Arcona Advanced “A” Serum

What it is: A facial treatment serum

What it does: Clarifies the complexion and regenerates the skin

Star ingredients: Retinaldehyde (Vitamin A), Matrixyl 3000 and Matrixyl Synthe’6 (peptides), Lactic Acid, Aloe


This is an all-encompassing nighttime treatment serum that is filled to the brim with tried-and-true actives for skin brightening, smoothing, and plumping. The main ingredient is Retinaldehyde, one of the many derivatives in the vitamin A family and one that does not appear very often on the market as it is difficult to work with. However, when formulated properly, it is very efficacious and delivers results with minimal negative side effects such as irritation and redness that often occur with traditional retinol. Boosted by an assortment of peptides to support skin firmness and complemented by lactic acid to resurface and hydrate, this is a well-rounded formula which should be beneficial to most skins.

It is very lightweight and sinks into the skin almost as soon as you start to rub it in. It has a somewhat fruity, floral scent due to some flower extracts that lingers quite strongly for a couple minutes and then dissipates. I used it for several months underneath a hydrating serum and moisturizer and it did not cause any pilling or layering issues. Having been a consistent user of retinol for some time before starting this product, I cannot say that I experienced a dramatic change in my skin while using it. However, that really wasn’t what I was expecting. It kept my skin feeling balanced, healthy, and strong, and I felt good about it when I looked in the mirror. And that’s really all that this product is meant to do. I imagine if this had been my first step into the vitamin A pond that I would have had more of a dramatic result with it.

I would recommend this for anyone who is looking for a good retinoid product to begin with or to incorporate into their existing routine to keep their skin “up to date,” as it were. If your skin is more on the dry/dehydrated side I would make sure to include a good hydrator in your routine for added moisture, as it probably won’t be hydrating enough on its own.

Price: $85


Sunday Riley A+ High Dose Retinoid Serum

What it is: A facial serum

What it does: Hydrates, evens skin tone and texture, encourages cellular renewal

Star ingredients: Retinol, Hydroxypinacolone Retinoate, Coq10, Honey, Algae Extract

Review: I have a soft spot for this product, as it is the first retinol/vitamin A serum that I ever used and it brought about remarkable change to my skin. I started using this when my skin was very dehydrated, sensitive, rough, and prone to breakouts and I was desperate for some “remodeling.” I was hesitant to start using a retinol (let alone a prescription-strength retinoid) because of the irritation and skin peeling that is a common side effect, and chose this product because it is a very hydrating, soothing formula and because the retinol is encapsulated, which means a sustained, gradual delivery into the skin. It is a lightweight, runny lotion that feels very hydrating when applied and sinks in quickly, leaving a silky finish on the skin. It has sort of a funky smell that lingers for awhile after it is applied, however it was not pervasive or bothersome for me. I did not experience any noticeable irritation or redness with this product, and I used it nightly and would follow it with a light moisturizer. It was worth the investment: after about a month and a half of consistent use my face felt completely different. The inflammation and sensitivity in my skin was gone and I could not believe how smooth it was to the touch. After struggling with my skin since my early teens, I cannot tell you how amazing it was to see such positive change in my skin. Needless to say, retinol and other vitamin A derivatives have become a pillar of my routine. If you are looking for a retinoid product that will improve your skin at a low risk of irritation, I highly recommend this option.

Price: $85-$122

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