Osmosis Relieve ($50) is a gentle vitamin A serum. If that sounds like an oxymoron, then note that the form of vitamin A is retinaldehyde at a 0.025% concentration. I can vouch that Osmosis Relieve is gentle as retinols go, but it is not for the very faint-hearted – with my very sensitive skin, I found that I could not use it every day.
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 is theoretically effective, while reducing the usual side effects of irritation and dryness. Studies show that retinaldehyde works to increase epidermal thickness and elasticity. However this is at a 0.05% – for which you would need to turn to Osmosis Correct.
I can only use Osmosis Correct on my neck – it is too tingly for my face. And even Osmosis Relieve had to be, as I mentioned above, cut down to two or three times a week as my skin would become quite red (especially where I am prone to rosacea). If you are not, however, the dermatological equivalent of the Princess and the Pea, I would recommend Osmosis Relieve as a retinol serum that is likely to be well tolerated.
Most of the ingredients in Relieve are stellar. Worthy of a call out is phosphatidylcholine, which is the third ingredient on the list and has fatty acids that assist with repairing cell membranes. There is some evidence that phosphatidylcholine can treat acne. Next up is asiaticoside, a derivative of the plant gotu kola and a proven booster of collagen 1. Many will recognize niacinamide as an effective anti-aging ingredient that gets a thumbs up from Dr Oz.
Among the handful of botanicals, such as antioxidant sea buckthorn and chrysanthemum, there’s a more perplexing ingredient, fulvic acid. Formed by the microbial degradation of dead plant matter (think leaves turning into soil), it is peddled in supplements and sold as a cell energizer. I have yet to find any solid evidence of its health or skin care benefits.