What’s ‘fast-release’ retinol and why you need it, according to an expert

The hero ingredient that does it all


By Sarah Hani Jamil

What’s ‘fast-release’ retinol and why you need it, according to an expert

It’s widely known that retinol is the gold standard in skincare, specifically in anti-ageing, for its highly productive properties, such as visibly diminishing wrinkles, smoothing skin’s texture and firming its appearance. Having said that, did you know that the typical, over-the-counter retinol can take several weeks, if not months, to work, before you start seeing results on your face? That’s because the skin cell turnover rate, also known as desquamation, takes roughly 28 to 40 days, and what happens in the first couple of weeks is that your skin cells retrain themselves to get accustomed to this powerhouse ingredient.

Recently, Kiehl’s unveiled a new kind of retinol skincare, the Retinol Fast Release Wrinkle-Reducing Night Serum, which promises an improved appearance in fine lines and texture in just five days. A stark contrast to its predecessor, the Mirco-Dose Anti-Ageing Retino Serum, this one features a cutting-edge, ‘fast-release’ delivery system, containing 0.3 per cent pure retinol—a percentage highly suitable for beginners—penetrating up to 15 surface skin layers. This allows the product to jump-start the skin’s surface-renewal process for the visible reduction of fine lines in as little as five days. It’s a fast and potent formula ideal for skin that is used to retinol and designed for a nightly application.



Kiehl’s newest retinol update comes uniquely packaged in a dual-sided bottle that allows you freshly activate the formula by releasing a pure retinol powder capsule into an ultra-lightweight serum base. With this method, retinol is protected from the possibility of degradation to ensure optimal potency and efficacy from your very first use. Dr Nancy Ilaya, Kiehl’s Global Scientific Director, share’s more about it below: 


Why use retinol

“When it comes to retinol, we know there are those who prioritise speedy results. Whether for an important event or milestone, they want to see visible results quickly. Retinol is amongst the most highly researched and effective skincare ingredients. Dermatologists and skincare experts alike are keen to recommend retinol because of its well-known ability to help boost surface cell turnover and reduce the look of fine lines and wrinkles. We wanted to create a retinol formula that would deliver a myriad of anti-ageing benefits associated with this hero ingredient at a fast rate.”


Fast-release retinol

On its ‘fast-delivery’ system

“The ‘fast release delivery system’ is a unique lightweight serum, without waxes or occlusive ingredients, that allows fast absorption into the skin. The retinol in our formula penetrates up to 15 skin surface layers deep.”


On the inspiration for packaging

“Retinol is well known for its formulation challenges and instability. Many formulation technologies exist to help preserve its stability in formulas that include encapsulation, formulating with antioxidants and photo stabilisers, and special packaging that helps protect it from oxidation and breakdown from light exposure.

“When we developed this product, we wanted to deliver a high concentration of retinol to the skin in a simple, lightweight formula. We were inspired by coffee pod packaging, which preserves the freshness of the coffee and intensifies its flavour. Similarly, our packaging features a dual chamber with serum in one part and a capsule (within the bottom cap) that preserves the pure retinol from light degradation and air up until activation at the first application. When the button is pressed, the capsule releases highly concentrated pure retinol powder into our lightweight serum and mixes to become a pure retinol serum that can be applied directly to the skin.”


Fast-release retinol


On the difference between Kiehl’s Micro-Dose Retinol and this new Fast Release Retinol

“Our two retinol formulas are designed for different uses. Our Micro-Dose Retinol was formulated with ceramides and peptides to gradually deliver retinol skin benefits without discomfort. It is ideal for first-time retinol users and all skin types. It works from day one and can be used daily—morning, at night or both—to gradually accelerate skin cell turnover and diminish the appearance of lines & wrinkles with minimal or almost no adjustment period.

“Fast Release Retinol was formulated to deliver retinol deeply through 15 skin surface layers to jump-start skin cell renewal for rapid results. Unlike Micro-Dose Retinol, this is designed to be used at night and on skin that’s used to retinol. The ultra-lightweight serum formula was designed to quickly absorb into the skin while keeping retinol separate and activating at the point of first application, which helps ensure the protection of retinol is optimised. It’s this combination that allows it to help visibly improve fine lines in as early as five days, and wrinkles (including deep wrinkles) in as little as two weeks.”


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