You may have come across that in the US Avéne offers a cream with 0.1% retinaldehyde, the line is called RetrinAL. It’s gotten great reviews and is a slightly cheaper alternative to other retinaldehyde products like the ones from Medik8 (Crystal Retinal). The catch is that it only seems to be available in the US which makes you wonder when is Avéne going to drop it in Europe?
Avéne RetrinAL is already in Europe
It’s always confusing for consumers when brands market the same product but with different names depending on location. I’ve been waiting for Avéne to bring the RetrinAL-range to Europe, but apparently, it’s been here all along!
First of all, apparently, Avéne has long had a line called Ystéal that used retinaldehyde. However, that line has been discontinued and replaced by two new product-ranges PhysioLift and A-Oxitive in Europe, which were introduced at the beginning of 2020. And if you take a closer look at some of the formulas, you’ll find some striking similarities to that of Avéne US RetrinAL products! The best thing though, they are about half the price of what they’re sold in the US! So definitely, don’t try to go through the hassle of importing!
Before you go through the list. I contacted Avéne Sweden to know the strength to assure the products are equivalent. One product I did not get the strength of was the wrinkle corrector/filler as Avéne has decided to discontinue (at least in Sweden) the product recently.
Without further ado, here’s all the European equivalence to the US RetrinAL products.
RetrinAL 0.1 Cream
A-Oxitive Night Peeling cream
Same exact formula. 0.1% Retinal.
Retails for $70 in the US and around $40 in Europe (without discounts).
RetrinAL 0.05 Cream
PhysioLift Smoothing Night Balm/Ysthéal Cream
The PhysioLift Night Balm isn’t exactly the same formula but has 0.05% retinal. Has fragrance though. Made to target more mature skin with deep wrinkles and sagginess with Ascofilline.
Their now discontinued Ysthéal Cream had the same exact formula as the RetrinAL 0.05 cream and is still sold in some places.
PhysioLift Eyes have 0.015% strength. Exact formula according to Avéne US website.
However, the ingredients do not match on sites like Dermstore. Both products are sold in the US, however, the RetrinAL Eyes is $2 more and the product page says the formula includes Collactintm instead of Ascofilline (both are pretty much the same thing). So idk.
RetrinAL Day Cream
PhysioLift Day Smoothing Cream
Same exact formula.
Despite its name, doesn’t contain any retinal. Contains fragrance though.
These two creams are sold in the US with the exact same formula in both.
RetrinAL Advanced Correcting Serum
Dermabsolu Recontouring Serum
A lovely reader pointed out this one.
Not exactly the same formula, from what I could dig out. The US version has a much shorter water-based formula than the European version, that’s been formulated without niacinamide and hyaluronic acid. Both contain Bakuchiol and are not a Retinal-product. EU-version has fragrance.
RetrinAL CERAMIDE Lipid-Replenishing Balm
Dermabsolu Comforting Night Balm
Despite the name, does not contain Retinal. These two have the same base and are infused with Bakuchiol instead of retinal, but not completely have the same ingredients. EU-version lacks niacinamide and ceramides. There is instead the Hyaluron Activ B3 Multi-intensive Night Cream in the EU. Which is more similar, but is formulated with Retinal instead of Bakuchiol. And all EU-versions comes fragranced.
Other Avéne products with Retinal:
Cleanance NIGHT Blemish Correcting and Age Renewing Cream = Cleanance Women Smoothing Night Cream
– This replaces the now discontinued TriAcneal Expert and is specifically formulated for adult acne-prone skin. It has 0.1% Retinal. Unfortunately, it is fragranced. It annoyingly says specifically “women” in the European version, but anyone can use it for anti-aging and treating mild forms of acne.
A-Oxitive Smoothing Eye Contour Cream
– 0.01575% retinal. Has actually a closer formula match to RetrinAL 0.05 cream. Fragrance-free. Doesn’t seem to be available in the US at all.
I picked up the PhysioLift Night Balm as my apothecary had 50% off the entire line (they were going to start selling it exclusively online instead).
Despite calling it a “balm” it’s not very moisturizing. The first use I ended up taking more than I probably should’ve. However, despite that, it didn’t feel less drying. I found myself reaching for my night cream to wear on top as it didn’t feel hydrating enough for my skin. Calling it a balm is very misleading. Also, what’s up with Avéne using confusing marketing like, they use the word “peeling” on a retinal cream, and the word “corrective” on a chemical exfoliant cream. Shouldn’t it be the other way around?
But the results impressed me! I’ve been using it just like I would with my retinol, about every other day. The PhysioLift night balm didn’t irritate my skin, more than made it slightly dry if I didn’t use anything on top. It calmed down my acne, and the results were equivalent to that of my more expensive retinol. I also felt it evening my skin tone more so.
The only con about this cream is that it’s unfortunately pretty heavily fragranced, but it seems to fade eventually. Avéne is quick to claim that their fragrance has been tested and formulated to suit sensitive skin. While I find the scent to be powerful in the beginning, it doesn’t bother me going to sleep or so. I’m quite sensitive to fragrance (smell-wise, not skin-wise), but I also can get “used to it”.
As the PhysioLift-range is more for mature skin, I decided to reserve it for my mother and picked up the Cleanance/TriAcneal smoothing night cream. As acne is more my focus point. Surprisingly, the Cleanance cream had a much balmier texture and felt more hydrating. The more emollient texture was also easier to spread over the face. I could easily use it alone, but I just prefer the extra hydration of a moisturizer on top. The results were pretty much the same only that this one didn’t leave my skin feeling dry. The Cleanance smoothing night cream is also quite fragranced, but I liked the scent more than the PhysioLift night balm.
At the time I thought both serums were at 0.1% retinal. I was pretty surprised to know that the PhysioLift is only 0.05% retinal as, when comparing, the Cleanance smoothing cream felt more gentle… Like, I didn’t notice any huge difference jumping from 0.05% to 0.1%. If anything, PhysioLift felt just a tiny bit more intense. If that even make sense? I’m just telling you my experience… But that could be because the PhysioLift range is supposed to have a more firming effect. Another reason for my experience could be that because of the drier texture of the PhysioLift night balm the ingredients go to work faster than when buffered with more emollients. But also, as it doesn’t hydrate my skin, it makes it feel drier and therefore like the product is more effective.
What has surprised me the most though is that none of the creams has caused any irritation or purging! I was so worried the Cleanance smoothing cream was going to either be very drying, intense, or cause irritation. But my skin just kept on improving without any setbacks!
The only known brand that’s big on Retinal is Medik8’s Crystal Retinal-range. They have about 4 creams that allow you to “climb the ladder”, starting at 0.01% up to 0.1%, and even 0.2%! And they make 0.1 sound like the biggest deal of them all like it’s 1% retinol. However, I’ve been able to use Avéne 0.05 and 0.1 just as I used my retinol (from Peter Thomas Roth) before them. They’ve been gentle enough for me to keep acids in my weekly routine too! Which I can’t when, for example, using Drunk Elephant A-Passioni 1% retinol! This is a great one, but my skin barely tolerates it more than once to twice a week.
I’m guessing Medik8’s Crystal Retinal added extracts boost the formulation and strength of retinal. Therefore, I wouldn’t necessarily compare the strengths of Avéne retinal creams to that of Medik8. But their marketing can make people think they can’t jump on 0.1 retinal at once without starting slow at 0.05 or so.
EDIT 06/2023: I’ve now tried Medik8 Crystal Retinal 6 and can confirm that their formula does have a little more punch in them. I had to slowly introduce that one more so than the retinal serums from Avéne. But did not feel like I needed to start at Crystal Retinal 3. The results are quite similar though. If you’re around your thirties you can save by using Avéne.
I’m really impressed, and will perhaps try the A-Oxitive Peeling Night Cream too as it’s fragrance-free. But so far, my skin is responding very well. I love having a retinoid in my routine that also has acne-targeting ingredients. I also found the Avéne creams to even my skin tone more so than the previous retinol I was using. And doing an equally good (if not better) job at keeping blemishes at bay and calming my skin without irritation. And except for the fragrance in both of these products, I’d say the only downside is that the peach tint, the retinal has, might stain your pillow case.
Overall, I think I’ve found a new favorite retinoid derivative! I’ve tried a bunch of different ones, like retinyl retinoate (review here), which was supposed to have promising effects on acne. But, personally, I found retinOl to be better (and cheaper). But I have to say that retinAl is looking very promising for treating mild forms of acne without the same irritation. The Avéne retinal range is my best find of 2020! I’m definitely going to hold on to this but also try out more!