If you’ve read our first post covering the basics of product layering, you’re now ready for part two.
This post will delve into additional considerations to think about when layering ingredients and which ingredients to focus on when enhancing penetration. You can use this additional information to better inform your routine order and adjust the basic layering you mastered in the first part.
In discussing product layering and order, there are three important considerations:
- How ingredients are getting into the skin
- Where the ingredients need to go to be most effective
- Which ingredients don’t play well together
As we discussed in our post on penetration, there are multiple routes for skincare ingredients to get into the skin. The solubility and size of ingredients are critical in terms of which of these routes they can use to get into the skin.
Luckily, we do have methods we can use to enhance penetration:
- Hydration causes the corneocytes to swell, allowing ingredients to better permeate the skin barrier
- Heat increases kinetic energy, moving molecules faster through the skin and may temporarily alter skin structure
- Penetration enhancers like urea can improve penetration of active ingredients in the formula
- Carriers like liposomes can be used to encapsulate molecules to deliver them past the skin barrier
- Various treatment modalities like iontophoresis, microneedling, and ultrasound can penetration
We’ve already applied the information above to our basic product order, using those light watery steps to improve skin hydration prior to applying our Bradceuticals serums.
Tip: If you want to take it a step further, you can use your Bradceuticals products with your microcurrent treatments and after cosmetic microneedling to take advantage of the penetration enhancing benefits they offer.
The other consideration with product order is how the ingredients we’re using work and where in the skin they need to get to. Before we get into that, here’s a quick refresher on the anatomy of the skin.
As you can see in the visual above, the skin is divided into the main parts: the epidermis and the dermis.
The epidermis is the skin you can see and is made up of the stratum corneum (the dead but still biologically active skin cells that form the skin barrier) and the living epidermis underneath. Meanwhile, the dermis is made up of papillary and reticular regions. Because this tissue is vascular, the dermis is water-rich and also rehydrated and supplies nutrients via circulation.
Most ingredients do not reach the dermis and plenty of them don’t even reach the living epidermis even. There’s a common misconception that you want all ingredients to get deep into the skin but this isn’t the case.
Examples of ingredients that work best superficially:
- Occlusive ingredients like petrolatum, macadamia nut oil, and squalane are designed to remain on the skin surface and trap moisture
- Humectants also work fine in the most superficial layers of the skin as that’s where moisture is needed and now our natural humectants work
- Emollients like ceramides don’t necessarily trap moisture but work on the skin surface to replenish skin barrier lipids and soften skin
Here’s examples of ingredients that get deep into the skin were they’re needed on their own:
- Retinoids like tretinoin and retinol
- Oil soluble Vitamin C derivatives like tetrahexyldecyl ascorbate
- Niacinamide penetrates the stratum corneum readily to aid barrier function
And lastly, some ingredients require assistance getting to where they’re needed:
- Copper Tripeptide-1 has very low uptake levels through the skin
- Ascorbic acid and glycolic acid have minimal penetration without either an acidic pH to change their charge or an O/W emulsion
- When addressing photoaging and deeper hyper-pigmentation, it can be helpful to enhance the dermal penetration of niacinamide
- Many growth factors and peptides don’t penetrate well due to their size and hydrophilic properties and driving them deeper can be beneficial in targeting specific concerns
So how does this apply to layering?
Well it’s easy really, since we don’t have to worry too much about those first two categories.
Ingredients that work superficially and/or that penetrate well regardless can be applied without too much thought – just make sure to layer water based products first before lighter emollients and then more occlusive products.
It’s that last category where we want to be thoughtful and place them after the very watery steps but before those other examples above. These are the ingredients we can drive into the skin with treatments like microneedling or iontophoresis as well.
Our Layering Tips:
- Apply pH dependent ingredients like ascorbic acid and glycolic acid first immediate post cleansing
- Immediately start skincare after cleansing and dampen skin to maintain hydration and better skin permeability
- Apply ingredients that need assistance with penetration (or are tricky to get into the skin) after lighter watery steps but before the rest
- Devices and tools like nano needling or iontophoresis that are solely for product penetration can be used to assist the aforementioned ingredients
- Finish with ingredients that penetrate the skin easily as well as ones that work superficially
Let’s finish up by discussing the ingredients that you don’t want to layer immediately after each other.
If it helps, think of ingredients that compliment each other (like the growth factors and peptides on Bradceuticals serums) as “Skincare BFFs” while the ingredients that don’t play well together as “Skincare Frenemies.” There aren’t a lot that you can’t use together and we’re focusing in on the ones with evidence behind keeping them separate.
At the end of the day, we invest a lot of time and effort into our skincare routines and this post is really all about making sure you’re getting the most from it.
Avoid These Combinations:
- Hydroquinone with: benzoyl peroxide, resorcinol
- Tretinoin with: benzoyl peroxide and oxidizing agents
- Ascorbic acid with: copper binding peptides like Copper Tripeptide-1, Palmitoyl Tripeptide-1
Be Careful Combining These:
Any of the following can be irritating when combined with any of the other listed ingredients
- Exfoliating acids
- Ascorbic acid
- Kojic acid
- Acne medications
- Physical exfoliants
Tip: Bradceuticals facial serums contain Matrixyl 3000 so we recommend not applying right after ascorbic acid
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