Move Over Retinol, Here’s r-RETINOATE 

October 19, 2015

One of next year’s most exciting skincare launches is a super-effective anti-ageing cream that should suit everyone (and no, this is not a sponsored post, I just went to the launch and was dead impressed with it). What’s the top line?  

Every now and then, the skincare industry throws up a product that moves its whole category forward a jump. Here’s one of them. It’s not on sale until next year but I was invited to the global launch of the product and so got the inside scoop — and it looks terrific. You may know about retinol, a skincare ingredient derived from vitamin A, with well-proven credentials for improving the skin. This new product contains a similar ingredient which is up to eight times more effective at softening wrinkles and helping the skin repair itself, yet is gentle enough to use every day – and no, you don’t need a prescription for it. 

What is it? 

It’s a light cream serum from Medik8, a skincare biotechnology company based in the UK. The company already has a strong range of anti-ageing skincare (I don’t like the phrase ‘anti-ageing’, or what it implies, but it’s an easy shorthand; you know what I mean) but even for them, this is a step up. 

What’s so different about it? 

The key ingredient is r-retinoate, which, like retinol is derived from vitamin A.  But unlike retinol, it doesn’t irritate the skin. This is a big plus as the key thing that puts people off using retinol (and its prescription-strength cousins containing the even more potent retinoid acid) is that its efficacy is directly linked to its irritancy – i.e., the better it works, the more it will make your skin dry, red and itchy. If you’ve tried retinol, you will know how you have to acclimatise yourself slowly to the stuff, using a tiny amount twice a week until your skin can tolerate it. So a product with better effects and less irritation sounds a winner. 

Anything else? 

Medik8 has worked with a Korean super-lab to produce an ‘encapsulated’ form of r-retinoate which goes to work directly on the nucleii of skin cells (faster than retinol, which has to be converted within the skin into retinoid acid). Also, unlike other vitamin-A products, this new ingredient doesn’t break down in daylight, so you can use the product morning and night. 

How good are the results? 

Remarkably good. When tested on wrinkles around the eyes, it proved significantly more effective  (in a double-blind clinical trial) than the high-strength retinol that it was tested against. It also produced better results than the retinol reducing signs of sun-damage on the skin. Another nice detail – in most studies, there are a few unfortunate people who just don’t respond even to the most magical of new anti-ageing ingredients, but not here – the r-retinoate gave measurable improvements to every single person who tried it. 

How does it do this? 

Like other vitamin-A-derived ingredients, it firms up skin by increasing the production of collagen, it increases the rate of turnover over the skin cells, so that fresher skin comes to the surface, and it also slows down the rate at which collagen breaks down in the skin. 

Do you really want your skin cells to turn over faster? 

Mostly, yes, we do, because the rate-of-turnover of skin cells slows down as we get older, and fresher smoother skin cells look better than scuffy old dead ones. The one thing you don’t want is the sort of rapid proliferation of skin cells that is associated with cancer but that doesn’t seem to be an issue here  —  previous studies on retinol have shown that it slows down cell turnover in cells that are over-proliferating. 

Doesn’t it thin the skin? 

Yes, but it only thins the upper layers of the skin, the epidermis. What is more significant is that it is building stronger, thicker, denser skin within the dermis, the lower layers of the skin.

What’s it like to use?

Really nice. You put it on like any other serum… it spreads well, sinks in evenly, smells of almost nothing, makes a good base for make-up… then I leave it to get on with working its magic.  

Anything wrong with it?

If you ask me, just the name. During the final-testing phase, the product was called Retin-8, which is a great name. r-Retinoate is a big of a mouthful, though I suppose it sounds more scientific.  

Medik8 r-Retinoate Youth Activating Cream will be on sale in March 2016 for £125 for 50ml, and soon there will be a website with more info at