"There's definitely no one 'correct' way to do skin care," Tyler Gaul, one of two founders of the new skincare brand Protocol, tells The Zoe Report over email. "I'm definitely of the belief that skincare routines are meant to be customized based on experimentation and seeing how your specific skin type behaves and responds." That said, there's a clear sense of ritual — and experimentation — that saturates Protocol's lineup; though, as Gaul notes, how you approach its pre-established routine is up to you.
The brand arrived online Oct. 30 with four products that fit into its first, finely curated drop, titled the Renewing Line: a Double Alpha Hydroxy Cleanser ($48), Oxidated Retinol Serum ($88), Vitamin C Superserum ($72), and Hyaluronic Acid & Niacinamide Hydration Cream ($54). "The Renewing Line was built to work together and to include all of the most important skincare ingredients in a single routine. We wanted to make it so that you wouldn't need anything outside of it if possible — though we know a lot of people have their go-to faves that they'll want to add to the routine," Gaul explains.
But the four core products answer the main "renewing" objectives Protocol set out to accomplish with its first line; the vitamin C evens out your skin, while the moisturizer and retinoid-friendly cleanser deep clean and hydrate. Then, there's the fact Protocol wants to help your skin produce as much collagen as possible — which is completed by the Oxidated Retinol.
"Oxidated Retinol is our proprietary formula built to stabilize the oxidate form of retinol, also called retinal (with an 'a'). This oxidate form of retinol is the intermediary molecule that is created when you apply regular retinol (aka vitamin A) to the skin. Enzymes in the skin cleave the molecule of a few atoms to produce the oxidate form," Gaul says — adding that your skin has to convert any retinol into "Oxidated Retinol" and then retinoic acid, "which is the form that is actually useful to the skin cells."
"In the conversion process, retinol is estimated to only convert 1/20th of its concentration into Oxidated Retinol, making it only a fraction as effective as applying Oxidated Retinol directly to the skin. The rest of the retinol is converted into the 'storage' form of the molecule called retinyl palmitate. Because so much conversion is happening, retinol also tends to have a drying, inflammatory effect as well," he notes (notorious skincare symptoms that'll sound familiar to longtime retinol users).
Fans of retinol and vitamin C — which yes, can be used together — will know that both are infamously fragile, too. "The issue is that these molecules are also extremely delicate and sensitive to any exposure to oxygen, UV light of any kind, and even temperature changes," Gaul explains. "Thus, unless you produce, bottle, and store serums containing these molecules in an environment that's totally free of oxygen and UV light — if any part of that chain isn't perfect — the molecules won't survive by the time they get to your skin."
Spoiler alert: Protocol did just that. The brand created an airless, UV-proof "orange ingredient fortress" that properly safeguards and pumps the volatile skincare products. But hunting down a manufacturer who was up to creating the unique dispenser — and then, you know, creating it — took time. "We found a group in Mississippi of all places who had a prototype they were working with that had a foil pouch contained in UV-proof plastic," Gaul adds. "We worked with them to adapt that into the bottle you see on our site. All told it took about 6 months of working together."
But all of the products' details — the airless pumps, the clever retinol — work in tandem, and have a "compounding effect when combined together," according to Gaul. To shop individual products, visit Protocol's website. Ahead, Protocol's new Renewing Line bundle.