Retinol is one of the most highly-regarded skincare ingredients for preventing and treating the signs of aging, and Paula’s Choice has a powerful product that contains a 1% concentration of this impressive ingredient. Here is our review of the Paula’s Choice Clinical 1% Retinol Treatment.

Key Takeaways

  • 1% concentration of retinol, the active ingredient
  • One of the more potent retinol products available over-the-counter (OTC)
  • Suitable for most skin types (normal, oily, combination)

Clinical 1% Retinol Treatment

Paula’s Choice Clinical 1% Retinol Treatment

Powerful Anti-Aging Treatment

Paula’s Choice Clinical 1% Retinol Treatment

This treatment combines retinol, a powerful anti-aging ingredient, with hydrating and brightening ingredients for an even, smooth skin tone.

Skin types: All Skin Types
Best for: Fighting Signs of Aging
Tested on animals: No
How to use: Apply a pea-sized amount to clean, dry skin, starting with the cheeks. It can be applied to the neck and upper chest as well.
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Retinol is the gold-standard for fighting signs of aging, so this is an excellent choice for those with wrinkles, fine lines, and sun spots. The addition of soothing and hydrating ingredients helps counteract some of the potential irritating side effects of retinol.


  • Fragrance-free
  • Lightweight
  • Non-greasy


  • May irritate more sensitive skin types

This serum contains vitamin C, which brightens the skin, as well as licorice extract and oat extract, which soothe and calm redness.

Retinoids are the holy grail of anti-aging. They target all signs of skin aging, from reversing photodamage to correcting pigmentation to enhancing collagen production.

Retinols are one subtype of retinoids, the others being adapalene and tretinoin. Retinols are available over-the-counter in varying concentrations, from 0.1% to 1%. They have the same mechanism of action as tretinoin but are milder and better tolerated.

Product Overview

A lot of retinol products in the market do not mention the concentration of retinol used, which is often frustrating. The Paula's Choice Clinical 1% Retinol Treatment is a strong formulation with a 1% concentration of the active, retinol.

It is designed to combat signs of aging, pigmentation and photodamage.

The addition of peptides makes the formulation more expensive, but these also act to decrease fine lines and wrinkles and make the skin smoother and plumper.


The Paula’s Choice Clinical 1% Retinol Treatment is a potent and uniquely formulated retinol solution that hydrates and delivers remarkable anti-aging benefits with a controlled-release delivery system to allow for even, consistent absorption.

This treatment has an advanced hydrating complex with a light texture that absorbs quickly.

It diminishes the appearance of wrinkles, fine lines, uneven skin tone and pore size. It also has plant extracts to calm skin and ease redness.

Key Ingredients

1. Retinol (1%)

Retinol is a derivative of vitamin A, and is available OTC.

It is a proven anti-aging ingredient that can smooth wrinkles and make skin firmer by increasing collagen production.

It is also useful for acne-prone skin, as it normalizes keratinization.

2. Peptides

Peptides are fragments which trick the skin into thinking that collagen is breaking down, thus signaling the natural skin cells to produce more collagen. They also reduce inflammation in the skin.

The peptides included are:

  • Palmitoyl tetrapeptide-7
  • Palmitoyl hexapeptide-12
  • Acetyl dipeptide-1 cetyl ester
  • Palmitoyl tripeptide-1

3. Antioxidants

Tetrahexyldecyl Ascorbate is a stable, oil-soluble form of Vitamin C.

Arctium Lappa Root Extract (Burdock root) is anti-inflammatory and antioxidant. It also helps regulate sebum production.

Tocopheryl Acetate (a form of vitamin E) enhances the effect of other antioxidants.

4. Additional Ingredients

Sodium Hyaluronate (a salt of hyaluronic acid), glycerin and ceramides provide hydration to the skin, while oat meal extract soothes.

How to Use

  • Apply a pea-sized amount after cleansing, starting with the cheeks.
  • Avoid the lips, eyes (including eyelids) and corners of the eyes. It can be used on the perimeter of the orbital bone if desired to address crow's feet.
  • It can be applied to the neck and upper chest as well.
  • Apply it on dry skin, because damp skin can increase penetration and cause irritation, redness and itching.
  • Layer it with a moisturizer on top.

When to apply

This treatment should be used at night.

Initially, start by using the product three times per week. Gradually increase frequency to every other night, then finally each evening (as tolerated).

Listen to your skin. Pay close attention to how your skin responds and adjust usage and frequency accordingly.

Other Tips

1. Be aware of retinol sensitization

Some individuals may experience a delayed sensitized reaction to retinol. Do not assume that if no reaction is seen after a few applications that you can apply this product more frequently.

Sensitized skin will be red, flaky, itchy, painful and irritated.

If sensitization occurs, reduce frequency of use to twice a week only. If sensitization persists, discontinue use.

2. Don't skip sunscreen

Retinoids make your skin photosensitive, which means that it can react easily to light, getting red and sunburnt. Use sunscreen daily.

3. Moisturize liberally

Retinol can make your skin dry and flaky. Watch your skin for signs of dryness, and use a good moisturizer liberally.

Initially, the 'sandwich' technique of using a retinol can help. Apply a layer of moisturizer first, then the 1% retinol. Finish by sealing it in with another layer of moisturizer.

4. Using other actives

Avoid using chemical exfoliants like alpha hydroxy acids and beta hydroxy acids at the same time.

Niacinamide can be safely layered with retinol.

What to Expect

Initially, in the first 2-3 weeks, you may experience skin dryness and flaking, with visible flakes of skin peeling off.

Do not be alarmed. Just adjust the frequency of use based on how tight or dry your skin feels - you can even use it as little as only twice a week initially.

Slowly, after 8-12 weeks of consistent use, you will start to notice changes in your skin. The fine lines and wrinkles will look less prominent; the skin will look less clogged and uneven. It will have the much-hyped 'retinoid glow'.


Does Paula’s Choice retinol work?

Paula’s Choice Clinical 1% Retinol Treatment is a great product that combines retinol with other powerful ingredients to fight the signs of aging. Retinol is well-studied, and has been shown to deliver results. However, as is the case with any skincare product, in order to see those results, patience and consistency is key.

What should you not use retinol with?

Since retinol is a very powerful active, you should not layer it with other active ingredients that have the potential to irritate or dry out the skin, such as chemical exfoliators. This will only increase the likelihood of irritating the skin.

What order should I apply retinol?

Retinol should be applied to cleansed skin. After cleansing, be sure to gently pat your face with a towel and wait a few minutes to ensure the skin is completely dry. Retinol should not be applied to damp skin, as it can increase the risk of irritation. After retinol is applied, follow up with a moisturizer. 

The Bottom Line

The Paula’s Choice Clinical 1% Retinol Treatment is definitely a great choice when it comes to incorporating retinol into your routine. It does what it claims to do - combat signs of skin aging, from wrinkles to pigmentation.

It may not be the best choice if you're new to retinols and just starting out since the 1% can be too much for some. With retinols, the rule is always 'start low, go slow'.