How my sensitive skin learned to love A313

My review of A313 Vitamin A Pommade and a guide to using this potent little tube of pharmaceutical-grade French retinol

When Kanvas Beauty first started stocking A313 (formerly known as Avibon), I was EXCITED. Like a lot of the skincare obsessives out there, I’d read Gwyneth Paltrow’s rave review on Goop, and then started seeing its name appear everywhere – Vogue, Style Edit, Harpers, you name it. It was apparently effortless-French-girl-skin in a tube. I was determined to stock up on A313 and other French pharmacy goodies on my holiday to Paris last year, but then COVID rained on that parade. Once I finally had it in my hot little hands, needless to say there was a LOT of anticipation built up.

The fast facts on A313 Pommade

What it is: A thick pomade containing 0.12% of retinyl palmate. The skin naturally converts A313 to a mild retinoic acid about 10-15 minutes after application.

Texture: It’s basically like Vaseline.

Feel: On application, it feels slightly warm. And because of how thick it is, isn’t the easiest to spread over your face. You’ll probably find you won’t need a moisturizer afterwards either.

How to use: As with any retinol product, introduce it slowly into your routine to avoid the side effects. Try it once a week at the start, then increase to 2-3x once your skin can handle it. A little goes a long way. You won’t need to squeeze out anything bigger than pea-size.

Side effects: Itching, flaking and sun sensitivity (always wear an SPF during the day).

Results: Fewer fine lines and acne, as well as tighter pores and a more even skin tone. It also makes your skin feel a whole lot softer. I love it! The side effects also disappear with time.

Tips:

  • When you’re using it for the first few times, avoid combining A313 with other active ingredients and serums.
  • Switch to a calming serum/moisturizer the next morning, and always follow with SPF.
  • Apply it on dry skin – it lessens the itching (this really works).
  • Wear it as a mask for 30 mins to 2 hours if you have sensitive skin. Wash it off and follow with a soothing moisturizer.
  • Use it at night when you’re not going out, because it leaves your face pretty greasy!

 

My relationship status with retinol: it’s complicated

In the past, I’ve struggled to get my rosacea-prone, sensitive, combination skin (which occasionally threatens to break out) to love retinol (aka vitamin A). It’s a Jekyll and Hyde type of ingredient: on one hand, it carries the promise of erasing fine lines, brightening hyperpigmentation and treating acne with an almost unrivalled level of efficacy. On the other hand, retinol can sensitize and irritate skin, making it more vulnerable to sun damage. Sigh.

To keep my skin happy, I’ve usually stuck to low concentrations of vitamin A in skincare. I also blend it with moisturizers and only applying it a maximum of 3x a week. Now, A313 contains a 0.12% concentration of synthetic vitamin A, which is a relatively low percentage. Therefore, my skin should be able to handle it right? WRONG. 

What happened the first time I applied A313 – expect itching

After double cleansing and applying a 10% niacinamide serum (the first mistake), I happily rubbed the thick, Vaseline-like paste over a damp face (the second mistake) and went to bed. About half an hour later, the itchiness began. It felt like my face was being tickled with a million feathers, and it was not cute. I waited for it to subside but another hour later, there I was, wide awake and struggling not to claw off my face. I conceded defeat, went to the bathroom and washed it off. Luckily, there was no redness or visible irritation, but my skin clearly was taking exception to it. Once I washed it off and put on my go-to soothing moisturizer (SVR Laboratories’ Sensifine AR Cream – check it out here), my skin was back to normal and I fell asleep. 

It’s true what they all say – the results are visible

The next morning, I washed my face as usual. To my very pleasant surprise, my skin felt baby soft and smooth. I also noticed a tiny zit that was making itself known on my chin the night before had all but disappeared! Even though I’d only left A313 on my face for only a couple of hours, it had clearly left its mark. I was highly encouraged by this, and decided to persist with this little tube of volatile magic.

A week later, I said a prayer and smoothed on a pea size shape of A313 over my face, without the niacinamide serum. In fact, I applied it straight after cleansing, on dry (instead of damp) skin. This made a world of difference. Without a doubt, niacinamide is an excellent ingredient – and it generally makes a great pair with vitamin A. However, a high percentage of niacinamide (i.e. above 2-4%) in concentrated serum form can cause irritation when combined with other active ingredients. As I learned, the best thing to do when introducing retinol to sensitive skin is to match it with a routine that’s as minimal as possible. Instead of a myriad of toners and serums, I stuck to my good old double cleansing routine, and that was about it. This time around, my skin was no longer itchy, although it did tingle here and there. Nonetheless, I still washed it off after two hours to avoid tempting fate. Again, the next day my skin felt softer and looked noticeably refined.

Results after using A313 for several weeks

In conclusion, A313 is worth the hard work. I can see a difference in my skin’s texture, feel and appearance. The pores on my nose seem tighter and less visible as well. I was initially worried that the thick, petroleum-like goo (probably the best way to describe it) would case my fussy skin to breakout. However, it’s had the opposite effect of clearing of any zits that appear quicker than would be the case if I left them alone.

I’m glad I didn’t give up on A313, but I still don’t use it as a leave-on cream. If you have sensitive skin, I would recommend using it as a mask. You’ll be able to see results even if you use it occasionally like me (twice weekly).

 

Shop A313 online in Australia at Kanvas Beauty

You can shop A313 and other skincare wonders found in a French pharmacy right here on Kanvas Beauty.

We ship Australia-wide, including all the major cities (Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane, Perth, Darwin, Adelaide and Canberra). Enjoy free standard shipping with any purchase over $50, and free express shipping with any order over $99. If you’re new to Kanvas Beauty, take an additional $20 off your first order with us (use code WELCOME20 at checkout).

Happy shopping! If you have further questions on A313 or any of our other brands, drop us a line on chat or on email: hello@kanvasbeauty.com.au.

Have you tried A313? What do you think? Leave a review and tell us all the gory details!

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