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13 January 2017 6 comments


Whilst I'm well aware that I am more than fashionably late to this party, I've had a bunch of requests to review the Superstar Retinol Oil from Pestle & Mortar - and I actually thought it'd be useful to compare it to Sunday Riley's Luna - of which I am a long-time lover. So if you're interested in hearing my thoughts on the latest retinol oil on the block, keep on reading!


As customary now on BTB, let's give a quick nod to the packaging first - I mean, there's very little to say because it's so minimalist and inoffensive, you're bound to like it. Tough, matte, black plastic bottle with a pump dispenser, it's nice and thin and travel friendly. The oil inside is neither particularly thick nor fluid, and is distinctly yellow in colour - in fact it looks just like rapeseed oil, although I sincerely hope it performs better than rapeseed!


Vitis Vinifera (Grape) Seed Oil*, Simmondsia Chinensis (Jojoba) Seed Oil*, Persea Gratissima (Avocado) Oil*, Rosa Canina (Fruit) Oil*, Punica Granatum (Pomegranate) Seed Oil**, Ribes Nigrum (Black Currant) Oil*, Hydroxypinacolone Retinoate, Retinyl Palmitate, Daucus Carota Sativa (Carrot) Seed Oil***, Nigella Sativa (Black Cumin) Seed Oil**, Calophyllum Inophyllum (Tamanu/Foraha) Seed Oil**, Vaccinium Macrocarpon (Cranberry) Seed Oil*, Dimethyl Isosorbide, Tocopherol, Calendula Officinalis Flower Oil**, Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride, Helianthus Annuus (Sunflower) Seed Oil**.
*Cold Pressed | **Cold Pressed and Organic| ***Steam distilled

Taking a look through the ingredients is quite a reassuring experience - lots of 'cold pressed' and 'organic' and 'steam distilled' ensures you're getting good quality oils, high in vitamins, omegas and fatty acids etc. A personal joy is to see the inclusion of black cumin oil - I've been using haircare products containing this and boy is it working on my locks (upcoming post due soon!). It's got quite the distinctive scent, which you can definitely smell in the product.



The star of the show here is Hydroxypinacolone Retinoate (along with Dimethyl Isosorbide to enhance it's penetration), a retinyl ester that works in the same (albeit weaker) way as retinols, without actually having to be converted to a retinol (I think things get a little confusing here because many, myself included, interchange 'retinol' with 'retinoid' and 'retinyl' and 'retinyl ester' etc - both Superstar and Luna for example print 'Retinol' on their bottle). Hydroxypinacolone Retinoate is touted to cause less irritation than retinols or Retin-A so has been marketed to be suitable for 'retinol beginners'. It's also the same stuff in Luna, which we'll move onto later. Retinols are just about the only ingredient with proven anti-aging benefits (reversing fine lines, boosting collagen production, increasing cell turnover etc) but their efficacy is all dependent on the type, percentage and stability. The pump and opaque bottle with the Superstar oil is a good start, protecting your product from light and air degredation.

On the skin it feels as any other oil would, in all honesty. Thanks to a base high in jojoba oil, it sinks in pretty readily and is nice and lightweight, although definitely leaves that glistening sheen on the skin, moreso on my face than on my hand. The black cumin/avocado oil scent isn't particularly pleasant but it's faint and dissipates completely after around 10 minutes. This is designed to wear at night (hopefully implying that the concentration of hydroxypinacolone retinoate is high enough to actually do something), and like most new products, I've been testing it out both alone and with other products to see how it fares.


One pump is more than enough (perhaps too much) for my face, and even after massaging it in, it does feel a little oily - perhaps a problem if getting any oil onto your sheets and pillows is also a pet peeve. However, come morning, my face felt soft, plump and hydrated, even after wearing this alone, which is an excellent sign. I'm relatively new to the retinols game but this caused no hint of irritation or peeling, and I actually think it helped to calm some of my active blemishes (which is incidentally a side effect I also noticed with Luna). I think this would be suitable for all skin types, whether you're dry or oily too. All in all, I think with the proviso that hydroxypinacolone retinoate is actually effective (and I'll update when I've used Superstar for longer), I'm going to give this product a huge thumbs up - I think the emphasis on minimalism and quality really makes it stand out.

Luna ingredients

Persea Gratissima (Extra Virgin, Cold Pressed Avocado) Oil, Vitis Vinifera (Organic, Cold Pressed Concord Grape) Seed Oil, Rubus Fruticosus (Cold Pressed Blackberry) Seed Oil, Salvia Hispanica (Cold Pressed Chia) Oil, Dimethyl Isosorbide (And) Hydroxypinacolone Retinoate, Chamomila Recutita (Matricaria) Flower Oil, Tanacetum Annuum (Blue Tansy) Oil, Anthemis Nobilis (English Chamomile) Oil, Eriocephalus Punctualatus (Cape Chamomile) Oil, Citrus Aurantium Amara (Neroli) Oil, Citrus Aurantium Dulcis (Blood Orange) Oil, Cananga Odorata Flower (Ylang Ylang) Oil, Vetivera Zizanoides (Vetiver) Oil, Helianthus Annuus (Sunflower) Seed Oil (And) Rosmarinus Officinalis (Rosemary) Leaf Extract, CI 61565 (Green 6), CI 60725 (Violet 2).

You only need to eyeball both sets of ingredients to see these products are bound to be very similar. Avocado, grape, blackberry oils, lots of 'organic' and 'cold pressed', the same retinyl ester and penetration enhancer etc. Luna comes in a glass bottle with pipette and the oil is bright blue, blending out to clear - something I actually like as it shows me where I've applied and massaged the product in properly. I actually prefer the action of the pipette, as one pump of Superstar is too much for me, and a few drops of Luna is perfect, however, in the spirit of preserving the efficacy of the ingredients, I supposed I'll sacrifice the pipette and opt for the pump as the better option.


On the skin, I'd argue that Luna sinks in that little bit better on my face, and Superstar leaves me feeling that little bit more hydrated come the morning but the differences are really negligible. What I think is less negligible is the price difference - Luna is £85 for 30ml, £22 more than Superstar for the same volume. I've being using Luna interchangeably with my other skincare for around a year now and I really like it's results (again, no hint of irritation on my reasonably sensitive skin) - whether or not Superstar performs in the same way, we'll have to see, but frankly, I'm hopeful that it's going to turn out to be a star product!

Have you tried either of these retinol night oils? (I'm actually now wondering if a base of oils works better than a base of serum for example?) Do let me know your thoughts below!

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