If I Could Turn Back Time..
Ask any dermatologist of note how to to ensure your skin is in great condition later in life. They will invariably respond by advising you to drink sufficient water, eat a balanced diet, take moderate exercise, sleep well and avoid smoking and caffeine. Ask them which key ingredient (applied topically) is likely to help on a chemical level, and they will most likely say retinol (aka Vitamin A).
Retinol has literally been on my beauty radar since my teens, thanks to a Canadian friend of my mother's. Though in fairness, my first encounter with retinol had less to do with premature ageing and more to do with chronic teenage acne. You see my skin hasn't always been so smooth and blemish free. In fact, I suffered with chronic acne for many years as a teenager, to the extent that it had a genuinely adverse effect on my self confidence. I'd tried countless "spot treamtents" to no avail, so when my mother's friend came to the rescue with news of an American product called Retin A, naturally I was overjoyed. Retin A, widely available in the States, is an over-the-counter ointment, formulated to aid with the treatment of acne and acne scarring (it is abused by many as it is also banishes wrinkles).
The key ingredient is a high concentration of Vitamin A (retinol), which aids cell turnover, revealing smoother "virgin" skin beneath. My mother's friend managed to bring back a tube after a trip to the States, which I snapped up and took back to school in Scotland. The friend had warned me to wear sunscreen (or preferably avoid the sun) when using this product (advice that I was later to regret ignoring). So happy was I with the quick effects of this wonder product, that I'd forgotten the warning. There I was, happily smearing the product all over my acne prone skin (the friend had also warned that a little went a long way), so imagine my surprise, when after a few days of (unprotected) summer sun exposure, my skin started to shed like a snake. The irony of the situation wasn't lost on me. I had been so desperate to cure my teenage spots, that I'd ignored the friend's sage advice, leaving me looking altogether worse than I had to begin with.
So the moral of the story is that retinol and retinol derivatives, though undoubtedly effective in the treatment of acne, pigmentation and fine lines, can leave the skin photosensitive, so wise up and make sure you use sun protection when using retinol-based products.
Retinol may have been the beauty buzzword when I was a pimple prone teen back in the 90's, but now it's all about retinoid, retinol's less aggressive cousin.
Philosophy's Miraculous Anti-ageing Retinoid Pads (pictured at the top) come with a bottle of hpr solution (hydroxypinacolone retinoate). Exclusive to Selfridges, there are 60 pads (an eight week supply) and to get cracking, you simply have to pour the hpr solution over the pads (ensuring you seal the lid properly after each use). The pads are double-sided, with one smoother side and one coarse side for deeper exfoliation. Thorough exfoliation is key to the successful application of subsequent products. No serum or moisturiser is going to work any miracles when it is battling to get through a layer of dead skin. I suggest buffing the face and neck in circular motions with the coarse side of the pad, reserving the softer side for the gentle eye area. This is undoubtedly my favourite part of the 3-step Miracle Worker regime. The effects are instant. Pigmentation marks fade noticeably before your eyes and your skin really starts to glow. Powerful antioxidants such as green tea and Vitamin C help fight the effects of free radical damage, while the "barrier rejuvenation complex" helps to restore the skin's barrier. For those of you who are familiar with Philosophy's products, this multi-action wonder is worthier of the title "hope in a jar".
If you consider the pads as the "resurfacing" stage of this regime, the Miraculous Anti-ageing Concentrate (pictured above) is the second step. Now that your skin has been smoothed with retinoid and protected from environmental aggressors with antioxidants, it's time to "double up". This silky silicon textured serum essentially repeats the good work done by the pads (with the addition of some collagen-boosting peptides). I can't stress enough how luxurious this serum feels on the skin. Though one pump is probably enough to do the trick, I usually opt for two (it's too delightful to scrimp on portions). Make sure you massage it from the neck upwards, taking care to bring the product behind the ears.
A cocktail of active ingredients deliver instant results, myristoyl pentapeptide-9 and Cocoyl hexapeptide 23 (a combination of amino acids) boost collagen and skin elasticity, while minimising fine lines.
Antioxidants including astaxanthin (up to 500 times more powerful than Vitamin E), retinyl palmitate (Vitamin A), ascorbyl glucoside (Vitamin C) and tocopheryl acetate (Vitamin E) help protect against the ravages of environmental attack, while soothing irritation (a little like bodyguards for your skin).
The final step in the regime is to massage the Miraculous Anti-ageing Moisturiser into the skin, starting at the neck and working your way up in firm circular motions. Like the serum, I'd suggest taking this product around the back of the neck and behind the ears. It is essential to hydrate the skin in these areas, as they support other parts of the face. If you allow these areas to sag, the interconnecting tissue will also sag. The texture of this moisturiser is heavenly, almost silkier than the serum (which is saying a lot, believe me). A great texture is so important with products. Lets face it, who wants to follow any regime when you don't enjoy the sensuality of applying that product in the first place? Looking good should always feel good, and Philosophy hits the mark on this front, the moisturiser is nothing short of lush on contact with the skin.
There's a third shot of antioxidants in the form of more ascorbyl glucoside (Vitamin C), together with resveratrol (derived from Japanese knotweed) and glutathione. Natural oils (flax, olive and sunflower) help maintain the skin's natural moisture barrier and minimise water loss (is there anything this age-defying trio doesn't do).
So, science spiel aside, having tested this range, I'd recommend buying it. Whether you're looking to invest in effective preventative skincare, or seeking to minimise (not eradicate) the appearance of fine lines and pigmentation marks, this range has the closest effects to clinical microdermabrasion, of all the anti-ageing products I've tested to date (and yes, this includes Clinique Even Better Clinical).
Miraculous Anti-ageing Retinoid Pads - £62
Miraculous Anti-ageing Concentrate - £52
Miraculous Anti-ageing Moisturiser - £46