By Brenda Della Casa
By now, nearly everyone who has ever read an article about skincare knows about the power of retinol. Long before fillers, botox and skin boosters were on the scene, retinol was anointed as the holy grail of skincare. A cream that promises to slow down the aging process, stimulate collagen production, increase cell turnover and plump up fine lines and wrinkles all the while clearing skin and making it glow.
While not for everyone — those with sensitive skin, psoriasis, eczema and rosacea should avoid it—it’s a wonder product for the general population and one that has held steady against an influx of treatments that offer faster and easier results.
Why? Because it works.
While there are a number of retinol creams available on the market, unless you’re going the prescription retinoid route (which, after my own “face-off incident”, I am not), it’s important to find one that is strong enough to do the job and gentle enough not to cause your face to look and feel as though you have walked through the gates of hell.
Enter A313, the product all beauty editors know as the baby sister to the now-discontinued Avibon. Used by French women for decades, Avibon gained celebrity status when Gwyneth Paltrow shared it with the Goop disciples after drenching it in accolades, she signed off with “I know an older movie star who uses this every night and she has the most amazing skin!”
American beauty fanatics were sold.
Unfortunately, not long after the shout-out, Avibon was removed from the shelves when attempts to correct inconsistencies in the product proved futile. There was a slight panic as users from all over the world were left wondering if they would find anything as good this side of the harsh and expensive Retin-A but manufacturers quickly replaced Avibon with A313. Enter a softer and more consistent product that worked as well as prescription-only retinals without the excess peeling and pain (and at a 2% concentration). Was it too good to be true? I wanted to find out.
I first got my hands on a tube in 2017 while on a family holiday in the south of France. Having heard so much about this miracle cream, I was determined to return to London with enough to last me a year or two. I spoke about needing to get to the pharmacy from the moment we landed and ran through the doors as soon as I saw one in town. To my dismay, they were completely sold out. “We just had twenty delivered and they were sold in two days,” said the woman behind the counter. When I asked where the nearest pharmacy was, I was told it was over half an hour’s drive away. Getting my partner (then new boyfriend) to waste an hour driving to get me a wrinkle cream was not really something I wanted to ask and I guess the look on my face showed my disappointment because the sales lady looked at me with pity and asked, “How long will you be here?” I said eight days. “It usually takes fourteen but let me see what I can do.” I was thrilled. “Come and check in a week and we should have it for you.” A week later, I arrived and there were three glorious tubes waiting for me with my name on them…literally. I was thrilled. After receiving strict orders only to put it on at night, to wear a good sunscreen of 40 or higher and to avoid putting it on a wet face (it makes the cream more potent which will make skin itch and sting), I waited impatiently to get home and give it a try.
My experience with A313
The first night I got home, I opened the tube which is not dissimilar to a tube of toothpaste. The consistency of the cream is thick, like soft, grainy petroleum jelly and you only need a pea-sized amount as a little goes a long way. I felt a comfortable warmth and saw a little redness that stayed until I fell asleep an hour later but was gone by morning. I woke up to skin that looked bright with plumpy hydration. Unfortunately, the morning afterglow settled down, and by day seven my skin was ever so slightly dry and itchy on occasion thanks to my getting too excited and not following orders to put it on a completely dry face and to only use the pea-sized amount I mentioned earlier. All discomfort came as a result of my pushing boundaries, not the product itself. I used it twice a week for a month and a half and then three times a week for another two. The results were gradual but all positive. By month two, my wrinkles were softer, by month three, my skin seemed brighter. That’s another bonus of retinol: It addresses hyperpigmentation as well (if not better)than most brightening creams. It really kicked in about six months when I felt like my skin was thicker and tighter, especially around the eyes.
It’s now been a few years and I use it nightly on my face, neck and hands and am thrilled with the results. It’s not a miracle cream — I am still aging — but I feel like A313 has slowed it down a lot.
I have been told it can cause a breakout during the initiation period for those with cystic acne but I have not experienced any spots myself. Friends who have struggled with acne say it causes less of a problem than Retin-A (also known as Tretinoin), but also a slower solution, taking between 12-24 weeks to make a real impact on acne-prone skin.
My verdict: This one is the standout. It’s user-friendly and packs enough punch to be taken seriously but doesn’t make you miserable while it works. If you’re able to get your hands on a tube, I would highly recommend buying one (or three).
Now, let’s address a few questions you might have:
What is the difference between retinals and retinoids? Verywell gives a great breakdown here.
Why do I need retinol? Glamour explains it perfectly.
What are things I need to know about using retinol? Check out this piece in Vogue.
Retinol and black skin. What do I need to know? Check out this piece in New York Magazine.