Which is Better – Neutrogena Healthy Skin or Neutrogena Ageless Intensives Deep Wrinkle?

Personal/Inspirational, Skin Care
Neutrogena Healthy Skin vs. Neutrogena Ageless Intensives Deep Wrinkle Serum


I noticed that you have written many great things about Neutrogena Healthy Skin, but I also noticed the Neutrogena Ageless Intensives Deep Wrinkle product.

Both are very inexpensive, which is what I am looking for, but not sure which one I should choose. I am also concerned about stability of the active ingredients in the bottle used. Can you provide any advice?


Dear Joel,

The chief difference between Neutrogena Healthy Skin and Neutrogena Ageless Intensives Deep Wrinkle is the former contains traditional retinol, whereas the latter has a new form of retinol called retinol SA.

According to Neutrogena, the retinol SA in Ageless Intensives has been proven to have slower, more sustained release into the skin than the retinol in Healthy Skin (SpecialChem).

Why Retinol SA is Better than Traditional Retinol

Retinol SA is perhaps the skin care and cosmetics industry’s first foray into a water-in-oil retinoid emulsion.  This may not sound exciting, but it is.  Retinol is one of the more unstable ingredients in skin care products.  Even retinol in traditional “stable” oil-in-water emulsions only have a stability of about 60% after 13 weeks!  For you science buffs out there, it is known the process involves some forms of oxidation and isomerization reactions, and worsens after prolonged exposure to light or air.

Retinol in water-in-oil emulsions before Ageless Intensives was even more chemically unstable than oil-in-water emulsions.  Exactly why involves a myriad of reasons that are not completely understood.  Despite this, the brilliant scientists at Johnson & Johnson figured out a way to use chelating agents to stabilize the retinol.  Normally, metal ions rip electrons off of retinol, causing it to degrade and lose efficacy.  However, chelating agents seize metal ions before they get the chance.  Think of chelating agents like the police arresting obnoxious wedding crashers – they stop the uninvited before they can wreck matters up!   Or see below:

How Chelating Agents work

The chelating agent allows retinol to be active in a water-in-oil emulsion for the first time.  The advantage of having the retinol in the water-in-oil emulsion rather than the oil-in-water is that it can be combined with other ingredients for a slow, sustained release throughout the day (and night).

So is it necessary to use products only containing retinol SA?

No.  While Neutrogena’s retinol SA has a unique time-release formulation, we still don’t know how the maximum concentration of retinol SA available compares to the final effects of 0.025%, 0.5%, 1.0%, and 1.5% strengths of ordinary retinol  – all of which are available on the market today.  There needs to be a published study directly comparing the efficacy of retinol SA to different strengths of retinol.  Neutrogena says retinol SA in its formulations is more potent than “retinol,” but we don’t know at what strength retinol.  We also don’t know what the maximum concentration of retinol SA is!

Further, as exciting as retinol SA is, the effects are similar to what we see in studies with 0.5-1.0% regular retinol.  For instance, Neutrogena reports after two weeks of use of Ageless Intensives Deep Wrinkle, women had improvements in skin softness, smoothness, fine lines, age spots, and deep wrinkles.  Yet these are identical symptoms to what is seen with 0.5% regular retinol (Clinics in Dermatology, 2001).

How do retinol and retinol SA measure up to retinyl palmitate?

Neutrogena reports retinol SA is more potent than retinol, and retinol is 20 times stronger than retinyl palmitate (Clinics in Dermatology, 2001).  This is because retinyl palmitate is attached to palmitic acid, and must be processed in the skin more than retinol.

How strong do you guess Ageless Intensives to be?

After using the product, I would estimate the “maximum strength retinol SA” in Ageless Intensives is stronger than the [approximate] 0.025% retinol available in Healthy Skin and weaker than the 0.5% retinol available in Skinceuticals 0.5.

Bottom Line

Neutrogena Ageless Intensives contains technology that could revolutionize the over-the-counter retinoids market, with the world’s first proven stable water-in-oil retinoid formulation and subsequent sustained time release.  Unfortunately, Johnson & Johnson owns the patent for this technology, and it is unlikely the pharmaceutical giant will risk using much higher concentrations of retinol SA, as retinol runs a high risk of initial redness, irritation, peeling, and the like.  So it will probably be another 15-20 years before we have an extremely potent time-release over-the-counter retinoid.  (!)  At any rate, I estimate the efficacy of Neutrogena Ageless Intensives to be somewhat higher than Healthy Skin, but less mighty than Skinceuticals 0.5.  I love the technology, and if you’re looking for a gentle retinol formula, Neutrogena Ageless Intensives is a great way to go.

Ingredients in Neutrogena Healthy Skin Night Cream

Water, C12 15 Alkyl Benzoate, Glycerin, Cetearyl Alcohol, Ethylhexyl Hydroxystearate, Dimethicone, Camellia Oleifera (Green Tea) Leaf Extract, Retinol, Panthenol, Disodium EDTA, Tocopherol, Cetearyl Glucoside, Tocopheryl Acetate, Polysorbate 20, Triethanolamine, Methylparaben, Propylparaben, Butylene Glycol, Diazolidinyl Urea, BHT, Carbomer

Ingredients in Neutrogena Ageless Intensives Deep Wrinkle Night Cream

Water, PPG 2 Myristyl Ether Propionate, Cetearyl Alcohol, Cetyl Dimethicone, Pentaerythrityl Tetraethylhexanoate, Hexadecyl Stearate, Caprylyl Methicone, Dimethicone, Behenyl Alcohol, Ethylhexylglycerin, Squalane, Glycerin, Shea Butter (Butyrospermum Parkii), BHT, Panthenol, Allantoin, Arginine, Erythorbic Acid, Tocopherol, Retinol, Polysorbate 20, Sodium Hyaluronate, Dipotassium Glycyrrhizate, Bisabolol, C13 14 Isoparaffin, Laureth 7, Cetearyl Glucoside, Glyceryl Stearate, PEG 100 Stearate, Polyacrylamide, Nylon 12, Disodium EDTA, Propylparaben, Ethylparaben, Methylparaben


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  • Mónica

    Excuse me, what is the difference of Retinol Rapid Wrinkle Repair from Neutrogena and Ageless Intensives? which is more effective for mature skin? Retinol Rapid Wrinkle Repair is the same that Healthy Skin?

    Thank you

  • @Josephine – You’re absolutely right, the latter product has more retinol. It’s the major difference between the two! Sorry it took so long to get back to you – just noticed this comment for some reason!

    @Geri – Fragrance is often included in cosmetic products because a.) the concoction has a malodorous smell, b.) the beta-testers preferred fragrance, or c.) some combination therein. As for products without fragrance but with retinol, have you tried the new Murad retinol product?

  • Geri

    Sorry, I left a comment on Neutrogena Ageless Defensive, and the product name is wrong, it should be Neutrogena Rapid Wrinkle Repair Night . This is the product I tried which contains fragrance. My question is why put fragrance in face products, and can you advise something else without fragrance?.

  • Geri

    I have recently tried Neutrogena Ageless Intensives, and have always used Neutrogena Healthy Skin. I love the feel of Intensives on my face and the idea of it, but cannot continue to use it as it has fragrance in it. Why do so many face products contain fragrance? I would love to continue with this product, but the reaction I get from fragrance is not worth it. Can you make this product without fragrance?

  • Josephine

    What is the main difference between the newest product…Nutrogena Rapid Wrinkle Repair Night with Accelerated Retinol SA and Ageless Intensives Anti-Wrinkle Deep Moisture Night? Retinol looks higher on the list in the latter. It can get pretty confusing!!!

    Intensives: Water, PPG-2 Myristyl Ether Propionate, Cetearyl Alcohol , Cetyl Dimethicone, Pentaerythrityl Tetraethylhexanoate, Hexadecyl Stearate, Caprylyl Methicone, Dimethicone, Behenyl Alcohol, Ethylhexylglycerin, Squalane, Glycerin, Shea Butter (Butyrospermum Parkii), BHT, Panthenol, Allantoin, Arginine, Erythorbic Acid, Tocopherol, Retinol, Polysorbate 20 , Sodium Hyaluronate, Dipotassium Glycyrrhizate, Bisabolol, C13-14 Isoparaffin, Laureth-7, Cetearyl Glucoside, Glyceryl Stearate, PEG-100 Stearate, Polyacrylamide, Nylon -12, Disodium EDTA, Propylparaben, Ethylparaben, Methylparaben

    Rapid: Water, Pentaerythrityl Tetraethylhexanoate, Dimethicone, Glycerin, PPG-15 Stearyl Ether, Stearyl Alcohol, Cetearyl Alcohol, Butylene Glycol, Trisiloxane, Ceteareth-20, Isohexadecane, Dimethicone Crosspolymer, Caprylyl Glycol, Phenoxyethanol, Ammonium Acryloyldimethyltaurate/VP Copolymer, C13-14 Isoparaffin, Polyethylene, Fragrance, Polyacrylamide, Chlorphenesin, PTFE, Myrtus Communis Leaf Extract, Disodium EDTA, Sodium Hyaluronate, BHT, Retinol, Polysorbate 20, Laureth-7, Ascorbic Acid, Sodium Hydroxide

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