Why we use Retinal · Cipher Skincare Skip to main content



known as retinal, retinaldehyde, retinoid

source synthetic

function cell-communicating, rejuvenating, antibacterial

find it in


Retinal, or retinaldehyde, is a gold-standard vitamin A active that targets multiple skin concerns simultaneously. By interacting with receptors inside keratinocytes, retinal promotes the proliferation of new cells.1 Our dermis begins to diminish as we age and retinal works to strengthen and restore its function. Expect visible improvements in skin smoothness, tone, elasticity, and clarity for a completely rejuvenated look.

Retinal is the most potent retinoid available without a prescription. Like other cosmetic retinoids (retinol) it is a precursor to vitamin A. It is absorbed into the skin and metabolized to its active form, retinoic acid. The difference between the two is that retinol goes through two conversion steps to become retinoic acid where retinal undergoes a single step.1 Because of this, visible effects of retinal are many times that of retinol while still being very well tolerated. In fact, retinal has proven to be less irritating than prescription retinoids while providing equivalent results2 and is uniquely effective at improving the appearance of acne.3

Retinoids and Short Contact Therapy (SCT)
What is Short Contact Therapy?

SCT is a topical application technique where we limit the amount of time a beneficial, yet potentially irritating, ingredient is left in contact with the skin. Contact time usually ranges from 30 seconds to 30 minutes depending on formula design, active concentration, and skin tolerance. Then, the treatment is gently rinsed or washed from the skin as directed.

Why do it?

SCT lets sensitive skins tolerate actives they otherwise could not. For tolerant skins, it lets us increase active concentration or usage frequency for faster, more significant results.

Potent active ingredients can sometimes cause contact dermatitis (irritated, red, flaky, bumpy skin)—especially high concentrations of retinoids. Using retinoids via SCT treatment can reduce chance of irritation by an impressive 75%.4

Will it be less effective if I wash it off?

Nope! Studies show using retinoids in the SCT method can provide “at least a comparable clinical efficacy in comparison with the standard application modality.”5 In other words, leaving prescription tretinoin on skin overnight only increased irritation, not results. Results of SCT treatment were equal (or better!) with a dramatically improved tolerability profile.

These impressive studies were the inspiration for 88mph—a potent fit-for-purpose SCT treatment to maximise both results and tolerability of retinal.


[1] Zasada, M., & Budzisz, E. (2019). Retinoids: active molecules influencing skin structure formation in cosmetic and dermatological treatments. Advances In Dermatology And Allergology, 36(4), 392-397. doi: 10.5114/ada.2019.87443

[2] Creidi, P., Vienne, M., Ochonisky, S., Lauze, C., Turlier, V., Lagarde, J., & Dupuy, P. (1998). Profilometric evaluation of photodamage after topical retinaldehyde and retinoic acid treatment. Journal Of The American Academy Of Dermatology, 39(6), 960-965. doi: 10.1016/s0190-9622(98)70270-1

[3] Pechère, M., Pechèreb, J., Siegenthalera, G., Germaniera, L., & Saurat, J. (1999). Antibacterial Activity of Retinaldehyde against Propionibacterium acnes. Dermatology, 199(Suppl. 1), 29-31. doi: 10.1159/000051375

[4] Veraldi, S., Barbareschi, M., Benardon, S. and Schianchi, R., 2013. Short contact therapy of acne with tretinoin. Journal of Dermatological Treatment, 24(5), pp.374-376.

[5] Bertolani, M., Rodighiero, E., Gandolfi, M., Lotti, T., Pedrazzi, G., Puviani, M., Milani, M., Feliciani, C. and Satolli, F., 2021. Efficacy and tolerability of short contact therapy with tretinoin, clindamycin, and glycolic acid gel in acne: A randomized, controlled, assessor-blinded two-center trial: The MASCOTTE study. Dermatologic Therapy, 34(1).

Explore More

ascorbyl tetraisopalmitate

Ascorbyl Tetraisopalmitate

Ascorbyl Tetraisopalmitate is the tetraester of ascorbic acid and isopalmitic acid. It is a clinically proven, stable, oil-soluble vitamin C derivative. It offers…
diglucosyl gallic acid

Diglucosyl Gallic Acid

An innovative biotech molecule activated by the skin's microbiome. It acts on seven biological targets to visibly brighten, calm, and protect skin from…
Stearyl Glycyrrhetinate glycyrrhetinic acid glycyrrhiza glabra licorice root extract glabridin

Glycyrrhiza Glabra (Licorice) Root Extract

A whole-root licorice extract standardized for its anti-inflammatory glycyrrhizinic acid content. It is great for sensitive skin and boasts antioxidant, brightening, and skin…
olive oil unsaponifiables

Hydrogenated Olea Europaea (Olive) Oil Unsaponifiables

Hydrogenated Olea Europaea (Olive) Oil Unsaponifiables and Hydrogenated Ethylhexyl Olivate form a light, soft lipid. Derived from olive oil, it's a natural ester…