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A focused review of Dermaceutic TriVita C30 and Activ Retinol

The use of serums is fast increasing as a basic step in any skincare routine, but what is a serum and how can it assist with your skincare concerns?

What is a serum?

A serum is a light gel to fluid consistency product containing a high level of very active ingredients designed to penetrate through the stratum corneum (outermost layer of skin cells) and deliver a high level of efficacy. This is due to a smaller particle size and increased concentration of active ingredients at the correct pH to facilitate optimum delivery of ingredients through the epidermis.

In any skincare routine, application of a serum should come after cleansing and before applying a moisturizer. As a rule of thumb, the consistency of a product should dictate its position in your skincare routine.

As there are varying skin care concerns amongst skin types and age groups, so too are there varying ingredients in serums targeted to address different concerns. These should be tailored to the skin being treated such that there is little to no chance of irritation with maximum effect.

Application of a serum is sufficient once per day, usually at night, however depending on the skin being treated, twice daily application can be done as well.

For the purpose of this review, particular focus will be given to the role of Vitamin C and Retinol in a serum, their method of action and important points regarding their use.

Vitamin C

Vitamin C or ascorbic acid is a naturally occurring antioxidant that humans must acquire from external and nutritional sources. L-ascorbic acid is the chemically active form of Vitamin C. Importantly, the bioavailability of Vitamin C in the skin is low from oral sources and thus the use of topical Vitamin C is favoured in Dermatology. It has an excellent safety profile with increasing use in photoaging, hyperpigmentation, tissue inflammation and promotion of tissue healing.

Exposure of the skin to UV light results in the production of free radicals which results in a process of chemical reactions that directly damage cell DNA, cell structure and collagen. This ultimately results in inflammation and skin aging. Varying degrees of UV exposure also result in mutations resulting in melanoma and other skin cancer formation.

Vitamin C stabilizes and also directly regulates genes responsible for collagen production in the dermis. It is also responsible for interrupting key steps in pigment formation but due to its unstable nature, must always be combined with other depigmenting and exfoliating actives to exert its depigmenting action. It has an important role in inflammatory skin conditions such as acne vulgaris and rosacea, for example, by reducing inflammatory mediators and thus promoting tissue healing and preventing post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation.

In recent research, although Vitamin C alone can provide photo-protection, it works best in conjunction with Vitamin E, which potentiates the action of Vitamin C four-fold. A combination of Ferulic acid (a potent antioxidant of plant origin) with Vitamin C and Vitamin E can increase the efficacy of Vitamin C eight-fold. It has been noted that this triple combination significantly reduces early and late photodamage whilst also preventing skin cancer in the future.

Dermaceutic TriVita C30 is an ideal combination of 3 forms of stabilized Vitamin C with powerful collagen preservation functions and pigment limiting functions. These penetrate efficiently through the epidermis at a pH below 3.5 to exert effects on the deeper dermis. When used following UV exposure, optimum scavenging of free radicals is achieved resulting in a reduction of DNA damage and the cascade that results in inflammation and cell damage. The photoprotective effects of this unique serum are also increased as described above by the addition of Ferulic acid and vitamin E ester, amplifying the effect of the various Vitamin C compounds in this unique serum.


Retinol is a type of retinoid, which is a chemical derivative of vitamin A. Regarded as the gold standard in anti-aging preparations and acne treatments, most retinoids are available over the counter whilst some may only be prescribed and use monitored by your doctor.

Like Vitamin C, Retinol also has an antioxidant function and helps to prevent free radical damage in the skin whilst also boosting collagen production and preserving collagen and elastin stores in the dermis.

With acne, an inflammatory skin condition, retinol works most notably on 2 of the contributing factors including abnormal skin cell turnover; which leads to obstruction of the pilosebaceous unit, and increased oil production by sebaceous glands.

Retinol also assists with pigmentation by means of limiting pigment transfer to cells in the epidermis and increasing cell turnover to remove non-viable and pigmented cells faster.

The active form of a retinoid that our skin uses is called retinoic acid. All retinoids need to be converted in to retinoic acid in the skin for them to exert their effects. This determines the strength of the preparation being used. Retinol needs to undergo 2 chemical reactions in order to be converted in to retinoic acid, making it weaker than prescription preparations but importantly, better tolerated by the skin, according to the concentration in the preparation being used.

Retinol accelerates skin cell turnover and reduces the amount of layers of skin cells on the surface of the skin as well as reducing oil production. This can contribute to flakiness and dryness due to impairment of the barrier function of the skin as a side effect. This in turn can result in inflammation in the skin with resultant itching and irritation.

Dermaceutic Activ Retinol 0.5% and 1% are retinol serums of varying concentration. The variant selected can be tailored to the skin being treated as well as the skin condition. They can be used to treat acne prone and oily skin, aging skin and hyperpigmented skin. The addition of antioxidant vitamins C and E assist in reducing inflammation with added free radical protection. Ceramides and panthenol help replenish the skins barrier function thereby reducing the irritation that is common in most other retinol preparations. Transepidermal water loss is thereby also reduced, assisting in skin hydration. Use and tolerance can be built up according to how the patient responds until the patient can tolerate the retinol preparation every night. Retinoid products are not recommended for daytime use and the use of high sun protection such as Dermaceutic Sun Ceutic 50+ is imperative daily.

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