The issue: These ingredients (retinols and acids) can’t coexist in the same product without one of them being compromised. Retinol is notoriously unstable and can breakdown if proper caution is not taken when creating the base formulation. One factor that helps keep retinol stable is the pH. Simply speaking, pH is the measure of how acidic or alkaline something is; for example vinegar is very acidic and has a pH of about 3, water is considered neutral with an average pH of 7; and hair-removing creams are very alkaline with a pH of about 12. Retinol’s pH comfort zone is about 6-8.
Acids by their very name are acidic and are most effective at pHs below 5; in fact, the lower the pH the more effective they are. I think that you can see where this is going. If acids are more effective with pHs below 5 and retinol is more stable above pH 6 then one of them is going to be compromised if placed in the same formulation. That doesn’t mean that the product won’t work; it just means that you will be reaping the benefits of either the retinol or the acids, but not the comprehensive benefits of both that you are paying for!
How to solve it: Some companies understand this problem, and solve it by encapsulating one of the ingredients so they are chemically “hidden” and will not be affected by the outside pH. Encapsulating means one ingredient is enclosed in another (similar to the way an egg yolk is enclosed in the egg shell). This is the best way to make sure that you are getting the full benefits of both!
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