As someone who has dealt with acne to the point of having to turn to a dermatologist-prescribed medication, it's pretty rare that I'll sing the praises of normal beauty products that claim to specifically target these concerns. The product has to deliver some serious, above-and-beyond improvements to my skin to get my attention between breakouts. But with this MARA Algae Retinol review, you'll see how my new Holy Grail product did just that. After learning the value of oils and trying blend after blend, I can happily say that this little bottle contained exactly the ingredients I was looking for, and my before-and-after photos are the proof.
As I stated earlier, I have struggled with severe cystic acne for years, and even with a medication preventing and diminishing my more major cysts, I still had long way to go in terms of dealing with the aftermath of cystic acne. My face was filled with scars where I'd picked and prodded, smaller breakouts were still abundant, and tiny, under-the-skin bumps and large pores left me with skin texture that I still embraced, but ultimately wasn't happy with. A lover of a full face of foundation, I never minded slowly healing my acne scars and concealing them with makeup in the meantime, but applying makeup of certain skin textures is a whole different story: Even the best blurring or pore-filling primer wasn't enough for me to achieve the smoother canvas I wanted.
Here's what my skin texture looked like at the time:
After hoping intensive, multi-step skincare routines would help smooth out my skin, I decided, instead, to give my skin a little time to breathe, and cut back on my daily product use. Rather than use a toner, essence, serum, moisturizer, and oil before bed, I wanted just one product with ingredients to sooth and nourish, but also treat my texture. I opted for the MARA Algae Retinol Oil ($120, themarabeauty.com) somewhat on a whim. I had heard great things, and the bottle was beautiful, but to be quite honest, I didn't expect it to be my end-all, be-all on its own.
If you haven't heard of MARA, it's a small but chic skincare line, started by the fab Allison McNamara:
In addition to the Algae Retinol Oil, the brand also has the mega-hydrating Algae Moringa Universal Face Oil ($72, themarabeauty.com), which I love to use in the mornings in lieu of moisturizer:
As someone with acne, the thought of a retinol product always deterred me, as I was scared of the powerful ingredient's tendency to dry skin out. The idea of a retinol-in-oil formula was intriguing, and in addition to the product's 1.2 percent clean retinol, it also contained powerful ingredients like evening primrose, algae, plankton, black cumin, cannabis oil, cacay, and fermented green tea. My skin felt soft and nourished after my nightly application, and before I knew it, I'd used up an entire bottle of the Algae Retinol Oil — and my skin had visibly reaped its benefits.
Believe it or not, the second photo is not blurry, nor is the lighting less severe. This product has significantly smoothed out my texture and minimized the appearance of my pores in a big way:
Can you believe? TBH, I couldn't at first. But then, I noticed a change in how my skin looked when I applied my foundation, too: The smooth texture I was after (pre- and post-makeup application) became a reality. Real talk, I love and embrace my "flaws," so I find fault with that word and its negative connotation, but I can't deny just how much my skin texture changed, IMHO, after regular use of this product. My skin feels so soft to the touch, and I didn't experience any of the drying side effects normally associated with retinoids.
I'm usually a "try a product out, and then on to the next one" kind of gal, but I knew right away I needed to get my hands on another bottle ASAP:
My experience with this product has been downright therapeutic, and my results have made me so happy. That said, while I wholeheartedly recommend this product, I also urge you to familiarize yourself with the side effects that come with using retinol, and how your specific skin can react to incorporating it into your routine. Despite its acne-prone disposition, my own skin is tough, so it's possible those with sensitive skin would experience a period of transition with their skin, or even purging while using this oil. And of course, sunscreen is a major must when using retinol, so if you do decide to use one, lather up.
All that said, I've finally found a retinol product that does the trick for my texture, and I couldn't be happier to recommend it to all who will listen.