The Fountain Of Youth: Do Retinol Products Really Get Rid Of Wrinkles?


I have launched my very first product containing Retinol, a clinically proven vitamin A ingredient to help stimulate cell regeneration and build collagen to get firmer, younger-looking skin every day. This product is called Advanced Resurfacing Serum and I know it will literally transform the look of your skin by reversing the visual effects from sun damage, soften lines and wrinkles, fade brown spots and and smooth the texture of your skin. This product has been in the making for a long, long time and there’s a whole back story to how it came to be. Let me share my journey with you.

WATCH THIS VIDEO: Here’s me talking about using a retinol product for sensitive skin types. Watch now here.

The back story:

I saw very early on in my esthetics career how the prescription form of vitamin A (called Retin-A) could dramatically reverse the signs of aging. I was living in Boston in the late 80’s and was a fresh graduate of the Catherine Hinds School of Esthetics. As a young esthetician at the age of 18, I couldn’t wait to get started in my career and I got my first job at a full service salon where along with skin treatments, they also offered hair and nail services.

One of the clients who regularly visited the salon to get his hair cut was a man by the name of Dr. Thomas Fitzpatrick who, at the time, was the Chief of Dermatology at Mass General Hospital. (For the estheticians reading this post, he was the inventor of the Fitzpatrick Skin Type testing.) When he would come in for his appointments, he would always make conversation with the estheticians since we were all in the skin care industry. Since he was a prestigious dermatologist, I was always asking him questions about skin and I hung on to every word he said…

I’ll never forget the day he showed me his hands. He held out both of his hands and said, “Renée, can you see the difference in my hands?” I looked and couldn’t believe my eyes. One hand looked so much younger than the other with less wrinkles, less brown spots and the texture was so much smoother. This was a man who was in his mid 60’s, so his hands were showing the effects of aging, but one was much more prominently aged than the other.

How did he get one hand to look so much younger than the other?

Prescription Retin-A. For many years, Retin-A was a topical cream used exclusively to treat acne. Since it had a lot of harsh side effects, such as dryness, redness and peeling of the skin, a doctor would need to give very specific instructions to their acne patients about how much to use to try to lessen these negative effects. Dr. Fitzpatrick would always demonstrate to his patients with acne how much topical Retin-A was needed on ONE of his own hands. He would take a pea size amount (his recommended amount for the entire face) and rub it on his hand. Day in and day out, he would continually demonstrate the cream on his hand and one day, to his surprise, noticed that he had one hand that looked much younger than the other! This realization led Dr. Fitzpatrick to be one of the doctors instrumental in getting the FDA to recognize Retin-A as a cream to help reduce wrinkles.

In 1991, even thought it hadn’t gotten FDA approved for treating wrinkles yet, (this would happen in 1995), word got out about this “fountain of youth in a tube.” Soon, Retin-A was all the rage and women were lining up at their dermatologists’ offices to get a tube of this miracle cream. However, the use of Retin-A didn’t go so well at first. There wasn’t as much awareness of how to use it properly to lessen the drying side effects so women were slathering it on. They soon discovered the downside of trying to achieve younger-looking skin—peeling, flaking, dryness, redness and overall irritation set in quickly.

I remember the popularity of Retin-A so vividly because my appointment schedule filled up fast with clients wanting to see me to help with their dryness. They would come in and say, “I need your help, Renée. I’m using this new prescription and my skin is a mess!” I actually had a client once who smiled and her skin (the nasal labial fold lines that go from the corner of the nose to the mouth) cracked and started bleeding in front of me. To treat my clients with this extreme dryness, I gave them moisturizing and rehydrating facials, but within a few days the moisture would evaporate and dryness would set right back in again so long as they continued to use Retin-A.

Since it was such a new product, and skin care technology was far more basic in the early 90’s, I couldn’t develop a home care plan to use along with the cream to lessen the side effects. After constant dryness, clients using Retin- A simply gave up because they couldn’t tolerate how bad their skin looked—an effect that was the exact opposite of what they had hoped. So much for the miracle in a tube.

However, I remained a believer in the effects of Retin-A to reduce wrinkles. I saw what it did to Dr. Fitzpatrick’s hand and I would never forget it. I had a few clients who stuck it out because after 3-5 months or so of use, the side effects lessened and then the anti-aging, skin-smoothing, wrinkle-reducing benefits would finally start to kick in. They had to be careful when out in the sun, but the side effects would become manageable. I had one client named Madeline who stayed with it and every time I saw her, her wrinkles had diminished.

Over the years, I wouldn’t say I encouraged my clients to get the prescription for Retin-A because it does take effort and commitment to get the true benefits and most clients simply didn’t have the patience. However, if a client would ask me about it, I would encourage her to try it and then would develop a home care treatment plan on how to use my skin care products along with retinoid/tretinoin products to give the best result for the skin, while lessening the negative side effects.

Read: The Beginners Guide to Using Retinol

When I turned 35 and my own signs of aging were setting in, I decided it was time to try Retin-A myself so I visited a dermatologist colleague of mine for a prescription. Unfortunately, I soon discovered that it didn’t agree with my skin. Although I introduced it slowly, and using it very sparingly, a week after using it, I developed eczema on my eyelids. (Even though I never even used it on that area.) The reason for this is that Retinoic Acid (the FDA-approved active ingredient in Retin-A, Renova and Tazorac) works within the entire skin, not just on a surface level, so it would stimulate a breakdown in my skin’s lipid barrier on the thinnest area of my face (my eyelids) and cause irritation.

Aside from the eczema, I do recall another peculiar thing that would happen the few times I used it a night.  I would wake up in the morning and could feel what I can only compare to as little heartbeat in my face—a little pulsing sensation. I knew something was occurring within the skin, as though I could feel my collagen being stimulated? I’m not sure what it was but I could feel it “working.” However, I couldn’t continue to use it because the eczema was just not tolerable.

In the early 2000s, cosmetic companies started introducing non-prescription Retinol products that were marketed as a way to get the results from the prescription versions, but without the side effects. My chemists had access to these ingredients as well, so I played around with developing a formula, but I just never felt that the formulas I came up with would get the same results as the stronger prescription form. I decided to wait until new technology presented more effective options.

One year ago, I finally created what I consider to be, the perfect Retinol serum. When I was testing a new formula, I applied the serum at night and much to my surprise when I woke the following morning, I could feel the pulsating sensation in my skin–the same one I experienced when using Retin-A! Wow. This was it. I was now convinced that I could get prescription-strength results with an over-the-counter product.

I’m happy to say that I’ve been using this formula for a year now and have been so extremely impressed with the skin-smoothing results. My pores appear smaller, brown spots have lessened, and my lines and wrinkles are truly softened. I haven’t experienced any extreme sensitivity and my eczema has not surfaced at all. At age 43, I get more compliments on my skin than ever. Overall, it has helped tremendously with my skin and I am just so excited to about Advanced Resurfacing Serum. I know you’ll get great results with it too.

What I know for sure about Retinol is that, when used LONG TERM along with exfoliating products to enhance the absorption of this active ingredient, you will get beautiful results!

NOTE: Keep in mind, there is no immediate gratification when using a retinol product (even the prescription form) like there is with an acid-based product. Also, you may not experience the pulsating sensation in the skin like I do. Do know it can take at least two months for you to start getting visible results, but trust me, if you use this product long term, your skin will look younger.

Is this new Renée Rouleau Advanced Resurfacing Serum product the secret to the fountain of youth? Yes, I’m a believer.

You can purchase the Advanced Resurfacing Serum here.

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Renée Rouleau

Celebrity Esthetician & Skincare Expert
As an esthetician trained in cosmetic chemistry, Renée Rouleau has spent 30 years researching skin, educating her audience, and building an award-winning line of products. Trusted by celebrities, editors, bloggers, and skincare obsessives around the globe, her vast real-world knowledge and constant research are why Marie Claire calls her “the most passionate skin practitioner we know.”