Why We Choose Retinal and What Makes Evidence (Based) Skincare Different

The ESK blog

Why We Choose Retinal and What Makes Evidence (Based) Skincare Different

20 July 2021

Without question, when it comes to anti-aging skincare, the best studied and most effective ingredient with the strongest evidence is Retinoic Acid (prescription Vitamin A a.k.a. Tretinoin). But it can be very irritating and drying and it is a prescription only ingredient. So the question is, what is the ingredient that gets the results of Retinoic Acid, without the irritation? 

Spoiler alert, when we found that the answer was an ingredient that is incredibly rarely used in skincare – that was one of the main reasons we started Evidence Skincare (ESK).

Before we dive in, it’s important to note that well before the first trial of prescription Vitamin A was conducted in the 1940’s, it was highly effective we just didn’t know it then. Sure there would have been a few people who suspected it was, and they had even done some of their own experiments. It wasn’t until many properly designed and executed trials had been conducted, and the conclusions of those trials had been subjected to peer review and approval before being published that we had enough evidence to be confident that it worked really well. In fact, if you have some spare time, enter https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/ into your browser, then type “topical tretinoin” in the search bar – if you are ready for a geek party, head over to the first of 1,597 journal articles which discuss prescription Vitamin A 😊

Compare that to one of the newer forms of Vitamin A which is  marketed as one “ that offers a multi-fold better effect against signs of aging than retinol, retinyl palmitate and nearly all other forms of non-prescription retinoid”. Now that is a great claim! But how do we know whether we can be confident that it is accurate? Well if you type the name of the ingredient (Hydroxypinacolone Retinoate) into the search bar in https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/ the result is a little less intimidating. There are just 4 journal articles which appear. And there is only one laboratory (not human) study, sponsored by the manufacturer which actually studies the ingredient. While the study is interesting, it is biased and tells us nothing about whether the ingredient actually works when used by real people… so we can’t have any confidence that the ingredient even works, never mind living up to its lofty marketing claims. And it will stay that way unless some evidence actually starts to emerge from properly conducted trials whose results are subjected to (independent) peer review prior to being written up in respected scientific journals. We don’t have to look too far to see how premature conclusions can be wrong when properly tested… does anyone remember Hydroxychloroquine?

So back to Retinal and how we chose it. The first thing we did was scour journal articles and the market for all of the promising active ingredients that were available and used. There were over 30 of them that made our original list. We then looked at the journal articles describing these ingredients and the underlying studies,based on that we selected only the ingredients with the best available evidence. And the ingredient that ended up having the best evidence is Retinal. Happily we aren’t the only ones who have combed the evidence, in fact there are peer review journal articles doing just that. And when (just some of) these journal articles say

It makes us confident that when we say Retinal is the best evidence-based ingredient to include in ESK, we’re in good company.


A Vitamin A (Retinal – 0.06%) and B3 (Niacinamide – 4%) based night cream. For repair and rejuvenating normal, drier and aged skin. *Suspend use of Vitamin A products if pregnant of breastfeeding.

Ultimate A

Ultimate A

Vitamins A and B. High strength. Effortlessly improves skin texture and tone for skin that is soft smooth and supple. Also effective in managing acne. 

  • Rebuild collagen
  • Increase skin elasticity
  • Reduce hyperpigmentation


A Vitamin A (Retinal – 0.1%), B3 (Niacinamide – 4%) and AHA (Glycolic Acid – 2%) based night cream. For repair and rejuvenating normal, oilier and thicker skin types and for management of mild to moderate acne.

Ultimate A+

Ultimate A+

A Vitamin A (Retinal – 0.1%), B3 (Niacinamide – 4%) and AHA (Glycolic Acid – 2%) based night cream. Vitamin A is the ingredient with the strongest anti-ageing evidence and Retinal is the most effective and least irritating form of Vitamin A.