A few weeks ago, a PR agency sent me Rodan + Fields Anti-Age AMP MD TM ($180.00, Amazon.com) system for my personal use. Even though med school stress can sometimes make me feel over-the-hill, I’m still just 26 according to my birth records, so I gave the products to my mother to try. Let’s just say that she raved. Comments from her included “I’ve never felt my skin so soft!” and “Where can we get me some more of this?”
The Truth about the Peptides
Turns out the ingredients in the Rodan + Fields Anti-Age AMP MD TM system really do validate my mother’s results (not that there was any doubt, because after all, I am my mother’s daughter). The Rodan + Fields Anti-Age AMP MD system features both retinol and peptides in effective concentrations. Myristoyl tetrapeptide-8 is the product of the reaction between myristic acid and Tetrapeptide-8, while Myristoyl pentapeptide-8 is – you guessed it – the combination of myristic acid and pentapeptide-8. Pentapeptides have been documented in a study published in the International Journal of Cosmetic Science, amongst other sources, to improve photoaged human skin. Interestingly enough, I could not find any independent, peer-reviewed research to substantiate the efficacy of tetrapeptides on the skin, but companies that incorporate the ingredient into its products (i.e., Rodan + Fields, Philosophy) suggest that tetrapeptides may increase collagen production and firm the skin.
Is Retinol Safe?
Retinol, as always, is still one of my favorite ingredients in skin care. Many dermatologists feel that retinol and tretinoin, two forms of vitamin A, are the gold standard in anti-aging skin care, and I truly believe they will stand the test of time. The controversy surround retinol recently arose when some proponents from the Environmental Working Group raised the risk level of retinol to a “fair risk” score of 8. The major study of concern demonstrated that potentially harmful free radical species were emitted, but this occurred only when a combination of ethanol and retinyl palmitate were used and the skin was exposed to UVA light.
The clear point here is that retinol is not retinyl palmitate.
In a nutshell, retinyl palmitate is a combination of retinol and esters that is broken down into retinol within the skin. It binds to the same receptors as retinol, but it is about twenty times less effective, according to research published in Clinics in Dermatology. Although the fact that retinol is more potent than retinyl palmitate may naturally lead you to think that retinol is potentially more harmful, the opposite is actually true. As dermatologist Dr. Leslie Baumann, M.D. states in her Yahoo! Experts blog, “Studies have shown that retinyl palmitate does not penetrate the skin well, and because it can remain on the skin surface, it can undergo changes when exposed to the sun.”
Retinol itself has never been shown in any peer-reviewed study to cause the release of free radicals, at least not to my knowledge (note: if you find one, please send it to me at nicki[at]futurederm[dot]com, and I’ll immediately print a retraction!). If the theory is correct that retinyl palmitate is potentially harmful when exposed to UV light only because it cannot penetrate the skin’s surface and must undergo a number of reactions before it is broken down into retinol, then it is likely that no substantiated research will ever demonstrate that retinol damages the skin.
With that said, even though retinol has been documented to reverse wrinkling by increasing cell turnover rates, increase collagen production by increasing fibroblast activity, and prevent collagen breakdown by inhibiting collagen-degrading matrix metalloproteinases, retinol is not a perfect ingredient (think of it as a Prince Charming who leaves his dirty socks all over the floor)! Retinol can thin the skin over time, making it more photosensitive. Therefore, dermatologists generally recommend using retinol only at night, and using a broad-spectrum sunscreen during the day. Furthermore, retinol loses some of its efficacy when it is exposed to UV light or when it is in a skin care product that has been open for more than a month. For these reasons, I keep my retinol creams tightly sealed in a cool, dark place, and use them religiously at night only.
The AMP MD Roller: Painful, but (kind-of) Necessary?
The most revolutionary part of the Rodan + Fields Anti-Age AMP MD system is definitely the AMP MD Roller. The roller consists of surgical-grade stainless steel acupuncture needles, called “microneedles.” The purpose is to increase circulation and the absorption of the other ingredients into the skin. Research published in Skin Research and Technology demonstrates that the use of microneedles increases the absorption of ingredients through the stratum corneum (the uppermost layer of the skin). My mother said that it definitely “gave her a glow.”
Two caveats here. One, go easy. I tend to be a fiery, type-A, “all-in” kind-of girl when I’m dealing with something important (like my skin care!), but when you’re dealing with something with sharp metal points, the key is to be gentle. It definitely hurts a little at first, so you may have to brush against the skin very easily when you start. Over time, you can increase the surface area and pressure over which you apply the roller, but I would not be ambitious with the device at first.
Two, if you have sensitive skin (as some 60 percent of women report to), you may not want to use the roller with retinol at first. I know Drs. Rodan and Fields are two highly-respected dermatologists, and perhaps they formulated their retinol to be in a low-enough concentration where it would be compatible with the roller in nearly all skin types. It’s just that I have personally have had “crab face” from using retinoids in the past, and I don’t wish to relive that, much less increase the absorption of retinol in my skin!
Until you’re sure of how your skin will react, one strategy is to use the roller followed by the retinol-containing Rodan + Fields serum every 2-3 nights until your skin proves to tolerate it, and then increase to daily use. Another excellent strategy is to try a “patch test” on a small part of your skin to see how your skin reacts to the regimen. I prefer to try products on the far side of my right cheek, which is usually covered by my hair.
Personally, I have tried using the roller followed by Skinceuticals CE Ferulic (with 15% vitamin C and 2% vitamin E), and another time with NIA 24 (with nicotinic acid), and I adored the results. I definitely think of microrollers as a part of the future of skin care – the key for individuals is going slow and combining the device with the right effective ingredients.
I’m a huge fan of the Rodan + Fields Anti-Age AMP MD TM system. I do, however, think the doctors may be a bit ahead of the market with the introduction of the microroller – patients seem frightened of the ingredients right now, what with organic skin care flying off the shelves and the fear of having skin care products penetrate more deeply into the skin. Yet, it makes your skin care more effective, is relatively inexpensive compared to other devices designed to increase skin care potency, achieves almost instantaneous results (see video here), and has lasting benefits when coupled with the right skin care. It’s a fantastic idea, maybe just a little ahead of its time, and I believe many customers can achieve amazing results when using this regimen. After all, I guess Mom does often know best… 🙂
Ingredients in Rodan + Fields Anti-Age AMP MD TM System: Cyclopentasiloxane, Dimethicone Crosspolymer, C12-15 Alkyl Benzoate, Myristoyl Tetrapeptide-8, Retinol, Myristoyl Pentapeptide-8, Methyl Methacrylate/Glycol Dimethacrylate Crosspolymer, Dimethiconol, BHT