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Advanced Clinicals Retinol Firming Cream

Retinol Firming Cream

Fight the signs of aging with Advanced Clinicals Retinol Firming Cream. Over time, we begin to develop a more noticeably aged appearance, often with the following signs: deep wrinkles, fine lines, dark circles, sun damage and hyperpigmentation. This powerful anti-wrinkle moisturizer can dramatically decrease the signs of aging for an incredibly youthful glow. Advanced Clinicals retinol lotion contains the leading clinically-proven anti-aging ingredient plus nourishing elements that trap moisture to prevent future loss, for a more youthful appearance with firmer, plumper skin. Aloe vera and green tea and other nutrients will help your face and body feel firm, youthful and renewed. Its moisturizing formula penetrates deep into the skin to erase the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. Advanced Clinicals retinol cream is fragrance-free and never tested on animals. It's available in a 16 oz jar.
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Advanced Clinicals Retinol Firming Cream
Ingredients explained

Also-called: Aqua | What-it-does: solvent

Good old water, aka H2O. The most common skincare ingredient of all. You can usually find it right in the very first spot of the ingredient list, meaning it’s the biggest thing out of all the stuff that makes up the product. 

It’s mainly a solvent for ingredients that do not like to dissolve in oils but rather in water. 

Once inside the skin, it hydrates, but not from the outside - putting pure water on the skin (hello long baths!) is drying. 

One more thing: the water used in cosmetics is purified and deionized (it means that almost all of the mineral ions inside it is removed). Like this, the products can stay more stable over time. 

Also-called: Paraffinum Liquidum | What-it-does: emollient, solvent | Irritancy: 0 | Comedogenicity: 0-2

The famous or maybe rather infamous mineral oil. The clear oily liquid that is the "cheap by-product" of refining crude oil and the one that gets a lot of heat for its poor provenance. It is a very controversial ingredient with pros and cons and plenty of myths around it. So let us see them:  

The pros of mineral oil
Trust us, if something is used for more than 100 years in cosmetic products, it has advantages. Chemically speaking, cosmetic grade mineral oil is a complex mixture of highly refined saturated hydrocarbons with C15-50 chain length. It is not merely a "by-product" but rather a specifically isolated part of petroleum that is very pure and inert.

It is a great emollient and moisturizer working mainly by occlusivity. Occlusivity is one of the basic mechanisms of how moisturizers work and it means that mineral oil sits on top of the skin and hinders so-called trans-epidermal water loss, i.e water evaporating out of your skin. When compared to heavy-duty plant oil, extra virgin coconut oil, the two of them were equally efficient and safe as moisturizers in treating xerosis, a skin condition connected to very dry skin.

The other thing that mineral oil is really good at is being non-irritating to the skin. The chemical composition of plant oils is more complex with many more possible allergens or irritating components, while mineral oil is simple, pure and sensitivity to it is extremely rare. If you check out the classic French pharmacy brands and their moisturizers for the most sensitive, allergy prone skin, they usually contain mineral oil. This is no coincidence. 

The cons of mineral oil
The pros of mineral oil can be interpreted as cons if we look at them from another perspective. Not penetrating the skin but mostly just sitting on top of it and not containing biologically active components, like nice fatty acids and vitamins mean that mineral oil does not "nourish" the skin in the way plant oils do. Mineral oil does not give the skin any extra goodness, it is simply a non-irritating moisturizer working mainly by occlusivity. 

The myths around mineral oil
Badmouthing mineral oil is a favorite sport of many, it is a cheap material and being connected to petrolatum makes it fairly easy to demonize. 

While it is true that industrial grade mineral oil contains carcinogenic components (so-called polycyclic compounds), these are completely removed from cosmetic and food grade mineral oil and there is no scientific data showing that the pure, cosmetic grade version is carcinogenic.

What is more, in terms of the general health effects of mineral oils used in cosmetics, a 2017 study reviewed the data on their skin penetration and concluded that "the cosmetic use of mineral oils and waxes does not present a risk to consumers due to a lack of systemic exposure."  

Another super common myth surrounding mineral oil is that it is comedogenic. A 2005 study titled "Is mineral oil comedogenic?" examined this very question and guess what happened? The study concluded that  "based on the animal and human data reported, along with the AAD recommendation, it would appear reasonable to conclude that mineral oil is noncomedogenic in humans.

Overall, we feel that the scaremongering around mineral oil is not justified. For dry and super-sensitive skin types it is a great option. However, if you do not like its origin or its heavy feeling or anything else about it, avoiding it has never been easier. Mineral oil has such a bad reputation nowadays that cosmetic companies hardly dare to use it anymore. 

What-it-does: emollient, viscosity controlling, emulsifying, emulsion stabilising, surfactant/cleansing | Irritancy: 1 | Comedogenicity: 2

An extremely common multitasker ingredient that gives your skin a nice soft feel (emollient) and gives body to creams and lotions. It also helps to stabilize oil-water mixes (emulsions), though it does not function as an emulsifier in itself. Its typical use level in most cream type formulas is 2-3%.  

It’s a so-called fatty alcohol, a mix of cetyl and stearyl alcohol, other two emollient fatty alcohols.  Though chemically speaking, it is alcohol (as in, it has an -OH group in its molecule), its properties are totally different from the properties of low molecular weight or drying alcohols such as denat. alcohol. Fatty alcohols have a long oil-soluble (and thus emollient) tail part that makes them absolutely non-drying and non-irritating and are totally ok for the skin.

What-it-does: emulsifying | Irritancy: 2 | Comedogenicity: 3

An oily kind of ingredient that can magically blend with water all by itself. This is called self-emulsifying and SE in its name stands for that.

The difference between "normal" Glyceryl Stearate and this guy is that the SE grade contains a small amount of water-loving soap molecules, such as sodium stearate. This increases Glyceryl Stearate's affinity for water and gives it stronger emulsifying abilities.    

Other than that, it’s a nice emollient that gives a smooth and soft appearance to the skin.

You can read some more at Glyceryl Stearate >>

What-it-does: moisturizer/humectant, solvent, viscosity controlling | Irritancy: 0 | Comedogenicity: 1

Butylene glycol, or let’s just call it BG, is a multi-tasking colorless, syrupy liquid. It’s a great pick for creating a nice feeling product.  

BG’s main job is usually to be a solvent for the other ingredients. Other tasks include helping the product to absorb faster and deeper into the skin (penetration enhancer), making the product spread nicely over the skin (slip agent), and attracting water (humectant) into the skin.

It’s an ingredient whose safety hasn’t been questioned so far by anyone (at least not that we know about). BG is approved by Ecocert and is also used enthusiastically in natural products. BTW, it’s also a food additive. 

Glycerin - superstar
Also-called: Glycerol | What-it-does: skin-identical ingredient, moisturizer/humectant | Irritancy: 0 | Comedogenicity: 0
  • A natural moisturizer that’s also in our skin
  • A super common, safe, effective and cheap molecule used for more than 50 years
  • Not only a simple moisturizer but knows much more: keeps the skin lipids between our skin cells in a healthy (liquid crystal) state, protects against irritation, helps to restore barrier
  • Effective from as low as 3% with even more benefits at higher concentrations up to 20-40% (around 10% is a good usability-effectiveness sweet spot)
  • High-glycerin moisturizers are awesome for treating severely dry skin
Read all the geeky details about Glycerin here >>

Also-called: Aloe Vera | What-it-does: soothing, moisturizer/humectant

Aloe Vera is one of today’s magic plants. It does have some very nice properties indeed, though famous dermatologist Leslie Baumann warns us in her book that most of the evidence is anecdotal and the plant might be a bit overhyped.

What research does confirm about Aloe is that it’s a great moisturizer and has several anti-inflammatory (among others contains salicylates, polysaccharides, magnesium lactate and C-glucosyl chromone) as well as some antibacterial components. It also helps wound healing and skin regeneration in general. All in all definitely a goodie. 

What-it-does: emollient, perfuming | Irritancy: 3 | Comedogenicity: 3-5

A  clear, colorless oil-like liquid that makes the skin feel smooth and nice (aka emollient) and it does so without it being greasy.

What's more, it can even reduce the heavy, greasy feel in products with high oil content. It's also fast-spreading meaning that it gives the formula a good, nice slip. It absorbs quickly into the skin and helps other ingredients to penetrate quicker and deeper. 

Thanks to all this, it's one of the most commonly used emollients out there. There is just one little drawback: it has a high comedogenic index (5 out of 5...), so it might clog pores if you're prone to it. 

What-it-does: emulsifying, surfactant/cleansing | Irritancy: 3 | Comedogenicity: 2

A common functional ingredient that helps to keep the oil-loving and water-loving ingredients together (emulsifier), stabilizes and thickens the products. 

Chemically speaking, it is ethoxylated Cetearyl alcohol, meaning that some ethylene oxide is added to the fatty alcohol to increase the water-soluble part in the molecule. The result is that the mainly oil soluble, emollient fatty alcohol is converted to an emulsifier molecule that keeps oil and water mixed in creams. The number in the name of Ceteareth emulsifiers refers to the average number of ethylene oxide molecules added and 20 makes a good emulsifier.

What-it-does: emollient

A super common emollient that makes your skin feel nice and smooth. It comes from coconut oil and glycerin, it’s light-textured, clear, odorless and non-greasy. It’s a nice ingredient that just feels good on the skin, is super well tolerated by every skin type and easy to formulate with. No wonder it’s popular. 

Retinol - superstar
Also-called: Vitamin A, Form of Retinoids | What-it-does: cell-communicating ingredient
  • Retinol (pure Vitamin A) is probably the most proven anti-aging ingredient available OTC
  • It has to be converted in the skin to retinoic acid to work its magic
  • Once converted, it has the same effect as all-trans-retinoic acid, aka tretinoin
  • A generally accepted ballpark number is that retinol is 10-to-20 times less potent than retinoic acid
  • It makes skin less wrinkled, smoother, firmer and tighter
  • It might also be helpful for acne prone skin as it normalizes keratinization and makes the pores produce less sebum
  • Possible side effects and irritation are also much less than with retinoic acid
  • Do not use whilst pregnant
Read all the geeky details about Retinol here >>

Also-called: Green Tea | What-it-does: antioxidant, soothing
  • Green tea is one of the most researched natural ingredients
  • The active parts are called polyphenols, or more precisely catechins (EGCG being the most abundant and most active catechin)
  • There can be huge quality differences between green tea extracts. The good ones contain 50-90% catechins (and often make the product brown and give it a distinctive smell)
  • Green tea is proven to be a great antioxidant, UV protectant, anti-inflammatory, anticarcinogenic and antimicrobial
  • Because of these awesome properties green tea is a great choice for anti-aging and also for skin diseases including rosacea, acne and atopic dermatitis
Read all the geeky details about Camellia Sinensis Leaf Extract here >>

Also-called: Roman Chamomile Flower Extract | What-it-does: soothing, perfuming

There are two primary types of Chamomile, the German and the Roman. Both has soothing properties, but the German one contains more anti-inflammatory actives (like chamazulene). The anti-inflammatory action of the Roman Chamomile is due to phenolic compounds and -  according to manufacturer info- it also has some nice skin toning properties.

What-it-does: buffering | Irritancy: 0 | Comedogenicity: 2

It’s a little helper ingredient that helps to set the pH of a cosmetic formulation to be just right. It’s very alkaline (you know the opposite of being very acidic): a 1% solution has a pH of around 10.

It does not have the very best safety reputation but in general, you do not have to worry about it. 

What is true is that if a product contains so-called N-nitrogenating agents (e.g.: preservatives like 2-Bromo-2-Nitropropane-1,3-Diol, 5-Bromo-5-Nitro- 1,3-Dioxane or sodium nitrate - so look out for things with nitro, nitra in the name) that together with TEA can form some not nice carcinogenic stuff (that is called nitrosamines). But with proper formulation that does not happen, TEA in itself is not a bad guy. 

But let’s assume a bad combination of ingredients were used and the nitrosamines formed. :( Even in that case you are probably fine because as far as we know it cannot penetrate the skin. 

But to be on the safe side, if you see Triethanolamine in an INCI and also something with nitra, nitro in the name of it just skip the product, that cannot hurt.

Though its long name does not reveal it, this polymer molecule (big molecule from repeated subunits or monomers) is a relative to the super common, water-loving thickener, Carbomer. Both of them are big molecules that contain acrylic acid units, but Acrylates/C10-30 Alkyl Acrylate Crosspolymer also contains some other monomers that are hydrophobic, i.e. water-hating. 

This means that our molecule is part water- and part oil-loving, so it not only works as a thickener but also as an emulsion stabilizer. It is very common in gel-type formulas that also contain an oil-phase as well as in cleansers as it also works with most cleansing agents (unlike a lot of other thickeners). 

Super common little helper ingredient that helps products to remain nice and stable for a longer time. It does so by neutralizing the metal ions in the formula (that usually get into there from water) that would otherwise cause some not so nice changes.

It is typically used in tiny amounts, around 0.1% or less.

What-it-does: preservative

It’s pretty much the current IT-preservative. It’s safe and gentle, but even more importantly, it’s not a feared-by-everyone-mostly-without-scientific-reason paraben.

It’s not something new: it was introduced around 1950 and today it can be used up to 1% worldwide. It can be found in nature - in green tea - but the version used in cosmetics is synthetic. 

Other than having a good safety profile and being quite gentle to the skin it has some other advantages too. It can be used in many types of formulations as it has great thermal stability (can be heated up to 85°C) and works on a wide range of pH levels (ph 3-10). 

It’s often used together with ethylhexylglycerin as it nicely improves the preservative activity of phenoxyethanol.

What-it-does: preservative

A controversial preservative that has formaldehyde-releasing properties. It works great against bacteria and also has mild fungicide abilities. 

Cosmetic chemist, Colin wrote a great article about formaldehyde and DMDM Hydantoin.  He writes that formaldehyde is the perfect example of "the dose makes the poison" principle. It's a natural stuff that can also be found in fresh fruits and vegetables, and eating it in tiny amounts is totally ok. However, in larger amounts (according to Wikipedia 30 mL of a solution containing 37% formaldehyde) it's deadly. 

The amount of formaldehyde used in cosmetics either neat or through formaldehyde-releasing preservatives is tiny. Probably that is why the Cosmetic Ingredient Review Broad concluded both in 1988 and in 2008 that DMDM Hydantoin is "safe as used in cosmetics".

However, Colins argues that in the case of formaldehyde-releasing preservatives, formaldehyde is released slowly and the skin has probably not evolved to deal with that. The lingering formaldehyde might be toxic to the Langerhans Cells that are important for the skin's defense system. Another potential issue is that formaldehyde-releasers might also release other things while reacting with amino acids in the skin that is probably the explanation why some people are not allergic to formaldehyde but are allergic to formaldehyde-releasing preservatives. These are all theories, far from proven facts, but we feel that there are some justified reasons why formaldehyde-releasing preservatives and Dmdm Hydantoin count as controversial. 

All in all, it's up to you to decide if you wanna avoid this preservative group or not. If so, there are other, less risky and more skin-friendly options out there.

What-it-does: preservative

It's one of those things that help your cosmetics not to go wrong too soon, aka a preservative. Its strong point is being effective against yeasts and molds, and as a nice bonus seems to be non-comedogenic as well.

It is safe in concentrations of less than 0.1% but is acutely toxic when inhaled, so it's not the proper preservative choice for aerosol formulas like hairsprays. Used at 0.1%, Iodopropynyl Butylcarbamate has an extremely low rate of skin-irritation when applied directly for 24 hours (around 0.1% of 4,883 participants) and after 48 hours that figure was 0.5%, so it counts as mild and safe unless your skin is super-duper sensitive.

You may also want to take a look at...

what‑it‑does solvent
Normal (well kind of - it's purified and deionized) water. Usually the main solvent in cosmetic products. [more]
what‑it‑does emollient | solvent
irritancy, com. 0, 0-2
A clear, oily liquid that comes from refining crude oil. Even though it is a highly controversial ingredient, the scientific consensus is that it is a safe, non-irritating and effective emollient and moisturizer working mainly by occlusivity. [more]
what‑it‑does emollient | viscosity controlling | emulsifying | surfactant/cleansing
irritancy, com. 1, 2
A super common multitasker ingredient that gives your skin a nice soft feel (emollient) and gives body to creams. [more]
what‑it‑does emulsifying
irritancy, com. 2, 3
An oily ingredient that can magically blend with water all by itself (called Self Emulsifying). Other than that it’s a nice emollient that gives a smooth and soft appearance to the skin. [more]
what‑it‑does moisturizer/humectant | solvent | viscosity controlling
irritancy, com. 0, 1
An often used glycol that works as a solvent, humectant, penetration enhancer and also gives a good slip to the products. [more]
what‑it‑does skin-identical ingredient | moisturizer/humectant
irritancy, com. 0, 0
A real oldie but a goodie. Great natural moisturizer and skin-identical ingredient that plays an important role in skin hydration and general skin health. [more]
what‑it‑does soothing | moisturizer/humectant
The famous aloe vera. A great moisturizer and anti-inflammatory ingredient that also helps wound healing and skin regeneration. [more]
what‑it‑does emollient | perfuming
irritancy, com. 3, 3-5
A clear, colorless oil-like liquid that's used as a fast-spreading, non-greasy emollient. [more]
what‑it‑does emulsifying | surfactant/cleansing
irritancy, com. 3, 2
A common functional ingredient that helps to keep the oil-loving and water-loving ingredients together (emulsifier), stabilizes and thickens the products.  [more]
what‑it‑does emollient
A very common emollient that makes your skin feel nice and smooth. Comes from coconut oil and glycerin, it’s light-textured, clear, odorless and non-greasy. [more]
what‑it‑does cell-communicating ingredient
Vitamin A - the most proven anti-aging ingredient available OTC that can smooth wrinkles and make skin firmer. It might also be useful for acne-prone skin as it normalizes keratinization. [more]
what‑it‑does antioxidant | soothing
Green Tea - one of the most researched natural ingredients that contains the superstar actives called catechins. It has proven antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial and anticarcinogenic properties. [more]
what‑it‑does soothing | perfuming
Roman Chamomile - thanks to its phenolic compound had some nice soothing and skin toning properties. It contains less anti-inflammatory actives than the German Chamomile. [more]
what‑it‑does buffering
irritancy, com. 0, 2
Helps to set the pH of a cosmetic formulation to be right. It’s very alkaline. [more]
what‑it‑does viscosity controlling
A common helper ingredient that stabilizes emulsions and helps to thicken up products. [more]
what‑it‑does chelating | viscosity controlling
Super common little helper ingredient that helps products to remain nice and stable for a longer time. It does so by neutralizing the metal ions in the formula (that usually get into there from water) that would otherwise cause some not so nice changes. [more]
what‑it‑does preservative
Pretty much the current IT-preservative. It’s safe and gentle, and can be used up to 1% worldwide. [more]
what‑it‑does preservative
A controversial preservative that has formaldehyde-releasing properties. It works great against bacteria and also has mild fungicide abilities.  [more]
what‑it‑does preservative
It's one of those things that help your cosmetics not to go wrong too soon, aka a preservative. Its strong point is being effective against yeasts and molds, and as a nice bonus seems to be non-comedogenic as well.It is safe in concentrations of less than 0.1% but is acutely toxic when inhaled, so it's not the proper preservative choice for aerosol formulas like hairsprays. [more]