Maya Chia The Straight A Review (Before + After Photos)

March 2, 2021 (updated February 17, 2023) — Written by

Maya Chia released The Straight A Advanced Gentle Retinol Treatment in 2019. I got a sample of it in the mail before it even released. Little did I know, this retinol treatment was about to rock my world. I’m talking brighter skin, a more even skin tone, better skin texture and a reduction in fine lines…in just days. Here’s my full review of the Maya Chia The Straight A (with before + after photos).

Woman holding bottle of retinol Maya Chia Straight A

Retinol is a newer ingredient to the better beauty scene. We see it here and there, like in Marie Veronique’s Treatment Retinol Serum, in some African Botanics’ products and most recently via Josh Rosebrook’s Active Infusion Oil. But it’s definitely not ubiquitous. 

Part of the reason for this may be due to the fact that retinol is a lab synthetic and some healthy beauty brands may not believe this ingredient fits into their all-natural ethos. 

Another reason may be that often, retinol comes pre-preserved with ingredients like BHA or BHT. If BHA was added during processing, companies are required to have a Prop 65 warning on their website and box for CA customers (source). But companies may not always be compliant. More on safe retinol here

However, with greener technology, we are now seeing options for retinol that’s BHA-free and BHT-free like “Retinaldehyde,” “Phospholipids (and) Retinol” (liposomal retinol or encapsulated retinol), and retinol with soybean oil or tocopherol in the formula.

And that’s what we see here in Maya Chia The Straight A Retinol Serum

Maya Chia founder Susanne Norwitz gives us the deets on The Straight A, “Phospholipids & Retinol is the INCI name on the package. ‘Retinol’ is the scientific name and it’s combined with phospholipids (encapsulation for a slow release of retinol) in a carrier oil. But that’s not all it’s got up its sleeve. This formula also includes an oil soluble, shelf-stable vitamin C, vitamin E AND bakuchiol, as well as moth bean extract to augment the effects.”

RELATED: Read my review on Maya Chia’s new lash and brow serum and on Maya Chia’s SUPER NAKED face oil.

There are several things that make Maya Chia’s The Straight A stand out from the rest: 

  • BHA/BHT-free encapsulated retinol. 
  • Uses a healthy base of oils instead of cheap fillers and synthetics. 
  • Includes botanical activities like vitamin C, bakuchiol, moth bean extract and more. 
  • It’s results driven. 

And I’m not the only one who thinks so. I recently polled The New Knew readers on IG and the response was pretty much unanimous… 

Instagram messages from using Maya Chia Straight A

Also, this glowing review from a reader:

RELATED: A Look at Retinol in Organic Skincare

The Maya Chia Straight A Retinol Serum experience  

Lisa holds up a bottle of Maya Chia Straight A retinol.

The Straight A is officially considered an OTC retinol meaning you can buy it without a prescription. Because of this, it’s less likely to cause irritation, redness and peeling compared to RX retinol. But don’t get it twisted. It’s a real retinol, not a plant-based retinol or even a “natural” retinol.  

And as someone who is innately EXTRA (i.e. never just a bite of chocolate, always the entire bar. Never just a walk around the block, always a full sweat workout. Never just let me pick out a new couch… *spends rest of life committed to finding the best couch*), I can say with 100% assurance that this formula is definitely “enough” retinol for me. 

I committed to using this oil as my moisturizer (both day and night) for 30 days. And I did. NO CHEATS! Through the entire experience, my skin felt “fine.” I didn’t experience any peeling, redness or flakiness—thank goodness—and my skin looked great the entire time. 

RELATED: Yes, you can use retinol during the day!

However, I definitely FELT the retinol working. Some days my skin felt dry and irritated. Other days it didn’t. It wasn’t anything unbearable, but it was an on-and-off, v. low-grade irritation for sure. 

After using it for 30 straight days, I can personally say I wouldn’t be able to handle anything stronger on 2X a day basis. That being said, I can use it 1X daily or every other day comfortably. However this is just my experience, finding the right frequency will be different for everyone.

Through out the entire trial, I often found myself layering healing balms like KHUS KHUS’s THE FIX or supplementing my routine with manuka masks.  

I used The Straight A for 30 days straight (pun intended)

Retinol treatment serum from Maya Chia Straight A

I originally committed to using an entire bottle of The Straight A. Susanne told me a bottle would last about 3 months (aka 90 days). I really wanted to see those 90-day before and after pics but after 30 days, my skin needed a break. And while I’m not a quitter, I decided to honor how my skin was feeling. 

Also, for the record, I have normal skin. It’s not sensitive at all, so depending on your skin type, you may have a different experience. 

The other thing to take into consideration is I’ve been using The Straight A intermittently leading up to this. I didn’t go into this trial cold turkey; I built up to it gradually and slowly. 

If you try this oil, I recommend doing the same. I personally think starting with it as your night treatment every night or every other night and adjusting from there, depending on how your skin feels, is a good plan. I do not recommend going balls to the wall with a FULL THROTTLE approach like this 30 day trial. 

I also tried to remember to use sunscreen during the day to get some truer results. If I went outside for an extended period of time, I definitely did. But my at-home office is also our sun room, which gets a lot of natural light, and I didn’t always wear sunscreen while I was working. 

Oh! One last thing…try to remember to apply it to your neck and the back of your hands too! Your future self will thank you! 

RELATED: These 3 Are Our Maya Chia Faves!

Maya Chia review: The Straight A (before and after pics)

Note: All of these pics are unedited, shot in natural light, in the same spot of my house and at the same time of day. 

At two weeks: 

woman two weeks after using retinol maya chia
Before (left) and after (right) 2 weeks of using Maya Chia Straight A.

At 30 days: 

a side by side shot of before and 30 days after a woman used Maya Chia straight A retinol treatment
Before (left) & after (right) 30 days of using Maya Chia Straight A.
Woman before using retinol
BEFORE The Straight A [full frame].
woman after 30 days of using Maya Chia Straight A
AFTER 30 days of using The Straight A [full frame].

Reader FAQs Answered

1. How does The Straight A compare to Josh Rosebrook’s Active Infusion Oil or African Botanics?

The Straight A has a stronger percentage of retinol and will fast track your results. I know this because I’ve tried all of these products and I have felt and seen the difference the fastest with TSA. The other indicator is that retinol is listed second on the TSA ingredient list while retinol is listed in the middle of both Active Infusion Oil + on AB products. (Ingredients are typically listed in order of most % to least %).

The TSA is a great option for people with normal skin while someone with more sensitive skin may prefer to opt for something more gentle like these other two options.

2. How long does a bottle last? I want to know if I can stock pile!

Susanne said it will remain potent (unopened) for one year. Stock up girl!

3. I can see the difference in your hyperpigmentation but that’s it. What else did you experience?

It’s hard for the camera to catch that glow but thanks to that amped up cell turnover, my skin is definitely more glowing and it’s not dull in the least. I even had one reader reach out to me last week on IG stories and ask me what I was using lately because my skin has been glowing. I’m like I KNOW, RIGHT?!

4. How do you use it?

Great question. I would sub this for your nightly moisturizer. Try it out every night or every other night at first and adjust as you go. If it feels comfortable at every other night, boost it up to every night. Or if it feels like too much then take it down to every third night. An example of a night time routine can look like this:

👉oil cleanse to take off makeup
👉second cleanse to clean skin
👉The Straight A (remember to include your neck too!)
*Optional balm or cream if you feel you need more.

HOPE THIS HELPS! Happy to clarify as always.

RELATED: Here’s my review on Maya Chia’s Advanced Repair Complex.

xo, lisa in cursive

Maya Chia Straight A
  • Price
  • Ingredients
  • Effectiveness


My TOP pick for real retinol in a clean beauty base. An advanced, gentle retinol treatment that works wonders on your skin, leaves skin hydrated and reduces fine lines.



  • Super-effective
  • Immediate results
  • BHA/BHT-free encapsulated retinol
  • Uses a healthy base of oils
  • Includes vitamin C, bakuchiol, moth bean extract and more


  • Available mostly online

By Lisa Fennessy

Lisa is the founder of The New Knew. Passionate about clean beauty, organic eats and nontoxic lifestyle, Lisa writes to create awareness. Conscious consumerism and informed decisions will impact the marketplace, our health and THE WORLD!


  1. Reply


    Safe to use during breastfeeding & pregnancy?

    1. Reply


      Hi Emily! I would hold off until you are done with both pregnancy and breastfeeding. Retinol is not recommended for use during that time. Feel free to consult with your doc to confer. xo, Lisa

  2. Reply

    Michelle Smith

    Can you walk me through a nightly routine that includes the straight A? I am currently using a rotation of true botanicals products on some nights and bukochial products -Graydon, Bluh Alchemy, or Lilfox- on other nights. Would I just replace the serums with the straight A? Is there an ingredient I should avoid in the night routine if I begin using the straight A? Thanks!!

    1. Reply


      Hi Michelle! Great question! I am unaware of any ingredient to avoid while using TSA. I would sub this for your nightly moisturizer. Try it out every night or every other night at first and adjust as you go. If it feels comfortable at every other night, boost it up to every night. Or if it feels like too much then take it down to every third night. An example of a night time routine can look like this:

      👉oil cleanse to take off makeup
      👉second cleanse to clean skin
      👉The Straight A (remember to include your neck too!)
      *Optional balm or cream if you feel you need more.

  3. Reply

    Tracey McGee

    Lisa, does it expire? I’m wondering if I should get two bottles bc of the discount but wouldn’t want that unopened one to go bad. Of course that’s a gamble in case it doesn’t work for me but it’s such a cost savings. Any thoughts?

    1. Reply


      Hi Tracey! I just checked in about this today and Susanne said it will last 1 year unopened! xo, Lisa

  4. Reply


    Lisa, do you know the percentage of retinol in TSA?

    1. Reply


      She did tell me but it’s proprietary. I can tell you it’s less than RX retinol but definitely a higher strength than Josh Rosebrook’s or Marie Veronique’s. Hope this helps! xo, Lisa

  5. Reply


    Hi Lisa, I just started using the Straight A and I can already see improvement in my skin! I use it every night and the only issue is that I feel a bit of tightness during the day. I would love your opinion on what moisturizer to use. I am 51 with dry skin (a bit of combination) and I already use Le Prunier Plum oil. I am trying to decide between the Maya Chia Advanced Response Complex and the Khus Khus The Fix. I haven’t used either. I do double oil cleansing at night and I would love to use as few products as possible. Hoping I don’t need a serum as well! Would love your advice! Many thanks!

    1. Reply

      Lisa Fennessy

      Hi Helena! Love that you are getting results! Okay I know what you mean about the tightness. Out of these options I would recommend the Maya Chia Advance Response Complex. It has all the building blocks to help repair skin during the day BUT ASLO it has water (actual hydration) in it while Plum Beauty Oil and The Fix do not. Hope this helps! xo, Lisa

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