Review - Ella Baché Retinol Night Treatment Serum
Updated: Mar 1
Retinol has been around for as long as I remember, but I feel like it has really picked up speed in the last 5 or 6 years. Ella Baché has recently jumped onto the retinol band wagon, with the Retinol Night Treatment Serum launched late last year, and the Retinol Renewal Eye Serum launched just last week.
In a nutshell, retinol (when converted to retinoic acid) speeds up cell turnover and increases collagen production in deeper layers of skin. It is the gold standard as an anti-aging ingredient. The increased cell turnover means it attacks signs of aging from all fronts: lines and wrinkles, uneven skin tone and uneven texture. Retinoic acid (the active form) can be prescribed to treat acne and acne scars.
Because of the way that retinol works, it can make skin more sensitive and there are side effects, such as dry, itchy, irritated and peeling skin. In most cases, these side effects go away in a few weeks. Some people refer to this process (of skin getting used to retinol) as "retinisation". However, retinol is not suitable for everyone. If in doubt, always consult your skin professional or GP.
I have used the Retinol Night Treatment Serum for 4 months and this is my review.
The Retinol Night Treatment Serum
"A highly active and multi-action Retinol Night Treatment serum, formulated with 0.5% Encapsulated Retinol which assists in achieving a dynamic anti-ageing boost and instantly brighter skin. Assists with diminishing the appearance of fine lines, wrinkles, skin discolouration and the appearance of skin imperfections including sun damage, pigmentation, blemishes and refining enlarged pores. Regular use of Retinol Night Treatment Serum helps to smooth, plump, even skin tone and enhance the skins health and youthful appearance."
0.5% encapsulated retinol
Encapsulation is a delivery system where the active ingredient (retinol) is delivered inside envelopes of "shell" molecules. Some examples of shell molecules are liposomes (phospholipid spheres) and polysaccharides. The encapsulated system is claimed to release the active ingredient slower (and therefore minimises the side effects) and helps the active ingredient to penetrate deeper.
Where does 0.5% sit?
Commonly available retinol products contains a concentration of anywhere from 0.25% to 1.0%; amongst those, 0.25%, 0.3%, 0.5% and 1.0% are the most common OTC concentrations. The availability of different concentrations often allows users to build skin tolerance from a lower concentration to a higher concentration. Ella Baché does not offer a full spectrum of products containing different concentrations, however the new retinol eye serum contains 0.3% encapsulated retinol and, while I have not run this by the girls at Ella Baché, I feel like the eye serum is a great starting point to build retinol tolerance for brand new retinol users.
Other notable ingredients
This serum is packed with a lot of great ingredients. This is what I called a "cover-all-basis" approach and this is common in Ella Baché products, especially in recent new releases. Most of these other ingredients focus on moisture barrier repair and maintenance because retinol is a pretty intense active ingredient (see below). Some of the more notable ingredients are:
saccharide isomerate (water-binding)
kakadu plum seed oil (rich in vitamin C)
niacinamide (vitamin B3)
tocopherol (vitamin E)
ceramides NP, AP, EOP + cholesterol + phytosphingosine - for healthy moisture barrier
palmitoyl tripeptide-5 - for skin firmness
The serum is a very lightweight lotion that gets absorbed into skin quickly... it is fluorescent yellow! It has a distinctive fragrance but dissipates quickly and by no means unpleasant.
Retinisation and skin tolerance
The package warns that this product needs to be introduced progressively to build tolerance. I highly recommend following this instruction, even for experienced retinol users.
I am not a new retinol user and my skin has not reacted adversely to retinol in the past. However, during the first few weeks I've experienced dryness, itchiness and skin peeling, all of which are typical side effects of retinol. In some cases (such as mine), these side effects can be ridden out over time. Here are some of the things that I did to help the retinol introduction process a bit more comfortable:
Start with once every 3-4 nights. Increase slowly. Since there is a lag between retinol application and possible side effects, no side effect observed on the first night or two does not necessarily mean that the skin has already adjusted.
Start with a lower amount. Initially use only one pump for entire face. Dilute the serum with another serum or face lotion if necessary. Once tolerance is built, the amount can be increased progressively.
Prime the skin with a toner or an essence before retinol application. I like to use a toner with some viscosity (see below) so that it is thick enough to "protect" my skin but not so thick that it "blocks" the action of retinol. Alternatively, "sandwich" the serum using the moisturiser-retinol-moisturiser method. According to Ella Baché, the ultimate goal is to use this retinol serum on clean, dry skin.
Not use any other actives (such as peptides, AHAs/ BHA) while skin is getting used to retinol; particularly in the same routine.
Avoid exfoliation - at least initially.
Make barrier repair the focus of the rest of the skincare regime, including on retinol-free evenings. I always rely on non-foaming cream cleanser, ceramides and hyaluronic acid for barrier repair.
Not incorporate any other unfamiliar products.
Use a broad spectrum sunscreen every day.
The skin improvements I observed was pretty dramatic, and this was when my skin was still riding out the side effects. Despite all the itchiness and peeling, my skin was dramatically smoother about 2 weeks into using this serum. Over time, my skin texture appears a lot more refined - less bumpiness, pores are looking smaller. It feels more bouncy. Whenever I use the retinol serum at night, the next morning I wake up with visibly brighter skin. It's been about 4 months of continuous use. While I have not yet noticed any reduction in hyperpigmentation (which is what I really, really hope to achieve with retinol), I also did not notice any new pigmentation forming.
Ongoing skin tolerance
Once the skin is "retinised", it is important to keep going with the retinol regularly. Once the skin has fallen off the retinol wagon, another round of retinisation may be needed to take up retinol again. It took me about 6 weeks to completely retinise my skin, such that I am comfortably using it every second night. I have not decided whether I would like to increase this to every night.
Although Ella Baché's recommendation is to ultimately use this product on clean skin as the first layer, I find that my skin really benefits from priming with a layer of viscous toner/essence (see below) before applying the retinol serum. This helps to hydrate my skin and reduce the side effects of retinol, and helps my skin to find its moisture barrier balance. Without this toner, I find that the balance of my skin is easily disturbed if I do something a little bit different to my skin (e.g. by adding just one more time to my weekly exfoliating routine, or by using a different sunscreen).
Consistent with retinol being the gold standard of anti-aging ingredient, the results are very impressive, but I am still hesitant to recommend this product to everyone, for the following reasons:
there are side effects associated with a compromised moisture barrier, at least initially;
retinol needs to be used consistently. It is best for those who can stick to a skincare regime without too many changes;
the "life after opening" is 3 months. If one pump of serum is used every night then the bottle can be used up before this use-by date; however, a lesser frequency (e.g. the requirement for the initial "retinisation" may mean that the bottle will expire before it is used up. It would be great if Ella Baché would consider making a half-size option;
GP advice is needed for pregnant and breast-feeding mothers.
For those who have already made up their mind to use retinol however, I would recommend them to give this one from Ella Baché a go.
Thank you for reading my review on Ella Baché Retinol Night Treatment Serum. I will also be reviewing Ella Baché's Retinol Renewal Eye Treatment in a few weeks' time.
Full ingredient list
WATER, GLYCERIN, UNDECANE, BUTYROSPERMUM PARKII (SHEA) OIL. METHYLPROPANEDIOL, SACCHARIDE ISOMERATE, TERMINALIA FERDINANDIANA (KAKADU PLUM) SEED OIL, HELIANTHUS ANNUUS (SUNFLOWER) SEED OIL, GLYCERYL STEARATE, CETEARYL ALCOHOL, TRIDECANE, NIACINAMIDE, CETEARYL GLUCOSIDE, PEG-100 STEARATE, CAPRYLIC/CAPRIC, TRIGLYCERIDE, SORBITAN STEARATE, SUCROSE COCOATE, RETINOL, TOCOPHEROL, CERAMIDE NP, CERAMIDE AP, CERAMIDE EOP, ALOE BARBADENSIS LEAF EXTRACT, SODIUM HYALURONATE, PHYTOSPHINGOSINE, TOCOPHERYL ACETATE, POLYSORBATE 20, LECITHIN, INULIN LAURYL CARBAMATE, LUPINUS ALBUS SEED EXTRACT, SUCROSE LAURATE, PALMITOYL TRIPEPTIDE-5, CHOLESTEROL, BEHENTRIMONIUM CHLORIDE, SODIUM LAUROYL LACTYLATE, SCLEROTIUM GUM, CHONDRUS CRISPUS EXTRACT, PULLULAN, XANTHAN GUM, ETHYLHEXYLGLYCERIN, DIETHYLHEXYL SYRINGYLIDENEMALONATE, SILICA, SODIUM CITRATE, CITRIC ACID, CAPRYLYL GLYCOL, SODIUM, ACRYLATES COPOLYMER, CARBOMER, PHENYLPROPANOL, PHENOXYETHANOL, 1,2-HEXANEDIOL, DISODIUM EDTA, FRAGRANCE.
Products I use in conjunction with retinol:
Toner: Haruharu Wonder Black Rice Toner for Sensitive Skin
Hyaluronic Acid: Torriden Dive-in Serum
Moisturiser: Torriden Dive-in Soothing Cream
Overnight mask: Ella Baché Hydra Extreme Plumping Mask
I have been gifted two of this serum. The first one was gifted to me by the wonderful girls at Ella Baché West Lindfield for review. I am a regular paying customer at the salon. My opinion is honest. Referral link to receive $10 off any Ella Baché purchase: http://ellabache.refr.cc/stellal
The second one was gifted by BeautyCREW as part of a VIP beauty box. There is no obligation to write up this blog post.
Makeup artist and hair stylist based in Sydney. Founder of the well-known award-winning bridal specialist team Faces Makeup & Hair. Beauty junkie with an obsession for skincare.