I have some stubborn pigmentation on my cheeks that I’ve been working on forever. Some are the result of sun damage from years of not wearing adequate sunscreen, resulting in sun spots over my cheekbones (not cute little freckles mind you), and some of the spots are hyperpigmentation from past acne. Now that I’ve gotten my skin to a healthier place, I’ve been wanting to fade some of the evidence of past damage. And even though I have a highly brightening skincare regimen, with pigmentation-fading ingredients such as niacinamide, arbutin, and vitamin C, lately I’ve been thinking of trying a more aggressive approach with acid exfoliation.
So when Cane + Austin approached me and generously offered one of their glycolic acid products to review, I was ready. After discussing their product offerings and my somewhat sensitive skin (it does get overexfoliated easily), the Cane + Austin team recommended their Retexture Pads, which contain 10% glycolic acid. Cane + Austin offer glycolic acid pads of varying potencies, with one product even claiming to deliver the equivalent of 30% glycolic acid (!), but 10% is already higher than most over-the-counter products on the market. 10% isn’t quite as strong as a peel, so these pads are marketed as daily-use exfoliation pads.
Beginner at Acid Exfoliation? Check out How to Use Acids in Your Skincare Routine.
Cane + Austin Retexture Pads Review
Before I jump into the review of this product, I need to first address the ingredient list, which has garnered some concern in online beauty circles because of the inclusion of acetone. Yes, this is the drying chemical we use to remove nail polish. Although acetone is believed to be safe to include in cosmetic products, it can be drying and irritating when used in higher concentrations.
In this case, acetone is nearly the last ingredient, and in my opinion, there’s a big difference between 100% acetone which you use on your nails, and the probably less than 1% that is used here (it comes after the preservative). Acetone is commonly used in professional peels before treatment because it de-greases the skin and allows it to absorb the peel solution better. However, I think that people have valid concerns when acetone is used in a daily-use product, because at least for me, irritation from acid products accumulates over time. Nevertheless, I was willing to give the product a try.
Other ingredients of concern include ammonium hydroxide (a buffering, pH-adjusting ingredient) and menthol. After reading up on ammonium hydroxide, it appears this is a common ph-adjusting ingredient in professional acid peels, so I can understand why it is present in a properly-formulated acid product. However, I do NOT see why menthol needs to be included, as it’s often irritating and confers no benefit to the skin.
The Cane + Austin Retexture 10% Glycolic Acid Pads do also include some antioxidant vitamins and urea to help moisturize the skin.
Keep in mind, I’m not a medical or skincare professional. I’m just a consumer like you trying to figure out the best products for my skin. If you feel uncomfortable using a product with certain ingredients in it, you know your skin best! For me personally, I’m more adventurous with my skin care now, but I probably would have been more cautious in the past when I had more problems with sensitivities and breakouts.
Water, Glycolic Acid, Ammonium Hydroxide, Hamamelis Virginiana (Witch Hazel) Water, Polysorbate-20, Phospholipids, Retinyl Palmitate (Vitamin A), Tocopheryl Acetate (Vitamin E), Ascorbyl Palmitate (Vitamin C), Ubiquinone (Coenzyme Q10), Disodium EDTA, Sodium Benzoate, Menthol, Acetone, Imidazolidinyl Urea.
The Cane + Austin Retexture Pads come soaked in a watery solution. The pads themselves are soft and thin, and you are supposed to swipe them gently over the skin twice daily. I found that the 10% glycolic acid solution tingled quite a bit when I put it on my face, before fading over a period of about 5 minutes as the solution dried. I expected that over the course of a few weeks use, the tingling would diminish, but it never did. It still tingled strongly every time I used them. After the solution dried on my face, my skin surprisingly didn’t feel dry, even though it did feel a little tender.
All acid exfoliation will, to some extent, damage your skin’s moisture barrier. To me, the tingling signaled that my skin was being slightly irritated, but I was careful not to let the tingling cross over into stinging territory. This meant that I couldn’t use the Cane + Austin Retexture Pads every day. The most often I was able to use them was every other day, and sometimes the irritation would be such that I needed to “rest” my skin 2 or 3 days between each use. I definitely would not be able to use these pads twice a day as the instructions indicate!
Despite the borderline irritation from the Cane + Austin Retexture Pads, they were incredibly effective. My husband remarked that over the 4 weeks I used them (every other day), my skin was looking smoother, and my dark spots were significantly lighter. He even said (unsolicited), “Honey, your skin is looking amazing!” So, well, there’s that ;).
My dark spots lightened more during the 4 weeks I used the Cane + Austin pads than during the entire year of using brightening ingredients in my regular skincare routine! I honestly wasn’t expecting this and I’m pretty happy about my results. I’m hoping that once I finish this jar of Retexture Pads, I’ll be able to maintain my progress with weekly gentle acid exfoliation. I’m actually feeling confident not wearing makeup to go out, which is awesome as I can get away with just sunscreen as the weather heats up this summer!
A Few Words of Caution
- Purging: I did have a little bit of purging in the second week, where small skin-colored bumps rose up on the surface of my skin. Actives such as glycolic acid can cause your skin to “purge” the clogged impurities in the pores, so I was expecting this. Because the bumps were not inflamed and did not seem to be red and irritated, I powered through and they disappeared for the most part before the 3rd week. HOWEVER, my skin tends to be pretty non-reactive when it comes to skincare products, and if you’re finding that your “purging” is really inflamed, I would discontinue use of this product.
- Moisturizing: I was also VERY careful to use many layers of hydrating products, creams and oils to restore my skin’s moisture after using the glycolic acid pads.
- SPF: Glycolic acid makes your skin more sensitive to the sun, so use a broad-spectrum sunscreen every day, without fail.
The Cane + Austin Retexture Pads 10% Glycolic Acid is not, in my opinion, a beginner acid product. If you’re just starting out with acid exfoliation, I’d highly recommend a gentler product with a lower glycolic acid concentration. Also, I wouldn’t suggest that ANYONE start with twice or even once-daily exfoliation. You’d be just asking for over-exfoliation in that case. As I mention in my post How To Use Acids In your Skincare Routine, it’s best to start with exfoliating every 3-4 days before ramping up to as often as your skin likes it.
However, if you’re careful to observe how your skin responds and adjust accordingly, the Cane + Austin Retexture Pads could be a very effective product.
Personally, the Cane + Austin Retexture Pads worked for me. I don’t know how comfortable I’d be with long-term use of these, because of the irritating ingredients, but I think the 10% pads work well as an intense brightening regimen to get a head start on brightening and smoothing your skin. I can see myself going through a jar of these once a year (probably in the winter so I don’t have to worry too much about the photosensitizing effects).
Buy It At
Sephora for $60.
I’m interested to know if you’d try a product even if it contains potentially irritating ingredients in hopes of getting dramatic results. Let me know in the comments!
I received this product free to review. As always, all reviews constitute my honest opinion.