Coming Soon… Advanced Retinol Serum with Time-Release Technology

Retinol is often referred to as the “gold standard” ingredient for anti-aging. In fact, I have been hearing this from my father, Dr. Luigi L. Polla, for years, as he has been (gently) insisting on the need to add a retinol product to our Alchimie Forever assortment.

“But,” I say, “retinols are not ideal for sensitive skin types, our target customer.” “Even sensitive skin types need retinol, and can adapt to the right formulation,” he responds. “But,” I say again, “one of our brand promises is the lack of side effects.” “To most women, controlled side effects are worth the results retinol gives.” And on and on and on we go. For four years.

And Dad “won,” as he usually does – because he is usually right (there, I said it). Or perhaps it’s that I turned 40 last year and thought selfishly that I should probably start incorporating retinol in my skin care routine. And why not an Alchimie Forever one…

As we approach the launch of our Advanced Retinol Serum, here is a quick snapshot on retinol. Next week, I’ll tell you more specifically about our formulation.

What is retinol?

In the skin care world, vitamin A and its derivatives exist in various forms. The most widely used ones are pure retinol, retinyl esters (such as retinyl acetate, retinyl propionate, and retinyl palmitate), and retinaldehyde. Through various enzymatic reactions in the skin, all of these molecules are ultimately converted to all-trans-retinoic acid, aka the active form of vitamin A in the skin.

Retinoic acid was first discovered in 1969 by James Fulton and Albert Kligman in the late 1960s as a treatment for acne; its anti-aging benefits emerged as a surprising and positive side effect.

Retinol has the form of light yellow crystals – which is why many retinol products often have a yellowish tint to them.

Products containing actual retinoic acid require a medical prescription (you may have heard of brands such as Renova, Retin-A, Retino-A, ReTrieve, or Stieva-A). The most common strengths are 0.025%, 0.05% and 0.1%. In contrast, products containing pure retinol, retinol derivatives, or retinaldehyde are non-prescription, and tend to have higher concentrations (0.5% to 1.5%).

The pros

“At the microscopic level, retinol enhances cell division in the epidermis, replacing damaged and unorganized cells with new organized cells. It also reduces melanin production. In the dermis, new collagen and elastin fibers are formed,” says Dr. Polla. My non-medical translation: fine lines and wrinkles diminish, the skin becomes plumper, smoother, and softer, and the complexion more even. It really works.

The cons

Instability especially to oxygen and light. Look for products packaged in tubes that are opaque and impermeable to oxygen. Tubes are typically preferable to jars (given the smaller opening and thus diminished access to air and light).

Skin irritation. Typically, within two weeks of starting to use a retinol, you will experience flaking, redness, and a slight discomfort. Of course, this will depend on your skin type, if you have used retinol in the past or not, and specifically how you are using your retinol.

Retinol best practices

Retinol should be incorporated in your skin care routine in your mid-30s to early 40s.

Retinols should not be used while pregnant or nursing.

Time of day. Retinol products should be used in the evening. Dr. Polla explains: “It is important that the topical retinoid be applied at night-time for two reasons. First, patients who use topical retinoids during the daytime notice increased sensitivity to ultraviolet light. Second, trans-retinoic acid is unstable when exposed to sunlight. When exposed to light, the molecule degrades rapidly, not providing its full benefits.”

Sun sensitivity. Make sure to use an SPF20 or above daily. This is true regardless of if you are using a retinol product, but be particularly diligent if you are. (See ultraviolet light sensitivity comment above.)

Frequency of use. Do not use your retinol product daily – two or three times per week tends to be sufficient for most skin types. Start slow, then build up. Listen to your skin and to its reactions. Continuous inflammation and irritation is not the goal.

Apply your retinol to dry skin. Per Dr. Polla: “Instructing patients to apply their retinoid to dry skin can minimize side effects. Patients should be advised to wait a few minutes after washing the face to apply a topical retinoid. Wet skin enhances the penetration of the retinoid into the dermis, thus exacerbating irritation.”

Using complementary products. In addition to a morning cream with SPF, add an extra nourishing even cream to help soothe and moisturize your skin, and heal any flaking you may experience.

For some great additional information on retinoids, take a look at our partner Heyday’s retinol manifesto here.

And stay tuned – next week I’ll share more specifics about Alchimie Forever’s Advanced Retinol Serum with time release technology – which launches next month!

Girl in mirror

Your skin can't keep secrets… what can a dermatologist know about you just by looking at you?

So you remember those days when you were a kid and you were trying to hide things from your parents? And somehow it never worked? At least not for me… I remember skipping ballet class one single time… and of course that is the time my Mom decided to come pick me up (something she had never done before and never did since). You would think being an adult (I think 37 qualifies) would mean I would not have to worry about hiding things from my parents anymore… and I don’t. But I still can’t get away with much… because my skin can’t hold a secret. And neither can yours.

Do you know what your skin says about you? To the trained eye of a dermatologist, a lot… I had to ask my Dad, aka Dr. Luigi L. Polla, how he always knows so much about my sisters and me … Apparently, our skin speaks. What can a dermatologist know about you just by looking at you? Here is what my skin says about me:

1. I sleep on my left side more than I sleep on my right side. My “left side” wrinkles are more pronounced; the left side of my face is slower to move when I laugh or make facial expressions, i.e. my skin reacts more slowly to my expressions. I have less volume in the left side of my face. (Yes, these are the things my Dad mentions when he looks at me… among others LOL).

2. I am not sleeping enough. I have dark circles under my eyes, and the peri-orbital fine lines I am starting to see are deeper than usual. My face looks “stressed.”

3. I don’t smoke. At least something positive… I don’t have that greyish tinge that smokers tend to get, and I do have luminosity in my complexion. I don’t have a “bar code” on my upper lip, which is a sure sign of smoking (or sometimes too much drinking through a straw).

4. I enjoy champagne and wine but I don’t over-indulge. I don’t have broken capillaries and I don’t flush easily. I don’t have accentuated lines and less delicate features. My skin is not “thicker” as it typically is when too much alcohol is imbibed.

5. I am not a sun worshipper. Actually, I actively avoid the sun or protect myself form the sun. I don’t have uneven pigmentation or too many sunspots. I don’t have a million little fine lines all over my face. I don’t have the parchment-like, thinner skin that is an indication that sun exposure has led to an accelerated breakdown of collagen.

6. I don’t take cortisone. I don’t have that swollen look, or a puffy face.

7. I don’t eat spicy foods. My face isn’t flushed, red, and I don’t have those micro-breakouts often associated with heavy spice.

8. I don’t take testosterone supplements. I don’t have cystic acne, as is often associated with higher-than average levels of this male hormone.

9. I am not depressed. My wrinkles don’t all “face downward,” and my lips certainly don’t; and I don’t have bags under my eyes, or “sad eyes.”

10. I am in love. My lips can’t help but curl up and smile and my eyes are wide open with a dreamy look in them.

11. I am not going through any major hormonal transition. Aka my skin is not currently “freaking out.” Enough said Dad, thank you!

 

What product to apply when?

One of the most frequent questions I get about skin care, is in which order to apply products. Indeed, if you are using a moisturizer, a serum, foundation, and a sunscreen in the morning – what goes on first? And what if you add a treatment product on top of that? Here are a few good rules of thumb to make the most out of your skin care routine, as recommended by my father, dermatologist Dr. Luigi Polla. Keep in mind that these recommendations are not product specific, but work even if you are using products from different brands.

  1. The foundation of any skin care routine is a clean canvas – only apply products to perfectly cleansed , dry (or damp) skin.
  2. Apply products from thin to thick. Serums first, followed by gels, followed by creams. If you start with the thicker product, the penetration of the thinner products will be impeded and diminished. In general, try to avoid mixing hydrophilic (water-based) products with oily products. The latter tend to prevent the penetration of the former.
  3. Sunscreen should be applied after all other treatment products have been applied. Meaning, after your serum, after your moisturizer, after your eye cream. If you are using a daily moisturizer with sunscreen, apply your serums and eye cream first, then your moisturizer with SPF.
  4. Makeup should be applied on top of your sunscreen. Remember, makeup is meant to cover your skin. Foundation and concealer should be applied after your sunscreen. If you are using a tinted moisturizer with SPF, apply this as you would a moisturizer with SPF (after serums, anti-aging treatments, and eye creams, before concealer and/or foundation).
  5. These general rules apply morning and evening, with the exception that moisturizers with SPF and makeup should not be applied before going to sleep.
  6. Some prescription products require specific direction. For example, retinoid creams are best used in the evening, applied 15-20 minutes after cleansing the skin, before anything else. This ensures the optimal penetration of the therapeutic actives. Creams and moisturizers should then be applied on top of the treatment product.

A couple more things to remember. In general, using products from different (non-prescription) brands will not affect the efficacy of each product. Also, the idea that your skin gets “used” to a product and that you need to change your routine every couple of months is not supported by much scientific evidence. However, your skin care routine should be adjusted according to the seasons, and when your skin type evolves (we tend to get dryer as we get older). And remember to always listen to the recommendations of your dermatologist or skin care professional!