If there's one person that beauty buffs trust implicitly with skincare recommendations, it's Caroline Hirons. Her no-holds-barred approach to skincare and vast knowledge on what makes a great skincare product great has earned her a place in the beauty hall of fame (and her Skin Rocks app broke new ground in the industry earlier this year).
But while she's spent years advising her massive social media following (seriously, she has 713k followers on Instagram) on what products are worth their money (who isn't for affordable skincare, after all?) and which aren't, the calls for her to launch her own products were starting to become deafening. But now, she's done it—and she's done it with a retinoid. Yep, Caroline Hirons' Skin Rocks Retinoid is finally here.
And we'll admit, as a group of journalists who have worked in the beauty industry for many years, we have taken Hirons' foray into skincare formulation with a pinch of salt. We know first hand just how oversaturated the skincare industry has become (Hirons herself is vocal on this, particularly when it comes to celebrity skincare brands), so it's needless to say the announcement of this launch left us with a bunch of questions.
For starters, how necessary are these new products? Is this just another overhyped skincare launch we'll all be reminiscing over in five years' time? And most importantly, after years of dishing out constructive criticism, does Hirons really have what it takes to create a truly great skincare product? Here's everything you need to know.
Who is Caroline Hirons?
If you're not familiar with the name Caroline Hirons, we've got you. Having started her career working on beauty counters and later training to be a beauty therapist, by 2009, Hirons had set up her own brand consultancy business. In 2010, she launched her skincare blog (which became Carolinehirons.com in 2012). By this time, she had already amassed a huge following of loyal skincare fans.
By 2020, notable figures and publications within the beauty industry were referring to her as 'the most powerful woman in beauty'. Why? Because a seal of approval from Hirons basically guaranteed instant sell-out—her followers hung on her every word. A Pixi Glow Tonic recommendation, for example, caused immediate sell out and for the brand's phone lines to go down for six whole weeks because of an influx of order requests. A simple endorsement of Clinique's Take The Day Off Cleansing Balm was enough to cause worldwide sell out and for the brand to scrap existing plans it had to discontinue the product. The Caroline Hirons effect is, frankly, no joke.
What is Caroline Hirons' skincare brand Skin Rocks?
Earlier this year, Hirons launched the Skin Rocks app, which has been dubbed the 'Google of skincare'. Helping to match your skin with the right products in an easy-to-follow, digestible way, the Skin Rocks app aims to make shopping for skincare easy for everybody.
Now, Hirons has taken the Skin Rocks brand one step further by launching actual products. A statement from the brand says: "Working with the world's best chemists really speaks to the Skin Rocks (and Caroline's) obsession with ingredients, formulas and textures. And what a treat for the chemists and formulators who worked with no budget or cost of goods target to meet. Total freedom to create only the best, with no constraints."
The new skincare brands promises to put science first and create products suitable for all skin tones and types to form an entirely inclusive brand. The products have been clinically tested on all skin tones, types and ages—something Caroline has long pushed for across the entire industry.
Yesterday, Hirons launched the first two products in the Skin Rocks range: Retinoid 1 and Retinoid 2.
What is Skin Rocks Retinoid 1 & Retinoid 2?
While it probably would have been safest for Hirons to launch her brand with a cleanser or perhaps a nourishing moisturiser, we must remember that Caroline Hirons isn't typically somebody who plays it safe. The first two products in the Skin Rocks line-up are both retinoids.
The Skin Rocks Retinoid Series aims to provide 'efficacious, resurfacing yet moisturising products'. It's worth noting here that retinoid (a form of vitamin A) is one of skincare's most proven ingredients—working to boost cell turnover and resurface the skin. Skin experts consider retinoid to be beauty's most hardworking and important ingredient.
The catch? Retinoids are hard to get right without causing the skin too much irritation. This simple fact makes shopping for retinoids notoriously difficult—but Skin Rocks thinks it's got it sorted.
Skin Rocks Retinoid 1 is formulated with 0.2% Hydroxypinacolone Retinoate and is described to be suitable for all skin types. It is particularly ideal for those with sensitive, congested skin or those whose skin is showing initial signs of ageing. If you're new to retinoids, this is the serum to start with.
Skin Rocks Retinoid 2 is formulated with 0.5% Hydroxypinacolone Retinoate and 0.05% Retinal and is described to be suitable for those with congested and/or mature skin. If you use retinoids regularly, this is the stronger formula of the two and is the one to go for. If you are new to retinoids or are already using prescription-strength retinoids, there's no need for Skin Rocks Retinoid 2.
- Ideal for retinoid beginners
- Suitable for sensitive skin
- Not ideal for seasoned retinoid users
- A hard-working retinoid for seasoned retinol users
- Works against congestion and signs of ageing
- Not suitable for sensitive skin
- Not suitable for those new to retnoids
While we've only had our hands on the products for a little over 24 hours, we're feeling confident to say Skin Rocks Retinoid Series looks really promising. Everything from the formulations (which feel beautifully hydrating and, so far, in no-way irritating) to the packaging is well considered.
Despite the fact we're yet to give the formulas a proper test (it takes at least a few weeks to see long-term results from retinoid usage), the way in which Caroline Hirons and Skin Rocks are making shopping for skincare easier is admirable. If you don't need the product, Skin Rocks has no issue in telling you. Not sure how much to use? There's a guide on the lid. Even the Skin Rocks website will help you find the right product for you with a truly impressive amount of digestible information on the product pages.
The packaging is also well considered. With recyclable glass bottles designed to keep the ingredients at their most potent, it's worth noting that there are other mixed components that make recycling tricky (as there is with most beauty products). But the Skin Rocks website breaks it all down for you, outlining what each component is made from and the best ways to dispose of it.
Our only gripe so far? The prices. Skin Rocks Retinoid 1 and Retinoid 2 don't come cheap, proving that being able to shop for honest skincare in a transparent way does come with certain privilege. That's not say these products are overpriced, mind you—creating a skincare product with no budget or cost of goods target is bound to push the RRP up.
So our final verdict? So far, so good. Good work, Caroline. We'd just love to see those prices come down over time (we get that it's a process)—great skincare should be accessible to everyone, after all.
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Shannon Lawlor is the Executive Beauty Editor at Marie Claire. With nearly a decade of experience working for some of the beauty industry’s most esteemed titles, including Who What Wear, Glamour UK, Stylist and Refinery29, Shannon’s aim is to make the conversation around beauty as open, relatable and honest as possible. As a self-confessed lazy girl, Shannon has an affinity for hard-working perfumes, fool-proof make-up products and does-it-all skincare.
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