Our editorial team is dedicated to finding and telling you more about the products and deals we love. If you love them too and decide to purchase through the links below, we may receive a commission. Prices were correct at the time of publication.

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

medik8
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. Here's why I love it and think you will too.

🛍️ Product reviewed: Medik8 Crystal Retinal 3 Stable Retinal Night Serum
Tested it for: Two years
Rating: 5/5
💸 Reasons to buy: Minimal irritation, brightens, smooths and firms my acne-prone, sensitive skin
Reasons to avoid: It's a luxury buy at £49, but is worth the investment
💰 Best deal we've found: Currently it can only be found at full price at £49 at a range of retailers

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. 

£49 at John Lewis

💸 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)

Shop at John Lewis Shop now 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 plenty of five-star reviews on John Lewis. One said: "Essential part of my night time routine, I have been using for about one year every night. It is gentle and not irritating and have noticed an improvement in the texture of my skin. I really enjoy all the Medik8 products in general, pricey but I think the most effective and lasting for value."

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

Medik8 Crystal Retinal is rarely on sale, but it's working keeping an eye on various retailers such as John Lewis, Space NK and Lookfantastic, as well as Medik8's own website for any discounts.

Shop it now: Medik8 Crystal Retinal 3 Stable Retinal Night Serum | £49 from John Lewis

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

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.

£14 at John Lewis

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. 

£23 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