Avene's Retrinol 0.1 ($39.95) seems, on the face of it, to be a retinol cream that is unremarkable to the point of dreary with its mineral oil, parabens and propylene glycol. However, a closer look revealed that it uses a specific form of retinol called retinaldehyde that is both effective and kind to sensitive skins.

Retinol (retin-A) and retinyl palmatate are vitamin A and work on wrinkles and photodamaged skin by exfoliating the cells and encouraging new ones to form. Altough they work, they can be unbearably irritating for sensitive types. Retinaldehyde (retinal) can be converted by the body to either retinoic acid or retinol (which, in turn, can be converted to retinyl palmitate). Because of this metabolization, treating the skin with retinaldehyde could be effective, while reducing the side effects associated with heavy guns. That's the theory anyway; but does it work in practice?

It would appear so. A French study that lasted for a year tested 21 people with a 0.05% retinaldehyde formula and concluded that it had resulted in a "significant" increase in epidermal thickness and elasticity. This study was conducted in 1999 and, oddly, I haven't found anything more recent. Although I did find some research from 2007 that said that 0.1% retinaldehyde with 6% glycolic acid starts to heal acne scars after 28 days of use.

The other odd thing is that retinaldehyde shows up in very few products, which makes Avene's Retrinol rather exceptional after all.


Water (aqua), Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride, Mineral Oil (Paraffinum Liquidum), Glyceryl Stearate, PEG-100 Stearate, Squalane, Propylene Glycol, Glycol Montanate, PEG-40 Hydrogenated Castor Oil, BHT, Butylparaben, Carbomer, Disodium EDTA, Phenoxyethanol, Prolylparaben, Red 33 (CI 17200), Retinal, Triethanolamine.