can use and benefit from retinoids.

However, specifically to this product, it contains retinal which generally has a medium potential for skin irritation. If you have sensitive skin, you may want to look at Medik8’s R-Retinoate range which has a lower potential for irritation. Or begin with number 1 in this range like I did, which is recommended for very sensitive skin.

I personally chose to begin with Crystal Retinal 1 as I’m under 30 and had never used a retinoid product before. In hindsight, I wish I had started with Crystal Retinal 3. I think my skin would have handled it fine (I don’t have sensitive skin at all). But I didn’t, so there we go!  🙃 Something for you to bear in mind though, if you’re unsure where to start.

Moving on, I have normal to dry skin and I found this serum entirely suitable for me. I would say, It’s hydrating enough that normal to oily skin types could use this serum alone. However, because my skin leans towards the drier end of normal, I like to follow up with a moisturiser (and an oil), 20 minutes after using this product. This is what Medik8 advises to do!

Overall, I do think every skin type could get on with the Crystal Retinal range! The texture of the serum is light, smooth and not sticky or greasy at all! Plus, the smell of vanilla is gorgeous (see ingredients list)!


Works At Increasing Cell Turnover

With 5 weeks of consistent retinal use, I have really noticed the cell turnover on my face. This is because I currently have 3 milia on my cheeks and they have honestly been there for over a year. However, since introducing Crystal Retinal 1, the thickness of the skin over the milia has significantly reduced. To the point where one of the milia is almost nearly gone!

Experts do say that retinoids can help with milia extraction and I can certainly vouch for that! Nothing else has worked on these stubborn milia that I have. Of course, I have also been using salicylic acid and lactic acid alongside retinal and so I can’t put all the glory at retinal’s door!

Breakouts Stopped In Their Tracks & Redness Reduced

Since introducing retinal to my skin, I have noticed a significant decrease in the numbers of breakouts. Of course, I still get monthly hormonal breakouts (although not as bad) and the dreaded maskne 🙄. But other than that, I have had my first month in a long time where 3 weeks of it, my skin has been near-enough completely clear.

That’s a big change for me!

I have also noticed that on the 4 nights of the week when I do use retinal, if there are any small beginnings of a spot, the retinal stops them in their tracks. By the morning, any breakouts that were trying to rise up are either gone or reduced in size. Redness is also very much eradicated.

Now if you’ve seen my photos, you will see that I naturally have a lot of redness in my skin. So, when I say that this retinal has been clearing some of that, you know your girl is telling the truth! I’m really excited to see where long term use of the Medik8 Crystal Retinal range will take me in terms of my biggest insecurity!

FYI, retinal has antibacterial properties and so I would say that’s helped in managing to keep breakouts at bay.

No Visible Signs Of Retinisation

Nope, really! Not a single sign of any dryness, redness… nothing!

Of course, as I keep mentioning, I am annoyingly sensible. I followed the guidance to a tee when it came to introducing retinoids to my skin. I used it once in the first week, twice in the second week etc etc. However, I still expected to see some sort of irritation by the time I got to using it 4 times a week, but I didn’t!

Another thing to consider is that I am using Crystal Retinal 1 which is intended for very sensitive skin, which I do not have. However, Medik8 also state that it’s for retinoid newbies, which, this I am so who knows! 🤷🏼‍♀️

You watch now, I’ll progress to Crystal Retinal 3 and I’ll experience it all… dryness, redness, irritation 😂. If I do, you’ll all be the first to hear about it!


Thanks to the many emollient and skin-replenishing ingredients within this product (see ingredients list), I’ve not noticed any drying out of my skin. Even in the times when I used this serum alone, without any additional moisturiser or oil on top. This may have also helped with the fact that I didn’t suffer any nasty retinoid side effects in the beginning!

*As for the effects on fine lines and wrinkles, I will talk about that once I’ve been using the serum for longer.


I’m struggling…

To be honest, for me personally, there were absolutely no downsides to this product. Looking at it in the eyes of another person however, I would advise that the Crystal Retinal range contains Daucus Carota Sativa (Carrot) Seed Oil. Which is an essential oil. However, from its placement in the inky list, it is clear that the amount is less than 0.01%. We know this because Crystal Retinal 1 in this range has 0.01% of retinal. From the rules of ingredients lists, we know that ingredients have to be listed in order of descending weight (amount of product).

Also, it’s not clear whether this is the fixed oil version or indeed the essential oil version. Both have antifungal and antioxidant properties but it is the latter that has the potential to irritate sensitive skin types. I don’t have sensitive skin myself so I can’t comment on this but what I will say that the amount in the product must be very small!

How Do I Use This Product?

Medik8 states to apply this serum onto cleansed skin and then wait until the product is fully absorbed before following up with a moisturiser.

This is exactly what I do! However, I try to get the retinal on pretty early into the evening and leave it for a couple of hours. Then I will go back in with my moisturiser and oil. This is just my personal preference! 

Sometimes, depending on how my skin is feeling, I’ll even use a niacinamide serum, hydrating mist and hyaluronic acid before applying my moisturiser and squalane oil. I only ever use squalane oil on retinal nights because I like a nice, thin, plain oil! Again, just my preference, you don’t need an oil as this serum already contains squalane!

How Do I Introduce This Product To My Skin?

I followed Medik8’s phased advice on how to introduce this product to my skin. The first week, I used it once, the second week, twice. By the third week, you guessed it, I was using it three times a week! Now 5 weeks in, I’ve gone up to 4 times a week, as I’m using the lowest strength and my skin can handle it. Medik8 states that you can use this serum every night but as I’m under 30, I would rather not! If you would like to do this, just listen to your skin. If it’s starting to feel sore or irritated in any way, fall back! Reduce your usage down and focus on barrier repair!

Of course, if you’re a seasoned retinoid user, you may just want to dive straight in!

Gimme The Deets…

Price-wise for 30ml of Crystal Retinal;

1 with 0.01% retinal = £39
3 with 0.03% retinal = £45
6 with 0.06% retinal = £59
10 with 0.10% retinal = £79

I bought this directly from the Medik8 website but you can get it through other suppliers as well, depending on where in the world you are! 🌏

In terms of time you have to use the product in, once opened, it lasts 12 months. In terms of storage, on your shelf with the rest of your skincare babies is fine!

Stick Or Spin Again?

Stick, absolutely! I want to progress up the range and eventually get to the top with Crystal Retinal 10. All in all, I’ve had a completely positive start with my retinoid journey and I’m keen to see where the Crystal Retinal range will take me!


As for alternatives. There are plenty out there! It all comes down to just finding one that you like the sound of, by the way of other ingredients combined with the retinoid and what the reviews are saying. It also depends on where you are in your retinoid journey and how much you’re willing/wanting to spend.

I picked Medik8’s Crystal Retinal range mostly due to word of mouth. However, I also had my eye on The Ordinary retinoid range. I really think if you’re unsure about where to start, under the age of 30 and don’t want to waste lots of money, TO is a great place to begin.

The Allies of Skin 1A overnight mask also stood out to me. However, that’s because I am already a particular fan of that brand and its products!

So, to summarise, just dive in!! Be sensible of course, if you’re new to retinoids, start slowly and with a low percentage. If you’re young start with the weaker versions like retinol and work your way up to stronger versions. If you’re over 30 and new to retinoids, I would go straight in with the retinal but again start slowly with a low percentage.

I would also say, be realistic with price point. Retinoids require consistency and long term commitment to see effects and so if you pick a product that you can’t afford to keep using, it’s ultimately going to be a waste of your time!

Annnnd, that’s it for today! I hope you found this helpful. Retinoids don’t have to be scary, you just need to be sensible and get stuck in (can’t say it enough!!).

Next time I will be reviewing the Allies of Skin Daily Peptide Treatment. Subscribe here so that you don’t miss it!

In the meantime leave me some comments below, I’ll always get back to you. Tell me what you think about The Medik8 Crystal Retinal Range, if you’ve tried it. Have you tried any other retinoid products that you want to recommend? Otherwise, drop me a message on any of my social channels, I’ll get back to you!

Love & Knowledge,

S A M A N T H A 



Ok, first off, I’m going to apologise as this update is way later than I originally planned!

Anyway, you’ll be happy to know that I’m still using and loving Medik8’s Crystal Retinal 1! Towards the end of summer I had to slow down from using 3-4 times per week to just once per week as I was trialling a new acid product which I now know, didn’t agree with my skin. Now I’m no longer using that acid product (review on that shortly!), I’m back to using the CR1 3 times a week and my skin couldn’t be happier!

Now, in terms of any further changes in my skin, I haven’t seen anything more than the great effects I saw in the first 5 weeks. However, amazingly I did notice my forehead line looking deeper when I went down to just once a week use! I also think my acne has got worse so I’m glad I’m back up to 3 times a week!!

It won’t be long and I’ll be starting Crystal Retinal 3 which I’m super excited about! So, my next update will come once I’ve used CR3 for at least 5-6 weeks. I’ll write it as a brand new post so look out for that one!


So, I had to stop using my beloved Crystal Retinal 1 (even though I was basically finished and about to start CR3!!!), because I started on a prescription for my acne. I will update you more on that in the coming months. I really miss my Crystal Retinal but my acne came back with a bang in October 2020 and I needed some help in the form of prescription strength treatment.

Hope you’re all well and if ever you have any questions about retinoids or this product, please don’t hesitate to comment below!

INGREDIENTS: Aqua (Water), Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride(emollient/texture enhancer – best), Glycerin (skin-replenishing/restoring – best), Isododecane (texture enhancer – good), Cyclodextrin (chelating – no rating), Cetearyl Alcohol (texture enhancer/emollient – good), Cetearyl Olivate (texture enhancer/emollient – good), Sodium Acrylate/Sodium Acryloyldimethyl Taurate Copolymer (thickener/emulsifier – good), Sorbitan Olivate (cleansing agent/emulsifier – good), Tocopheryl Acetate (antioxidant/vitamin E – best), Squalane (hydration/antioxidant/emollient/skin-replenishing – best), Sodium Hyaluronate (skin-replenishing/restoring – best), Retinal (vitamin/cell-communicating agent – best), 3-O-Ethyl Ascorbic Acid (vitamin C/skin-brightening – goodie), Daucus Carota Sativa (Carrot) Seed Oil (antioxidant – poor), Hydroxyethyl Acrylate/Sodium Acryloyldimethyl Taurate Copolymer (thickener/emulsifier – good). Ethylhexylglycerin (preservative/carrier-agent – good), Pentylene Glycol (texture enhancer – good), Vanilla Planifolia (Vanilla) Fruit Extract (skin-soothing/fragrance – good), Hydroxypropyl Methylcellulose (thickener/stabiliser – no rating), Rubus Chamaemorus (Cloudberry) Seed Oil (antioxidant/skin-soothing – best), Sodium Polyaspartate (moisturiser/humectant – no rating), Tetrahexyldecyl Ascorbate (antioxidant/vitamin C – best), Dipteryx Odorata (Tonka) Bean Extract (perfume – no rating), BHT (antioxidant – average), Polyhydroxystearic Acid (suspending agent – good), Disodium EDTA (chelating agent – good), Hydroxyacetophenone (antioxidant/hydration – good), Titanium Dioxide (sunscreen active/colouring – best), Phenoxyethanol (preservative – good), Alumina (texture enhancer/absorbent – good), Lonicera Caprifolium (Honeysuckle) Flower Extract (skin-soothing – good), Isostearic Acid (thickener/emulsifier – good), Lecithin (emollient/skin-replenishing – good), Lonicera Japonica (Honeysuckle) Flower Extract (skin-soothing – best), Polyglyceryl-3 Polyricinoleate (emulsifier/viscosity controller – no rating), Stearic Acid (thickener/emulsifier – good), Coumarin (antioxidant – good), CI 14700 (Red 4) (colourant – no rating).

*Ingredient info & ratings from Paula’s Choice Ingredient Dictionary & Incidecoder (my personal choices for ingredient ratings).

The ingredients are the same for Crystal Retinal 1, 3, 6 and 10. It’s just the % of retinal that differs.

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  1. Maria 20/08/2020 at 13:24

    I love this , I would like to try a Sample of it

    1. Samantha 23/08/2020 at 14:25

      Thank you very much! I don’t provide samples unfortunately x


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