Like many people, I’ve shied away from using retinol treatments. Not only am I in my early twenties and not overly concerned about my skin aging just yet, but I’ve heard about all the inflammation and irritation that retinol can cause—especially for those with sensitive skin. It turns out that Peach & Lily founder Alicia Yoon was also averse to retinol for the same reasons, as she worried that it would make her sensitive complexion and severe eczema flare up even more. She even previously told Byrdie that she never uses retinol—that is, until she created Peach & Lily’s Retinal For All Renewing Serum ($55). Ahead, we spoke with Yoon about why her new launch is such a game-changer, plus I gave the treatment a try.
The Development Process
After keeping retinol out of her beauty arsenal for decades, Yoon had a change of heart because she realized maybe there could be a way to get the ingredient’s benefits without the trade-off. “In that other Byrdie article, at that time, I was in my thirties and I felt like—you know what?—if you need to power through a whole situation where your skin is potentially going to be damaged, sometimes the short-term damage is just a transition, but for other people, it can actually have long-term damage,” she tells us.
“So, my thinking was, there’s so many other great ingredients, and if I have this incredible routine where I’m keeping my skin super hydrated, using things like peptides that physically help with firming and lifting, and using brightening ingredients like niacinamide that my skin can tolerate, is it worth the trade-off?”
Upon entering her forties, Yoon began to wonder why there should even be a trade-off in the first place: “I thought, ‘Can we create a retinoid treatment that is super potent and hard-hitting, concentrated and stabilized and very effective, while also being okay for those with sensitive skin?’” Ultimately, she decided to take on the project herself of making a safer, more accessible retinoid for people with sensitive skin. She knew this would be a challenge, so she enlisted a whole team of researchers, scientists, and even cell biologists to help—and it truly changed the game.
Making a potent formula that’s also safe for sensitive skin took three years to perfect. Part of what makes Peach & Lily’s retinoid treatment different from other over-the-counter formulas is that Yoon and her team opted to formulate it with retinal, not retinol. “For our serum, we actually work with retinal, or retinaldehyde, because it’s much more potent than retinol, and it’s the most powerful after a prescription,” she says.
While potency was important—and the Peach & Lily team had that part down—what about ensuring the retinoid treatment was safe for sensitive skin? As Yoon and her team explored different formulas, they stumbled upon a novel Korean study that revealed that an all-star ingredient called ectoin helps stop inflammation caused by retinol and even protects skin cells in stressful conditions. Yoon knew that ectoin was the answer that they had been searching for.
In combination with ectoin, the Retinal For All Renewing Serum relies on other calming ingredients to soothe the skin, like heartleaf extract, a staple in Korean skincare. Everything about Peach & Lily’s retinal serum is carefully constructed and thought out, down to its packaging—the serum comes in post-consumer recycled packaging and even has an airless pump to preserve the formula.
And when put to the test, the serum actually worked for sensitive skin. “We wanted as objective measurements as possible, so we actually did an instrumentation study [where] we had clinical-expert graders with instruments actually measuring the skin and what’s happening,” Yoon says about the testing process. “We asked them to recruit people, including people with sensitive skin, and the results are phenomenal.” She excitedly adds, “100% of testers agreed that it’s suitable for sensitive skin.” It even worked for Yoon’s sensitive, eczema-prone complexion: “My skin looked better. My folds around my laugh lines—that always was the one area where I was starting to see the loss of the lift—were, for me, visibly transformed.”
Peach & Lily’s Retinal For All Renewing Serum is truly like no other retinoid treatment out there—in fact, it’s even patent-pending. “The combination of the 0.1% retinaldehyde and 0.3% ectoin has never been done before,” Yoon shares. “I’m so excited about this product because it makes a powerful retinoic treatment suitable for very sensitive skin.” Because the serum is designed with sensitive skin in mind, it’s safe for daily use. However, Yoon recommends that if it’s your first time using a retinoid, you should start slow by using it only a couple of times a week or every other day.
As I mentioned, I’ve never used a retinoid treatment before, so I was definitely a bit hesitant to try this serum, despite Yoon’s reassurance and the glowing reviews online. What surprised me about this serum was its bright yellow hue—it didn’t look like any other serum I’d used before. Still, I was pleasantly surprised by how well the formula blended into my skin, and after gently rubbing it in, it didn’t leave a yellow tint or cast at all. Better yet? The retinal treatment didn’t irritate my skin at all. My skin did feel a little dry after application, but after following up with a hydrating moisturizer, the sensation went away. While I haven’t seen the full results of this serum yet, I’m excited to see what my skin looks like in a few weeks.