St. Ives Retinol Anti Wrinkle Cream

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An Adventure In Vanity, Marketing Manipulation, and Taming Unruly Freckles

Jun 7, 2001 (Updated Apr 6, 2005)
Review by  
Rated a Very Helpful Review

Pros:It's quite effective at fading stubborn freckles.

Cons:It's not marketed for skin lightening, and I'm not convinced it diminishes wrinkles.

The Bottom Line: While I can't promise that it will do anything for wrinkles, it did fade my freckles and make my skin look slightly more smooth. And it's not at all expensive.


When it comes to freckles, I’m not an individual who feels compelled to cover them up or try to eradicate them. Overall, my freckles and I coexist in peace and harmony; I’m diligent with my usage of a high SPF, and they respond by keeping their population controlled and fairly spread out.

However, on occasion I’ll miss a spot with sunscreen and spend time outdoors, and my freckles will suddenly change their behavior. No longer content to keep their distance from each other, the freckles will reproduce and migrate, resulting in an undesirable light brown blob. So long as my freckles don’t congregate against my wishes, I’ll leave them alone. But when my own carelessness results in an obvious cluster of freckles, loitering on a patch of my skin like a group of bored teens in front of the Gas-N-Sip on Saturday night, I feel compelled to take action.

So, what is this little digression about freckles doing in a review that’s supposed to be about St. Ives Multi-Vitamin Retinol Anti-Wrinkle Cream? Soon, all will be revealed.

A recent sunburn left me with a narrow strip of freckles that ran across my neck. While I’m usually able to fade this sort of freckle cluster using Philosophy’s A Pigment of Your Imagination, this particular freckle line was impervious to my attempts to fade it. When I asked my physician whether I should consult a dermatologist, he asked me if I’d tried any over-the-counter products with Retinol on the spot. When I replied that I hadn’t, he informed me that I was probably the only female in the DFW Metroplex who wasn’t using a Retinol product, and also suggested that I try a cosmetic Retinol cream on the area prior to spending money on a dermatologist.

Not wanting to pay department store prices for a Retinol product that I would only use for a short while, I headed to the local Ulta and scoured the skin care aisle. It seemed that nearly every Retinol-based product was marketed as a wrinkle-reducer, and not a pigment-reducer. However, I didn’t let the marketing deter me from my objective, and I decided to purchase a tube of St. Ives Mult-Vitamin Retinol Anti-Wrinkle Cream, which contained the active ingredient that I was seeking. At $8.50 for 1.05 ounces, the product was reasonably priced and seemed like a low-risk item to try.

According the product literature, St. Ives Mult-Vitamin Retinol Anti-Wrinkle Cream does the following:

 Dramatically reduces appearance of fine lines and wrinkles
 Increases skin's clarity
 Reduces appearance of age spots
 Reduces appearance of large pores
 Gives skin youthful, radiant glow


No mention at all about lightening freckles. Unless you count the bit about age spots. Which I don’t, because I refuse to believe that my freckles are in any way related to aging.

The product’s packaging indicates that people with fair or sensitive skin might experience some redness or tingling. Since I have skin that is both fair and sensitive, I was prepared for the worst. I found that when I applied the cream to my freckle cluster every night, I did experience some tingling and itchiness. It was very uncomfortable and I nearly gave up on using anything containing Retinol. However, after waiting a few days and trying the product again, using it only every other evening, I had no adverse side effects. The packaging also warns that one must be extra-diligent with both sunscreen and sun exposure while using a Retinol-based product. I was careful, and found that my freckle cluster was barely visible after four weeks of using St. Ives Mult-Vitamin Retinol Anti-Wrinkle Cream every other night.

I do have to admit that my success with freckle obliteration tempted me to try this product for its marketed use – anti-wrinkling. If it worked so well on my freckles, then perhaps it could soften the crease on my nose that I’ve had ever since a particularly nasty sunburn that I had in my childhood. Although I don’t have any facial wrinkles yet, I haven’t always been so diligent with putting sunscreen on my hands, and I suddenly noticed that they weren’t looking as youthful as I’d like.

In other words, this inexpensive little blue tube unleashed a monster of self-criticism and vanity that I’d barely known I’d possessed. Just knowing that this stuff might have some effect on wrinkles made me strangely compelled to put it to work, even though I had been completely comfortable with my nose and my hands just a few weeks prior. The shame, the shame. I’d been skillfully manipulated by cosmetic company marketing into wanting to improve my appearance.

In spite of my shame, and the heavy weight of the knowledge that I’d been manipulated, I did check out this product’s wrinkle performance. It had little to no effect on the crease on my nose, which didn’t surprise me, as the crease had been around for many years. When I tried using the product on my hands, I found that every day use made my fingers sting and peel unattractively. When I cut back to using it every other day, these symptoms subsided. After a few weeks of use, I did notice that my hands looked slightly smoother. But they weren’t miraculously restored to teenage smoothness, either.

I probably won’t use St. Ives Mult-Vitamin Retinol Anti-Wrinkle Cream regularly, but I’ll keep the tube that I have for stubborn freckling and the occasional neurotic my-hands-look-old moment. Nothing that I’ve seen indicates that this product will keep one’s faced perfectly unlined, but it is very effective when it comes to lightening freckles, and I just may buy it again for that purpose.

However, St. Ives also produces a similarly priced product that is marketed specifically for reducing pigmentation, called Dark Spot Fade Cream. It contains both Retinol and hydroquinone, which is the active ingredient that I’ve had success with in A Pigment of Your Imagination. I may purchase this item when I deplete my current reserves of Retinol/hydroquinone containing products, as it is much less expensive than the Philosophy fade gel and it contains that Retinol that I found so effective in St. Ives Mult-Vitamin Retinol Anti-Wrinkle Cream. I would think that a product with both ingredients would be even better for eliminating annoying freckle clusters.

Ingredients: Water, Carpylic/Capric Triglyceride, Emulsifying Wax, Glycerin, C10-30 Cholesterol/Lanosterol Esters, Cetyl Ricinoleate, Cetyl Alcohol, Dimethicone, Benzyl Alcohol, Cyclomethicone, Retinol (Vitamin A), Tocopherol Acetate (vitamin E), Ascorbyl Palmitate (Vitamin C), Primula Veris Extract, Sambucus Nigra Extract, Sunflower (helianthus annuus) Extract, Matricaria (chamomila recutita) Extract, Propylene Glycol, Acrylates Copolymer, Bisabolol, PEG-10 Soya Sterol, Magnesium Aluminum Silicate, Stearic Acid, Methylparaben, Phenoxyethanol, BHT, Disodium EDTA, Triethanolamine


Recommend this product? Yes

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