You may have realised by now that I’m a total retinol convert; it’s an ingredient that seems to absolutely live up to the hype, with the sort of results even the most hardened skincare sceptics would find it difficult to argue with.
Since the very start of my retinol-testing adventures last year (I say “adventures” because there have been a few ups and downs!) my skin has felt and looked smoother, plumper and brighter. I’ve had virtually no spots or breakouts, even in the week before my period, and the fine, crepey lines on my forehead and around my eyes have really filled out.
I’ve been a bit slack on reporting back on my retinol-testing, I’m afraid, but this post marks the start of a concerted effort to get myself organised and transcribe my (copious and detailed) notes. You can now picture me, if you please, sitting hunched over a large leatherbound book, scratching away by candlelight using a quill and a pot of ink.
And we’re actually working backwards, here, because I’m starting with my most recent spate of retinol testing – the Retinol Youth Renewal range from Murad. Consisting of a silky retinol eye cream, a potent serum and a buttery night cream, this is a completely comprehensive, massively effective skin-overhauling system.
Read on for an exclusive Murad 20% discount code
Now I’d trot out the usual retinol spiel, which is that skin looks and feels smoother and firmer and more radiant, and I’d talk about how retinol is the gold standard anti-aging ingredient, how it tackles pretty much every skin concern from wrinkles to spots, pigmentation to sagging, and all of this would be both accurate and true. But in all honesty, there are so many great retinol products on the market that I could repeat myself over and over again, and ultimately that’s not very helpful if you’re trying to choose where to spend your money.
(Actually, this is one of the reasons I’ve found it so difficult to write up my retinol findings; it’s often quite hard to find a point of difference between the products I’ve tried. If a product’s results are good and there’s very little in the way of “downtime” (usually it’s a case of how strong the retinol is and how slowly you introduce it into your routine) then you find yourself focusing on price point, packaging quirks, the colour of the font they’ve used on the ingredients list. Etc.)
So you need a unique selling point, something that sets a product apart from the rest of the bunch, and in Murad’s case it’s the very, very impressive Tri-Active formula, proven to be 250% more powerfully renewing than a traditional retinol formula. Now in true Crilly style, I didn’t read any of the blurb before starting my testing (I like to live life dangerously) so I had no idea how often to use the products, how slowly to introduce them or how fast they would work. I ploughed straight on in with all three things – eye serum, face serum and night cream.
Readers: I got the tingle. I have to say that I hadn’t felt the tingle in quite a while and I was mildly alarmed after I applied the serum and it got to work. It felt strong. I then smoothed the buttery night cream atop and my whole face was pleasantly fluttery, as though filled with millions of miniscule butterflies. I went to sleep not knowing what I would wake up to but – to be fair – that’s nothing new. Sometimes the owls wake me up in the early hours, hooting so loudly it’s like I have a group of demented flute players hanging out in my trees. Other times I wake up spooning an upside down dog and, once, he even had a whole claw inserted into my left nostril.
So I got the tingle and knew I wasn’t trifling with any old retinol – I fully expected to wake up with my face falling off. But I didn’t. I mean I did wake up (God, that would be a tragic turn of events for a blog post on skincare!), I just didn’t wake up with my skin falling off. In fact, I woke up with skin that looked a lot better – cushiony and well-hydrated and incredibly smooth. And as the week went on my skin looked noticeably better and better, which was both surprising and disconcerting because a) things don’t usually work so fast and b) if they do work that fast there’s usually an element of face fall-out. Or face fall-off.
Had I read the Murad blurb I would have been well prepped for this revelation. I would have known that the Tri-Active formula in the Retinol Youth Renewal range works in three different ways. Firstly there’s a time-released retinol, which slowly and steadily delivers a consistent level of retinol to the skin and secondly there’s a retinol booster which makes the skin more receptive to the retinol, making sure that it’s as effective as it can possibly be. But thirdly, and this is the piece de resistance for me, there’s the fast-acting retinoid. More powerful than the retinol, it gives much faster results by very quickly boosting cell turnover. Smoother, firmer, plumper skin in far less time.
Triple whammy, then, and despite the impressive results and even the tingle, the formula felt gentle, non-aggressive, surprisingly hydrating.
I say surprising, but none of this really comes as a surprise because Dr Howard Murad, the man behind the Murad brand, is a veritable skin genius. I have a claim to fame, which is that I met the man himself, back in 2012, at his clinic in LA. Long-time readers (thanks for sticking around and putting up with my nonsense) will remember a Q&A series I ran with him (you can find all of the posts here) answering the most common skincare questions and complaints.
Now the thing about Dr Murad is this: he doesn’t see skincare as the answer to skin complaints. Despite the fact that he has a hugely successful skincare brand, he is a champion of a far wider approach to skin health, looking at emotional wellbeing and diet rather than just prescribing topical treatments.
When I met Dr Murad in LA I was actually quite taken aback when he started talking about the inside-out approach – I was there to write about his skincare, I thought that he was there to promote his skincare, and it seemed so counterproductive for him to be telling me how important these other aspects of skin health were. But he was, of course, completely right. And it only made me trust him more. His skincare formulas have often been groundbreaking – he’s a true beauty visionary – yet his brand, the Murad brand, is about much more than scientific formulas. It’s about his approach to modern wellness, which is probably why (at the age of eighty, the man’s a total machine) he’s treated over 50,000 patients.
I’ve gone down a total rabbit hole thinking about my trip to LA and the very powerful skin peel I had at the clinic – I was, at the same time as the trip, finishing my final dissertation for my masters degree and I remember writing away at my little desk at the Standard Hotel and feeling how smooth my skin was. Noisiest hotel I’ve ever stayed in, by the way, The Standard, and they also have a weird glass tank in the reception where people sit doing mundane things, like a piece of performance art. It was all very distracting.
Anyway, back to the products before Murad regret ever commissioning me to do this post. (Head Office: “could you not have found someone who actually sticks to the point? This woman is barking mad!”) I used all three; the Retinol Youth Renewal Eye Serum, the Retinol Youth Renewal Serum and the Retinol Youth Renewal Night Cream. The results using all three were fast and furious, though furious in a gentle way, like an angry cloud, rather than spikily furious, like a hedgehog with a parking ticket.
I also tried the products separately, but it would be absolutely impossible, in a domestic setting such as my own, to quantify the difference in results. What I will say is this: if you wanted all three products, there would be far worse ways you could spend your cash. This range is solid, doesn’t make absurd claims and is definitely more immediate in its effects than most retinols I’ve tried. But if finances didn’t permit the procurement of all three then the single products are absolutely an amazing addition to any skincare routine.
The Retinol Youth Renewal Eye Serum (get 20% off with the code RUTH20 here) has – obviously – been formulated for the delicate eye area, which is often advised to be avoided when it comes to retinol products. So if you’re specifically looking for a potent helper for eye wrinkles and sagginess, this would be your bag.
The Retinol Youth Renewal Serum (20% off with the code RUTH20 here) would be my pick if you wanted one product and an easy way of introducing a retinol into your existing skincare routine – cleanse, serum and then your chosen face cream. Simple.
The Retinol Youth Renewal Night Cream (20% off, you know the drill, code is RUTH20 here) would be my suggestion if you don’t particularly like using a serum and have a two-step night routine – cleanse and moisturise. It’s gorgeously rich and buttery – though not greasy – and you get your Tri-Active formula without any extra product layering. I don’t have access to strengths and percentages (proprietary information) but I’m going to make an educated guess that the serum is more potent and the serum and night cream layered together, more potent still; but if you want to plump for one product and you’re a die-hard old-school skincare minimalist then this cream will not disappoint.
So, who’s Retinol Youth Renewal for? Pretty much all but the most sensitive of skin. And from people in their twenties right up to however old you’re lucky enough to be – whether you’re trying to tackle spots and breakouts or reduce the lines that are creeping up around eyes, mouth, forehead, this really is a skincare powerhouse.
You can find more info on the range at the Murad website here – the section about Dr Murad here is also a very interesting read, should you be fascinated by colourful life stories and inspirational people…
(Code is valid on all products on the Murad UK website until 23.59pm on Friday 3rd May 2019.)