I’ve tried my fair share of retinol formulas—to no avail. There’s always been too much irritation (far more than the general acclimation period) or no visible results at all. And while I know good skincare can take time (I know, I know), I’m constantly on the hunt for a product that will do wonders for me immediately, as well as overtime. So, I’ve kept at it. I’ve tested, applied, massaged, and sampled just about every anti-aging skincare option on the market. I want taut skin, smoothed lines, and even texture. I love my face either way—but I’m human.
Recently, I came across Josie Maran’s newest launch. Known for their cult-favorite 100% Pure Argan Oil, the brand has a reputation for turning out clean, good-for-you skincare that works. I was intrigued when I saw the new formula had pro retinol and read up on the ingredients. The Argan Beta-Retinoid Pink Algae Serum ($68) is made without synthetics (their retinol is sourced from pink algae, as the name suggests), and the claim is this: It works to smooth fine lines and wrinkles in just one week without irritation, redness, or flakiness. So, I tried it. Read on for how it all went down.
I spoke with a dermatologist before trying the product to better understand why the ingredient has had such staying power with consumers and experts alike. “Because it works and it’s backed by science,” Dr. Rachel Nazarian of Schweiger Dermatology told me. “Most dermatologists use a retinol, or a retinoid (more potent version of it) which speaks volumes to the evidence-back nature of its effects. She adds, “It’s also a ‘multi-tasker’: It stimulates collagen, improves fine lines and minimizes the appearance of pores. Oh, and it also treats acne. That’s a lot of benefit from one ingredient.” Nazarian laments.
Here’s the thing about retinol—it usually requires an adjustment period punctuated by redness, irritation, and flakiness. “Retinols help regulate the cell cycle and stimulate cell turnover—which can cause flaking and irritation while skin adapts to these changes,” Nazarian explains. “Additionally, it decreases the production of oil from the oil glands, which can dry out your skin and cause irritation,” she says. That said, your skin will eventually adapt to many of these changes (i.e. the dryness and inflammation will likely resolve). But, what if you could use pro-retinol (a gentle derivative of retinol) and skip over the uncomfortable part entirely? I imagine that’s what Josie Maran’s team muttered to themselves when they began formulating their newest launch, Argan Beta-Retinoid Pink Algae Serum ($68).
My Initial Thoughts:
The serum feels light, smooth, and absorbs quickly—there’s no greasiness or heaviness at all. The color is coral, which gives a nice immediate glow to my skin while I massage it in, and the scent is hardly noticeable (in a good way). My first thought as I apply three to four drops into my skin is “ahhh.” My next is, “I might really like this one.” And here’s the thing: I’m not easily impressed. I pride myself in being quite particular when it comes to my skincare choices and I wouldn’t get down with a formula unless it really worked. So, I was excited and couldn’t wait to wake up the next morning to see the results.
The First Morning-After:
My skin looked really good. It was glowy, fresh-looking, and more even-toned than usual (I have a lot of redness at times and it appears more often in the morning). No redness, no irritation, nothing but clean, hydrated (plumped, even), clear skin. “Impressive,” I thought to myself while sipping my coffee. Then I looked back at the clinical study the brand provided and saw 100 percent of participants saw a significant improvement in skin dryness immediately after application.* Check.
The bottle says you can use it day or night, but I had just run out of sunscreen so I figured I better skip the daytime application. That, and I’m a devoted user of an exfoliating toner and Nazarian warns against mixing the two. “I would avoid other potentially drying or irritating ingredients when using retinol, such as AHAs, BHAs, lactic acid, glycolic acid, or anything abrasive like a Clarisonic or physically exfoliating wash. You should always use a broad spectrum sunscreen when using the ingredient as well,” she notes.
After a Full Week of Use:
I read up a bit more on the clinicals for this serum and to be totally honest, they’re pretty amazing. The study found 97 percent of participants saw an improvement in fine lines and wrinkles in one week with zero irritation.** And, 91 percent saw an improvement in smoothness and 88 percent saw an improvement in texture in that same time frame.*** I have to agree wholeheartedly that this product does what it claims. I want to of course admit that I’m 30-years-old and, genetically, I have good skin. And I get Botox. So, naturally, I’m not working with deep-set wrinkles. That said, I noticed a difference by the end of the week. My fine lines are beginning to set in most around my mouth, forehead, and eyes. I have an expressive face! However, after consistently applying this serum for a full week, every night, I’ve noticed a shift. My skin looks plump, even, and visibly smoother along my forehead and crow’s feet. And not once did I suffer from any negative effects—no irritation, no redness. In fact, my skin felt more hydrated and even than ever. I’m officially a believer.
*Based on an independent consumer study of 68 participants
**Based on a clinical study with image analysis and examination by a dermatologist or technician
***Based on a clinical study of 35 subjects aged 35-69 years old