Chasing Brilliant Skin with Retinol and Friends

Editor’s Note: I first published this post on December 12, 2017 and felt it was worth sharing again as interest in retinols and retinoids continue to increase, alongside the increasing interest in plant-derived alternatives to retinoids.

In chasing brilliant skin, what have we not done, including the naturalistas, to be able to look in the mirror and feel satisfied with the skin reflecting back at us? There’s plenty I still would like to do and plenty that I have already done. In this post, I share my thoughts about the four products pictured. Of them, three are for the face and one is for the body. The common thread linking three of the four products is that they contain retinol. The fourth product, Nude Rescue Oil, contains bakuchiol, a plant-derived ingredient that behaves similarly to retinol.

tretinoin gel 0.1%

Prescription Please

There are countries where retinoids for skin application are available over the counter. In the US, a prescription is required, thereby making it available only to persons who see a qualified dermatologist. Past a certain age as I found out, insurance will not cover the cost of retinoids. Thus, you may have to cough up a couple of hundred dollars in order to obtain it once you present the script to your local pharmacy.

What are Retinoids and what are they for?

Retinoids are derived from Vitamin A, and its importance was first realised around the period of the First World War. However, using prescription retinoids for skin correction truly began to gain steam more than two decades ago. Its use is meant for a number of skin concerns such as acne, fine lines, wrinkles and skin imperfections including pigmentation. It may also be used to even out skin tone and to lessen the formation of blackheads and whiteheads. Contrary to what many people believe, using retinoids does not thin out the skin entirely. Instead, it stimulates collagen production and thickens the top layer of the skin.


The texture of prescription retinol is similar to that of a chalky cream. In preparation of applying it to my face, I prefer to spritz my face with water very lightly, so that I’m able to smooth it on with less resistance.

tretinoin gel 0.1%


This formula has proven to be highly effective in refining the texture of my skin. It has also dramatically reduced the mixture of whiteheads and blackheads on my nose and it has brightened my skin. My paramount complaint is that for the first six weeks of using it, my skin flaked, peeled and itched. Wearing foundation was an exercise in faith, patience and self-acceptance of my flaky face. Eagle-eyed friends were sympathetic, understanding and amused. Yet, it is worth it if you’re a trooper who focuses on results. Ideally, one should not stop using prescription retinoids until the container is finished.

After using this prescription, I’d like to find alternatives that are high on efficacy and low on irritation. I’d say that prescription retinoids are an excellent ally if one has acne prone skin or if one simply wants a product that performs like a Jedi. Retinoids offer anti-ageing properties that work harder than conventional topical anti-ageing creams. It should be noted that if one is pregnant or breastfeeding, retinoids are not recommended or you should at least discuss it with your physician and it is exceedingly important to ensure you wear sunscreen. Retinoids make skin much more photo-sensitive (reactive to sun exposure).

the ordinary retinol 1%

Cost Effective and Over the Counter Retinoid Options

[Update] I no longer see this formula on the company’s website but it appears a newer version is available as The Ordinary Retinol 1% in Squalene.

The Ordinary, a portfolio of skincare products by the innovative beauty company Deciem, offers over the counter retinol options priced below $10 USD. Specifically, they offer retinol options at strengths of 1% and 2%. Of the two options, the 2% formula is more stabilised, as retinol is a highly volatile substance that is usually encapsulated or formulated with additional ingredients so that it can be stabilised and applied to the skin.

In my quest for alternatives to prescription retinoids, my intention was to turn to The Ordinary Retinol 2%, but it was sold out so I opted for the 1% as pictured above.

the ordinary retinol 1%

While the texture of The Ordinary Retinol 1% looks innocuous enough, in actuality I find it quite odd. It is smoother than the texture of the prescription retinoid, yet finding words to fully capture the feel of it, fails me. Once I applied it to my face, I was torn between the urgent desire to wash it off and wanting to immerse myself in using the product to see what results it offered.

I am still unable to commit to this product and have been using it for the back of my hands. Either the formulation needs to be revisited or maybe the 2% version is better. The Ordinary’s retinoid products have received tremendous praise in the beauty world, so it’s still worth exploring as it is priced at a steal.

the chemistry brand retin oil

Body Repairs with Oil

Still under the umbrella of products offered by Deciem, I turn now to Retin-Oil Pro Repair Body Oil for Scars, Stretch Marks and Daily Care. Utilising the power of a less irritating cousin of retinol to revolutionise skin that is in need of refinement, this is a body oil that breaks through a multitude of imperfections below the neck. I first began using this body oil last year, focusing on my elbows and knees especially. People with deeper skin tones tend to have elbows and knees that are darker than the rest of the body. Thus, in using this oil I focused application to these areas while also using it all over. After a couple of weeks of consistent use, the skin on my elbows peeled and then became brighter. Same for my knees, except I didn’t experience peeling there.

The Chemistry Brand Retin-Oil is a dry oil. Therefore, you’re unlikely to be turned off by the texture because it rapidly absorbs upon application. I like to apply this right out of the shower because I use less product and I’m able to spread it around easily. Mildly scented, this 100ml container can last close to two months because there is a small spout at the top.

the chemistry brand retin oil

At around $20 USD, it is a highly effective formula that contains Hydroxypinacolone Retinoate (less irritating than prescription), Vitamins C, E and red algae. For stretch marks, it will not banish them completely, but it will smooth the area and make them less texturised.

I also concentrate on the area behind my knees and across the décolletage as well, an area that deserves tremendous attention especially as birthdays begin to stack up. The décolletage is the area spanning the neck, above the bosom and across the front of the shoulders. Like your hands, it will sell out your age files clearer and faster than you may care to realise. The skin on the décolletage is thinner, has fewer oil glands and less elasticity than the skin on the rest of the body. Whether it’s sun damage, scars or any other surface imperfections, The Chemistry Brand Retin-Oil may help to refine the appearance of such imperfections but it will not eliminate them completely. As we know, complete eradication of skin imperfections usually requires surgical or mechanical interventions.

nude rescue oil

A Plant-Derived Retinoid Alternative

[Update]-Nude Skincare appears to have been discontinued but more companies have begun offering products containing bakuchiol.

While using my prescription retinoid, I consistently had a dialogue with myself that insisted there must be a natural alternative. Nature will always be the master teacher because her portfolio contains options for just about everything humans seek to produce. And so in my quest, I came across the ingredient known as Bakuchiol, (bak-koo-heel). Native to India’s central and eastern regions, Bakuchiol (Psoralea Corylifolia) or Babchi plant, is a medicinal plant traditionally used to treat among other things, psoriasis and skin inflammatory disorders.

Bakuchiol is taken from the seeds and leaves of the plant and has the proven ability to mirror the results offered by retinoids without the irritation. It also has anti-oxidant and anti-bacterial properties as well.

Nude Skincare was a British brand that was founded on the commitment to use ingredients the body understands. This is my second bottle of Nude Progenius Omega Treatment Rescue Oil.

nude rescue oil

It takes longer to see results, but as I like to say, good beauty Spartans know that consistency and time are central to change. This oil is worth it if you are unable to see a dermatologist, unwilling to use prescription retinoids or simply prefer natural approaches to your skincare routine.

Formulated with bakuchiol, rosemary, thyme, rosehip seed oil and coleus root extract along with papaya and hibiscus, this oil refines the texture of the skin. It also offers hydration for my dry skin and I don’t have to deal with flaky, itchy skin. As always, I like to spritz my face lightly with water so that I’m able to slowly massage my face while applying the product. I use it at night only and wake up to clear, bouncy skin.

Nude Progenius Omega Treatment Rescue Oil slips into the skin easily, has a pleasantly mild herbal scent and leaves a light glow on the skin. I share my love of this product with the back of my hands as well. I like to massage it in before bed and I’ve come to prefer this to hand creams for night-time use, as I feel it offers greater correction in the appearance of the hands. If you’re in the US, you may have to purchase this product through a UK online retailer.

Increasingly, I focus more on correction and hydration, something I believe most cosmetic consumers seek as well. There is a multitude of hardworking ingredients available, naturally occurring ones and engineered ones to use when chasing brilliant skin with retinol. Whatever your preference or skin tolerance, retinoids are proven to deliver metamorphosis to the skin. Alternatively, nature has matched engineered ingredients and even pre-dated it. Choices abound, so go forth, seek, share your thoughts about what works for you and wear sunscreen.

Digiprove sealCopyright secured by Digiprove © 2017-2019

(4) Comments

  1. backstorybeauty says:

    Yes Ms. V, I hope that more and more people will come around to the benefits of using retinol. You’re right, the beginning phase can be disheartening, (especially when you add in the reactions of friends or family) but the benefit of pushing through that is tremendous:))

  2. As usual such a lovely post Marie. I am a big fan of Tretinoin for a really long time. I use it off and on. My skin transforms tremendously. It is brighter, firmer, smoother, less pores and shines actually. I just love the result.You are right when we are using retinol we don’t need any other expensive creams and serums. But have to go through the beginning phase though. I liked the mention of your amused friends heheh 🙂

    Via |

  3. backstorybeauty says:

    I’m so glad you found the post helpful. They really have the potential to change to texture and appearance of your skin for the better when used correctly😍

  4. What a great post..I have not introduced any retinol/ retinoid in my skincare routine but always curious about it… thanks for explaining in detail and wonderful over the counter options…❤️

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.