Time for TIME-RELEASE? | Pocketmags.com

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Time-release skincare is booming in popularity, but how does it actually work and which ingredients is it needed for? Kezia Parkins gets the lowdown

Skincare routines are getting more and more intricate as new ingredients are discovered and new combinations championed. While it’s great that these innovations are making clients’ skin better than ever, how achievable are multiple-step and complex routines for the everyday person to keep up in their busy lives?

Trends in skincare routines tend to flip flop between the super complex and the ultra streamlined and simple, but over the years a bunch of “hero ingredients”, or actives, have emerged and become firmly embedded into the average consumer’s awareness – and their bathroom cabinet. Topping this list are hyaluronic acid, vitamin C, zinc, niacinamide, retinoids, the beta hydroxy acid salicylic acid, and alpha hydroxy acids like glycolic acid.

Seeing as some of these ingredients can react badly with each other or cancel each other out, it is understandable for clients to find a routine with all of these separate ingredients challenging or intimidating.

Aiming to solve this problem, some brands are formulating products capable of releasing different active ingredients at different time points, offering a time-release skincare solution.

What is time-release skincare?

Time-release skincare can also be called skincare with an “extended release”, explains Dermoi’s chief scientific officer Eve Casha. It’s a product formulated with a delivery system that controls how an active is released into the skin over time after application.

“So, rather than getting a massive surge of actives into the skin all at once, a smaller concentration is constantly supplied to the skin over a number of hours,” Casha explains. “This is skincare that is working around the clock, hours after it is applied.”

A time-release delivery system can be designed in many different ways in which time, friction, heat, moisture, pressure or pH can stimulate the release of actives.

While Casha explains that the exact technology in which an active ingredient is released from its carrier vessel [delivery system] is often embedded in intellectual property laws and inaccessible, Cigdem Kemal Yilmaz, a chemical engineer, skincare formulator and founder of CPD-accredited skincare education platform Skin Masterclass Pro, breaks down a common method of enabling time release in skincare products.

“Encapsulation is the physical-chemical technique in which a cosmetic ingredient is protected and surrounded by a liposome or polymeric wall that isolates it from its environment. In other words, the active is shielded from the rest of the products’ ingredients,” says Kemal Yilmaz.

“Insertion of active ingredients into these protective boundaries can help isolate, disperse, mobilise and enhance the activity of the active ingredient; it can transport these ingredients through different barriers – dermal and transdermal – in a controlled way. The main aim of formulation delivery systems is to allow increased penetration of ingredients that would otherwise be unable to penetrate the skin barrier.”

Commonly encapsulated ingredients include retinoids, vitamin C and antioxidants, which are very prone to oxidation, so usually lose efficacy from the time of bottling by degrading with exposure to elements like light, oxygen and water. This type of formulation is especially important in ingredients like glycolic acid, benzoyl peroxide and retinoids because fast release of these can irritate skin.

Clinical efficacy studies in acne patients have shown that liposomal benzoyl peroxide gel can be twice as effective in reducing the number of skin lesions compared to the patients treated with plain benzoyl peroxide gel, also causing less irritation.

Aside from reducing the irritancy of actives, preserving them from oxidation and allowing ongoing benefits, time-release delivery systems can overcome ingredient incompatibilities in products containing more than one active, lengthen the shelf life of the final product and even reduce the need for reapplication.

“Encapsulation offers a unique carrier system for actives because it has the potential to respond to all these requirements,” says Kemal Yilmaz.

How to spot time-release formulations

There are now many brands using advanced encapsulated delivery systems to enhance the efficacy and potency of products. One such brand is Noble Panacea, which patented the Organic Super Molecular Vessel (OSMV).

“OSMV’s release of actives is not only extended over a period of time but is also delayed,” Casha explains. “Not all actives in the formulation will be released at the same time, which allows for a formulation that is programmed to achieve different outcomes with different active ingredients at different times after application.”

She says Noble Panacea’s Chronobiology Sleep Mask harnesses this philosophy to “precisely release active ingredients into the skin during the overnight circadian rhythm process”.

PCA Skin is the developer of OmniSome Technology – apatented liposome delivery system which the brand uses across its range which releases active ingredients over a 10-hour period. Casha points to PCA’s retinoid products as great examples of this technology in action.

While some brands build their time-release technology into their USP and marketing, not all do, which could make them harder to spot. “You will know the product contains an encapsulated ingredient when you also see cyclodextrin in the product ingredient list,” says Kemal Yilmaz. Cyclodextrin (CD) is a host molecule made from potato starch that is readily biodegradable. Medik8’s Sleep Glycolic Time Release AHA Overnight At-home Peel is an example of a product using this delivery system.


Lecithin is another common agent used in extendedrelease skincare, explains Kemal Yilmaz. It’s an emulsifying ingredient that is a major constituent of cell membranes and found particularly abundantly in egg yolks.

Wax capsules can make great delivery systems for oil-soluble actives. VitAlease 7.0 from Infinitec, for example, uses natural carnauba wax from Brazil, which has high entrapment capacity and resistance to temperature and is intended as a platform for retinoid stabilisation and delivery. This method enables the retinoid to be used at high-strength – 7% – while enhancing its stability.

The bottom line

Time-release skincare has many benefits and can enable use of multiple hero ingredients in one product. However, Kemal Yilmaz still recommends taking time to get to know the actives in your products in depth, including how they work together for best results and how to store them.

This article appears in December 2022

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This article appears in...
December 2022
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