If you know anything about skincare, you know about retinol – one of the buzziest ingredients on the market. A form of vitamin A, it’s a star in many people’s beauty routines, known to help with acne and reducing wrinkles. But it’s not without downsides, including increased sun sensitivity, irritation and being unsafe for pregnant people.

Moving towards more nurturing ingredients, New Zealand luxury skincare brand Emma Lewisham has a different approach – one that aims for retinol’s high performance without the drawbacks. Enter its Supernatural Face Oil, a formula recently proven to achieve retinol-like results (and more) while using natural extracts in place of synthesised retinol.

To validate its claims, the eponymous brand conducted an in-vitro study (that is, on cells in a test tube, rather than people) last month with independent laboratory Trinity Bioactives, testing its Supernatural Face Oil against retinol at a one per cent concentration. The study set out to verify which complex was most effective in stimulating collagen production as well as reducing its degradation (an equally important aspect), and the results were groundbreaking, showing the oil outperforms one per cent retinol in both ways.

“I think it’s so exciting because I haven’t honestly seen an alternative to retinol that’s actually proven in the market and I feel that it will be a real breakthrough that will really shine,” founder Emma Lewisham tells Broadsheet.

The data – which is yet to be published or peer-reviewed – shows the innovative oil creates a third more fibroblast cells. These vital cells synthesise collagen and assist in healing wounds and other skin damage. The oil also inhibits the activity of matrix metalloproteinases, a class of enzymes responsible for collagen degradation – which the brand’s head of R&D, Erin Barlow, tells Broadsheet is the “key second piece of the puzzle”.

To achieve these results, the product uses “ingredients that are found in nature but also in our bodies … working first with the skin’s own nature,” Lewisham says.

The formula consists of 15 natural ingredients, including plant cell chloroplasts (the powerhouse organelle responsible for photosynthesis and other types of synthesis) and bakuchiol (a well-known plant extract with retinol-like properties). It’s pregnancy-safe and suitable for all skin types.

“I think what’s interesting is that bakuchiol has been used before in products, but it hasn't been paired in the right way… so that’s what’s really novel about the product,” Lewisham says.

Barlow says the powerful individual ingredients complement one another and achieve a higher level of efficacy than a single ingredient working in isolation. The brand calls this the “Physiology Synchrony Unlock Method”.

“Often with single-ingredient-led approaches, you may interact with a single point of an entire spiderweb. That in general means that you’d need to use concentrations that could be high enough to irritate the skin,” Barlow says. With the Unlock Method, “working or interacting at multiple points of multiple processes” within the skin’s physiology helps unlock the potential for high, efficacious results without compromising other aspects of the skin.

Apart from delivering firmer, brighter and more hydrated skin, massaging a few drops of this oil to the face, neck and chest is also meant to help with improving and maintaining a healthy skin barrier (the layer of skin between your internal and external environments) – essential for your skin’s regulation and protection.


We hope you like the products we recommend on Broadsheet. Our editors select each one independently. Broadsheet may receive an affiliate commission when you follow some links.