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Because I tolerate most retinoid products fairly well, I jumped at the opportunity to try AO Skincare Rewind Retinal ($119.95 in the shop). I turned 40 this year and have combination skin with a few lines around my eyes and nasolabial folds but no deep wrinkles. I typically seek out products that treat uneven texture, help with skin firmness, promote clarity and reduce pigmentation. I started using retinoids in my early 30s and have developed a decent tolerance to them. I found them to be the only products that could (quickly!) help with skin texture issues, including tone and luminosity. I have used prescription retinoids in the past — Retin A and its generic companion tretinoin — as well as a wide variety of over the counter retinol creams for good measure.
I use retinoids mostly in the fall and in winter to avoid thinning out my skin and to guard against photosensitivity. I put aside my prescription retin A in April, because I wanted to try some other products. That’s when Retinal Rewind came in for testing. I applied it at night three or four times a week for three months — one pump on my face and another on my neck.
Rewind Retinal, number six in Ao Skincare’s range of products, is an odorless, yellowish gel with a light and fluid consistency. The manufacturers recommend applying one pump of the gel to the face at night before or after your night cream and only two to three times per week until well tolerated. The bottle is said to provide a two-month supply, but it took me three months to use up the entire bottle.
AO Skincare hails from New Zealand and sources most of their ingredients from there, too. The gel contains an effective form of vitamin A (retinal), interesting botanical extracts and auxiliary ingredients to reduce irritation and is contained in an airless pump to help prevent oxidation issues. Fortunately, there are no nasty additives and preservatives.
One of the key ingredients is obviously retinal. Retinal (retinaldehyde) is a powerful form of vitamin A with proven anti-aging benefits, including the reduction of hyperpigmentation, fine lines and wrinkles and acne. Retinal works similarly to prescription retinoic acid. Retinal thins out the top layer of the skin, the stratum corneum, while thickening the second layer, the epidermis, which gives your skin that even and firm appearance. While retinoic acid penetrates the skin the fastest and most optimally, retinal forms when specialized skin enzymes help convert it. Because retinal has an indirect conversion process, compared to retinol or other retinoids, it is less likely to cause skin irritation and flaking.
Bakuchiol is an interesting botanical on the list of ingredients. It is a natural antioxidant taken from the seeds and leaves of the plant psoralea corylifolia, which has similar effects to topical vitamin A (retinol), but lacks many of the potential side effects like photosensitivity and irritation. Ao reports that the retinol‐like activity is due to “modulating key retinoid binding and metabolizing genes and key dermal‐epidermal junction, extracellular matrix and cytoskeleton genes.” It stimulates collagen production by its “activity against pro‐inflammatory enzymes and elastase.” They site research studies that show improvement in roughness and dryness, fine lines and wrinkles, skin tone, elasticity and firmness, radiance and brightening. Additionally, the Ao makers maintain that bakuchiol excels when combined with topical retinoids, because it helps protect the retiniod from oxidative damage.
The formulation also contains astaxanthin, a marine antioxidant and totarol, an antioxidant extracted from the New Zealand Totara tree that helps fight free-radical damage to the skin and has natural antibacterial preservative qualities. You will also find good ole sodium hyaluronate on the list to help with skin hydration.
All in all, Rewind Retinal is an excellent product. It performed well for me on three fronts: First, it improved my skin texture by reducing the tiny scars from old breakouts and fading out the sun spots on my cheeks. Second, it increased my skin luminosity by making it look supple and smooth. Third, it did so without the dreaded flaking that accompanies the use of retinoids — no skin irritation, redness or peeling. However, while I am stoked about the product performance, I am not particularly happy about the cost.
To conclude, as with many retinoid products, results are cumulative and take time. How it performs on deeper wrinkles remains to be seen as a longer course of use. Rewind Retinal is an effective anti-aging product that is well worth a try.