Shani Darden Retinol Reform Review – Scam or Legit?

Alright guys, listen up. I’ve tried a lot of retinol serums in my day, and let me tell you – Shani Darden Retinol Reform takes the cake. I’ve been using it on and off for a few years now, and trust me, as a beauty editor, I don’t repurchase a skincare product unless I’m seriously in love.

Turns out, I’m not the only one smitten with this gentle yet effective retinol. Celebrities like Jessica Alba, January Jones, and Rosie Huntington-Whiteley are all fans too.

So what makes Retinol Reform so special? In this review, I’ll fill you in on what sets it apart, how the new formula compares to the original, my personal results, and even some of the best dupes I’ve found.

Get to Know Shani Darden, Hollywood’s Go-To Facialist

I stumbled upon a magazine article about the beauty products that “changed our lives in 2016” and came across the name. And let me tell you, I was curious. When I read about her retinol product, Retinol Reform, I just had to know who this woman was.

Turns out, she’s the most sought-after facialist in Hollywood right now and has helped maintain the flawless complexions of A-listers like Chrissy Teigen, Suki Waterhouse, and Emily Ratajkowski.

Shani’s simple approach is what sets her apart and gets results. Just check out these testimonials from happy clients. Shay Mitchell raves, “She is honestly a skin goddess.” Kelly Rowland says, “She literally fixed my face in a day.” And Phoebe Tonkin adds, “My skin is just night and day.”

So, what’s the secret weapon? Retinol, of course! Shani even says, “I personally think everyone should be on retinol if they can handle it. It can totally turn your skin around.”

Interested in trying out Shani’s skincare magic for yourself? You might just end up with a flawless complexion like those Hollywood A-listers.

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Shani Darden’s Signature Retinol Serum Takes the Beauty World by Storm

Shani Darden was fed up with the retinols on the market that didn’t deliver prescription-strength results without leaving her clients’ skin dry and peeling. So, she created her own solution: the Shani Darden Retinol Reform.

The serum launched in 2013, but it wasn’t until Kim Kardashian sang its praises on Snapchat in 2016 that it really took off. Shani was ecstatic, calling it “the biggest thing ever.” And it’s not just Kim who’s a fan – the list of A-listers who swear by Retinol Reform is long and growing.

January Jones calls it a game-changer in her skincare routine, Rosie Huntington-Whitely raves it’s her all-time favourite product, and Chrissy Teigen even says she gets compliments on her skin every time she uses it. No wonder it’s been a staple in many people’s routines for years now!

Why Retinol Reform is a Fan Favorite?

Non-Drying Formula

“Say goodbye to dry, flaky skin with Retinol Reform,” says Shani. The retinol treatment is formulated with a moisturizing base, so your skin will stay hydrated even with regular use.

Gentle on Sensitive Skin

Retinol Reform is formulated with anti-inflammatory ingredients like aloe vera and niacinamide, making it a gentler option compared to other retinol treatments. And if you have sensitive skin, Texture Reform is even milder.

Anti-Aging Benefits

Retinol Reform contains retinol, the most proven anti-aging ingredient. It helps with fine lines and wrinkles, sun damage, loss of elasticity, rough texture, and hyperpigmentation. Plus, it works preventatively to keep your skin looking youthful.

Clears Acne

According to Shani, “Retinol is very effective for improving blemishes and keeping skin clear.” So if you’re struggling with breakouts, Retinol Reform might be just what you need.

Brightens Skin

Retinol speeds up the rate at which new skin cells come to the surface, reducing acne scars and brightening your complexion. Lactic acid exfoliates for immediate brightening and niacinamide evens out skin tone, giving you a radiant look.

Oil-Free Formula

Retinol Reform is ideal for oily and acne-prone skin as it contains no oils, making it longer-lasting than oil-based products.


You won’t find any silicones in Retinol Reform, making it one of the few silicone-free retinoids on the market.


This retinol treatment is free of fragrance ingredients, so you don’t have to worry about irritation if you’re sensitive to scents.

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Retinol Reform: A Closer Look at the New Formula

Let’s dive into the latest version of Retinol Reform and compare it to the old formula.

The new formula, reformulated in 2020, looks a bit different than the old one, but there are some good reasons for the changes. Here’s what’s in it: Aqua, Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride, Glycerin, and so on (you can find the full list above). And here’s what the original formula used to consist of: Deionized Water, Retinol, Aloe Vera, and a few more ingredients.

One thing that used to be a big selling point for me was the limited number of ingredients, but now it’s not the case. However, the new formula has some benefits:

  • Stronger retinoid: instead of retinyl propionate, the new formula contains retinol, which is 20 times more effective.
  • Similar concentration: the new formula has 2.2% encapsulated retinol, though the exact amount of pure retinol is unknown.
  • Gentler and more stable: the retinol is protected by an encapsulating layer, making it slower-release and less harsh on the skin.
  • Lower in lactic acid: the new formula has 2.2% lactic acid, compared to 5% in the old formula.
  • Improved preservatives: the potentially irritating preservatives (sodium benzoate and quaternium-15) have been removed.
  • Added benefits: apple fruit extract has been added to the formula, offering antioxidant, moisturizing, and mild exfoliating effects.

The reason for the reformulation could be because Retinol Reform is now sold at Sephora. The retailer may have asked for changes to the ingredients or the price point, leading to a cheaper and better formula.

Retinol Reform: A Lightweight and Hydrating Serum

Retinol Reform has got a yellowish tint from the retinol itself, which is a good sign that we’re getting a decent dose of it. The texture is like a lightweight serum, more like a runny gel-cream than anything heavy or greasy.

Gives you all the benefits without the weight! It sinks in pretty quickly, only taking about 30 seconds, and it doesn’t leave any stickiness. Bonus, it’s actually pretty hydrating too. Once it’s all absorbed, you won’t even feel like you’re wearing anything on your skin.

How to Incorporate Retinol Reform into Your Skincare Routine?

So you want to add Retinol Reform to your skincare routine, right? Great choice, it’s a game-changer! Here’s how to use it like a pro:

  1. Nighttime is the Right Time: Retinoids are best applied at night. During the day, switch to a vitamin C serum like iS Clinical Super Serum Advance+.
  2. Clean Slate: Apply retinoids to a clean, dry face.
  3. Exfoliate at Your Own Risk (Optional): Retinol Reform has lactic acid, so Shani recommends avoiding other AHA exfoliants on the same night. You can still use a mild BHA, just watch your skin closely. Remember to wait about 30 minutes between acids and retinol for best results.
  4. Apply Retinol Reform: Apply one to two pumps to your face, neck, and chest. You can also use it under your eyes but be gentle in this delicate area.
  5. Moisturize (If You Need To): If you have oily skin, you can skip moisturizing. For dry skin, wait for the product to absorb before adding your hydrator.
  6. Gradual Increase: Start by using Retinol Reform once or twice a week, and add another day each week until your skin can handle it. Oily skin can handle daily use fastest, but it may take up to eight weeks for dry and sensitive skin.
  7. Don’t Forget the Sunscreen: Last but not least, don’t forget your daily sunscreen! Check out my guide for mineral sunscreen suggestions.

That’s it! With these steps, you’ll have gorgeous, glowing skin in no time!

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Retinol Reform: My Experience with the Reformulated Version

I just wanted to share my thoughts on Retinol Reform. After using the original for a month, I got complimented on my skin’s “glow.” No joke, strangers were telling me they noticed it from across the room! I attribute this to the evenness it gave my skin tone and its ability to prevent breakouts. Plus, it’s gentle so no dryness, redness, or irritation.

Recently, I’ve been using the reformulated version and I gotta say, it’s just as good as the original. It looks, feels, and smells the same. And most importantly, it’s giving me the same results. Of course, since I’ve used retinoids before, there wasn’t a huge transformation, but still, my skin is looking good. I can even get away without foundation (check out the photo above).

One thing I struggled with in the past was using the original formula around my eyes. It would always make the skin go crepey and irritated. But with the new formula, I haven’t had that issue. I suspect it’s because of the change in preservatives.

Overall, I’m a fan of Retinol Reform and would recommend it to others.

Comparing Retinol Reform and Texture Reform: Which to Choose

I get asked a lot about the differences between Retinol Reform and Texture Reform, and which one is right for you.

If you don’t have sensitive skin, go ahead and give Retinol Reform a try. It’s stronger, but with a 0.25% retinol concentration, it’s not THAT strong. (1% is considered strong!) So even if you’re new to retinol, you should be just fine as long as you follow the recommended schedule for introducing it into your routine.

On the other hand, if you do have sensitive skin, Texture Reform might be the way to go. It’s specifically formulated for sensitive skin and contains 5% retinyl palmitate (a weak retinol ester) and 7% lactic acid. To be honest, it’s better at exfoliating than it is at providing retinoid benefits. Any results you see are probably from the lactic acid, not the retinyl palmitate.

Shani Darden Review: Final Verdict

Are you on the hunt for a gentle but effective retinol serum that’s free of oil, silicone, and fragrance? Look no further because Shani Darden Retinol Reform is the one for you. If you’re after something stronger, with a Vaseline-like texture, check out A313 Vitamin A Pommade.

With Shani Darden Retinol Reform, you should start seeing brighter-looking skin right away and fewer breakouts soon after. Although, if you’re dealing with acne, I always recommend using BHAs. And if you’re using it for anti-aging purposes, don’t get discouraged if it takes some time to see results. All retinoids take time to work their magic. You may need to wait three to four months for improvement in fine lines, wrinkles, and dark spots. And for the full benefits on deeper layers of skin, give it at least six months.

You can snag Shani Darden Retinol Reform at Sephora, Violet Grey, Cult Beauty, or Shani Darden’s website.

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Affordable Alternatives to Retinol Reform

Are you on the hunt for a skincare product that’ll give you similar results to Retinol Reform without breaking the bank? Look no further! I’ve found some formulas that might just do the trick. Check them out:

  • Osmosis MD Clarify Blemish Retinal Serum: This baby packs a punch with 0.05% retinaldehyde and a mix of mandelic and lactic acids.
  • Arcona Advanced “A” Serum: This one’s got retinaldehyde (which is stronger than retinol) and lactic acid. The brand doesn’t say exactly how much, but it’s worth a shot!
  • CosMedix Clarity Skin-Clarifying Serum: This serum’s a real standout with retinol and salicylic acid as its star ingredients.
  • Glo Skin Beauty Renew Serum: A blend of retinol, glycolic acid, and salicylic acid? Yes, please!

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