Dear Brightly Retinoid Review: My experience after 3 years

Looking for a comprehensive review of Dear Brightly Retinoid from a real person? Look no further! Discover how this skincare product can bring a radiant glow to your skin. Read on to find everything you need to know about Dear Brightly Retinoid and its benefits.

Working on my skin

As a busy mom in my thirties with four kids, I’m starting to feel the pressure of maintaining healthy skin. When it comes to skincare, finding products that deliver on their promises can be challenging. There are SO many product options out there – so many ways to spend your money.

A few years ago when the pandemic hit, I found myself googling a lot about skincare. I had stopped wearing makeup almost entirely and was noticing more about my bare skin. I had heard about retinol and retinoids during my last pregnancy but had waited until I was no longer pregnant or nursing to try them out.

My research was conclusive that there were really three things I could do to combat the photoaging (appearance of skin aging):

  1. Botox (not quite interested yet)
  2. Daily Sunscreen (always, always)
  3. A prescription retinoid

After a few weeks of articles, I was sold on adding a prescription retinoid to my routine.

The next step was picking one. I eventually settled on Dear Brightly because it was the most convenient way to get my hands on a derm-grade retinoid. It didn’t require me to visit a dermatologist in person. I also loved that it is a woman-founded brand and a competitive price point. I read a few Dear Brightly reviews before I ordered anything and they were overwhelmingly positive.

I’ve been using Dear Brightly for my retinoid for the last 3 years at this point. I took a break for 6 months during another pregnancy. In this article, I’ll share my personal experience with the Dear Brightly Retinoid, its key benefits, potential side effects, and what sets it apart from other retinoid products on the market.

Dear Brightly Retinoid Review

Dear Brightly’s key product is Night Shift, a prescription retonoid is a potent skincare solution formulated with tretinoin, a derivative of vitamin A. It aims to address various skin concerns, such as fine lines, wrinkles, acne, and uneven skin tone.

Let’s dive into my in-depth review of this product and see if it really works.

The Science Behind Retinoids

Before we delve into the Dear Brightly Retinoid review, let’s take a moment to understand the science behind retinoids. Retinoids are vitamin A derivatives that stimulate collagen production, accelerate cell turnover, and promote skin rejuvenation. They are known for their anti-aging properties and are widely used in the skincare industry to combat signs of aging.

What Sets Dear Brightly Retinoid Apart?

Dear Brightly stands out from other brands for a few reasons. Initially, I loved that I didn’t have to visit a dermatology office. But, there are a few other companies offering a similar service. I eventually picked Dear Brightly because of their pricing, positive reviews, and female founders.

My Experience with Dear Brightly Retinoid: Night Shift

Timeline and steps of ordering

I was initially drawn to Dear Brightly Retinoid due to its customizable approach and promising reviews. After completing the online assessment and skin profile, I submitted a picture of my drivers license and waited to receive my prescription. About a week later I received my personalized retinoid serum, along with clear instructions on my treatment plan and how to incorporate it into my skincare routine.

First impressions

Dear Brightly is no-frills when it comes to packaging and shipping materials. The product arrives in a generic padded mailer. Initially, you’ll get a bottle but for the rest of the year you’ll just get a refill to switch out the insert inside your existing bottle. While I love a beautifully packaged item, I appreciate that I know I’m not spending money on pretty boxes and packing materials.

On application, the serum feels thick and hydrating, a little bit like Vaseline. I appreciated the fragrance-free formula with no strong scents to worry about. I like the feel of my skin right after I put it on. It is worth noting it doesn’t feel like it absobs quickly. It feels thick and I don’t layer on a moisturizer for at least a few minutes. If I’m exhausted and want to climb into bed asap, I skip a moisturizer.

Over the course of several weeks, I noticed a visible improvement in my skin texture. Fine lines and wrinkles appeared diminished, and my complexion was, dare I say, glowing?

Adjustment period: The initial getting-used-to-it process

I started using my Dear Brightly retinoid shortly after starting a new anti-aging skincare regimen from Rodan and Fields. The combo was HARD on my skin and damaged my skin barrier. My skin was very sensitive and everything felt harsh. I switched to gentler skincare products and slowly reintroduced the retionid.

In the first few weeks after reintroduction, my skin was dryer than usual and peeling. I used a heavy moisturizer (and wish I’d had this hyaluronic acid).

After about a month of this adjustment period, I started using the retinoid every night. Every night use is a bit too much for me so I currently use it 3-4xs per week. This is a sweet spot for me where I’m using it regularly and seeing benefits without any added sensitivity.


In the last two years or so the packaging from Dear Brightly has gotten more consistent. Now each year they send me a full bottle. For the other three packages during the year they send new inserts that go into my original bottle. These inserts (and the full bottle) arrive in nondescript bubble mailers without any frills.

Things I have noticed after using Night Shift

I have used the Dear Brightly Retinoid consistently from July 2020 through December 2021 when I found out I was pregnant. I didn’t use it for the next few months and started again in September 2022.

Here are a few of the benefits and changes I’ve seen while using the retinoid:

  • More mild, if any, hormonal acne (that time of the month isn’t such a big deal for my skin now)
  • improved skin texture and coloring
  • smaller appearing pores: I have big pores and this is one thing that has started to help.

The Benefits of Dear Brightly Retinoid

Prescription retinoids offer a range of benefits for your skin and can help with a host of skin issues. Here are some of the key advantages of using a prescription retinoid (all things I’ve noticed while using Night Shade):

  1. Reduces Appearance of Fine Lines and Wrinkles: The retinoid in Dear Brightly stimulates collagen production, helping to smooth out fine lines and wrinkles, resulting in a more youthful appearance.
  2. Evens Skin Tone: Uneven skin tone and hyperpigmentation can be effectively addressed with regular use of Dear Brightly Retinoid, leading to a more balanced complexion.
  3. Improves Skin Texture: The accelerated cell turnover promoted by retinoids helps to refine the skin’s texture, making it smoother and softer to the touch.
  4. Combats Acne: Dear Brightly Retinoid can be beneficial for those struggling with acne, as it unclogs pores and reduces the frequency of breakouts.

Potential Side Effects of Retinoids

While Dear Brightly Retinoid can be highly effective, it’s important to be aware of potential side effects, especially during the initial stages of usage. Common side effects may include (many of these I experienced):

  • Skin Irritation: Depending on your skin type and sensitivities, you might experience redness, dryness, or peeling during the adjustment period. This is normal and usually subsides as the skin acclimates to the retinoid.
  • Sensitivity to Sunlight: Retinoids can increase the skin’s sensitivity to the sun, so it’s crucial to apply sunscreen daily.

Tips for Optimal Results

To make the most of your Dear Brightly Retinoid experience, consider these helpful tips:

  • Start Slowly: If you’re new to retinoids, begin with a lower concentration and gradually increase it as your skin builds tolerance. You can also start by using it twice a week and build up to more regular use.
  • Nighttime Application: The serum is thick so I recommend applying it at night under a heavy moisturizer. I would not try and layer your makeup on top of the serum.
  • Moisturize Regularly: To combat dryness, follow up with a hydrating night cream after applying the retinoid. I’ve been layering on a great hyaluronic acid in the morning before my moisturizer to help with any dryness and it helps.
  • Stay Consistent: Consistent use is key when it comes to retinoids. Use the product regularly to see the best results.

My complaints about Dear Brightly:

  • too much product: I found that my bottle lasts me longer than three months (probably because I am only using it 4-5x per week). The result is that once a year or so I should skip one of my orders. Inevitably I don’t remember to. I finally went ahead and canceled my subscription because I HAVE 6 unused bottles of Night Shift sitting in my bathroom cabinet. Part of that is because I didn’t cancel during my pregnancy. A lot of this is on me but I wish there was an easier way to manage it.
  • inconsistent packaging: Dear Brightly has gotten more consistent with their packaging in the last year or so but in my first year of ordering the product came in a couple of different bottles. I do appreciate their commitment to sustainable packaging. I also think they keep their prices down by using no-frills packing and shipping materials.


Have I convinced you yet? My experience with the Dear Brightly retinoid has been overwhelmingly positive. This is one of my holy grail skincare products. The personalized approach, coupled with the remarkable benefits of prescription retinoids, makes it an excellent addition to any skincare routine. It takes a second for your skin to get accustomed to it but the long-term results are worth the commitment. I am convinced that if you’re spending any money on skincare it should be on sunscreen and a derm-grade retinoid.

Dear Brightly Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Can I use Dear Brightly Retinoid if I have sensitive skin?

Yes, you can use Dear Brightly Retinoid even if you have sensitive skin. However, it’s essential to start with a lower concentration and patch-test the product before applying it to your entire face.

How often should I use Dear Brightly Retinoid?

For beginners, it’s recommended to use the retinoid serum two to three times a week and gradually increase the frequency to every other night or as advised by the board-certified dermatologist who will issue your prescription.

Can I use other skincare products while using Dear Brightly Retinoid?

Yes, you can use other skincare products alongside Dear Brightly Retinoid. However, avoid using products that contain benzoyl peroxide or alpha hydroxy acids at the same time, as they may cause irritation. The best thing you can do is stick to more gentle skincare products and find a great moisturizer.

Can I apply makeup after using Dear Brightly Retinoid?

Yes, you can apply makeup after using Dear Brightly Retinoid. However, it’s essential to wait a few minutes to ensure the serum is fully absorbed into the skin. That said, I recommend just using it at night and not applying makeup afterward.

How long does it take to see results with Dear Brightly Retinoid?

Visible results may vary, but most people start noticing improvements in their skin texture and appearance within four to six weeks of regular use. I

Is Dear Brightly Retinoid safe to use during pregnancy or while breastfeeding?

It’s best to consult with your healthcare provider before using any retinoid product during pregnancy or while breastfeeding. The general recommendation is to NOT use it while pregnant or breastfeeding. I resumed using it in my third trimester

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