If you’ve been searching for an effective retinol treatment to reduce the signs of aging, you may have come across A313. A313 is a French retinol pommade (ointment) that has gained a significant following, especially among skincare enthusiasts who love its effectiveness and affordability.
Fans rave about A313 for its ability to help reduce the appearance of wrinkles, dark spots, and sun damage and improve skin elasticity and overall skin texture.
So….does this retinol treatment live up to the hype? Is it worth adding it to your already overflowing beauty shelf?
In today’s blog post, I’ll share my A313 review, covering everything from its ingredients and benefits to my experience with the product.
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Two A313 Formulas
Before I get into the review, I wanted to note that there are two versions of A313. The first is the original A313 Pommade, available in Europe, and the second is A313 Cosmetic Cream With Retinyl Palmitate, available in the US where I live.
Note that I purchased two tubes of A313 on Amazon (US). While both had the image of A313 Pommade (available in Europe), I received A313 Cosmetic Cream With Retinyl Palmitate from both sellers.
The difference between the A313 Vitamin A Pommade available in Europe and the American version is the type of retinoids in the formulas.
A313 Cosmetic Cream With Retinyl Palmitate (US) ingredient list contains retinyl palmitate as the only retinoid at a 0.12% concentration.
The European A313 version is called a “pommade,” a French term for an ointment with an occlusive texture to seal in moisture and help prevent water loss from the skin. Ointments are typically used to treat dry skin or skin conditions like psoriasis.
On the European website where it is sold (thefrenchpharmacy.co), the only active ingredient listed is “Synthetic Vitamin A (from concentrate)”, which isn’t very helpful because there are multiple types of synthetic vitamin A.
Other A313 reviews online note that the Pommade contains retinyl palmitate, retinyl propionate, and retinyl acetate, equalling a 0.12% retinoid concentration. Retinyl propionate and retinyl acetate, like retinyl palmitate, are retinol esters and are less potent than retinol.
Confusing? Yes. But regardless of which A313 cream you try, you’ll be using a retinyl ester that needs to be converted into retinol, then retinaldehyde, and retinoic acid to be available in its active form.
Since I live in the US, I’ll be discussing the version sold in the US: A313 Cosmetic Cream With Retinyl Palmitate.
A313 Cosmetic Cream With Retinyl Palmitate
A313 Cosmetic Cream With Retinyl Palmitate is a topical skincare product often touted as an over-the-counter alternative to prescription retinoids.
Manufactured in France, this ointment contains a retinoid, a form of Vitamin A, that aims to encourage skin cell turnover, stimulate collagen production, improve skin texture, and reduce signs of aging.
Retinoids have many benefits for the skin and are highly studied for effectiveness in reducing fine lines, wrinkles, and acne.
Retinoids also address skin concerns such as hyperpigmentation, acne scars, and uneven skin tone and texture.
Forms of Vitamin A
To give some context, retinoic acid is the strongest and most active form of Vitamin A available only as a prescription here in the US. There are other forms of vitamin A that must be converted into retinoic acid by the body so it can work its magic.
Retinol, available over-the-counter and the most well-known form of Vitamin A, must first be converted into retinaldehyde, then retinoic acid to be in its active form to benefit your skin.
The main active ingredient in A313 is 0.12% retinyl palmitate, which is a retinyl ester. Retinyl esters must be converted into retinol, then to retinaldehyde, and finally to the active form of Vitamin A, retinoic acid.
So, needless to say, the retinyl palmitate in A313 needs to go through a few steps before becoming its active form in your skin, so it isn’t as potent as retinol or some other forms of Vitamin A.
A313 has a relatively short ingredient list:
- PEG 400: A low molecular weight water-soluble version of polyethylene glycol used as a solvent and stabilizer.
- PEG 4000: A higher molecular weight version of polyethylene glycol that is a water-soluble softener, stabilizer, and texture enhancer that improves the skin feel of a product.
- Polysorbate 80: An emulsifier that helps two liquids that don’t typically mix, like oil and water, remain stable together.
- Retinyl Palmitate 200,000 IU: Retinyl palmitate, as previously mentioned, is a retinoid that needs three conversions to be active in your skin. 200,000 IU percent equates to a 0.12% concentration of retinyl palmitate, which is not a high concentration.
And that’s it. It contains only four ingredients, and the ointment is fragrance-free.
After reading the above ingredients, you’d think that this wouldn’t make the product very effective.
But since users rave about the results they see, something else must be going on, right?
So perhaps the effectiveness of this pommade comes from how retinyl palmitate is formulated with the other ingredients.
It seems as if the other ingredients in the product help this retinoid get into your skin so that the retinyl palmitate can work more effectively.
OR, it could be that the other ingredients, which create the ointment’s rich texture, are occlusive and lock in moisture, creating a more plump, smoother complexion after use.
I’ve been using different forms of retinoids for years and have been quite proud of myself for graduating to retinal (retinaldehyde) recently, as I find that it is more potent and less irritating than retinol.
You can read about my new favorite retinoid in my Avene Retinal review here.
Even though I heard inklings from other reviewers that A313 tends to cause itchiness, dryness, and peeling, I still decided to give A313 a try.
A313 has a super thick Vaseline or petroleum jelly-like texture that is quite greasy on my skin.
Of course, since retinoids should only be used at night (retinoids break down in sunlight), the ointment won’t interfere with your skin or makeup during the day, but note that it might leave your pillow a little greasy, and it might be a little too heavy on oily skin.
I had some trouble with my first application. My first mistake was assuming that since this is a retinyl ester:
- I could use more than a pea-sized amount. (Don’t do this!)
- I could apply it on top of my favorite niacinamide serum while my face was still damp. (Don’t do this either!)
Wow, was I wrong. The itching started pretty soon after I applied A313 and didn’t let up. I tried. I really did. But after a few hours, I had to wash it off.
Lesson learned. Apply only a true pea-size amount and apply it to dry skin. You can apply moisturizer on top if you feel your skin needs it. (You can also apply your moisturizer under A 313 – which I’ll discuss below.)
Damp skin has a way of increasing potency and absorption, and in this case, that’s not necessarily a good thing.
So, I decided to give A313 another go with my newly learned lesson in mind. This time, I applied a very small amount, a pea size, that once spread onto my skin, didn’t feel like much on my skin.
It left my skin plump and soft but not as greasy as the first application when I used more of the pommade.
The itchiness was still there, but much less this time around, but my eyes became very irritated after application. Coincidence or not, I had to wash off A313 AGAIN after several minutes. After I washed my face, the itchiness and my eyes improved.
I wasn’t giving up, so I gave it one more shot. I applied a moisturizer under A313 to serve as a buffer between the retinoid and my skin. This time, the itching was less but still noticeable. I washed it off after an hour.
Ultimately, I decided that too many other affordable and effective retinoids on the market don’t cause this weird itching and irritation, so I haven’t continued to use A313.
A313 isn’t a strong retinoid, but there might be something about the formula that provides good results IF you can get past the itchiness and skin irritation. I didn’t get that far.
If you don’t mind/can handle some discomfort associated with using this cream, then you might want to give it a try.
If your skin can withstand it, A313 might be an option for brightening your complexion, evening out skin tone, and improving fine lines and skin texture.
However, if you have more sensitive skin like mine and still want to try it, then proceed with caution. Use a minimal amount of product and apply it on dry skin only. It might also help to use a moisturizer between this cream and your skin as a buffer.
It’s worth considering alternatives to A313 if your skin doesn’t respond well or if you want to skip it. So many retinol products don’t have the same side effects, so you may want to explore those options first.
You can read more about The Ordinary retinol and retinoids in this comprehensive guide.
For several other affordable retinol and retinoid options, be sure to check out my guide to drugstore retinol.
How To Use A313
Apply a pea-sized amount of A313 to clean dry skin. Use a small amount and warm in your hands before applying.
You can follow with a gentle moisturizer if your skin needs it, or you can apply your moisturizer first and follow with A313 to decrease its potency.
The French Pharmacy (thefrenchpharmacy.co), which distributes A313 in Europe, plainly notes on their site that you can expect itching and flaking but that these side effects eventually go away once your skin gets used to the product.
It’s recommended that you use A313 at night once a week for the first week, twice a week for two weeks, three times a week for three weeks, and then increase usage as your skin can tolerate.
If your skin can’t tolerate the itching overnight, you can apply it as a mask and rinse it off after a few hours.
Avoid using with potent actives like acids, vitamin C, or other retinoids.
If you do try A313, as with any retinoid, it is important to apply a broad-spectrum sunscreen every day, as retinoids can make your skin slightly more sensitive to the sun, as they increase cell turnover.
Avibon vs A313
The French Pharmacy, where A313 is sold, notes that the old formula under the name Avibon has been discontinued, and A313 is the most current replacement product.
Is A313 Better Than Retin-A?
It is impossible to say that one retinoid cream is “better” than the other without considering various factors such as skin type, product composition, and individual experience.
BUT… there is a big difference between retinyl palmitate, the active ingredient in A313 in the US, and Retin-A, which is a brand name of tretinoin.
Tretinoin is pure retinoic acid and is a much more potent ingredient than retinyl palmitate, which must be converted to retinol, then retinaldehyde, before converting to retinoic acid and being effective.
Retin-A is only available by prescription from a physician, while A313 can be bought over the counter.
Also, you should work your way up to Retin-A and already have some experience with retinol and retinoids before trying it.
But just remember that everyone’s skin is different, and what works for one person may not work as well for another.
The best way to figure out which retinoid is right for you is by paying attention to how your skin reacts and adjusting accordingly. Also, make sure to consult with a dermatologist if in doubt.
Whatever path you choose, remember that it takes time and patience for any retinoid product to work its magic on your skin, so be sure to be consistent with your skincare routine and give it time to work!
A313 Review: The Bottom Line
A313 just didn’t work for my skin, although it may be worth trying if you don’t mind dealing with itchiness and irritation as your skin gets used to it. For me, it wasn’t worth it as so many other options feel more comfortable on my skin.
If you’re looking for more dramatic anti-aging results, I’d recommend investing in and working your way up to products that contain retinaldehyde or speaking to your dermatologist about prescription retinoids.
Thanks for reading!