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Product Reviews

Paula’s Choice RESIST Intensive Wrinkle-Repair Retinol Serum

Paula’s Choice RESIST Intensive Wrinkle-Repair Retinol Serum: ($29.95 for 1 oz)

*This review was highly requested by several people including Christi, so here it is! Others have remarked that I do too many Paula’s Choice product reviews, but I do have several reviews for products from other brands on the site. And if you have requests, please let me know! I always love hearing what you guys want to see!

Positives: While primarily employing a non-aqueous silicone base, the inclusion of several emollients like capric triglyceride give this a thicker and creamier texture than expected from most serums. Now, there is a moderately-high amount of the anti-inflammatory bisabolol, which will help offset some of the irritation from the retinol. But the three most important ingredients are the vitamins C, A, and E, which are present in that order. I have personally confirmed with Paula that all of her products are listed from highest to lowest concentration, despite the fact that she isn’t obligated by law. The form of vitamin C present is an oil-soluble form so we don’t have to worry about it requiring a low pH to function properly. Fortunately, this silicone-based serum has no pH, with the absence of water so this won’t affect the skin’s natural ability to convert retinol to tretinoin.   

Which brings me to the featured ingredient, retinol. The amount present is most likely around 0.25%-0.5% since the vitamin C (tetrahexyldecyl ascorbate) isn’t typically over 2% in OTC products. Furthermore, because the vitamin C isn’t the featured ingredient, I’m rationalizing that it’s around 1.0%. While several products on the market contain higher concentrations of retinol, the amount present in this product is most likely still largely above the bottom threshold of efficacy! That’s great news.

Finally, there are some low amounts of the hydrating lecithin, kelp, and oat extracts.

Neutrals: None of importance, as usual.

Negatives: Again none as always!

Packaging: This is packaged in an opaque, airless pump bottle. I wish all serums and moisturizers used packaging like this!

Overall: I’d recommend this for people with dry to combination oily skin, to be used during the nighttime. If you’re oily or very oily, this may be too emollient and can clog the pores, thanks to the presence of various fatty acid derivatives from the trigylceride and palm oil contents. But give it a try if you’re curious.

I did my own impromptu split-face left-right experiment with this and my favorite retinol product, the Peter Thomas Roth Retinol Fusion PM (1.5% retinol), and the results where quite comparable. The side with this serum was a bit greasy feeling when I woke up, but I didn’t break out. Granted, the test was only a week long and I don’t have access to any sophisticated medical tools to actually examine any differences; it’s all personal observation. Furthermore, the effects seen could have been, and is most likely a combination of the “powers” of vitamins A and C, since the form of vitamin C present does have many documented studies validating its functions. But still, if you’re not willing to shell out the $65 for the PTR, this is a great (but more emollient and cheaper) substitute. Not to mention that this has better packaging, which will keep the retinol stabilized longer.

There is one caveat to this product, and that’s the smell. Just because Paula’s Choice products are fragrance-free, doesn’t mean that they don’t have a smell. The scent of this product is particularly strong. It’s a rather pungent plastic- or paint-like smell that lingers for a while after the initial application. While the ingredients are great, I personally couldn’t get over the smell. Let me put it this way, even if this listed 0.5% retinol on the packaging, I’d still buy a separate product just because this one is so unpleasant.


PS = [[[PIS – 0] x WIC] + [TPS x WPC]] x 100%

PS = [[9/10 x 2/3] + [3/3 x 1/3]] x 100%

PS = [18/30 + 3/9] x 100%

PS = [54/90 + 30/90] x 100%

PS = 84/90 x 100%

PS = .933 x 100%

PS = 93.3%

AS = A

Check the Product Review Rubric for a full explanation on how I rate products.


Cyclopentasiloxane, Dimethiconol (silicone slip agents/suspending agents), Neopentyl Glycol Diheptanoate (skin-conditioning agent), Dicaprylyl Carbonate (emollient), Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride (skin-repairing ingredient), Phenyl Trimethicone (silicone slip agent), Squalane (emollient), Bisabolol (anti-irritant), Tetrahexyldecyl Ascorbate (stabilized vitamin C/antioxidant), Retinol (cell-communicating ingredient/antioxidant), Tocotrienols (vitamin E-based antioxidant), Tocopherol (vitamin E/antioxidant), Lecithin (cell-communicating ingredient), Laminaria Ochroleuca (Kelp) Extract (anti-irritant), Avena Sativa (Oat) Kernel Oil (anti-irritant), Elaeis Guineensis (Palm) Oil (skin-repairing ingredient), Stearyl Glycyrrhetinate (licorice-derived anti-irritant), Hexylene Glycol (slip agent), Caprylyl Glycol (emollient), Ethylhexylglycerin (skin-conditioning agent), Phenoxyethanol (preservative)

About John

The Triple Helixian is an unbiased science and research-based site that attempts to clarify and elucidate questions about skin care, while aspiring to be the most thorough and complete source of information.


18 thoughts on “Paula’s Choice RESIST Intensive Wrinkle-Repair Retinol Serum

  1. About PC team publishing the ingredients list in descending order, even though they are not forced to.. I believe this is not true. They have disclosed the retinol % in all of their products, so in their newest retinol cream for dry skin it is somewhere at 0.1%.

    and the list is below.

    And the preservatives are the last ones. And I know that we are using that combo at roughly 1%, which makes phenoxyethanol somewhere at .5%. Ok, you have EDTA and .1 or .2% which helps the preservative. So let us assume it is a 0.3%.

    BUT retinol is so high on the list that , if they indeed list EVERYTHING under the 1% line in the right order, that would not be possible. It would be a challenge to preserve with .1% or less phenoxyethanol & .1% ethylhexylglycerin.

    I totally lost my faith in PC’s transparency 🙂


    Water, Ethylhexyl Stearate (thickener), Simmondsia Chinensis (Jojoba) Seed Oil (non-fragrant antioxidant plant oil), Butylene Glycol (slip agent), Glycerin, Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride (skin-repairing ingredients), Petrolatum (emollient), Cetearyl Alcohol (emollient thickener), Dimethicone (silicone skin-conditioning agent), Dipentaerythrityl Hexacaprylate/Hexacaprate, Glyceryl Stearate (thickeners), Tridecyl Trimellitate (skin-conditioning agent), PEG-100 Stearate (thickener), Phenyl Trimethicone (silicone slip agent), Retinol, Adenosine, Palmitoyl Tetrapeptide-7, Palmitoyl Hexapeptide-12, Palmitoyl Tripeptide-1 (cell-communicating ingredients), Ceramide 2, Sodium Hyaluronate (skin-repairing ingredients), Magnesium Ascorbyl Phosphate (vitamin C/antioxidant), Niacinamide (cell-communicating ingredient),Tocopherol (vitamin E/antioxidant), Lecithin, Linoleic Acid, Linolenic Acid (fatty acid-based cell-communicating ingredients), Retinyl Palmitate (vitamin A/antioxidant), Glycyrrhiza Glabra (Licorice) Root Extract (anti-irritant), Camellia Oleifera (Green Tea) Leaf Extract, Citrullus Vulgaris (Watermelon) Fruit Extract, Lens Esculenta (Lentil) Fruit Extract, Pyrus Malus (Apple) Fruit Extract, Glycine Soja (Soybean) Sterols (plant-based antioxidants), Tribehenin (skin-conditioning agent), PEG-10 Phytosterol (solubilizing agent), Magnesium Aluminum Silicate (slip agent),Sodium PCA (skin-repairing ingredient), Sodium Lactate (water-binding agent), Sodium Hydroxide (stabilizer), Neopentyl Glycol Dicaprylate/Dicaprate (emollient), Cetearyl Glucoside (emulsifier), Tridecyl Stearate (emollient), Benzoic Acid (pH adjuster), Behenyl Alcohol, Sclerotium Gum, Carbomer, C12-15 Alkyl Benzoate (thickeners), Polysorbate 20 (emulsifier), Disodium EDTA (stabilizer), Sorbic Acid, Chlorphenesin, Phenoxyethanol (preservatives).

    Posted by sanzienesimatraguna | October 21, 2014, 6:43 am
    • Hm, good observation. I’ve personally given up a long time ago trying to defend that PC products are the best option for everyone. Instead, my skin care philosophy is that the ideal routine is made up of a team of brands, not any specific one.

      But in terms of this particular issue, I’m not sure if I agree with what you’re saying. While I agree that the non-vehicular beneficial ingredients are present in pretty low mounts, since they all are listed after retinol, which is present in 0.089%-0.1%, it is still possible that the list is presented from highest to lowest concentration. I believe this possible because:

      1. There are three different preservatives used;
      2. The three specific preservatives used have a somewhat compounding effect on each other;
      3. And because the product is packaged in a pump, there is little chance of bacterial proliferation and therefore, little need of a lot of preservatives; at least not so much as a product with jar packaging would require.

      But these are all speculations. Ultimately, I think this is a great product, especially considering the price and how it compares favorably to most other products on the market. But I would consider its benefits supplementary when used in an “Ideal Routine,” as there should be more targeted products in such a routine anyways.

      Does that make sense? Again, great catch! Plus, it makes for some great discussion! 🙂

      Posted by John | October 22, 2014, 2:24 pm
  2. I did some digging and found that this product contains 0.1% retinol. It’s stated on one of their FAQ pages.
    PC also recently came out with a new product with 1% retinol, which they claim to be the clinical dose. Can you look into it?

    Anyway, I wish I had found your blog sooner! I’m going to read every bit of it. 🙂

    p.s. Personally, I don’t find the smell to be offensive at all.

    Posted by Kin | August 26, 2014, 1:36 pm
  3. I recently purchased the PC Resist Intensive Wrinkle Repair Retinol Serum and im curious as to if i should apply it every night?(Due to the fact that i have combination, oily skin) If so, should i follow it with another PC product(such as Resist Weekly Surfacing Treatment with 10% AHA) or should i use it by itself?

    Posted by justin | April 11, 2013, 4:44 pm
    • Sure, you can use it every night if you don’t find it too irritating. However, because it is very emollient, you may want to consider using it every other night, since you have oily skin. You can consider using a hydroxy acid product, such as the 10% AHA or the 2% SA, on the days in between.

      Posted by John | April 15, 2013, 11:40 pm
  4. Dear John,

    I would like to ask your opinion regarding retinol, its conversion to tretinoin and its possible side effects. Is there any chance that we might be facing side effects close to the ones following an Accutane treatment (isotretinoin)?

    As I do not have any chemical background, I can’t judge this one by myself, but I have found out many oppinions in the EU that retinol is teratogenic, so it should not be used in topical applications. All I knew was that only oral treatments for acne including isotretinoin are dangerous for the fetus, even several years after stopping the treatment.

    So, what is the relation between retinol, tretinoin and isotretinoin and which are the risks for a women using these product before / during pregnancy? When should we be concerned?


    Posted by Simona | October 28, 2012, 1:08 am
  5. I like your reviews of PC products, no one else do it! and is nice to have serious information from an independent review. I also appreciate that you review affordable products, it keeps things real, I know theres great products for 100 dollars and up but not everybody can afford it (even if I could, why would I if theres great products for less?).

    I always wondered how much of vitamin C PCs antioxidant concentrate serum has (the one that does not contain retinol) cause they does not give this information to customers.

    Would you make a review on Ester-C serum with Vitamin E skin recovery complex from Derma E?. Apparently the ingredients are listed from higher to lower concentrations (I contacted their customers service and they say the product contains 5% of calcium ascorbate) but as Beautypedia review says, you cant trust this listing since is not properly done, fragance is listed as “citrus fragance” and lately as citrus oils or something like that. When I contacted their customers service they didnt specify which oils they use.

    As Nicki from future derm states theres a synergic action between vitamins C and E to protect skin from the sun, given the amounts of these ingredients in this serum, do you think thats possible?.

    Another thing that makes me doubt is that when I apply it all over my face there is a tight feeling (but for some reason my skin tone looks more even right away) like there was a lot of a film forming ingredient or a thickner. At first thought it was due to the xanthan gum it contains but its low in the ingredients list. Unfortunately with some products we have to play like it was a puzzle to know the “correct” ingredients order. Another issue is packaging, its transparent, but I keep it on its box and take it out just everytime im going to use it.

    I would really like to know if this is a good product cause its affordable (less than 15 dollars for 2 ounces) and contains several excellent ingredients: a form of vitamin C, green tea extract, vitamin E, Retinyl Palmitate….

    I follow you from Bolivia -yess you have readers here- Im biologist and really appreciate that beauty is taken seriously with scientifical back up as you do. Keep doing it.

    Thanks a lot!!

    Posted by Alejandra | May 22, 2012, 11:36 am
    • Thank you very much Alejandra! I’m glad to hear that I have a new and very enthusiastic reader!

      As for the Derma E product, unfortunately from a quick glance at the ingredients, I can’t say that it’s a very good product. The form of vitamin C, Calcium Ascorbate has no documented research behind it. Furthermore, it’s not even an ester. It’s chemically, a salt. I won’t get into the details of it all, but basically, not much benefit if any at all will come from it. The green tea is good, but there’s not much else to it. The tiny bits of vitamin E, and even less of vitamin A (both in ester forms and therefore have much weaker mechanisms of action) won’t do much else either. I wish I had better news, but it’s quite an average product. And yes Nicki is correct that vitamins C and E work synergistically, but like I said, not much vitamin C and E are available to work together.

      There’s no form filming agent in this product since the main base ingredients are water and glycerin.

      I can reassure you that this isn’t a great product. If you still don’t believe me yet, and have further questions or would like a full review done on this, please let me know.

      Thank you again for your support!

      Posted by John | May 23, 2012, 1:20 am
  6. I actually don’t mind the posts on Paula’s Choice products. I actually do like them – it’s nice to have reviews on her products from people who don’t blindly use and agree to the knowledge she effuses. I do agree with you, in that you don’t just have PC’s product reviews (you have plenty of other reviews!), I think it’s just that because you recommend them (Come Out With Your Skincare Routine, your own skincare routine, etc.), hehe XD

    But anyway, thanks for this review! I was wondering though, is there any benefit to using this product when I’m already using Differin (i.e. alternating them every other day)? I guess what I’m asking is, is there any benefit to using retinoic acid as well as adapalene? Or is using one or the other adequate?

    Posted by andillletyou | April 21, 2012, 5:49 pm
    • Hey there!

      I do recommend a lot of products from PC because they’re affordable and excellent in quality! Honestly, I have to many times, make a conscious effort to recommend products from other brands! Like I was saying to Isa, Paula’s product are almost all excellent across the board. It’s her information that isn’t always as consistent, but yeah, I’m glad you enjoyed the review!

      As for if there are additional benefits from tretinoin that aren’t available from adapalene, the short answer is no. Of course check with your dermatologist, but tretinoin binds to all types of RAR and RXR receptors. This leads to the expression of the benefits and irritation that comes with its use. Adapalene on the other hand, only binds selectively to 2 of the 3 RAR receptors, and none of the RXR rectors. This allows it to have the same benenfits, without the irritation. Several studies have confirmed this. Furthermore, it is more stable than tretinoin. So yeah, I think you should be fine with just the adapalene!

      Posted by John | April 22, 2012, 1:23 am
  7. Hey there!
    I tried a sample of this serum, really liked it and almost ordered it, but I have the feeling that retinol is irritating my skin. I think I read a comment where you suggested somebody with rosacea not to use it.
    I don’t know if I have rosacea, but I’ve always had “rosey” cheeks. But recently, they’ve become redder… and particularly one of them. I really doubt this is being caused by any of the other products I use for my skin because I make sure I stay away from fragance, alcohol and other irritants, I use mineral sunscreen most of the products have antioxidants and anti-irritants.
    I though retinol was the mildest of all retinoids… what are your thoughts on this?

    Anyhow, I think it’s great that you review PC’s products because I feel you put her products to the same test that she does… kind of like a cop watching another cop 🙂 And there aren’t that many reviews of her products out there anyway. So I’d say keep them coming, please.

    Posted by Isa | April 21, 2012, 4:55 pm
    • Thanks Isa! Fortunately, Paula’s product are almost all excellent across the board. It’s her information that isn’t always as consistent, but yeah, I’m glad you enjoyed the review!

      As for retinol being the mildest, it’s not actually the most mild. There are even weaker forms for retinoids, which are retinol esters like retinyl palmitate or retinyl acetate. However, the literature is contradictory when it comes to whether or not retinol esters are even effective at all. I’d say if you really want to use retinoids, stick with retinol. Just use a less potent product.

      And yes, I believe it was in Emma’s routine review that I said those with rosacea shouldn’t be using retinoids. That’s very true. I’d say if your really want to use retinoids because of the massive benefits, try applying it to one side of your face for a few days. If there’s a marked difference in redness/irritation on that side, then you’ll know for sure that it’s the retinol that’s making your skin go crazy!

      Hope that helped and thanks for commenting!

      Posted by John | April 22, 2012, 1:16 am

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