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.

Erythrulose

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.

  DHA ERYTRULOSE
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.

BODY POSITIVITY

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.

SortTocopherolTocotrienol
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).

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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.