FirmaTone Rx Retinol Maximum Firming Serum
Is a higher concentration of retinol better? That’s the assertion this fragrance-free, silicone-based serum makes, along with boldly stating that “nothing on the market is more effective for firming the appearance of skin”. That’s an interesting claim, especially when you consider that Dr. Denese sells numerous other serums and other products with retinol, and all of them claim to be the bee’s knees, too. Does the good doctor not believe her own claims, or is she just hoping you’ll pay attention to one of these products and overlook the similar claims made for all the rest?
We won’t go on record and state this retinol serum is the most potent around, because it isn’t. Most likely, the amount of retinol is between 0.5–1 percent, which is plenty of potency for most people (though you can find products with even higher amounts of retinol, even though that’s not necessarily better for your skin).
For the record, high potency retinol products are generally considered to be those with a retinol content of 0.4–1.6%, so Denese is hardly the only brand offering such potency. Interestingly, low amounts of retinol (as low as 0.1%) have been shown to increase epidermal thickness and reduce signs of aging (Sources: Skin Pharmacology and Physiology, July 2009, pages 200–209; and Archives of Dermatology, May 2007, pages 606-612).
Denese is absolutely right in claiming that the retinol in this serum may sting and cause peeling when you first begin using it. For some this may be a temporary problem; others will find these effects intensify with further use, and don’t let up as long as you continue using the product. The reaction is completely dependent on an individual’s response to retinol—this product is hardly the only one capable of causing such side effects. That said, this is yet another anti-wrinkle serum with retinol to consider. It is recommended for normal to dry skin and is beautifully packaged to keep the retinol stable during use.
Very high potency retinol serum, one of the highest on the market. The retinol is at clinically meaningful potency levels, to address FIRMNESS to your skin. If firmness is an issue for you, this is the single most important step to take to avoid more drastic measures. Our retinol is formulated with our unique RetinolMax Tensile technology that delivers high % of retinol BUT avoids dryness at the same time. Ours alone. May peel a little, may irritate a little at the beginning, because it is so potent. Take a few days off, come back to it. Your skin will get used to it. Nothing on the market that is more effective in firming the appearance of your skin.
Dr. Denese New York At-A-Glance
Strengths: Several well-formulated serums and moisturizers that are reasonably priced; a very good matte-finish, tinted sunscreen with zinc oxide; uses well-researched, proven ingredients that truly benefit skin, and uses them in higher concentrations than most skin-care lines.
Weaknesses: Problematic toner; inclusion of unnecessary irritants such as lavender oil and menthol; limited options for sun protection; a few gimmicky, multi-step kits and specialty productsthat are easily replaced by other products in her line.
This doctor-designed skin-care line was, without question, the one most requested for review byour readers, primarily due to its prominence on QVC's Web site and home shopping program.
A graduate of New York's Cornell Medical College, Dr. Adrienne Denese opened an anti-aging clinic in Manhattan shortly after completing her studies. It has become extremely successful, to the point where she felt it necessary to create her own products to make sure her skin-care advice was being taken.
Her book, Dr. Denese's Secrets for Ageless Skin: Younger Skin in 8 Weeks, on how to take care of your skin, is much like Dr. Perricone's book The Wrinkle Cure, in that both promise to get rid of (or at least really, really minimize) your wrinkles. Another similarity is the lack of supporting research or studies to back up the claims in either book. Neither Dr. Perricone nor Dr. Denese source their information, and more often than not, there are no research reports or supporting studies to be found. We are just supposed to take their word for everything they say. Denese naturally uses her gender more than Perricone to establish credibility and empathy with female consumers (who, no secret, purchase the vast majority of skin-care products out there), and also routinely appears on QVC to discuss her products.
Ironically, her product line, sold exclusively via QVC and Denese's Web site, makes much more sense than a lot of what she writes in her book. After reading the book and evaluating her namesake line, we noted some interesting and frustrating statements and conflicts that deserve attention. One of her statements that we found most surprising, for a dermatologist keen on anti-aging medicine, was: "If a skin-care product doesn't work, it's not the consumer's fault." This statement is not untrue, it's just incomplete. Dr. Denese contends that no one can afford to throw away money on products that don't work, a point with whichwe truly agree. However, she mentions nothing about carefully establishing a skin-care routine and then following through on it. Unfortunately, many consumers don't follow through, and that's a big reason why they don't get the results they want from products.
For example, using an anti-acne product only occasionally, or not applying sunscreen daily or liberally enough, won't benefit your skin and could easily lead you to believe that the unimpressive results mean the product is faulty.
Moreover, some skin-care problems (like sagging)are beyond what any product can address. (That's why there are dermatologists and plastic surgeons with thriving practices.) All the dermatologistswe have interviewed over the years agree that patient compliance with and adherence to skin-care routines and the regimen of topical medications is an ongoing challenge, and there is research supporting that (Source: Dermatologic Therapy, July-August 2006, pages 224236). Dr. Denese also understands this, as evidenced from her comment about the Dr. Obagi System (for skin discolorations): "The only times I've seen the Obagi System fail is [sic] when patients have skipped steps and ignored instructions."
In another statement Dr. Denese refers to petrolatum and mineral oil as "junk food for skin," stating that "they feel good but they clog your pores." This is not a true statement because neither substance is capable of becoming hard and clogging the lining of the pore. In fact, both of these ingredients have impressive research proving their benefit, mildness, and effectiveness for skin (Sources: Cutis, September 2004, pages 109116; and Dry Skin and Moisturizers: Chemistry and Function, CRC Press, 2000, pages 252254).
Petrolatum and mineral oil have greasy textures, so they're not the best-feeling ingredients for someone with oily or acne-prone skin, but in this case greasiness does not equal clogged pores.
Dr. Denese also refers to blackheads as dirt, which is completely false. Blackheads are composed of sebum, dead skin cells, and other debris (mostly tiny hairs) that make up the follicle lining of the pore. The oxidation that occurs as this mixture of sebum and dead skin cells reaches the pore opening is what causes the blacknessit has nothing to do with cleanliness (Sources: Clinical Dermatology, September-October 2004, pages 367374; Cutis, August 2004, pages 9297; and American Academy of Dermatology, www.aad.org).
According to Dr. Denese, you cannot exfoliate too much. Yet she doesn't warn against the potential for irritation when too much of a good thing becomes a punishment rather than a benefit, which absolutely can occur with over-exfoliation.
Surprisingly, Dr. Denese does not recommend salicylic acid (BHA) for exfoliation. Instead, she prefers AHAs (glycolic and lactic acids) because AHAs may be used at higher concentrations than BHA. However, the difference in concentrations between AHAs and BHA is not about quantity. Rather, it's because they work best at different concentrations, and also perform differently. That is, a higher concentration of AHA is not more effective or better than a lower concentration of BHA. AHAs are most effective at 5% to 10%, while BHA is most effective at 1% to 2%. In the world of skin care, there are many examples where a higher percentage of an ingredient doesn't necessarily equate with superior effects, as is the case with AHA and BHA (Sources: Womens Health in Primary Care, July 2003, pages 333339; Journal of Dermatological Treatment, April 2004, pages 8893; Dermatology, January 1999, pages 5053; and Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, April 1997, pages 589593).
Despite the incomplete information (or in some cases, misinformation) in her book, Denese has crafted some remarkably state-of-the-art products, and the prices, though steep, aren't unreasonable.
As is true for most skin-care lines (including those from dermatologists), there are shortcomings and missteps along with good products here. For those who choose the best of what Dr. Denese has to offer, the rewards will be smiling at them in the mirror each day (but please don't take that to mean your wrinkles will be gone)!
Note: All Dr. Denese products contain fragrance unless otherwise noted.
For more information about Dr. Denese New York, call 866-642-3754 or visit www.drdenese.com.
About the Experts
The Beautypedia team consists of skin care and makeup experts personally trained by the original Cosmetics Cop and best-selling beauty author, Paula Begoun. We’re fascinated by skin care and makeup products and thrilled when they meet or exceed our expectations, but we’re also disappointed when they fail to perform as claimed, are wildly overpriced, or contain ingredients scientific research has proven can hurt skin.
Our mission has always been to help you find the best products for your skin, no matter your budget or preferences. Beautypedia’s thorough and insightful reviews cut through the hype and provide reliable recommendations for all ages, skin types, and skin tones.