For enhanced results

The science of cosmetic chemistry is a fascinating one. 

While we work with completed skincare formulations, the power of serums that provide individual ingredients in high concentrations can accelerate skin improvement if used correctly.

In recent times there is a move in skin therapy to combine actives in pursuit of a synergistic effect. 

As we know, the theory of synergy when it comes to cosmetic chemistry is based on the concept that the combined value and performance of two substances will be greater than the sum of the separate individual parts.

So, which ingredients can provide a synergistic benefit when combined, and which ones will weaken and compromise their efficacy and should never be paired?  In the upcoming APJ Journal issue 52, we explore these issues in depth.

This article highlights only some of the key considerations presented in the journal article. Specifically, we will look at the effective and non-effective ways of pairing Retinol, as this is a common practice in skin clinics. But first, a quick summary of retinol, what it is and how it works with skin cells.

Retinol and Skin Improvement

As we know retinol is one of the best-known skincare ingredients on the market with extensive studies supporting the benefit for skin improvement. 

An over-the-counter (OTC) version of retinoids, retinol is derived from vitamin A and is primarily used to treat mature-looking skin concerns as well as acne.

That said, retinol is not the same product as prescription retinoids, which are more powerful.

However, retinol is still the strongest OTC version available, compared with OTC retinoids such as retinaldehyde and retinyl palmate.

Retinol has many potential skincare benefits, but there are side effects to consider, too.

How it Works

Retinol is a type of retinoid, which is made from vitamin A.

Its small molecular structure allows retinol to go deep beneath the epidermis to your dermis. Once in this middle layer of skin, retinol helps neutralise free radicals. This helps boost the production of elastin and collagen, which creates a “plumping” effect that can reduce the appearance of fine lines, wrinkles and enlarged pores.  

While retinol is also sometimes used to help treat acne as well as related scarring, severe acne is usually treated via a prescription retinoid along with other medications that help target inflammation and bacteria.

Finally, retinol has an exfoliating effect on the skin’s surface that can help improve texture and tone.

What it Treats

Retinol is primarily used to treat the following skin conditions:

  • fine lines
  • wrinkles
  • sunspots and other signs of sun damage sometimes called photo-ageing
  • uneven skin texture
  • melasma and other types of hyperpigmentation

To achieve the best results from your retinol-containing skincare product, try using it every day. It may take several weeks until you see significant improvements.

Side Effects

While retinol is approved by the TGA this does not mean it’s free from side effects.

People who use retinol commonly experience dry and irritated skin, especially after using a new product. Other side effects may include:

  • redness
  • itchiness
  • peeling skin

To lessen these side effects, try using your retinol every other night or every third night, and work your way up to using it nightly. Due to the risk of sun sensitivity, retinol is best applied at night. 

Some professional brands such as Environ provide different strengths that allow you to start your client at lower doses and progress them to higher doses as your client’s skin becomes adapted to it.  

What about pairing retinol with other ingredients?

 Retinol and Bakuchiol:

As you may know, bakuchiol is a natural version of retinol, but milder without the potential to irritate, so can you use them in combination?

The answer is yes, they can. In fact, research shows that the two ingredients can work effectively together. The reason why, is that bakuchiol’s potent, but calming and stabilising properties allow retinol to work better and increase the skin’s tolerance to the ingredient.

This powerful duo can make a tremendous difference in various visible skin concerns, including wrinkles, dark spots, and saggy skin. With sensitive skin it is an excellent choice to start with bakuchiol and progressively strengthen the skin’s tolerance, by lowering inflammation, then as stage two, combine bakuchiol with retinol and trial for skin tolerance.

Peptides + Retinoids:

This is an excellent combination – retinoid’s collagen-building properties combined with peptide serum can help enhance its penetration, which can enhance skin firmness.

Furthermore, if the peptides are included in a cream, the emollient properties of the cream can help mitigate the unpleasant side effects that frequently accompany retinoid use. Apply the retinoid first, then the peptide cream on top.

Niacinamide + Retinol:

Exploring active ingredients can be difficult if you have sensitive skin. However, with the right combination, you can mitigate the irritation. 

Retinol when combined with niacinamide may be the perfect complement to start incorporating into a sensitive skin’s daily routine.

For acne skin, retinol can reduce oil production and help calm aggravation-induced acne.  While using retinol alone can be too drying for sensitive skin, the stability of niacinamide can help protect the skin from aggravation. 

This combination can clear skin congestion while also increasing hydration.

Retinoids/Retinoids + Moisturiser:  

As we know, retinoids are a form of vitamin A that works wonders in the fight against ageing.

Retinoid has a high rate of cell turnover, which means they can help the skin repair itself more quickly. While the skin does this naturally, the cell renewal cycle slows down with age. By combining retinoids with a hydrating moisturiser, you can contribute to skin damage inversion, while the moisturiser can prevent water loss.

Vitamin C + Retinol

Retinol and vitamin C, taken separately, assist to brighten the complexion, erasing dark spots, and delaying the effects of ageing.

However, combining them is not recommended as it may cause skin irritation. The best option is to include vitamin C as part of the morning routine and retinol in the evening routine.

The optimum concentration of active skin ingredients 

When it comes to skincare, it’s a frequent fallacy that more is better. Of course, it will come down to the skin condition and your treatment objectives. 

However, it is best if your initial goal is to strengthen the skin’s immune function and improve the barrier by utilising ingredients that support the proliferation of the skin’s microbiome regardless of the skin type. Look for Lactococcus ferment lysate, an effective probiotic that helps to maintain the skin barrier, which is often impacted using harsh chemicals or with acne skin conditions.

Once you strengthen the skin’s tolerance and optimise its health, you can then proceed to more intense or invasive procedures. 

It would seem obvious that the more ingredient actives you apply to your skin, the better the outcomes and the faster you’ll achieve them. This misunderstanding can lead to a desire to seek out items with the largest amounts of potent chemicals. However, with the wrong ingredient combination, the result can potentially harm the skin.

Layering Skin Care

Layering skincare ingredients can provide you with great potential for accelerated skin improvement, by “shocking” skin cells and enhancing collagen and elastin proliferation, especially, if combined with antioxidant and hydrating ingredients, such as hyaluronic acid or niacinamide. 

When determining ingredient compatibility, you will first need to commence with a thorough skin consultation to assess the skin’s overall health, potential tolerance levels and sensitivities.  From there, you can establish the best strategy for skin improvement.

To access the complete article, please refer to the spring issue of APJ Journal, which will be available by the end of this week.