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Clinical 1% Retinol Treatment

This intensive, high-percentage retinol treatment hydrates while it targets and improves the toughest skin concerns: stubborn wrinkles, uneven skin tone and loss of firmness.
Item #: 801
  • Anti-Aging, Wrinkles
  • For All Skin Types
  • 1% retinol reverses free-radical damage that causes skin to age
  • Vitamin C & peptides firm skin & smooth deep wrinkles & fine lines
  • Licorice & oat extracts soothe skin & minimize irritation
  • Potent blend refines pore size & evens skin tone
  • Creamy, lotion texture that delivers powerful results

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Clinical 1% Retinol Treatment

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What makes this product unique?
Combined with potent antioxidants, Clinical 1% Retinol Treatment is specially formulated to smooth and firm skin by helping to boost cell regeneration and stimulate collagen production. Its creamy lotion texture absorbs quickly and goes to work immediately to refine pore size, reduce deep wrinkles, fine lines, brown spots—it can even help breakouts, too! Licorice, oat extract and other anti-irritants help to minimize the irritation some people may get from products containing high amounts of retinol. You’ll be amazed at how much younger and radiant your skin will look and feel.

A consumer panel test showed that 92% of users preferred this retinol product over other, similar products they've used.

Who is this product for?
Those looking for a more potent product designed to preserve young skin and repair more advanced signs of aging, including: deep wrinkles, fine lines, and brown spots. In addition, Clinical 1% Retinol Treatment will help prevent blemishes and correct red marks from past breakouts.

Sources to support the claims made for the Clinical 1% Retinol Treatment

Journal of Investigative Dermatology, August 2013, ePublication; Journal of Drugs in Dermatology, May 2013, pages 533–540; March 2013, pages S42–S44; and January 2012, online; Pharmaceutical Research, February 2013, pages 538–551; Advances in Skin and Wound Care, May 2013, pages 224–229; Journal of Dermatological Science, April 2012, pages 51–59; Experimental Dermatology, July 2011, pages 572–576; International Journal of Cosmetic Science, February 2011, pages 62–69; British Journal of Dermatology, December 2010, pages 1,157–1,165; Bioscience, American Journal of Clinical Dermatology, Volume 9, 2008, pages 369–381; Biotechnology, and Biochemistry, October 2008, pages 2,589–2,597; and New England Journal of Medicine, May 1993, pages 1,438–1,443.

Key Ingredients: Salix alba extract, dipotassium glycyrrhizate, Arctium lappa, phytosterol, cetyl esters, tetrahexyldecyl ascorbate, retinol, Glycine soja sterols, glycerin, sodium hyaluronate, allantoin, Avena sativa, palmitoyl tetrapeptide-7, lecithin, dimethicone, palmitoyl tripeptide-1, laurdimonium hydroxypropyl hydrolyzed soy protein, Glycyrrhiza glabra, ceramide NS, palmitoyl hexapeptide-12, tocopheryl acetate

Product Ingredients:

Water (Aqua), Dimethicone (silicone slip agent), Glycerin (skin-repairing ingredient), Butylene Glycol (slip agent/penetration enhancer), Isononyl Isononanoate (emollient), Castor Isostearate Succinate (skin-conditioning agent), Glyceryl Stearate (emulsifier), C12-15 Alkyl Benzoate (thickener), Dimethicone Crosspolymer (silicone thickener/texture enhancer), PEG-33 (binding agent), Polysorbate 20 (emulsifier), Behenyl Alcohol (fatty alcohol thickener), PEG-100 Stearate (thickener), Pentaerythrityl Tetraisostearate (binding agent), Polymethylsilsesquioxane (silicone-based opacifying agent), Tetrahexyldecyl Ascorbate (vitamin C/antioxidant), Retinol (cell-communicating ingredient), Ceramide NG (skin-repairing ingredient) , Palmitoyl Tetrapeptide-7 (cell-communicating ingredients), Palmitoyl Hexapeptide-12 (cell-communicating ingredients), Sodium Hyaluronate (skin-repairing ingredient), Dipotassium Glycyrrhizate (antioxidant plant extracts/anti-irritants), Glycyrrhiza Glabra (Licorice) Root Extract (antioxidant plant extracts/anti-irritants), Avena Sativa (Oat) Kernel Extract (antioxidant plant extracts/anti-irritants), Arctium Lappa (Burdock) Root Extract (antioxidant plant extracts/anti-irritants), Salix Alba (Willow) Bark Extract (antioxidant plant extracts/anti-irritants), Glycine Soja (Soybean) Sterols (antioxidant/skin-conditioning agent), Lecithin (cell-communicating ingredient), Allantoin (anti-irritant), Tocopheryl Acetate (vitamin E/antioxidant), Hydrolyzed Soy Protein (antioxidant), Sorbitan Laurate (emulsifier), Acetyl Dipeptide-1 Cetyl Ester (anti-irritant), Disodium EDTA (stabilizer), Hydroxyethylcellulose (thickener), Palmitoyl Tripeptide-1 (cell communicating ingredient), Sodium Hydroxide (pH adjuster), Tribehenin (emollient), Caprylyl Glycol (skin conditioning agents), Ethylhexylglycerin (skin conditioning agents), Pentylene Glycol (slip agent), PEG-75 Shea Butter Glycerides (emollient), PPG-12/SMDI Copolymer (film-forming agent), PEG-10 Phytosterol (fatty acid-based thickener), PEG-8 Dimethicone (silicone-based skin-conditioning agent), PEG-14 (thickener), Magnesium Aluminum Silicate (slip agent), Arachidyl Glucoside (emulsifier), Arachidyl Alcohol (thickener), Sclerotium Gum (thickener), Carbomer (gel-based thickener), Phenoxyethanol (preservative), Benzoic Acid (preservative).

DIRECTIONS: Limit initial use to three times per week; gradually increase frequency to every other night, then finally each evening as tolerated. Apply a pea-sized amount after cleansing and/or toning. Carefully avoid the lips, eyes and corners of the eyes. Can be used on the perimeter of the orbital bone if desired. Do not apply to eyelids. To minimize irritation, try combining with 2-3 drops of Resist Moisture Renewal Oil Booster.

May be applied at the same time as your AHA or BHA exfoliant, but pay attention to how your skin responds. If you notice signs of sensitivity, apply your AHA or BHA exfoliant in the morning and this treatment at night or reduce frequency of application of Clinical 1% Retinol Treatment.

Note: Some people may experience a delayed sensitized reaction to 1% retinol. Do not assume that if no reaction is seen after a few applications that you can apply this treatment more frequently. Pay close attention to how your skin responds and adjust usage accordingly.

If sensitization occurs (redness, flaking, tenderness, or drying of skin), reduce frequency of use or mix one pump of the Clinical 1% Retinol Treatment with your favorite Paula’s Choice serum or PM moisturizer. If sensitization persists, discontinue use. Protect skin daily with sunscreen rated SPF 25 or greater, or layer sunscreens (moisturizer, foundation with sunscreen, and pressed powder with sunscreen) if they are all rated SPF 15 or greater (and greater is better).

Do not apply this treatment on the same day as facial waxing or sugaring. Doing so may increase the risk of an irritant response.


  • Can be worn under or over your PM moisturizer.
  • May be combined with any prescription retinoid product, including Renova, Retin-A, Refissa, Differin, Tazorac, or Avita. Discontinue or reduce frequency of use if irritation develops or persists.
  • Despite the many benefits retinol has, there is no single “best” anti-aging ingredient for skin. The retinol in this product is combined with other anti-aging ingredients for optimal results. The antioxidants and skin-repairing ingredients in this formula were chosen for their well-researched track records and history of being able to improve multiple signs of aging. We’ve also included potent anti-irritants to ensure compatibility with sensitive skin.
  • Remember, not everyone’s skin will be able to tolerate a high percentage of retinol, especially if you’re already using a prescription retinoid or other skincare products that contain retinol.

Detailed instructions on how/when to apply your Paula's Choice products can be found in our How to Put Together Your Own Skincare Routine article.

What is the difference between the Clinical 1% Retinol Treatment and the Resist 1% Retinol Booster?

To start, there are similarities between the the Resist 1% Retinol Booster and Clinical 1% Retinol Treatment. Both contain a high-level of 1% retinol, and each is formulated with peptides and a significant amount of antioxidants and anti-irritants. Where they really differ is in terms of texture, usage, and which skin types they are ideal for (although both products are suitable for all skin types).

The Clinical 1% Retinol Treatment has a creamy lotion texture that is most ideal for normal to dry skin. It’s an intensive high-percentage retinol treatment that a consistent retinol user looking for powerful results will love. It’s best to slowly add this to your routine – no more than a pea-sized amount up to 3 times per week to start – and adjust based on your individual experience.

The Resist 1% Retinol Booster has a fluid texture that allows it to be mixed in with your favorite serum or moisturizer. Its formula is thinner, lighter, and especially well-suited for normal to oily or breakout prone-skin. It’s also a phenomenal option for ANYONE who wants to boost their current skincare routine with a higher strength of retinol. Adding Resist 1% Retinol Booster to your serum or moisturizer allows it to work more gently on your skin, so you can use it more frequently – even as a daily part of our routine.

At what point in my skincare routine would I use Clinical 1% Retinol Treatment?

This nighttime treatment is best applied after cleansing and toning. If you use an AHA or BHA exfoliant, apply that first, then follow with Clinical 1% Retinol Treatment. If you use a skin-lightening product that would be applied next, followed by your serum and nighttime moisturizer.

If you are planning to use Clinical 1% Retinol Treatment with a prescription retinoid, apply the prescription retinoid after cleansing, toning, and exfoliating. Follow with Clinical 1% Retinol Treatment and the rest of your skincare routine. Note that combining this product with a prescription retinoid increases the risk of side effects such as dryness, flaking, and sensitivity.

How does Clinical 1% Retinol Treatment differ from the other retinol products Paula’s Choice offers?

The most notable difference is that Clinical 1% Retinol Treatment contains a higher amount of retinol than our other products with retinol. It is formulated for those whose skin can tolerate prescription-strength retinol but want an over-the-counter alternative or whose skin has more advanced signs of sun damage, including deep wrinkles.

The percentage of retinol needed for efficacy is generally between 0.01%–1%, which is quite a range, but further proof of just how powerful retinol is! For more on percentages of retinol in Paula’s Choice products, see our article Which Strength of Retinol Do I Need?

All of these products may be used with Clinical 1% Retinol Treatment or on their own, as each treats skin to a beneficial range of anti-aging ingredients.

Can I use Clinical 1% Retinol Treatment if I am using other Paula’s Choice products that contain retinol?

Yes, though you may wish to alternate rather than layer—this will depend on how your skin responds. You can also apply your usual retinol product (serum or moisturizer) all over your face and neck, then apply Clinical 1% Retinol Treatment to areas showing more advanced signs of aging: Crow’s feet around the eyes, laugh lines, expression lines, and dark spots.

Is Clinical 1% Retinol Treatment suitable for sensitive skin?

Yes, although of course it always depends on how skin reacts. Our fragrance-free formula contains several anti-irritants designed to minimize any discomfort those with sensitive skin may experience from using a stronger retinol treatment; however, if skin is very sensitive it’s best to apply this treatment less often, perhaps twice per week rather than every night.

Is Clinical 1% Retinol Treatment suitable for rosacea-affected skin?

Yes, although of course it always depends on how skin reacts. There’s research showing retinol can help reduce the inflammation that’s an underlying factor in rosacea.

Can I use Clinical 1% Retinol Treatment if I have oily skin and breakouts?

Yes; in fact, the amount of retinol is akin to prescription-strength retinoids which are often prescribed by dermatologists to manage all types of acne. The silky-smooth finish won’t make oily skin look or feel greasy.

How does Clinical 1% Retinol Treatment compare to prescription retinoids?

This product contains retinol, which is weaker than prescription retinoids but, over time, produces comparable anti-aging and anti-acne results. A prescription retinoid may produce faster results, but it does so with the added risk of side effects like redness, flaking, and increased sensitivity.

A product with 1% retinol is more comparable to a prescription retinoid with 0.02 tretinoin (the active ingredient in Renova and Retin-A).

As with most well formulated anti-aging products, consistent use and daily sun protection will produce the best results.

Is it OK to use Clinical 1% Retinol Treatment with a product that contains hydroquinone, such as Resist Dark Spot Eraser?

Yes, this is fine. Apply the Clinical 1% Retinol Treatment first, and follow with the skin-lightening product, either applied to areas of concern or all over the face.

Is it OK to use Clinical 1% Retinol Treatment with an anti-acne product that contains benzoyl peroxide?

Yes. For best results, apply the benzoyl peroxide product to breakout-prone areas, allow to dry, then follow with Clinical 1% Retinol Treatment.

You may have read or heard that retinol and benzoyl peroxide cannot be used together for fear they will adversely affect each other’s stability.  However, what is often missing from these claims is any cited corroborative studies, and with good reason, because the scientific and medical research actually says the two ingredients can complement each other—which is good to know, whether you’re dealing with acne alone or the unwelcome mix of wrinkles plus breakouts! (Cutis 2009 & 2012, Journal of Drugs and Dermatology 2013).

Are there any products I shouldn’t combine with Clinical 1% Retinol Treatment?

No, it can be used with any other skincare products. However, if you’re combining it with more “active” products such as AHAs, BHA, skin-lightening products, anti-acne products, other retinol or prescription retinoid or prescription anti-acne products, it’s important to pay attention to how your skin responds and adjust usage accordingly. You don’t want to tip the scale in favor of irritation!

How soon will I see results?

From the first use, you will see improved skin texture and radiance. Over the next few weeks, these improvements will continue and you will begin to see a reduction in breakouts, red marks from past breakouts, brown spots, deeper wrinkles, and loss of firmness. After three to four months of consistent use along with daily sun protection (every day, no exceptions) you will see dramatically younger-looking skin with a smooth texture and remarkably even skin tone.

Why should I use Clinical 1% Retinol Treatment instead of one of your other retinol products—and why should I use one of those other retinol products instead of Clinical 1% Retinol Treatment?

You should use Clinical 1% Retinol Treatment if you feel your current retinol product isn’t giving you the results you hoped for after several weeks to months of consistent use (along with daily sun protection, a key component of any anti-aging routine). Clinical 1% Retinol Treatment is a more potent product designed to repair more advanced signs of aging.

You should consider using one of our other retinol products if you suspect your skin may react negatively to a stronger retinol product because attempts to use more potent retinol products (including prescription retinoids) haven’t been successful. Even then, you may still want to consider using Clinical 1% Retinol Treatment once or twice weekly, combined with your regular retinol product or used alone.

Is this the strongest retinol product I can buy over-the-counter?

No, there are a few companies selling over-the-counter products with higher amounts of retinol. Although those may seem intriguing, our in-house and external panel testing revealed that amounts of retinol above 1% came with a much higher likelihood of unwanted side effects such as redness, persistent flaking or peeling, and a sunburn-like sensation. Retinol is an active ingredient, and with any such ingredient you never want to tip the scale from benefits to irritation.

Is Clinical 1% Retinol Treatment safe for me to use while pregnant or nursing?

Due to the higher amount of retinol being closer to the strength of prescription retinoids (which are contraindicated for use while pregnant or breast feeding), we advise against such use unless OK’ed by your physician. If your physician does not provide a clear answer, it’s generally best to be cautious and refrain from use until you are no longer pregnant or breast feeding.

If I see great results after the first or second use, is it OK to begin applying Clinical 1% Retinol Treatment every night?

Because potential side effects from a high-strength retinol product may be delayed, we advise you to not apply this product nightly or every other night until you have been using it for 2–4 weeks with no signs of sensitivity (such as flaking, dryness, or redness). This is very important for those who’ve never used a high-strength or prescription retinoid product, as not everyone’s skin can tolerate stronger retinoids—and you never want to tip the scales in favor of irritation.

Remember: Only a pea-sized amount is needed for the entire face and neck. Using more than this per application will not provide better or faster results.

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