Cosmeceuticals are cosmetic-pharmaceutical hybrids commonly used to improve hyperpigmentation. Hyperpigmentation is generally difficult to treat because the older the hyperpigmentation, the harder it is to remove it. For lightening hyperpigmentation, it is necessary to use skin lightening agents. The active lightening ingredients selectively act on the hyperactive cells that produce melanin (melanocytes) and inhibit key steps in melanin synthesis.

The active lightening ingredients act on different stages of melanin synthesis. The lightening ingredients can affect melanin before melanin synthesis, during melanin synthesis and after the synthesis itself.

Ways how active lightening ingredients can work in treating hyperpigmentation. Source: Briganti, S., Camera, E., & Picardo, M. (2003). Chemical and Instrumental Approaches to Treat Hyperpigmentation. Pigment Cell Research, 16(2), 101–110.

Lightening ingredients that directly affect melanin synthesis

Some lightening ingredients act directly on melanin synthesis by inhibiting the tyrosinase enzyme. This enzyme represents a major step in melanin synthesis. By inhibiting this enzyme, it prevents melanin from being synthesized, which is advantageous especially in hyperpigmentations where melanin content is already so high.


Hydroquinone is considered the gold standard for the treatment of hyperpigmentation. It works by inhibiting melanin synthesis by inhibiting the tyrosinase enzyme. In melanin-producing cells, it inhibits DNA synthesis and causes changes in the production of these cells. It causes selective damage, meaning that it only works in hyperactive sites (hyperpigmentation).

Hydroquinone preparations are effective at concentrations between 2-4%. Clinical studies report excellent effects caused by 2% hydroquinone. Higher concentrations are more effective, but they can cause irritation. It can be safely combined with retinoids and steroids.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has issued a ban on bleaching agents containing hydroquinone. The ban came as studies have shown that oral ingestion caused DNA damage. This carcinogenic effect has raised concerns about its use. However, it should be borne in mind that these studies were based on oral doses and there were no clinical studies or cases of skin cancer or internal malignancy associated with topical use.

Kojic acid

Kojic acid is a natural product that comes from some types of fungi. Itreduces hyperpigmentation by inhibiting tyrosinase production and is also a powerful antioxidant. Kojic acid is used in concentrations of  1-4%.

It is rarely used as a standalone whitening ingredient. In the studies, kojic acid was combined with glycolic acid or with vitamin C. In both cases, it showed good whitening effects on melasma, but the product needed to be applied longer than hydroquinone to reach effects. It can cause side effects such as erythema, hypersensitivity and contact dermatitis.

Azelaic acid

Azelaic acid inhibits the enzyme tyrosinase. It is one of the most selective active lightening ingredients, which means that it works exclusively on hyperpigmentation, but not on parts of the skin where there is no hyperpigmentation. It is effective in treating melasma, post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation and lentigas. Topically applied azelaic acid is effective in concentrations between 15-20%. It is one of the active lightening agents that shows the least side effects, with the exception of mild transient erythema.


Arbutin is one of the most commonly prescribed means of lightening and eliminating pigmentation in the world. Arbutin, a derivative of hydroquinone, is a natural plant compound found in the dried leaves of various plant species. Arbutin inhibits tyrosinase activity and inhibits the maturation of melanosomes.

There are practically no clinical studies demonstrating the effectiveness of arbutin in eliminating hyperpigmentation. Several studies have shown that arbutin is less effective than kojic acid in eliminating hyperpigmentation.


Deoxyarbutin is a synthesized arbutin derivative used topically. Studies have shown that topically   applied deoxyarbutin shows effect on skin lightening, while being safer to use than hydroquinone.

Other ingredients that affect melanin during its synthesis: alloesin, ellagic acid, resveratrol, licorice extract, mulberry extract.

Lightening ingredients that have antioxidant properties

In our post about hyperpigmentation, we mentioned that UV radiation can make hyperpigmentation even worse. Namely, unprotected exposure to UV radiation causes a greater synthesis of melanin in the skin. As a result, more melanin is also synthesized in hyperpigmented sites, which make them look even darker.

Antioxidants work by preventing reactive oxygen compounds from contacting melanin and oxidizing it to a darker form.

Vitamin C

Vitamin C is probably the most famous ingredient on the blog. Ascorbic acid interferes with the various steps of melanin formation. Most importantly, it destroys free radicals to prevent their multiplication, while interacting with copper ions in the tyrosinase enzyme and reducing the intermediate stages of melanin synthesis. Ascorbic acid is already known to be very unstable and it penetrates the skin very poorly, so it is important to choose more stable vitamin C derivatives.

α-lipoic acid

Thioctic acid (a-lipoic acid) also has effects on the brightening of pigment spots. The most important effect of lipoic acid is that it acts photoprotective. This means that it prevents photo-damage (hyperpigmentation).

Lightening ingredients that reduce melanosome transmission

This group of brightening ingredients works to reduce the transmission of melanosomes. Melanosomes are organelles in which melanin travels to the active site. So the smaller the melanosome transmission, the less pigmentation will be. This group includes ingredients such as niacinamide, lecithin, soybean extract.

Compounds that indirectly affect the skin’s lightening by accelerating its regeneration

This group includes cosmetically active ingredients that do not directly affect any of the stages of melanin synthesis. These include ingredients that stimulate cell renewal and thus trigger the removal of skin cells that contain a lot of melanin. Cosmetically active ingredients that can diffuse melanin pigment or accelerate skin exfoliation that can cause skin lightening are the alpha and beta-hydroxy acids, retinoic acid (tretinoin), free fatty acids and retinoic acid.

The visible effects of lightening hyperpigmentation take time

Most of these active lightening agents take time to effect. Lightening pigment spots requires time and constant use of lightening agents. It is imperative that you constantly protect yourself from UV light, as you will be protected from the formation of new pigment spots.


  • Sarkar, R., Arora, P., & Garg, Kv. (2013). Cosmeceuticals for hyperpigmentation: What is available? Journal of Cutaneous and Aesthetic Surgery, 6(1), 4.
  • Briganti, S., Camera, E., & Picardo, M. (2003). Chemical and Instrumental Approaches to Treat Hyperpigmentation. Pigment Cell Research, 16(2), 101–110.
  • Smit, N., Vicanova, J., & Pavel, S. (2009). The Hunt for Natural Skin Whitening Agents. International Journal of Molecular Sciences, 10(12), 5326–5349.
  • Smit, N., Vicanova, J., & Pavel, S. (2009). The hunt for natural skin whitening agents. International journal of molecular sciences10(12), 5326–5349.
  • Desai S. R. (2014). Hyperpigmentation therapy: a review. The Journal of clinical and aesthetic dermatology7(8), 13–17.

In Getting to Know Retinoids Part One, we learned about retinoids, which species we know and what effects it has on the skin. For beginners introducing actives, there is always fear, as they do not know which form to choose, what concentration of active ingredient to choose for the first attempt, what amount of product to apply, and whether the active ingredient included in their routine can also be combined with other pre-existing products in their routine. All of these questions are answered in this post.

Which form of retinoid should I choose?

In the post Getting to Know Retinoids Part 1, we looked at possible forms of retinoids available in the market. But what form to choose? Namely, we all want maximum effects, but a beginner certainly cannot start with tretinoin (biologically active form – the golden standard). For beginners, it is advisable to choose the least “strong” form of retinoid (retinol or Granactive Retinoid) to avoid side effects. After the skin becomes accustomed to a certain form of retinoid and concentration, you can reach for a stronger form.

At the same time, you should be aware that there are cosmetics and medicines with vitamin A derivatives. If you are experiencing serious acne or melasma, it is best to consult a dermatologist about the use of vitamin A derivatives, who will prescribe the correct topical or systemic forms.

Which retinoid concentration to choose?

The second biggest problem for beginners is which retinoid concentration to choose and when to increase the concentration. The easiest tip is to stick to forms of retinoids that are not available in many concentrations. Start with the lowest concentration. Retinol, available in concentrations of 0.1-1%, is the most begrudging form for beginners, while retinaldehyde and Granactive retinoid come in only two or three different concentrations. So after you choose the right form, choose the lowest possible concentration at the beginning.

When to Increase Retinoid Strength and Move to Higher Concentration?

It takes our skin about 6 weeks to fully recover and at that time we can evaluate or need higher concentrations to maximize the effects of the asset. If the skin has become completely accustomed to the daily use of retinoid, you can increase the concentration of the selected retinoid after about 2 months. When you reach the maximum concentration of the selected retinoid available in the market, you can introduce a stronger form of retinoids.

Can I use retinoids every night from the beginning?

When you start using retinoids, remind yourself that this is not a sprint, but long distance running. So, start slow – do not start using retinoids daily. Many dermatologists recommend that you initially use retinoids every second or third evening, starting with smaller amounts (pea size or half a pad).

If, after about two weeks, you find that your use of retinoids is appropriate, you can increase the number of evenings you use (eg every night). At the same time, you can also increase the amount of retinoid you use (whole pad).

How Do I Apply Retinoid Properly?

Before using retinoids, make sure you have a good serum (with ceramides, niacinamide) to apply in the evening before using retinoids. By using this kind of product before applying the retinoid, we increase the skin’s tolerance while preventing the retinoid from lingering and irritating in areas where the skin is already dry. Before applying the retinoids apply the serum and wait at least 10 minutes for it to absorb into the skin.

Give particular attention to the thinner parts of the skin, especially around the eyes and lips, before applying the retinoid. Apply a lip balm to the lips before applying the retinoids.

When applying the selected retinoid, be sure to rub the product into the skin to ensure that the effect is where we want it to be. Take special care where you have wrinkles, as the product may linger there and potentially irritate the skin.

How is it when using other actives at the time of retinoid introduction?

At the time you start using retinoids, stop using all other assets such as acids and various vitamins. Not because they would fight with each other, but to reduce the possibility of side effects (dryness, irritation, redness. Because each skin has individual needs, it is possible that you can quickly re-integrate all other assets into your routine, but not necessary. In the beginning, focus only on the use of retinoids.

Sunscreen, sunscreen, sunscreen!

Use the right amount of sunscreen every day (2mg / cm2)! Retinoids increase the photosensitivity of the skin and make it more sensitive to UV radiation. Despite the fact that the use of retinoids in the long run increases the thickness of the dermis and increases the synthesis of collagen and elastin, inappropriate protection against UV radiation can cause the opposite, namely the collapse of collagen.

Myths about retinoids

Retinoids should not be used in combination with acids

There is no research anywhere to prove or conclude that AHA or BHA deactivate or make retinol less effective when used in the same skin care routine. The misconception about using retinol with AHA or BHA is related to the pH value of acid peels that lower the skin’s pH. This is thought to interfere with the ability of retinol to convert to the active form, which has not, of course, been proven.

Retinoids should not be used in combination with Vitamin C

Vitamin C is another ingredient that is claimed not to be used in combination with retinol. Like the myth of AHA and BHA, this one is based on the pH / acidity issue. Vitamin C requires a low pH in order to remain stable. We know that retinol works in an acidic environment and that the pH of the skin is naturally acidic, so what research has shown us is a clear example where combining vitamin C + retinol makes sense.

Retinoids are one of the most popular cosmetically active ingredients. However, this reputation is not in vain. They have many positive effects on the skin when used properly. In the first part of our post about retinoids, we’ll look at the types of retinoids and how different retinoids work on our skin.

What are retinoids?

The term retinoids is used to refer to all naturally occurring vitamin A forms, carotenoids and synthesis analogues that have no vitamin activity. Retinoids are classified into three generations based on their molecular structure. Inside the body, retinoids bind to several classes of proteins, including binding proteins and retinoid nuclear receptors. Then a small portion of Vitamin A is converted into a biologically active form – all trans retinoic acid.

The active form of all-trans retinoic acid binds to a DNA molecule via retinoid receptors. This triggers the action of genes that affect the synthesis of collagen, elastin, hyaluronic acid and other proteins.

What kinds of retinoids do we know?

The gold standard of retinoid activity is all trans retinoic acid (tretinoin). The effects of all other retinoids are compared to the gold standard. Tretinoin is banned for use in cosmetic products in Europe, which is why you find other forms of Vitamin A. In addition to tretinoin, the retinoid family also includes vitamin A (retinol) and its natural derivatives such as retinaldehyde, retinyl palmitate and other forms.

We have enzymes in our skin that convert other forms of retinoids into active forms. The form that is stored in our skin is retinyl palmitate. This is converted to retinol (vitamin A) by enzymes. Retinol is enzymatically converted to retinaldehyde, and the last step is the conversion to the active form – retinoic acid. So the further you go with the retinoid form away from the active form, the less effective it will be. The lower efficiency can be attributed to the conversion.

Why is the use of retinoids so popular?

Vitamin A is found in products for the care of mature or acne skin.

Retinoids are known to influence various cellular processes, such as cell growth and differentiation. Retinoid use normalizes keratinization. Retinoids are very popular because of the effects they exert on the skin. They are often included in cosmetics as they have a rejuvenating effect. Namely, the use of retinoids reduces the appearance of wrinkles, cleanses pores, brightens pigment spots, uniforms skin complexion and improves skin texture. The skin is cleaner and more radiant when using retinoids.

The gold standard of retinoid activity

Retinoic acid was first used for the care of acne skin, in which it showed significant improvement. Then, in his studies, Klingman examined the effect of retinoic acid on photostated skin. He found that reticulin fibers were recovered in photoaged skin subjects using tretinoin, and a greater amount of collagen (type I and III) was synthesized in the dermis. Retinoic acid also has an indirect effect by inhibiting enzymes called metalloproteinases that break down extracellular matrix components (collagen, elastin, hyaluronic acid), so many say it also acts as an antioxidant.

Which Retinoid To Choose For Skin Care?

Retinyl palmitate is not an effective form, as it takes several steps to convert to the active form, which results in reduced efficacy. At the same time, this form is not well absorbed into the skin and applied topically to the skin has virtually no effect.

Another possible form is retinol, which is probably known to anyone not living in the Stone Age. Retinol is very unstable in light, so it is important that it is packaged and stored properly. Retinol is a derivative of choice in cosmetics. It is found in concentrations of 0.1% – 1.0%.

Retinaldehyde is one step closer to retinoic acid, but is still 20 times less effective than tretinoin. It is gentle and is a good choice for beginners.

A very known complex is called Granactive retinoid. This form is the cosmetic ester of retinoic acid. The interesting thing about this form is that it does not have to convert in the skin like other forms of retinoids, but it has an immediate effect as it acts directly on the retinoid receptors. It is a fairly new form that has not been extensively researched.

The didn’t discover the effects of hydroxy acids yesterday. According to some testimonies, Chleopatra bathed in milk, as they already knew about the effects of lactic acid against aging.

How do we categorize the hydroxy acids?

Category Example Occurence/source Antioxidant
Alpha-hydroxyacid (AHA) Glycolic sugar cane NO
  Lactic sour milk, tomatoes NO
  Citric lemon, orange YES
  Malic apple YES
  Tartaric grape YES
Beta-hydroxyacid (BHA) Beta-hydroxybutanoic urine NO
  Tropic plant NO
Polihydroxy acid (PHA) Gluconic Commercially derived from corn YES
  Gluconolactone Commercially derived from corn YES
Aldobionic acid Lactobionic Lactose from milk YES
  Maltobionic Maltose from strach YES
Aromatic hydroxy acid (AMA) Salicylic acid Ester form in winter green leaves NO

Alpha-hydroxy acids

AHA’s are one of the most studied hydroxy acids on the market and in the 1990s were considered miraculous compounds. Nowadays, for use in cosmetics they are synthesized. Mostly used in cosmetics are glycolic and lactic acid. α-hydroxy acid is a common name of a low molecular weight organic acid which, in addition to -COOH, is an OH group at the α site.

α-hydroxy acids can be divided into:

Mono-carboxylic: glycolic, lactic and mandelic acid

Di-carboxylic: malic and tartaric acid

Tri-carboxylic: citric acid

For free sale, AHA can be purchased at concentrations up to 10% in case they are not rinsed. At this concentration, they exhibit keratolytic effects, stimulation of epidermis renewal, stimulation of collagen synthesis, and increased skin moisture. For professional use, AHA can be used at higher concentrations (30%) – at such a high concentration of these compounds exhibit epidermolysis. Epidermolysis is a chemical peel for the removal of acne scars and pigmentation abnormalities.

Beta-hydroxy acids

BHA is a common name for low molecular weight organic acids having an -OH group at the β site relative to the -COOH group. Some beta-hydroxy acids are present in the tissues as an intermediate product of cellular metabolism and as an energy source (β-hydroxybutanoic acid). The market share of BHA in skin care is limited, as these acids are poorly commercially accessible and expensive.

Salicylic acid is not a beta-hydroxy acid

Yes, almost everyone classifies salicylic acid as BHA. Salicylic acid is a derivative of benzoic acid, which belongs to hydroxy acids in a broader sense, but exhibits different effects than other hydroxy acids. Salicylic acid is, in principle, a classic keratolytic, which causes peeling of the corneocytes – a layer and layer from the surface to the interior of the stratum corneum. AHA and BHA, in contrast, have an effect on the inner (lower) parts of the skin. Salicylic acid reduces the thickness of dermis, while other hydroxy acids stimulate the synthesis of dermis components and increase its thickness.

In cosmetics it can be used in concentrations up to 2%.

We also know the lipophilic salicylic acid derivative, named β-lipohydroxy acid, which penetrates the skin more slowly and works exfoliatively at low concentrations. It works antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory and anticomedogenic.

Salicylic acid and its lipophilic derivative substantially penetrate the skin better than glycolic acid. In the table below we presented the absorption of individual acids in the skin.

% of used product4% glycolic acid, 24 hours1% salicylic acid, 16 hours
Stratum corneum2,75
Other layers of epidermis13,546

Poli-hydroxy acids

Polyhydroxy acids are organic carboxylic acids having in the molecule two or more -OH groups. Some are intermediates of carbohydrate metabolism in tissues. Among PHA we count gluconic acid and gluconolactone.

Poli-hydroxy bionic acids

These acids are composed of a sugar (monosaccharide) unit that is linked to polyhydric acid. They have a higher molecular weight than other hydroxy acids (about 360 Da), but they still pass into the skin. Representatives are:

Lactobionic acid = galactose + gluconic acid

Maltobionic acid = glucose + gluconic acid

Characteristics of hydroxy acids

The ability to bind water

Polyhydroxy and bionic acids are very hygroscopic compared to AHA and BHA, which means they can attach a large amount of water to themselves. PHA and bionic acids are gentle and non-irritating cosmetically active ingredients that are also suitable for sensitive skin care.

Antioxidant properties

Most PHA and bionic acids exhibit antioxidant activity, and some exceptions can be found in AHA – especially those with at least two -COOH groups. Gluconolactone, lactobionic and maltobionic acid inhibit the oxidative degradation of hydroquinone and banana peels.

On the in vitro photoageing model, gluconolactone (PHA) offers up to 50% protection against UV damage (demonstrates the ability to chelate metal ions).

Lactobionic acid is used as an antioxidant in the solution for the storage of organs for trasplantation because it inhibits tissue damage under the influence of hydroxyl radicals (Fe 2+ cell).

Does daily use of AHA and PHA increase skin sensitivity for damage under the influence of UVB radiation?

The use of AHA and BHA acids increases the sensitivity of the skin to damage under the influence of UV radiation. It is necessary to use SPF with acids. Polyhydroxy acids should not increase sensitivity to the sun as they exhibit an antioxidant effect. But, better than sorry, use sunscreen.

Do hydroxy acids exhibit anti-aging effect?

Metalloproteases are enzymes that destroy the extracellular matrix. With aging and under the influence of UV light, the activity of metalloproteases is increasing and the inhibitors are declining. Lactobionic acid is an inhibitor of metalloproteinases in the skin and helps protect against UV damage.

AHA, PHA and bionic acids make surface skin peeling and accelerate the regeneration of the skin. At appropriate concentrations, the condition of photoaged skin is normalized by increasing the thickness of the epidermis and dermis, improving the barrier properties of the skin, increasing the synthesis of hyaluronic acid and other glycosaminoglycans, increasing the overall thickness of the skin.

The daily application of AHA to the skin of the forearms caused an increase in the thickness of the dermis (without further application this effect lasted for several months).

Cosmeceutical use of hydroxy acids

Hydroxy acids exhibit beneficial effects on dry skin, in wrinkles and photoaged skin, in keratoses and in the depigmentation effect, in acne skin care (removing the “plug” from the pores – salicylic acid, azelainic acid).

Glycolic acid when using high concentrations 1 x per week under the supervision of an expert demonstrates a comedolytic effect and helps eliminate pimples.

2% lipohydroxy acid exhibits a potentially comedolytic effect on the skin prone to acne. Lipophilic hydroxy acid penetrates well in s.c. (especially in the production of sebum rich in sebum).

The efficacy and safety of hydroxy acids

The effectiveness of hydroxy acids depends on the concentration, product pH, type of acid, vehicle, time of application and skin type. For optimum effect, the pH of the preparation should be between 3.0 and 3.5 (with increasing pH, the acidity of the acid decreases, but the irritation is reduced). Possible side effects: irritation, burning sensation on the skin, redness of the skin, burns, blisters, rash, itching, bleeding and discoloration of the skin.

Safe preparations with AHA at concentrations up to 10% must have a pH greater than 3.5. Professionals can use them in concentrations above 30%.

Surely there was a time when you wanted a beautiful bronze skin without having to roast under the sun. Self-tanning products are a good solution. That may be because of today’s world where tanned skin represents an ideal. But is that really a healthy ideal?

Nowadays, the majority of people are already aware that UV rays are responsible for aging and increased chances for skin cancer. In some countries the sun doesn’t shine as often as for example in Barcelona. That’s why the needs of the consumers have shifted from sun creams to tanning lotions.

What determines our skin colour?

In our skin, there are 2 different types of melanin pigment: eumelanin (brown pigment) and pheomelanin (orange pigment), which are responsible for the colour of our skin.

What even are self-tanning products?

Self-tanning products are products that help us achieve beautiful bronze skin without sunbathing. Such products do NOT contain protection against UV rays. Keep in mind that products that provide UV protection need to be applied additionally.

In laboratory in college we made a self-tanning product (photo is posted with approval of the author)

Which active ingredients help us to achieve apparent tanned skin?

Dihydroxyacetone (DHA)

DHA is the most known active ingredient that causes skin coloration. It’s formed in our body, so therefore it is harmless. DHA is present in almost every self-tanning product on the market. It is also the only colour supplement used in self-tanning products authorized by the FDA (Food and Drug Administration).

How and when did they even realize that the DHA can work as a self-tanning ingredient?

In 1950s, at the American Paediatric Hospital. They performed an oral DHA test in children who previously had problems with proper glycogen storage (diabetes). Because some children experienced regurgitation (some medicines have been spit out), the DHA accidentally got to the surface of the skin. Where it affected the skin, the skin darkened. That is how it has been found that DHA acts as a tanning agent. By accident of course.

The first self-tanning products came to the market in 1977 (according to some data already in 1959). Since then, demands for such products have grown. The biggest problem of DHA was and still is, the unevenness of the application and the unnatural appearance of the colour, the tone is also dark orange, which is not very tasty to see.

How much time after application can I expect effects?

DHA is usually present in self-tanning lotions in concentrations from 3 to 5%. The change in skin tone is usually seen 1 hour after the application, but requires 8-24 hours to fully develop and lasts for 5-7 days.

The number of applications depends on the location and composition of the skin (the face needs more frequent deposits than arms and legs for example).

Fotografija: Neja Stojnić
Weak points of DHA in self-tanning products

The biggest problem of DHA is the yellow/orange skin tone that it causes and which looks very unnatural. DHA also heavily drains our skin. It’s sensitive to strong acids and bases, increased temperature, the presence of microorganisms and is stable at pH 4-6. It is not appropriate for pregnant women, asthmatics and those who have an allergy to self-tanning products. Regular and long-term use is not recommended. It mustn’t get in touch with your lips, eyes or mucous membranes. It can irritate the skin, but studies say that in moderation DHA is safe.


L-erythrulose is another active tanning ingredient. The skin looks much more natural after the application of the product and also coloration is more even. That’s because the reaction in the skin is much slower (the colouring occurs within 2 days) and is also less intense (in comparison with DHA). It is found in self-tanning products in concentrations from 1 to 3%. It doesn’t dry out and doesn’t irritate the skin, nor does it cause allergic reactions.

There are also vegetable dyes that improve the self-tanning process. They are based on henna and walnut, which are not so persistent and therefore less common in cosmetic products.

Otherwise, the best compromise is the combination of DHA and erythrulose. Why? Because using both helps to get fast coloration and more natural tan (erythrulose). That’s exactly what we want, don’t we?

How do self-tanning ingredients work?

DHA and erythrulose work on the same principle. They react with amino groups, peptides and proteins in the corneous layer of the epidermis. The reaction occurs on the surface of the skin and doesn’t penetrate deeper, therefore the colour is only persistent for relatively short amount of time. The self-tanning reaction may be influenced by several factors or skin characteristics (type, firmness, dryness …). But the colour fades because of the natural peeling of the skin.

How to get a nicer tan?

In the table, we collected data on how certain substances in self-tanning products work (what’s their effect). There are different results if we are talking about dihydroxyacetone or erythrulose. All these ingredients beautify the tan and ˝kill˝ the red or yellow tone.

Humectants (up to 5%) High impact in yellow and red High impact in yellow
Emolients High impact in yellow, less in red High impact in red and less in yellow
UV filters (up to 2%) High impact in yellow and red TiO2 – red High impact in yellow TiO2 – yellow
Vitamines (up to 5%) Low impact in yellow and red Retinyl palmitate – the most intensive colour High impact in yellow, less in red. Ascorbic acid – red
Thickeners High impact in the yellow, low impact in red Low impact in yellow, no impact in red
Active ingredients Low impact in yellow and red Low impact in yellow

In addition to all of these, the final effects of the self-tanning product are also affected by aminoacid derivatives and antioxidants in combination with active ingredients.

After application, it is recomended not to expose to the sun for some time; the skin shouldn’t be wiped with a towel. Skin shouldn’t come in contact with water.

How about you? Do you use self-tanning products or do you rather sunbathe? Or maybe the third option, you are rather pale, like we are.

What are peptides? How did they even come to the idea to use them in cosmetics? In this post you will learn everything about peptides, their positive properties and about challenges that manufacturers face when they are creating and including peptides in cosmetics.

The fact is that we are ageing and so is our skin, the most obvious signs of ageing are seen on face. Wrinkles, redness, hyperpigmentation start to appear. There is also a decrease in collagen fibers and skin moisture. Facial expressions cause wrinkles too. Smokers tend to have more wrinkles around the mouth area, while people who laugh a lot tend to have move wrinkles around their eyes.

What are peptides?

Peptides are compounds that consist of shorter amino acid sequences. There are two types of compounds oligopeptides, that are short peptides and polypeptides that consist of longer sequences. Very long amino acid sequences are typical for proteins (like collagen). Peptides differ from each other by physiological functions, some are peptide hormones, others are antimicrobal,..

We gain peptides with partial hydrolysis from proteins. But here we bump in our first problem. Unfortunately in this process manufacturers have no control how long the peptide will turn out (how many amino acids will it consist of), what chemical structure will it have and whether the chemical composition will be the same in every synthesis. Consequently we don’t know the mechanism of action and how long will the compound last.

Photography: Neja Stojnić
Synthetic peptides

They are better, because they have explicit chemical composition. Consequently there are less mistakes when manufacturing, their production is also safer.

Why would we even use peptides in cosmetics?

Because they affect cell receptors and receptors participate in physiological answer.

  1. Stimuation of collagen synthesis and aid in firmer and thicker skin – ideal ingredient in anti-ageing cosmetics
  2. Stimulation⁄braking of melanin synthesis – useful in tanning and lightening products
  3. Anti Inflammatory effect – useful for cosmetics that soothe the skin
Peptides influence homeostase of skin barrier

Applied topically, peptides slow down skin ageing, studies say. On the face there is visible reduce of fine lines, the skin firmness is higher. Peptides take care of skin barrier homeostase.

Examples of peptides used in cosmetics

  • Acetyl hexapeptide-8  two studies that used this peptide topically showed reduce in deepness of wrinkles
  • Trifluoroacetyl tripeptide-2 – expresses lifting effect, stimulates collagen production, brakes matrix metalloproteinase and reduces looseness of the skin
  • Palmitoleil tripeptide-7 – establishes cell communication and slows down the ageing process. It stops proinflammatory interleukins 6 and 8 (they cause inflammation). Skin inflammation happens for a reason, every time this happens there are consequences on the skin.

In study there was a serum with peptides tested on several women with mildly photoaged skin. None of the testee’s reported about irritation. Women noticed reduced redness in comparison with placebo serum. After 14 days of using the serum with peptides there was an evident change, especially in the under eye area. There was reduce in smiling wrinkles noticed as well. Testee’s reported about much better general look of the skin like smoothness, softness and skin glow.

Photography: Neja Stojnić

Why don’t we find peptides in every skin care product?

  1. Questionable solubility and stability – we don’t know whether our peptide will be durable in the formulation and whether it will keep its biological activity
  2. Does it penetrate the skin? For the best would it be if we packed them in delivery systems, but this is not as simple as it sounds and we don’t know if they will reach the target area
  3. Quite expensive – this is quite a problem since we usually don’t want to spend more than 30 EUR for a product
  4. There are small concentrations needed – which is good right? But there is a bigger chance that the peptide will not last for a long enough time to reach to target area. They will probably decompose (will still have a hydration effect because of the amino acids, but will not stimulate collagen production)
  5. Safety of this compounds – still questionable, since we don’t know what compounds it  forms if it connects with other compounds – risk for unwanted effects
Photography: Neja Stojnić

With peptides we target cells that are dermis or subcutis. But as we already know, our skin is designed in a way that ingredients hardly pass upper layers of the skin. Consequently it is hard for peptides to reach deeper layers of the skin and get to the target area.

What can we conclude?

We can use modified peptides to get better stability and effects on the skin (moisture, firmness, softness) and hair. If we mix them with silicones we get ingredients for hair care that increase hair glow and moisture.

We think peptides are an amazing ingredient in cosmetic products. We have to investigate further to find more stable forms and good delivery systems that will enable peptides to travel to the target areas.

Cellulite, THE problem of almost every woman! According to researchers, more than 80% of all women have cellulite! Well, if we all have it, why do we even care? We are beautiful just the way we are!

Cellulite is a condition where fat is typically distributed in the form of dents and bulges. They occur in areas of the body with hypodermic fat tissue (thighs and buttocks). Cellulite affects mostly women and is not caused by obesity.

Why are men born under a lucky star?

First they have one product for bathing, hair washing and car washing. In addition they don’t even have cellulite. Is this even fair? But for real now…

Due to differences in the natural distribution of the fat tissue and the connective tissue, cellulite in male skin is very rare. The fact is that they have less fat ventricles than women and their connective tissue is more diagonally organized (women’s connective tissue is more rectangular).

Photography: Neja Stojnić
The role of estrogen in the production of cellulite

Estrogen is a female hormone that plays an important role in the development of the cellulite. Estrogen stimulates the production of an enzyme collagenase that causes decomposition of collagen fibers. In places where the collagen fibers are weakened, fat cells or adipocytes gain more space and consequently new fat cells can be formed.

How can we recognize cellulite?

Orange skin is typical for cellulite. If we touch the skin firmly, we can feel the differences in the flexibility of the fat tissue, micro nodes and tissue thickening and also irregular skin temperature.

Photography: Neja Stojnić

Cellulite develops in stages

Phase 1

The skin is still smooth and firm. Cellulite is only shown when pressing the skin. Adipocyte deformation occurs, edema begins to appear due to increased capillary permeability. This stage is still reversible.

Phase 2

Cellulite is noticeable while standing. The flow is impeded in the lymph and blood vessels, the capillary permeability increases and edema occurs. The connective tissue is getting weaker. This stage is still reversible.

Phase 3

The skin looks like an orange peel while standing or sitting. The tissue is loose. Adipocytes (fat cells) fuse into larger aggregates, which are surrounded by inflexible collagen and consequently micro nodes and tissue thickenings are formed. The skin loses its firmness.

Phase 4

At this stage cellular metabolism and protein production weaken. Skin regeneration is affected. The skin is very loose. Micro nods are visible (size up to 20mm).

Why is cellulite formed?

All the causes of cellulite production are only hypotheses, which are not fully proven yet.

The diet impact – Asian women have less cellulite than Caucasian women. Why? Because the cow’s milk we normally drink is rich in estrogen. But generally speaking there are still more than 80% of women that have problems with it.

-Genetic influences on fat distribution – Usually the daughter will have cellulite at the same places as her mother, regardless of diet and estrogen stimulation, but it also depends on the amount of fat in the body.

Vascular insufficiency – Hearing this for the first time? well, this means that the weakening of the vessels in the dermis leads to fluid retention and worst appearance of cellulite.

Too much fat tissue – women with more body fat have more cellulite and even by reducing weight they can’t get rid of it.

The appearance of cellulite may get worse with bad nutrition, too little activity, obesity, hereditary predispositions, vein diseases and many other reasons.

Photography: Nel Čater

Can we control cellulite?

By physical activity we increase the metabolism. Consequently blood circulation increases which is the reason for less visible cellulite. By massaging and lymphatic drainage we enable better blood flow. Also, many waste products from the lymph eliminated. Cold / hot showers increase blood flow and tighten the tissue.

What about anticellulite cosmetics?

Sincerely, a cosmetic product that eliminates cellulite doesn’t exist! However we have a lot of ingredients that improve the appearance of the affected parts. The cosmetic ingredients for limiting cellulite are differentiated by the mechanism: increasing blood circulation or microcirculation, reducing lipogenesis and increasing lipolysis, establishment of normal structure of dermis and subcutis (retinoids) and substances that prevent the formation of radicals (antioxidants).

Ingredients that increase blood circulation

These compounds are responsible for reducing the permeability of the capillaries, improving the tonus of veins, improving venous and lymphatic drainage and reducing edema. They are also anti-inflammatory. So, the smaller the capillary transitivity,

The smaller is edema the better is blood circulation. Consequently cellulite will be less visible. What “wizards” classify to this group? Ginkgo (Gingko biloba), ivy (Hedera helix), Butcher’s broom (Ruscus aculeatus), horse chestnut (Aescelus hippocastaneum), pentoxifylline, papaya and red grapes.

Photography: Neja Stojnić
Compounds that reduce lipogenesis and increase lipolysis

Firstly we should differentiate these expressions. Lipogenesis is a fat forming process, while lipolysis is a fat degradating process. That’s what we want, right? This group includes: caffeine, aminophylline, theophylline and theobromine (ingredients of green tea).

Photography: Neja Stojnić
There are also some physical and some invasive methods possible for cellulite removal.

Radiofrequency and liposuction work by using rays of energy. Heating the problematic parts, leads to degradation of adipocytes. Cavitation is based on ultrasonic waves. Lymphatic drainage is a procedure for stimulating the lymphatic vascular system.


Almost all women deal with cellulite, which can be in the first or fourth stage but that is not important at all. What’s important then?  Respecting our bodies and not being ashamed of having a dent or two. Keep calm! It presents a ˝problem˝ for more than 80% of women. But that is not the reason to not rock some shorts in the summer!

Did you know that vitamin E is so unstable that it may not remain in the product/formulation? Probably his “working age” is gone before using a product. In this blog post we’ll ˝give˝ you vitamin E with all its advantages and disadvantages.

The basics about vitamin E

First, let’s look at the basics, even though we already know them. Vitamin E is an antioxidant. Antioxidant is any substance that, at low concentrations, reduces or prevents the effects of radicals. The main purpose of vitamin E is to delay or prevent the oxidation of sensitive compounds in the product. It provides defense against reactive oxygen compounds. If we don’t provide protection against reactive oxygen compounds, the cosmetic product can decompose and cause premature aging or/and DNA damaging.

We already have explained antioxidants and radicals in a post about vitamin C, if you have any doubts go to the post, to make clear, what we are talking about.

Unlike vitamin C, tocopherol is a lipid-soluble vitamin. It acts as a free radical catcher in lipophilic parts of the cell. Effective antioxidants are usually unstable because they are highly reactive. Vitamin E is for example very sensitive to UV light. So if we aren’t careful enough and we don’t store it in dark packaging, there is a chance that it will no longer be ˝successful˝ in the tasks that it has by the time we need it.

What types of vitamin E exist?

First, we can differ between tocopherols and tocotrienols. They differ in the application and percentage, which is allowed to be incorporated into a cosmetic product. There are four different forms of each: α, β, γ, and δ. So in total 8 different forms of vitamin E.

Role in cosmetic productsAO, smoothing, maskingStabilizer, in oral hygiene products, skin smoothing
% allowed in cosmetic products5,4%0,12%

What positive features does vitamin E show on the skin?

• smoothes fine wrinkles caused by photo ageing

• humectant

• after application the skin is softer and smoother (smoothing effect)

• few side effects because it forms a part of our body (if we add it to the skin, it recognizes our body for its own)

• accelerates wound/scar healing

• inhibits inflammation

• reduces damage caused by UV light

• protects our skin against harmful chemical substances

In cosmetics it’s used in concentrations from 1 to 5%. Normally we use vitamins E esters because they are more stable and better soluble in formulations. For example, tocopheryl succinate and tocopheryl acetate are the most used. Tocopheryl acetate is allowed in products up to 36%. Tocopheryl acetate has another good property it’s not phototoxic. What does that mean? If the substances are phototoxic, it means that if we go to the sun, the sun will burn us even more and leave the consequences for a longer period of time.

Natural presence of vitamin E?

Tocopherol is found in seeds, fruits and latex. Oils with the largest amounts of vitamin E are: oil of pomegranate and sea buckthorn oil. It’s also found in sunflower, peanut, walnut, sesame and olive oil. Palm oil is one of the richest sources of tocotrienols and it’s also found in coconut oil, cocoa butter and soy. However in cosmetic products we need to add extra amounts of vitamin E, since its content in oils isn’t sufficient to provide a good antioxidant role.

The permanence of vitamin E dependents on the fatty-acid composition of the oils (especially unsaturated fatty acids – those with double bonds, which can be oxidized very fast).


How do we isolate it?

Tocopherol is isolated from vegetable oils (natural tocopherol). Tocotrienols can be isolated from the vine and oats. Alternatively, it can be obtained by other synthetic methods.

How does vitamin E come to cells?

Do you remember when we mentioned keratinocytes (epidermis cells) in skin composition? Well, vitamin E is also stored in keratinocytes, which are moved while the process of keratinization to the surface of the skin. So vitamin E ˝travels˝ with them. Another possible way is that vitamin E comes on the surface of the skin with sebum, since vitamin E is also secreted by the sebaceous glands. Why did we complicate things?

The activity of sebaceous glands begins to decrease after 50 years in women and after 70 years in men. And what do we usually do if something is running out of our body? Yeah, let’s help our body. The application of vitamin E shows positive effects for our skin and that’s delayed aging. Of course, it doesn’t prevent it, just to be clear.

What about metabolism?

α-tocopherol incorporates into lipoproteins (VLDL), these allow the distribution of this form of tocopherol over the body. Other forms pass into the bloodstream and are rapidly metabolized and secreted from the body. That’s why in skin can be found a lot higher amounts of α-tocopherol and very small amounts of γ-tocopherol.

Vitamin E is another indispensable ingredient in the cosmetics industry. Manufacturers incorporate it in oils and butters to prevent their oxidation. It can also be a MUST in your skincare routine, now that you know its positive effects, we believe that you will at least consider including vitamin E in your routine.