FAQ

That's the naturally-occurring color of the most effective and gentle retinol on Earth!

All retinoids are derived from Vitamin A––which is a cousin of beta-Carotene, the bright orange molecule that gives carrots and other vegetables their color. Protocol uses retinol in its bioactive (or as we call it "enzyme-active") state, called retinal. This is the form that is naturally created by your skin when you apply regular Vitamin A retinol to it. This form is naturally bright, powdery yellow!

Yes, yes and of course!

We went to great lengths to source the two most-commonly animal-derived ingredients––lactic acid, usually derived from milk, and hyaluronic acid, usually derived barbarically from rooster combs :( ––from beets and cashews. There wasn't really a temptation to add gluten to our products, since there is no benefit to the skin. In addition, in the days of Instagram, where there are thousands of willing skincare enthusiasts who are excited to try free products, brands really need to go out of their way to test on animals. We are proud to have had the best interest of our fellow Earth inhabitants in mind since Day 1.

Orders usually ship by the following weekday with free ground shipping from our Los Angeles lab or one of our three distribution centers. Transit time should be 2-5 business days in the continental U.S. in normal conditions.

Our products are lab-made with painstaking attention to detail by trained technicians. This means our quality (and customer service) are unparalleled, but it also means that we do sell out beyond our capacity on occasion (with big press features, pandemic shutdowns, etc.). There are occasions where delays will be as long as 10 days from order to delivery. We will always try specify if this is the case. Please see the International Shipping for details on non U.S. orders.

Only if it hasn't already been processed––double-check before you submit your order!

If you have incorrectly entered your shipping address, please contact us immediately at hello@protocol-lab.com and we will do our best to accommodate. Please note that we cannot modify your shipping address once the order has reached the fulfillment stage. We are also unable to redirect a package once it has shipped. However, depending on the carrier that was selected for your address (we routinely use USPS, UPS and DHL), you may be able to contact the delivery service and change your address for a fee.

Our quick perspective on "clean beauty"...

We would say that the "clean" beauty movement has your best interest in mind, but we don't think it does. Behind the movement are a handful of advertising-filled blogs and skincare brands that are making millions from the movement every year.

The idea of a "clean" beauty product is based on a misunderstanding of basic science and biology. The concept suggests that certain ingredients or molecules are "toxic" or otherwise harmful by nature and thus should not be included in skincare products. Interestingly, both the clean beauty movement and the scientific community agree that an ingredient is "toxic" if it harms a human cell when it comes into contact with it. By this definition however, Vitamin C, water and many other natural nutrients should also be defined as "toxic." Like almost every demonized ingredient in the clean beauty movement, water and Vitamin C, when applied in the wrong doses are harmful to human cells. In fact, every year people die of water and Vitamin C "toxicity" by exposing their bodies to too much of either. As we say in the science world, "the dose makes the poison." This is the case for the vast majority of ingredients that are condemned by the "clean beauty" industry: they are harmful only if there is too much of them resulting in their becoming harmful to cells in your body. There are certain exceptions of course like lead, arsenic, mercury, etc. which are harmful even in extremely small doses. However, these elements are very well known and mostly outlawed (even in the unregulated skincare industry).

We love the impulse to do research and to know what's ACTUALLY in your products! But we encourage you to do that research with your doctor or at least an online dermatologist like Dr. Dray or Doctorly, two of our favorites. But, yes, our products do not contain harmful amounts or types of any ingredient and of course no known super toxic chemicals like lead or mercury. Our ingredients are also vegan/plant based and our key ingredients are in their naturally-occurring/bioavailable forms, unlike many of the synthetic molecules included in top "clean" beauty products. (Side note: technically the ingredients that are condemned by the clean beauty industry are "toxicants." "Toxins" are, by definition, compounds that are created by living organisms, e.g., botulism toxin or "botox" or the toxin that causes tetanus.)

Los Angeles, with some components made in Denver, Portland, Phoenix and Miami.

We source key components of our formulas from different parts of the United States, based on where we can most efficiently achieve the highest level of quality. But the final products are created in our Lab just outside of Los Angeles.

Ok! (Email us if you'd like to see more)

The ability of Vitamin C in a preserved, L-Ascorbic Acid form has the ability to boost collagen creation, reduce hyperpigmentation and repair other various skin malfunctions and damage. (Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology: Vitamin C Cutaneous Effectiveness)

The enzyme-active form of retinol (retinal) has comparable anti-aging effects to retinoic acid (prescription retinol) but without the drying and inflammation. Regular retinol has 1/20th bio-available potency.  (Journal of Clinical Interventions in Aging: Overview of Clinical Effectiveness)

Glycolic acid aids in collagen production, water retention and amplifies the clinical effects of retinoids. (Clinics in Dermatology: Hydroxy Acids and Retinoids)

Retinal (the Enzyme-Actve form of retinol) is more effective than $3,000 dermatology-grade chemical peel. (C. Rouvrais. Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology 2018 Dec;17(6):1136-1143)

You'll get detailed instructions with your order, but...Vitamin C Superserum in the morning, and Enzyme-Active Retinol Serum at night. Cleanse whenever you want and moisturize as often as possible.

The proper order for any skincare routine is to cleanse (BHA followed by AHA if you use both), then choose ONE "focus" active (like Vitamin C or Retinol, usually in serum form) then moisturize. Just keep in mind your skin can only absorb so much at a given moment.

How to operate our space-age bottle:

They are!

Glass bottles are easily recyclable (or reusable!) and any plastic components are #2 plastic––which is accepted by most curbside recycling programs in America. However, given that over 70% of recyclable materials that go into U.S. curbside programs are shipped to other countries that may or may not end up ACTUALLY recycling them, we strongly recommend finding a local co-op or private recycling program for all of your recycling to ensure proper handling. Protocol is developing a reusable bottle to minimize resource waste further as we speak!

Our typical client only buys the Complete Line 2-3 times per year, and that's a great way to do it.

We would love for you to re-up on all of our products over and over as soon as you run out! However, unlike most beauty products where the benefits disappear when you stop using them, our products are built to have a real, LASTING improvements to your skin's appearance. Because of this, we have many clients who purchase the Complete Line for just a couple "renewing sessions" per year with individual product purchases along the way as desired. The most cost-effective way to do this is to subscribe to the Complete Line and set it to renew every 6 months.

We designed them with those in mind!

Rosacea is technically a medical condition so we need to recommend that you consult your physician before making any adjustments to your skincare routine or medications. That said, we have numerous clients who have described having sensitive skin or rosacea (or both) and who have found great success using our products. In most cases, this required slowly introducing one product at a time to allow their skin to adjust to new stimuli. However, some clients who have reacted to literally all other forms of retinol serums, for example, were able to dive into using the Enzyme-Active Retinol Serum daily without issue. It's all a matter of listening to your skin and giving it time to adapt. We believe the patience is worth the exceptional benefits in the long run.

Retinoids are indicated for blemish control and we use what we think is the best retinoid on Earth! AHAs are just meant for resurfacing though.

Acne is a medical condition and so we recommend that you consult your physician or dermatologist with any questions about acne-control. However, we can say that many of our clients have described a "life-changing" impact on ongoing issues with breakouts. The bioactive form of retinol in our serum is shown in third-party clinical studies to be up to 20x more effective and potent than regular retinol and very similar in effect to prescription retinol (though without the drying). Do feel free to send your dermatologist a link to our retinol. They usually end up buying some for themselves. ;) With that said, we do recommend that you continue using your routine acne cleanser on top of our double AHA cleanser. Acne cleansers are usually salicylic acid, soluble BHA, which penetrates more deeply than the AHAs––which are meant for precise resurfacing and renewal of your skin. The ideal order is to start with a basic salicylic and follow it up with an AHA.

Enzyme-Active Retinol is the precursor to retinoic acid (prescription retinol), meaning your skin converts it to retinoic acid as soon as it's applied.

We of course need to recommend that you consult your physician with this exact question and generally ignore what skincare companies have to say. However, we can say that in head-to-head studies (below) the enzyme-active form of retinol (retinal) performed as well or better than prescription retinoic acid at reducing wrinkles, boosting collagen and removing hyperpigmentation.

A small, out-of-character (and short term) breakout, caused by the retinol purification process, that only happens...when you need it to.

Pure, high-potency forms of retinol are known to return dozens of your vital skin processes to their youthful, high-functioning states. Retinoids work to exfoliate, boost collagen production, increase cell reproduction rate (also called "turnover" rate), repair imperfections and, on the topic at hand, removes impurities. During this purification process, some clients will see a small temporary breakout that will seem out of character for your skin (in a different area of face or a with different type of blemishes), called "retinol purging. "As described by the dermatologists in this Healthline Article, retinol purging is the necessary step on the way to revealing younger, bouncier, more even skin. And the best thing to do is to push through it. If you experience this it should only last a few days to a week before clearing up and on the other side awaits a fresher, clearer, more youthful complexion than ever before.

Yep!

In general, we're a big fans of giving our full line a try totally on its own. Many products out there are what we call "ingredient bombs," that are full of poorly formulated ingredients that have no intention of actually being absorbed. These products will coat and overload your skin preventing it from absorbing the few, key ingredients that ACTUALLY can be used by your skin to make a big difference. Feel free to contact us with any specific questions for products you'd like to use in tandem. The only element that we commonly recommend adding to the Complete Line is a salicylic acid (BHA) cleanser, which is better suited for deep cleansing (while our cleanser is built for resurfacing).

Eye creams/serums are a marketing gimmick and a sure sign that a company does not have your best interest in mind!

The skin around your eyes is very different from the rest of the skin on your face. It's much more reactive and delicate and...it's next to your eyes. Thus, the majority of eye-focused products on the market contain ingredients that don't trigger this reaction but also do much else. Let's take collagen peptides and caffeine––two of the most common eye-cream ingredients––for instance. Putting collagen ON your skin is like putting gasoline ON your car. Your skin can't absorb or utilize it other than as a basic moisturizer. Collagen must be produced from within by things like Vitamin C and retinoids! Caffeine, another common ingredient, is included because of this logic of helping with "tired" looking eyes. Topical caffeine functions as an antioxidant but one that is only a fraction as effective as Vitamin C. Thus, it's best to stick with basic moisture around your eyes or to (ask your doctor and) apply the same go-to active ingredients that you use on the rest of your skin, like Vitamin C and a good retinoid!

If you thought of this, you get a gold star.

It's true that the most effective forms of retinol and vitamin C are EXTREMELY sensitive to light and air (and, no, there aren't "stabilized" forms of these, contrary to what many brands claim––ferulic acid just mildly extends the life of ascorbic acid before it turns brown and sour). Luckily, your skin absorbs these ingredients in their pure form faster than they degrade if properly applied to a damp, freshly cleansed face! Our serums are formulated specifically to optimize absorption even further. That said, your skin does do its best absorption in the dark. So might as well stay out of direct sunlight for 30 minutes after you apply any quality ingredient.

Not at this time.

Because our bottling process is so technically complicated, we have not found it to be economically viable yet to produce free samples. We encourage you to read our reviews and comments on Facebook ads for further evidence of the effectiveness and value of our products!

As with all topical products, we recommend all women who are pregnant or nursing speak with their physician before purchasing.

However, we know that it is generally recommended to avoid any Vitamin A-derived products (like retinol) or medications while pregnant or nursing.