How much are you willing to sacrifice for younger-looking skin?
Beautycounter, a six-year-old company focused on developing nontoxic cosmetics, has spent three years finding an alternative to retinol, a key antiaging ingredient that is known to cause harm. In the brand’s in-house R&D lab, scientists tried to find a safe but equally effective alternative to retinol. After testing out more than 100 different formulations, the company believes it has cracked the code. Countertime, its new line of six products (ranging between $49 and $89), hinges on a proprietary ingredient called Retinatural Complex, which is currently being trademarked.
For years, the beauty industry has relied on retinoids, a class of chemicals derived from vitamin A, for antiaging and skin-brightening products. On the surface, it seems to have magical properties: It causes the skin to turn over, clears out pores, and increases collagen production, which allows the skin to look plump and young.
Unfortunately, retinoic acid, a type of retinoid, has been credibly tied to health risks. The most obvious negative effect is skin irritation. But some risks are more morbid. The National Institutes of Health found in 2012 that when combined with sunlight, it may increase cancer risks. California’s EPA Prop 65 also lists it as a developmental toxicant, meaning it could harm unborn babies in the womb. Of course, in both cases, it took a high dosage of the ingredient for the negative effects to be seen.
Beautycounter’s approach is that it is never worth taking a risk when it comes to toxins, partly because we know so little about many of the ingredients used by cosmetic brands. The FDA does not actually regulate personal-care products, so it’s a little like the Wild West in the skincare industry. Beautycounter is part of a consortium of brands lobbying the government to increase its oversight over the industry.
In the meanwhile, Beautycounter offers an antiaging line that is retinol-free. Its key ingredients are bakuchiol, a plant that repairs the skin much like retinol does without any known carcinogenic or irritating effects, and Swiss alpine rose, which protects the skin from environmental stressors and boosts its antioxidant defense. In an early study, participants said their skin texture was smoother while fine lines and wrinkles appeared diminished.
And the line was highly anticipated: A spokesperson said that when the product launched last week, the company had the biggest sales day in its history.