Product Review: Peter Thomas Roth Professional 3% Retinoid Plus

If you’re not familiar with retinoids, they are a derivative of vitamin A and are one of the few clinically proven ingredients to address skin rejuvenation including helping with age spots, acne and wrinkles.  You’ll see them listed as retinal, retinol, retinal palmate, and many others. Bottom line is that if you were born prior to 1990, you should be incorporating one into your skincare routine.  If you were one of the poor souls like me that suffer(ed) from acne, you’ll know the prescription terms by Retin-A, Differin, Tretinoin, and many others.

A few months ago I ran out of my trusty Dr. Dennis Gross retinol serum and decided to try something else.  I did what ReadHead is all about, and did some serious research on what to try next. My skin is finicky in the fact that it has a love/hate relationship with retinoids – like a cat.  Scratch its belly once, twice…purr…three times REARRRRR and all sorts of angry.  That means I need to find not just an effective retinoid, but one that is excellent in formulation.  You’ll find lots of retinoids on the market that are ineffective, and you’ll find some that will peel the skin right off your face.  Neither are ones I want to waste my money on.

I decided on Peter Thomas Roth’s Professional 3% Retinoid Plus because their 1% nighttime serum is highly rated and I’ve had some success with a few of their products in the past.  The 3% is fairly new, and is exclusive to Sephora and PTR’s website.  What interested me about this is that non-prescription retinoids typically go by “retinol.”  This one specifically goes by “retinoid” because it’s said to be a different type of retinoid formula that is both highly effective at 3% but packed with goodies that make the experience much more tolerable.


Both Sephora and PTR’s websites don’t give up the proprietary ingredients, but here’s what I could find on the websites:

This powerful overnight treatment delivers high-potency retinoid into skin to effectively improve the appearance of the size, length, and depth of fine lines and deep wrinkles, unify skin tone, and smooth rough skin texture. Caffeine enhances penetration to deliver retinoid more effectively into the skin’s surface while a buffering complex of SymCalmin, SymSitive® 1609, allantoin, and bisabolol soothes and helps prevent the stinging and burning commonly experienced with retinoid usage—eliminating irritation.

Note that in the description it says things like “soothes and helps prevent the stinging and burning commonly experienced with retinoid usage” which can happen with retinoids, and hence why you should take baby steps when introducing one to your routine.  This product is not for retinoid newbies and if you’re just starting out with retinoids, I’d suggest something <1%. <— For those of us who haven’t picked up a #2 pencil in a few years, this is a reminder that this means less than 1%.  ::says in my head:: The alligator eats the bigger number.


The packaging came in a nice darkly-colored glass container which is what you want when looking for skincare products that can degrade in the sunlight.  It had an easy-to-use push top dropper which easily distributed the product, which I could easily control for my needs. To make this even better, I’d like for this to be a pump-top so that you don’t have to open it, thus exposing the ingredients to the air, which can degrade them over time.


I pumped about 4 drops of the clear, water-like substance into my hand, rubbed them together to warm up the solutions, and put it on my face, neck and chest. patting it around like I was putting on aftershave.  Patting (vs. rubbing) helps to push products into the skin without tugging.


The first thing that I noticed was that this was by far one of the silkiest products I’ve ever felt on my skin.  The feel wasn’t wet like water, or greasy like a typical oil.  It was just….silky…and absorbed quickly into my skin.  That silkiness makes me think there’s a hefty amount of silicones in there, but it goes on like a dream and creates a smooth base under makeup.  It doesn’t pill, doesn’t sting, there’s no scent – you almost start to worry if it’s all a farse.  But it just WORKS.


My skin has become slightly more firm, has helped with my acne, and best of all I’m seeing (albeit small due to the limited amount of time I’ve used it) improvements without the dreaded irritation.  I alternate this with other products throughout the week so I have yet to use it day after day, but I haven’t experienced the flakes and dryness either.  Could it be?  A super over-the-counter retinoid that works and doesn’t make you want to hide in the closet with a red lizard face while you may (or may not ever and continue to punish yourself) get acclimated to? It’s yet to be seen if this will replace my Dr. Dennis Gross which has a few other ingredients my skin loves like BHA and Ferulic Acid but so far I’m thoroughly impressed.

At $82 for 1 oz. it’s definitely not drugstore-price friendly, and is on the higher end of the mid-range luxury products.  The fact you can only get this from two places also is limiting.  ReadHead readers can find great retinoid options for a cheaper price, but so far I’m extremely happy with my purchase.  For experienced retinoid users who have sensitive, reactive skin that benefits from retinoids but can’t handle the powerhouses like Obagi or Skinceuticals, this is a great option to try.

Overall: 5/5

Packaging: 4/5

Price: $$$$$


Have a retinoid you like to use?  Drop us a line in the comments.

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