The benefits of retinol — the umbrella name for vitamin A-derived ingredients common in skin care — have been well documented. Experts like estheticians and dermatologists have been recommending it (and using it themselves) for years, touting its firming, wrinkle-smoothing, skin-restoring, results-focused properties. When it comes to skin-care ingredients that really, truly work, retinol is right up there at the top of the list.
But there are also some pretty well-known downsides to using retinol: It's been known to create issues for those with dry, sensitive or redness-prone skin, making their complexions even more dry, sensitive or red. And the real key to getting retinol to work its magic is to actually use it, and use it regularly. So is it possible to find a retinol that will deliver all of the upsides without the downsides? Are there formulas so effective, yet so gentle, you'll actually want to use them as part of your regular skin-care routine? That's precisely what Naturopathica set out to create with its new Retinol Collection.
"Many people haven't had access to retinol because it wasn't in clean formulas and wasn't suitable for sensitive skin," explains Naturopathica Founder Barbara Close. "We developed these formulas so that retinol can do its job, without causing irritation." The Retinol Collection is innovative not just because of its breakthroughs in non-irritating retinol, but also because it incorporates luxurious, clean formulas — like a night oil spiked with holy basil, a passion fruit-infused eye serum and a lightweight gel-cream that's deeply hydrating, but not heavy. To find out more about what sets these products apart from other retinols, Fashionista chatted with Close, who also let us in on what went into creating the Ageless line, which ingredients she's most excited about and why it's absolutely possible to deliver retinol formulas that are suitable for sensitive skin. Read on for the highlights.
What kind of gap was there in the skin-care market (and specifically, anti-aging market) that Naturopathica wanted to fill with the retinol collection?
Retinol is the strongest over-the-counter ingredient for skin renewal, but clean brands often choose not to use it because it causes irritation. That is where a gap in the market exists. The botanicals that we've chosen soothe and calm the skin, even as the retinol is working. That's why the collection is revolutionary: We're able to target and repair even the most delicate parts of the skin, like the eye area.
Can you share a bit about each product?
The Holy Basil & Retinol Ageless Night Oil is the perfect antidote to tired, aging skin. It features a 1% retinoid blend, with holy basil and bakuchiol. Holy basil is a powerful, adaptogenic herb that helps to increase the skin's resilience to stress. It's part of a bundle of ingredients that helps to halt sensitivity at the source.
Our weightless Passion Fruit & Retinol Ageless Eye Serum incorporates passion fruit, which is rich in antioxidants that reinforce the skin against free-radical damage, allowing for retinol renewal without stress on the delicate eye area.
For added hydration, the Argan & Retinol Advanced Wrinkle Remedy Night Gel Cream is fortified with argan cells to help renew and firm the skin, giving retinol a complementary boost.
What are some of the key ingredients operating in these products that you're most excited about?
Definitely our new, proprietary retinol, which is clean of petrochemicals and contaminants for results without irritation. It's delivered with desensitizing and performance-boosting botanicals for astonishingly gentle and highly effective results.
I'm also a big fan of holy basil, also known as tulsi, which is an adaptogenic herb that helps to reduce signs of skin stress for a smoother, more even-toned complexion. It allows retinol to work more efficiently, without sensitivity.
Bakuchiol, derived from babchi, is an antioxidant-rich, skin-nourishing agent and retinol-boosting companion that helps to promote an even complexion for brighter, more radiant skin.
Then there are peptides, which are specifically designed for the eye area, so they're targeted to improve the appearance of the eye contour by minimizing puffiness and dark circles.
What exactly makes Naturopathica's retinol products less irritating?
We start with a proprietary, clean retinol, sourced free of petrochemicals and contaminants to minimize irritation at the source. Then, we layer in rare and highly effective herbs to boost skin health, with nourishing base materials to soothe and repair. The combination is clinically proven to deliver firmer, smoother skin without irritation, based on an independent clinical study of 30 women over eight weeks which included self, expert and machine-based skin assessments.
What went into the product development and formulation process to create these products?
Our inspiration has always been rooted in the practices of traditional herbalism, which sparked my passion for skin care. In order to use retinol without harming the skin, we searched herbal medicine archives for the most effective botanicals that would perfectly complement the actives, without compromise. Holy basil, a sacred Indian herb, is recognized in Ayurvedic medicine for its soothing properties. Passion fruit, on the other hand, is a unique extract that's rarely used in skin care, but by taking a deeper look at its chemical makeup, we were able to see its unique potential for skin health.
What would you say to someone who might be nervous to try retinol because they have sensitive skin or may have had a bad reaction with past retinols?
One of the principles of Naturopathic medicine is do no harm, and we stand by this commitment every time we formulate. When developing the Retinol Collection, our mandate was to deliver dramatic skin renewal, without irritation. For those who are skeptical or unsure, we did clinical testing. Eighty-six percent of users cited 'non-irritating' among the primary product benefits. Of course, we always recommend wearing sunscreen in the daytime when using retinol overnight.
It's really unique to have retinol included in an oil formulation. What sets that product apart and why is an oil an ideal way to use retinol?
As women age, their estrogen levels decline, which impacts the production of oil in the skin. Over time, the lipid barrier is compromised and the skin feels dryer, making fine lines and wrinkles more pronounced. Our heritage is in professional aesthetics, the science of the skin. Leaning on that expertise, we designed a Facial Oil that specifically replenishes the oils we start to miss as our skin ages — including base oils like anti-inflammatory oat kernel extract and jojoba oil, which mimics the skin's natural sebum. Facial oils also provide barrier protection, to lock in hydration while you sleep.
What type of results can someone expect from Naturopathica's retinol line?
The Holy Basil & Retinol Ageless Night Oil is clinically proven to improve the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles for more youthful-looking skin. Based on our clinicals, 94% of users reported smoother skin after four weeks of use, and 91% reported firmer skin.
The Passion Fruit & Retinol Ageless Eye Serum is clinically proven to improve the appearance of fine lines, wrinkles, dark circles and puffiness for revitalized eyes. We found that 90% of users saw a decrease in dark circles, 86% without irritation.
Should all of the products be used together? What is the layering/application process you'd suggest for best results?
Absolutely, these products are gentle enough to layer, to boost your wrinkle-relief. But rather than overhauling your routine, allow your skin to adjust to each formula by introducing one new product at a time. Apply nightly for three to five days, then add to your regimen.
What types of testing and clinical studies did Naturopathica use to develop these products?
We validated performance with an independent clinical study conducted over eight weeks. The clinical observation included machine-based skin assessments, expert and self-assessment.
What inspired the creation of this line?
As an herbalist and product formulator, I am always seeking the best ingredients from the natural world to bring to our community. My first inspiration for a Retinol Collection came through the ingredient bakuchiol, now popular for its wrinkle-fighting results. After diving into the research on bakuchiol years ago, I knew that there could be a pathway to clean retinol. The complementary relationship between synthetic retinol and plant-based bakuchiol is astonishing. By combining them, we were able to protect and repair the skin with unprecedented efficacy — and without harm. This partnership laid the foundation of our new, clean cosmeceuticals.
Click through the gallery below for a closer look at Naturopathica's Retinol Collection.