Retinol Firming and Lifting Serum
1 fl. oz. for $98
Last Updated:11.26.2014
Jar Packaging:No
Tested on animals:Yes
Review Overview

Retinol Firming and Lifting Serum is an excellent formula suitable for most skin types, and it contains an impressive array of cell-communicating, antioxidant and reparative ingredients. More of a sheer lotion than a traditional serum texture, you will find this delivers a light amount of moisture, so if you have oily to very oily skin, consider a sample first. If you’re in the mood to splurge (because it’s on the expensive side), this is certainly a product to consider.

Like all Algenist products, this contains algae exopolysaccharides, which the brand touts as “Alguronic Acid” and claims it is a potent anti-wrinkle ingredient. Independent, peer-reviewed and published research doesn’t corroborate this claim, but nevertheless algae exopolysaccharides do have some moisture-binding and antioxidant benefit for skin. You don’t need to worry about the lack of research around this ingredient, because Retinol Firming and Lifting Serum contains other proven ingredients in abundance.

In addition to retinol, Algenist also added a few synthetic peptides and a ceramide along with a nice array of skin-identical ingredients—the fragrance is exceptionally mild, so it shouldn’t be a problem for most. While you certainly do not need to spend this amount of money for a well-formulated serum, it stands among the best (and certainly stands out as one of the better products by Algenist).

  • Contains a mix of retinol and other beneficial anti-aging ingredients.
  • Packaged to protect its formula from light and air.
  • Lightweight texture works well with any moisturizer.
  • The emphasis on alguronic acid is mostly hype, given the lack of independent research.

This dual action serum combines patented Alguronic Acid + Retinol for the very first time. Alguronic Acid boosts Retinol to work more efficiently for accelerated dual anti-wrinkle and firming benefits. The powerful serum increases collagen production to smooth lines and wrinkles, while increasing skin firmness and elasticity. Alguronic Acid’s natural anti-inflammatory benefits allow the formula to be effective, yet gentle enough for daily use.


Water, Dimethicone, Glycerin, Butylene Glycol, Dimethicone Crosspolymer, Pentylene Glycol, Polymethyl Methacrylate, Algae Exopolysaccharides, Retinol, Palmitoyl Oligopeptide, Palmitoyl Tetrapeptide-7, Ceramide 3, Acetyl Dipeptide-1 Cetyl Ester, Glycine Soja (Soybean) Seed Extract, Squalane, Sodium PCA, Caprylyl Glycol, Polysorbate 60, Dipotassium Glycyrrhizate, Acrylates/C10-30 Alkyl Acrylate Crosspolymer, Hydroxyethyl Acrylate/Sodium Acryloyldimethyl Taurate Copolymer, Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride, Polysorbate 20, Dimethicone PEG-10/15 Crosspolymer, Sorbitan Laurate, Cetyl Palmitate, Hydroxyethylcellulose, Whey Protein, Carbomer, Lactic Acid, Sorbitan Isostearate, Lactose, Disodium EDTA, Trideceth-6 Phosphate, Sodium Hydroxide, Chlorphenesin, Phenoxyethanol, Fragrance, Mica, CI77891.

Brand Overview

Algenist At-a-Glance

Strengths: Good facial cleanser and toner; select serums and moisturizers formulated with an impressive mix of anti-aging ingredients; Targeted Deep Wrinkle Minimizer really does make wrinkles less apparent.

Weaknesses: Expensive; the star ingredient (a modified form of algae) doesn't have reliable research to support its anti-aging efficacy; jar packaging; some of the moisturizers contain eucalyptus oil, which can be a potent irritant.

Algenist is a small, rather expensive range of skin-care products sold at Sephora with a focus on anti-aging. Like several other cosmetics companies, Algenist has based their brand on a single ingredient, an ingredient they claim has superior benefits for skin and that, therefore, is worth the steep price tag. In this case, it was the "accidental" discovery of a substance found in algae. As the story goes, a group of biotechnology scientists were looking for ways to use something called microalgae as a renewable source of energy when they stumbled upon a compound known as alguronic acid. Their research revealed that alguronic acid is one of the compounds responsible for regenerating and protecting algae cells.

Figuring they were on to something, the company did further in vitro testing (although the details of their tests are not available, so you only have a science-fiction style story, not facts) and, of course, found that alguronic acid had anti-aging benefits on skin, too. Aside from having no idea what their studies did or didn't really show, in vitro means this ingredient was examined in a petri dish, not directly on human skin. They did limited testing on human skin, but many key details of these "studies" are not available. Instead, we're asked to accept that their ingredient made a remarkable difference. At the time of this writing, there isn't a single published study attesting to the claims Algenist makes for alguronic acid—so you're taking an expensive leap of faith in buying these products!

Before you get seduced by Algenist's claims and their explanation about how algae reproduces, let us tell you—it has no relation to how human skin works. Algae is about as related to human skin as a 747 jetliner is to roller skates.

Whether the story about alguronic acid being the answer for your skin is true or not, it is critical to keep in mind that skin, and skin care, is far more complex than one allegedly miraculous ingredient. Think of it like your diet: As healthy as green tea is, if that's all you consumed, you'd soon be malnourished. Just like your diet should contain a healthy mix of nutritious foods, your skin (which is your body's largest organ) needs a wide array of helpful ingredients to become and remain smooth, healthy, and, yes, able to look and act younger.

To Algenist's credit, their products contain more than just alguronic acid. Most of them have a good blend of skin-repairing and antioxidant ingredients, although the ones they call out as key ingredients (such as apple stem cells) have no real published research proving their efficacy. Despite the fact that their products contain some tried-and-true anti-aging ingredients, Algenist makes the same mistakes as many other lines, such as using jar packaging (which won't keep any of the beneficial ingredients stable during use) and including fragrance or fragrant plant extracts to give the products an appealing scent. Fragrance isn't skin care and, in fact, more often than not, will cause irritation that hurts your skin's ability to look and act younger!

In the end, Algenist is not a must-have line, and it certainly isn't worth expanding your beauty budget to afford. There are some acceptable to impressive options for those who don't mind spending more than they need to for effective products, but you'll find a wider, often better range of options on our list of Best Anti-Aging/Anti-Wrinkle Products.

For more information about Algenist, call (877) 650-1837 or visit www.algenist.com.

Note: Algenist lists the alguronic acid in their products as algae exopolysaccharides, which is the accepted cosmetic labeling name for alguronic acid.

About the Experts

The new Beautypedia Team proudly and unequivocally maintains the commitment to help you find the best products possible for your skin. We do this by relentlessly pursuing and relying on published scientific research so you will have unbiased information on what works and what doesn't-and the sneaky ways you could be making your skin worse, not better!

The Beautypedia Team reviews all products using the same research, criteria, and objectivity, whether the product being reviewed is from Paula's Choice or another brand.

Member Comments
Summary of Member Comments
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Not impressed!

Average.extremely-over-priced.I've tried the genius cream, cleanser. This serum , eye cream and firming and lifting facial cream. And I'm not impressed enough to purchase.way overrated.i would classify as average. What I especially dislike is how little you get in the serum and how expensive compared to other brands.

Reviewed by
Annette D.

I got this as a "reward" for accumulating a certain amount of points as a Sephora customer. Good thing I didn't pay anything for it! It felt smooth going on around my eyes but, after a week I noticed my fair, sensitive, combo. skin was actually starting to crack and feel tight, dry and uncomfortable.This DID NOT firm, lift or moisturize/benefit my undereye area at all!

Reviewed by
Georgine R.
Miracle product!

No skin care product I have ever used has given me such quick, dramatic results ... and I have tried many! This product has almost completely gotten rid of my fine lines and mild/moderate acne. I follow it with their Overnight Restorative Cream (which I also love) every night. I have very sensitive skin and had not used a retinol before. This caused no reaction. I only wish it had more slip to it, because it absorbs so quickly that I use more product ... but maybe that's why it's so effective!

Reviewed by
Amanda C
Saw no difference

I bought this with very high hopes of at least seeing some minor changes by the end of the bottle. I literally saw and felt no difference. I have to say that for a 1 oz bottle, it did last quite long despite using what seemed like a lot each night. It was also extremely compatible with my very sensitive skin- I never had a breakout or a rash. All in all this is rediculously expensive and offers up no results after 1.5 months of use.

Reviewed by

Got 10-day trial from Sephora- was impressed with results-skin was softer & seemed to look firmer. Lines also appeared lessened-c'mon, I'm nearly 70 so they're not going to disappear. I also have sensitive skin-caused no irritation. It's expensive but I feel one product worth the money. No shipping costs when you buy directly from Algenist nor does Sephora charge shipping costs over $50. Have added Paula's Resist BHA 9 & C15-trial sizes & outstanding results. Will buy full ones to use daily.

Reviewed by
Anne G

Purchased this product 10/28/13 for a total of $113.34 including shipping. To-date I have seen NO results. Yes I am 73 years old and do not have wonderful skin. However, that is why I purchased this product thinking I would see some improvement on my fine lines as stated. I probably should have return the product after they said you would see results in 10 days. But I keep using it thinking tomorrow will be the day. NOT!

Reviewed by
Mary L.
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