Beautycounter developed a plant-based version of retinol for its Countertime skincare line — here's what it's like to use and why the dupe may be a safer option

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Beautycounter

  • Beautycounter's skin-care line called Countertime is made specifically for aging skin. It includes a proprietary plant-based substitute for retinol, a popular but potentially harmful skin-care ingredient.
  • I had the opportunity to try the Countertime set, and the products were gentle, hydrating, and easy to layer.
  • My skin did appear plumper, firmer, and better hydrated overall, with the Hydrating Essence ($59) and Tripeptide Radiance Serum ($79) being standouts for me.
  • There's no denying the prices are high ($49-$89 per bottle), but if that's comfortable for you, Countertime formulas are a great option for addressing signs of aging. 

Beautycounter, known for its clean beauty activism and strict policy of eschewing potentially harmful ingredients, has its first-ever skin-care line engineered specifically for aging skin: Countertime

Steering clear of the passé idea that women's worst fear and greatest sin is the audacity to age and show said aging, Beautycounter avoids billing Countertime as an "anti-aging" line and focuses instead on the desire to meet time on your own terms. That said, it's still a skin-care line designed to target the effects of time on the skin — just without the branded shame of aging.

For aging skin, Beautycounter's main concerns were strengthening the skin's natural barrier, increasing its ability to defend itself against environmental stressors, and visibly reducing fine lines and wrinkles by fortifying the skin's elasticity and firmness. 

In most skin-care lines designed for aging skin, you'll find retinol in the ingredients list. According to Harvard Health, retinoids are the most-used and most-studied anti-aging compounds. Their benefits include reducing fine lines and wrinkles by increasing collagen production, improving skin color by stimulating new blood vessels, and fading age spots and softening rough patches. However, Beautycounter decided to forgo adding retinol to Countertime due to concerns over its safety — citing internal and external studies that have shown potential for reproductive toxicity and general skin irritation (the latter a mainstream consumer complaint). 

Removing retinol from a debut collection designed specifically for aging skin leaves a big hole in the recipe. To fill it, Beautycounter tasked its lab of researchers with concocting something new that could safely — and effectively — fill the void. Flash forward many failed Frankensteins and lab tests later, and Beautycounter found success with a new retinol dupe it's calling the Retinatural Complex. Beautycounter credits the Complex with keeping skin plump and hydrated, increasing the feeling of firmness, reducing the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, boosting the skin's barrier function, improving texture and tone, and protecting against oxidative damage which can cause chronic disease

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Countertime products come in good-looking glass containers rather than plastic to cut the line's greenhouse gas footprint by an estimated 38%.
Beautycounter

The Retinatural Complex leans on two under-the-radar anti-aging plant essences: Bakuchiol and Swiss Alpine Rose.

Bakuchiol is a vegan, non-irritating retinol alternative, as explained by Allure in 2018. But, before then, it was used in traditional Chinese medicine and Ayurvedic skin-care remedies for centuries. Like retinol, clinical testing shows it increases cell turnover by stimulating collagen and diminishing skin concerns associated with aging like fine lines, wrinkles, photodamage, and skin laxity — all without the potentially harmful or irritating side-effects. 

Swiss Alpine Rose, on the other hand, grows at the highest altitudes of the Swiss Alps, and it's best-known for an uncanny ability to protect itself against environmental stressors and dehydration.

Beautycounter sent me Countertime products to test ahead of their launch, so I've compiled what each product does — and how they performed — below for reference. In general, they were gentle, effective, and easy to layer — a set you can realistically use in tandem. My skin seemed tighter, more "glowy", firmer, and plumper post-use. I don't wear foundation typically, but I've started to look forward to using this as a kind of makeup because it makes my skin look so dewy and fresh. However, it takes about three to six months for you to see a reduction in wrinkles with retinoids, and the exact number for the Retinatural Complex wasn't readily available, so only prolonged use will demonstrate if these are long-term results. The price range of $49-$89 is not ideal, but if you're willing to pay more for efficacy, clean ingredients, and daily luxury, you'll likely find this line to be worth it.

Another (less) important thing to note is that Countertime is a good-looking collection. But, more than that, it comes in glass bottles rather than plastic. According to Beautycounter, this will reduce the line's greenhouse gas footprint by an estimated 38%. You can also find easy-to-follow instructions on recycling on the packaging itself. 

skincare is a notoriously personal process, and what works for me may not work for you. If you do decide to try a Countertime product but you don't love it, Beautycounter's return policy online states that you can return the unused portion within 60 days from the ship date for your money back — though the company won't pay back original shipping and handling fees. 

Shop the Countertime collection here.

Keep reading for a personal review of the products I tried from the Countertime collection:

Countertime Lipid Defense Cleansing Oil

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Beautycounter

In person, this is a lightweight cleansing oil — probably exactly what you're thinking. If you want something gentle to remove makeup and grime without stripping your skin, this will do it. Ingredients like vitamin E, fatty acids, and the Retinatural Complex leave the skin feeling hydrated and clean.

It does its job well, but it would probably be lower on the list of products I'd restock for myself in terms of value for the price. I still like to double-cleanse, and I prefer to feel a bit more gentle resurfacing in a facial cleanser (like what you'd expect from AHAs and BHAs).

For nourishing makeup removers, I personally like Beautycounter's cleansing balm and a comparatively cheap, silky Bioderma micellar water.

Countertime Mineral Boost Hydrating Essence

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Beautycounter

 

This was one of the best products of the collection. Its combination of fermented sugars, mineral-rich seawater, and the Retinatural Complex made my skin look glowy, tight, and firm. The company cites a clinical study of 32 subjects where, immediately following a single application, the formula had improved the skin's barrier function (its main goal). 

Countertime Tripeptide Radiance Serum

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Beautycounter

After the mineral-rich essence, you massage this serum into your decolletage, neck, and face in upward motions. Peptides, amino acids, and the Retinatural Complex work together to support the skin's moisture barrier, improve hydration and radiance, diminish the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. Post-use, my skin looks glowy and firm, and it locks in the products underneath.

As I learned when a dermatologist critiqued my skin-care routine, serums are considered workhorse products. They deliver actives deep into the skin to target your specific concerns: fine lines, hyperpigmentation, etc. If you're only going to make one Countertime purchase and you really want to make it count, this is a good candidate. 

 

Countertime Antioxidant Soft Cream

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Beautycounter

True to its description, this is a soft and velvety cream. Alongside the Retinatural Complex,  nasturtium flower extract helps protect the skin against drying environmental stressors. It's lush, sinks into the skin without leaving any residue, and left me with a healthy, plump glow. Based on a 35-subject consumer perception study the company cites, 100% of participants agreed their skin looked brighter and more radiant after four weeks of use. I'd agree with them.

Countertime Tetrapeptide Supreme Cream

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Beautycounter

Alongside the Retinatural Complex, Beautycounter packed this overnight cream with tetrapeptide to increase skin elasticity and minimize the appearance of fine lines, and fermented sugars to optimize hydration in renewed skin cells. 

I wouldn't recommend spending $89 on an overnight cream unless it's a comfortable expense for you, but, in the off-chance that it is, this is one of the best for deep hydration without blocking pores in the process. It goes on as an unapologetically thick, rich night cream but it never clogged my acne-prone skin. In the morning, my skin felt hydrated — the happy place in between dry and oily — and firm. 

Countertime Ultra Renewal Eye Cream

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Beautycounter

The Retinatural Complex and Persian silk tree extract work together to reduce the appearance of under-eye shadows and crow's feet. In a 34-subject consumer perception study cited by the company, 91% said they experienced a brighter eye area and 94% saw a reduction in the appearance of crow's feet over the course of four weeks. In person, it's a medium-thickness cream that goes on smoothly, absorbs well, and makes the eyes appear brighter. I did wake up with slightly less puffy eyes post-application.

Eye creams can be expensive, but this one should last you for months. A little goes a long way.

Countertime Regimen Set

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Beautycounter

If you want to own the whole routine, you can buy it together in the Countertime Regimen Set ($267)

If you're just looking to buy the highlights and save yourself some money, I'd recommend checking out the Essence, Serum, and Supreme Cream first. 

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