The Grooming Manual

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Why We Don’t Use Retinol 

Why We Don’t Use Retinol

There are tons of skincare ingredients on the market -- and more of them popping up each day. Some of them are fantastic and great for your skin, including active ingredients like vitamin C, glycolic acid, and peptides.  

Others -- like retinol -- get the job done but come with drawbacks and dangers for your skin that make them no-no ingredients in our book. 

Here’s why we avoid retinol in our products. 


What Is Retinol? 

Retinoids -- the umbrella term for all the different kinds of retinol cream -- are ultra-potent skincare ingredients. They come in three main forms:  


Retinoic Acid

This is the “magic ingredient” that you’ll find in a lot of prescription anti-aging products. That’s because this is the active form of vitamin A that can be directly utilized by the skin. This makes it the strongest of the bunch. 



This vitamin A derivative is the non-prescription alternative to retinoic acid (and gets converted to retinoic acid at the cellular level). Biochemically, it does the same thing as the prescription stuff - it just takes a little longer for you to start seeing results.



This includes ingredients likeretinyl palmitate, retinyl acetate, and retinyl linoleate. These are the gentlest and weakest of the bunch. 


    How Does Retinol Work?  

    If you’ve heard that retinoids are primarily exfoliants, that’s not quite true. They can cause a lot of peeling, since it’s a common side effect of the irritation that retinol causes. But that’s not the intended effect.

    Instead, retinols primarily work by binding to retinoic acid receptors in the cells and affecting gene expression, causing significant physical changes to the skin.


    Benefits of Retinol 

    Retinol literally enacts change on a cellular level. As a result, retinol products have been shown to: 

    • Increase turnover of skin cells 
    • Enhance collagen production 
    • Smooth the skin by reducing cell clumps and clearing clogged pores
    • Even skin pigmentation and decrease skin discoloration 


    Risks Associated with Retinol 

    Despite its positive effects, there are also significant risks with this vitamin A derivative. It's important to understand both the pros and cons of this ingredient and weigh them carefully before using it on your skin.


    Irresponsible Marketing 

    Retinoids used to only be available via prescription. Now they’re widely available - but, in an effort to get the top sales, a lot of big brands have been irresponsible about their messaging and their formulas. 

    On the marketing side, many companies rely on unfounded claims like “this is the most fast-acting formula you’ll find on the market” or “this is the most potent retinol you’ll encounter.”

    What’s worse? Behind this jargon are confusing and unbalanced ingredient combinations that can actually irritate the skin, not help it. 


    Weakened Barrier Function 

    Retinol exfoliates away old cells and encourages new cell growth. But if these new cells are produced too rapidly, they won’t be well-formed, won’t bind together as well, and will lack the lipid production needed to protect your skin from damage and irritants. 

    What’s the point of shiny new skin cells if they’re weak and don’t protect you? 


    UV Sensitivity 

    Similarly, these weakened skin cells -- due to increased exfoliation -- can become red, irritated, and more sensitive to UV light. If you use a retinol product but don’t use sunscreen with a very high SPF, you risk major sunburn and premature aging. 


    Accelerated Cell Division  

    The fast-growing cells produced with retinol use aren’t just weaker in the short term -- there could also be long-term risks. Why? 

    Cells are only able to divide, grow, and repair a certain number of times (that’s part of why we age). Retinol speeds up that process, meaning that those cells could reach their limit sooner than normal.

    We think you should save your cell divisions for healthy cell growth throughout your lifetime. 


    Ingredients We Use Instead of Retinol 

    Due to the potential drawbacks of using retinol on your skin, we opt for other anti-aging ingredients. They're safe, effective, proven to fight the aging process, and are generally well tolerated.


    Glycolic Acid

    This alpha hydroxy acid (AHA) softens the skin, reduces oil, promotes circulation, and helps increase collagen. Try it in our Smooth Finish Glycolic Acid Peel.


    Protein Peptides

    Research has shown the anti-aging benefits of topical use of protein peptides - which are protein fragments made up of amino acids. They're in our Reviving Day Serum, working to boost collagen and smooth wrinkles. And Matrixyl 3000, a specialized blend of peptides proven to nearly double the amount of collagen your skin cells produce, is a key ingredient in our Restoring Eye Cream.


    Vitamin B-3 (Niacinamide)

    This vitamin contributes to better skin by minimizing the appearance of pores, reducing inflammation, building keratin, regulating oil production, and reducing the effects of long term UV damage. You can find it in our Daily Essential Face Moisturizer.


    Vitamin C

    The benefits of vitamin C for your skin include diminishing the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, minimizing dark spots, and evening skin tone. See the results for yourself with our Resurfacing Anti-Aging Cream.

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