Just when we were about to throw our hands up in the air, trust-fall into the depths of our comforter-padded beds, and give up on our winter skincare regimen completely (stubborn dryness, flakes, and redness have us pulling our hair out), we received some excellent news from our sister skincare line, Versed. On December 4 (that's today, folks!), the brand is launching a new saving-grace retinol serum formulated to even skin tone, iron out stubborn textural issues, and banish clogged pores, fine lines, and wrinkles. Enter Versed's first launch since the line's inception earlier this year: Press Restart Gentle Retinol Serum ($22).
However, this isn't your average retinol serum, nor is it even your average gentle retinol serum. At only $22 and brimming with both encapsulated retinol and natural retinol alternatives, it's one of the most affordable formulas out there while also being one of the cleanest and most effective. As someone who has had a very bumpy road when test-driving other retinol-containing products over the years, I can honestly say it's the very best I've ever tried and one of the few I've felt safe incorporating into my routine.
With zero ick factor in terms of ingredients and none of the commonly associated side effects such as flaking, Versed's brand-new launch is here to save your skin this winter and beyond, making it the perfect option for those new to or already well-versed in the retinol arena. Let's dive in, shall we?
What It Is & How It Works
I've tried (often unsuccessfully) to incorporate retinol and retinol alternatives into my skincare routine, and I have to say the featherlight, creamy consistency of Versed's newest launch is a game changer. The serum features a unique, highly effective combination of both encapsulated retinol and natural retinol alternatives (Arophira and bakuchiol), which work together to deeply penetrate the skin. In fact, it's so potent the duo effectively bypasses the superficial surface layers of your complexion so it can do the deep, nitty-gritty work it's formulated to do by tackling sun damage, pigmentation, wrinkles, even stubborn scarring in one fell swoop. The best news? Despite the deep-down magic the formula wields, it's gentle enough to keep your skin happy, glowing, and 100% flake-free. So no, this isn't your average retinol serum, folks.
According to the brand, the encapsulated retinol travels through the top layers of the skin, which is where irritation typically occurs if you've ever tried non-encapsulated retinol formulas. Then, the two plant-based retinol alternatives, Arophira and bakuchiol, work simultaneously to even out skin tone and textural issues, all while smoothing and plumping fine lines and wrinkles. Additionally, the formula goes above and beyond thanks to an added hit of anti-inflammatory chlorophyll, which gives the serum a cool, minty-green hue. Not that looks matter, but it's definitely the prettiest retinol serum you'll ever use.
The Benefits & Buzzy Talking Points
We'd be remiss not to admit that another new retinol serum isn't necessarily groundbreaking. Visit any beauty retailer, and you'll see dozens of formulas within seconds. That said, affordable retinol serums are rare, let alone affordable formulas that are clean, vegan, and cruelty-free. As someone working toward cultivating a keener eye to what is (or isn't) inside my must-have skincare formulas, I find it equally impressive that Press Restart is made without artificial fragrances and dyes, parabens, silicones, sulfates (SLS/SLES), added phthalates, formaldehyde and formaldehyde-releasing agents, NPE, BHT, triclosan, triclocarban, petroleum, coal tar, mineral oil, talc, micro-plastics, and hydroquinone.
Even though I've had some issues with clean or more natural skincare products leaving my skin dry or irritated, especially retinol or retinol alternatives, Versed's Press Restart Gentle Retinol Serums is, quite literally, the only serum my sensitive complexion has tolerated, let alone actually benefitted from. Which, obviously, makes it an incredible option for those prone to irritation or first-time retinol users who are intrigued but perhaps a little nervous to hop on the bandwagon.
Another perk? The serum couldn't be easier to use and incorporate into your current skincare routine—even if you're a Versed virgin thus far. (Although, we predict that will soon change!) To apply, simply smooth two pumps into clean, almost-dry skin after cleansing each night, and let it sink in for a full minute. Unlike many retinol formulas, Press Restart is completely safe for nightly use, and you can also feel free to slather it all over your neck and chest. Since it's surprisingly hydrating and non-drying, you can use it alone as your last step within your nightly regimen, or, if you're extra prone to dryness, feel free to layer lightweight serums underneath it or your favorite moisturizer on top of it. Again, just make sure you let it do its thing for that full minute immediately after you apply, and don't forget to wear your SPF the morning after.
The Ingredient Breakdown
Bakuchiol: According to the brand, bakuchiol is a natural, botanical retinol alternative that preforms like retinol—noticeably helping to reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles and pigmentation while boosting elasticity and firmness. The key here is that it won't come with the common irritation and sensitivity issues notoriously associated with retinol.
Arophira: A retinol-like natural ingredient that also reduces sebum, which can contribute to clogged pores and acne—aka this is why people like me who clog and break out easily can slather it on with zero abandon and not worry about unwanted congestion.
Encapsulated Retinol: As Versed explains, encapsulated retinol is truly the gold standard within the world of holy-grail anti-aging ingredients and the quest to attaining recharged and healthy skin. Essentially, retinol instigates collagen production and cell renewal, and when it's encapsulated, it can travel deeper within the skin to help stave off dryness, flaking, and angry irritation.
Chlorophyll: An awesome perk for those with hyperpigmentation or redness, chlorophyll is a natural yet powerful anti-inflammatory agent that gives the serum its pretty green hue while also keeping your skin as calm and cool as a cucumber.
I'm about to be one million percent honest with you. As much as I love Versed, I did not want to try this product. It's not that I don't love everything Versed stands for (affordable prices! nontoxic! eco-friendly packaging! active ingredients!), it's just that when it comes to retinol. I'm just a tad, shall we say, scarred. In fact, when the Versed team approached me to test out the Press Restart Gentle Retinol Serum for a few weeks prior to the highly anticipated release, I had just experienced a hellish (i.e., chapped, red, painful AF) reaction to a more intense, non-natural formula recommended to me by my esthetician. My skin was still healing and irritated, and the last thing I wanted to do was throw another formula in the mix while I licked my wounds—no matter how gentle or wonderful it was touted to be. Alas, being the face- and skin-sacrificing beauty editor that I am, I decided to ditch my worries and ultimately packed it into my carry-on prior to a full week at home for Thanksgiving. My strategy: If my face did turn into one big red scab, at least my family would be kind enough not to judge me.
A few days after I landed in Arizona, my skin was slowly but surely healing from the previous retinol disaster but, mind you, well on its way to flake-city thanks to the arid desert conditions of Tucson. Thus, it was experiment time. Since I'm prone to breakouts and also try to keep my routine as streamlined as possible—especially while traveling—I applied the serum after cleansing with no other serums or tonics in between. Almost instantly, I knew this wasn't like any other retinol serum or product I had ever tried. First of all, it was so smooth and soothing to apply. It absorbed quickly, but it didn't leave my skin feeling dry or parched, and my complexion felt so hydrated and glowy afterward I actually skipped my usual nighttime moisturizer. So far, so good, I thought.
The next morning, I woke up and practically ran to the bathroom mirror. Typically, no matter what I've applied the night prior, I wake up feeling dry and tight whenever I'm in Arizona, and I expected to immediately regret the decision to forgo moisturizer the night before. Therefore, I was genuinely shocked to see that not only did a few stubborn pimples look smaller and less red (it was like they had magically deflated overnight), but my skin was also dewy and not, in fact, thirsting for immediate hydration. Despite how impressed I was, I knew it could be a first-application fluke, but as I continued to apply it nightly (still with no moisturizer!) for the rest of the week, I woke up consistently each morning with skin that, slowly but surely, was looking brighter, smoother, and miraculously less congested. Additionally, the formula didn't exacerbate or perpetuate the still-healing irritation from my old formula, and it actually seemed to be helping along the irritation's gradual disappearance.
Another thing: I really truly appreciate the fact that this retinol serum is creamy in consistency and smartly packaged to make it easy to travel with. It spreads evenly, and I love that it doesn't drip or feel oily on my face. I truly detest it when I can feel products lingering on my skin—whether they feel sticky, greasy, slippery, or just cloying—and this retinol serum feels remarkably invisible while completely delivering on all of its lofty claims and benefits. I don't know if this has ever happened before during my career as a beauty editor, but I honestly can't find anything wrong with this product. And, mind you, I'm hypercritical when it comes to skincare.
Oh, and just in case you think I'm biased because Versed is our sister brand, I'm not. I always make it my goal to be completely honest and unfiltered when it comes to feedback and reviews, and while I swear by certain products from Versed such as Hydration Station ($20), Silk Slip ($10), Zero-G ($18), and Look Alive ($10), others such as Wash It Out ($13) and The Fix ($18) have left me unimpressed.
The fact that this serum is only $22 is absurd, and I mean that in the best way possible. Press Restart Gentle Retinol Serum is not only my new favorite product from Versed, but it's also my new favorite product period.
Plays Well With
The brand's cult-loved brightening eye gel—apply it after your Press Restart and before your moisturizer, if using.
Mix one to three drops in with your retinol or smooth it in post-cleanse and before you apply. It's the perfect antidote if you need an extra dose of hydration—especially during the colder months of winter when our skin is prone to chapping.
People obsess over this miraculous mask for a reason—you'll notice results in seconds. Use it a couple of times a week so the plumping and hydrating formula can piggyback off the smooth, glowing skin perks of the retinol.