A is for Avene and Vitamin A

The Beauty Brains, which is essentially a skeptic’s approach to cosmetics is an amazing resource (but one I recommend with some caution*) from which I had compiled a shortlist of active ingredients I was after. Retinoids (forms of Vitamin A) were on top of that list but proved confusing as hell.

Summary of what I know about Retinoids

Retinoids are used to treat acne, but although I do get (very) occasional breakouts, I’m much more interested in their anti-aging super powers. Retinoids…

  • Fade dark spots by reducing the contact time with pigment creating cells
  • Reduce fine lines/wrinkles by stimulating synthesis of collagen and glycosaminoglycan
  • May inhibit enzymes that break down collagen
  • Smooth skin by modulating genes involved in epidermal cell turn-over

Sounds amazing right? The trade off is a laundry list of risks. If you want to scare yourself, feel free and do a google search. If not, keep in mind that skin sensitivity from retinoids is the norm, not exception, and thus it is recommended to start with the least-strong form of retinoid and see what your skin can tolerate. Also, although not entirely substantiated, there is some evidence that forms of retin-A causes problems with pregnancies and should not be used in sunlight.

This is a great guide that goes over the different forms of retinoids. In short, the order of strength is:

Retinyl Palmitate → Retinol → Retinal (or Retinaldehyde) → Adapalene → Tretinoin (or retinoic acid / retin-A) → Tazarotene → Isotretinoin.

Again, it’s recommended to start low and work your way up but I’m impatient and my skin basically tolerates everything (except Salicylic acid, fuck that stuff) so I jumped right in at retinal. I also learned to snowboard by jumping on a lift and boarding down a reasonably easy looking green slope. I couldn’t sit comfortably for the next two weeks on account of a seriously bruised tailbone but I did learn to snowboard. Use my actions as an example at your own risk.


Review of Avene’s Eluage Firming Gel Concentrate

Ingredients in this gel are below and  CosDNA analysis is linked if anyone is interested.

Water, Cetearyl Alcohol, Cetyl Esters, Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride, Ceteareth-20, Microcrystalline Wax, Ceteareth-33, Cyclopentasiloxane, Sodium Hyaluronate, Acrylates Copolymer, BHT, Carbomer, Cyclohexasiloxane, Ethylparaben, Fragrance, Methylparaben, Phenoxyethanol, Polymethyl Methacrylate, Red 33 (Cl 17200), Retinal Triethanolamine.

With ingredient lists, I’m more interested in what it has than what it doesn’t. There’s already so much that bugs me about texture and smell of creams, gels, and serums that parabens, for instance, are are evil I’m pretty willing to put up with if I like the cream. What I don’t tolerate are ingredient lists lacking any useful ingredients. In this case, the only ingredient I’m really interested in the Vit A. This gel contains .05% retinaldehyde.


The gel comes in a sterile looking tube with lots of French on it. The gel itself is a peachy-orange color. If I had to guess, I’d say the color was added to match the gel with the color profile of the packaging.

I squeeze a bit of cream onto a finger, dot it onto my under eye area, and softly tap it around until fully absorbed. It absorbs relatively quickly and adds enough moisture that there is a slight but immediate plumping effect.


At first, I was applying it after ampoule / serum but before moisturizer, but after reading a bit more about retinoids, I now apply 20 minutes after vitamin C (which is step #1 after cleansing). There is some research that shows Vitamin A and Vitamin C have synergistic effects, so here’s to hoping that’s true! I also found that applying after Vitamin C put a stop to the mild stinging the cream was causing. I can’t say it’s the order that was causing the stinging (more likely my skin got used to the retinal) but it probably didn’t hurt.

It’s been roughly three months since I first started using this product, and I do think there is an improvement to the fine lines in my undereye area but it is faint enough that I could be imagining it. I do plan on finishing off the tube, but once I’m done I’ll be on the hunt for a replacement Vitamin A product. There’s got to be something cheaper that has the same amount of retinal.

Final Thoughts: Decent product to treat under eye fine lines but too pricey! After I finish this tube, I will be making my way through a substantial list of other retinol products I’m interested in.

Texture 4/5
Effectiveness 4/5
Fragrance 3/5
Price 2/5
Repurchase? No

*What BB has in scientific rigor, it lacks in consumer perspective. For example, BB is a big fan of both Vaseline and Aquaphor as moisturizers because they are effective. No amount of moisture could compel me to apply Aquaphor or walk around with Vaseline on my body.

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