The Elusive Vitamin A—Yeah that’s Retinol!


Hi Face Freaks,

Let’s have a conversation about Retinol, I mean Vitamin A, I mean Retinoic Acid, I mean Retinoids…confused? You’re not the only one. All of these are names of brothers, cousins, and related chemical compositions of Vitamin A.

Caroline Hirons (CH) has a LOT to say about Vitamin A usage, so I feel the need to link her basic articles and YouTube videos here so that you can get to them quickly. Don’t just read my article, obsess over hers before you start using or choosing one.

She says, “Vitamin A is the only other ingredient along with SPF that the FDA will legally let you claim to be anti-ageing in the USA. Vitamin A reverses the signs of ageing. Rebuilds collagen, repairs sun damage and is an all round good egg. There are varying degrees of vitamin A – if you have previously used a product with vitamin A in it and reacted badly – it may just be that you haven’t found the right one for you yet.” She also says that one should start incorporating a vitamin a product into a routine at the age of 30. Some of us have some catching up to do! (But that doesn’t mean you should go with the strongest thing you can find!)



Vitamin A products well rated by CH:

(Some come from her videos, but if there’s an article, I’ll link it, too.)

I have only given prices for 1 oz. sizes to keep it simple and easy to compare. Luna, for instance has a smaller size available.

All of these products either have Retinyl Palmitate (RP) or Hydroxypinacolone Retinoate (HR) in them to deliver Vitamin A, which your skin still needs to convert to retinoic acid.

RP is the classic Vitamin A in many products, and HR is a newer, technologically advanced cousin. It’s gentler and is supposed to gain the same effects. Some products utilize both.


The Goods:

RP--$43 Jordan Samuel .2% Étoile with Retinol in oil (This is supposed to be gorgeous.)
CH's Review

RP--$56 Paula’s Choice 1% Clinical Treatment (This is like a buffet of amazing ingredients. I’d really be interested in this one if I wanted a Retinol combined with tons of other actives—peptides, ceramides, vitamin c, soothing agents, etc.)
CH's Review

RP--$58 First Aid Beauty .25% Skin Lab Retinol Serum (A little bit more expensive than Paula’s, but also formulated with ceramides, peptides, hyaluronic acid, and soothing agents.)
Start video at 2:05 for FAB

RP--$64 SkinCeuticals .5% (Contains shea butter and mineral oil)

RP--$65 Peter Thomas Roth 1.5% Retinol Fusion PM This one is so, so strong. Please consider another, gentler option if you’re just starting out. (Contains alcohol.)

            -Less than $40 on Amazon Prime and fulfilled through his company.

RP--$68 Dr. Dennis Gross Ferulic + Retinol Eye Cream (This one feels very dry to me.)
CH's Review

RP--$76 SkinCeuticals 1% (Contains shea butter and mineral oil)

RP--$85 Kate Sommerville RetAsphere 2-in-1 Retinol Night Cream (Neat technology to slowly deliver Retinol, plus hyaluronic acid, and oils.)

HR--$105 Sunday Riley Luna
CH's Review

RP--$109 Pestle & Mortar Superstar (By all accounts Superstar seems like it’s a strong one, but majorly balanced with oils and hydrating factors to soothe. It’s a dichotomy as CH says it’s both strong and gentle.)
CH's Review

HR & RP--$215 Zelens Power A High Potency Treatment Drops  
CH's Review


Let’s talk about Deciem’s The Ordinary.

As of today they are supposed to release their new line of Retinol products tomorrow (on Tuesday August 28, 2017). They are some crazy, silly monkeys, so we'll see if it happens then or not. 

Here’s the line up, and again, all are 1 oz:

(They’ve discontinued their 1% silicone base Retinol, by the way.)

HR & RP--$9.80 The Ordinary Granactive Retinoid 2% Emulsion (Formerly called Advanced Retinoid 2%)

HR—$9.60 The Ordinary Granactive Retinoid 2% in Squalane

HR—$13.90 The Ordinary Granactive Retinoid 5% in Squalane

RP—$5.30 The Ordinary Retinol .2% in Squalane

RP—$5.80 The Ordinary Retinol .5% in Squalane

RP—$6.70 The Ordinary Retinol 1% in Squalane


Which products are going to be somewhat similar?


RP--$43 Jordan Samuel’s .2% Étoile with Retinol in oil


RP—$5.30 The Ordinary’s Retinol .2% in Squalane


RP--$58 First Aid Beauty .25% Skin Lab Retinol Serum


These three have the closest amounts of Retinyl Palmitate in them. Their delivery mechanisms are very different. The Ordinary’s is going to be bare bones. It does have squalene, which won’t degrade the Vitamin A like water will, which is good. But it doesn’t have many other ingredients to soothe. People rave about how lovely Jordan Samuel’s Étoile feels. And First Aid Beauty is really going to be a stellar, overall complex product that is going to deliver a nicer, lower amount of Vitamin A with less likelihood of reaction.

Which one you buy will likely have a lot to do with the price you are able to afford and willing to pay, if you want a basic or luxury experience, and if you have any allergies—lots of these products seem to contain essential oils, so be certain to check labels if you have sensitivities to any ingredients.

As an example, I have been using The Ordinary’s Advanced Retinoid 2%, which has both Hydroxypinacolone Retinoate and Retinyl Palmitate for about two and a half months (every other night). It is creamy while being quite fluid, blends in well, isn’t irritating (the whole reason I bought it, was their claim that it would be far gentler than a straight retinol.) I don’t feel that the new product which also contains 2% HR but has no RP will be helpful to me—it would be like a downgrade in strength. But I am interested in all of these:

HR—$13.90 The Ordinary Granactive Retinoid 5% in Squalane

RP—$5.30 The Ordinary Retinol .2% in Squalane

RP—$5.80 The Ordinary Retinol .5% in Squalane

RP—$6.70 The Ordinary Retinol 1% in Squalane

The Granactive 5% is a stronger solution, and all of the other types contain Retinyl Palmitate, which will be nice to try on its own. And for science, I will probably buy all of them to trial and review. But if I was really pinching pennies, I would likely skip the Granactive 5% and grab the two lower strength Retinol only products. I’ll keep you posted.

I’m also very interested in the two options I suggested to compare to The Ordinary’s product, just above: Jordan Samuel’s and First Aid Beauty’s. Maybe someday I will be able to comprehend paying $215 for an ounce of what is probably an incredible product by Dr. Zelens, but right now, I’m not there. At that price point it makes more sense to me (as long as you don’t think mineral oil makes your skin unhappy) to go pay for a dermatologist visit and get a prescription strength cream, per CH’s recommendation in her video. All of the ones I have read about or heard about use mineral oil in their base. Even CH says that she just uses a little bit of her favorite cream (UK prescription brand called Ketrel) because it does make her break out because of the mineral oil. Then she backs off and uses her over the counter options for day to day use.

I just want to remind everyone that I’m not a medical professional. I am only trying to combine a lot of scattered information to try to help you make smart shopping choices.

CH says to use a Retinol if you’re over 30, to always use a great sunscreen (my favorites, which are also one she loves) and that retinol use can help overall with acne, wrinkles, ageing, blackheads and the like. They can be a safe and effective choice in helping you to get the best skin you can.

Feel free to leave a comment below if you have any questions or need more help.

Have a great day, Face Freaks!


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Alysha JonesComment