How's my Retinol night time moisturizer? Formula critique please :)

ZinkZink Member
edited March 2018 in Formulating
I made a 0.2% retinol and 3% Vitamin B3 moisturizer formula a couple years back, being young and naive it needs a bit of work. It works well and stability is good as confirmed by HPLC, but it needs to be more moisturizing and it seems to cause a small percentage of people break out.

It's designed to help prevent blemishes from forming and overall improve skin quality, reducing the appearance of wrinkles and hyperpigmentation. 

Ingredients in order of %
Jojoba Oil
Ewax (Montanov 68 better?)
Safflower Oil (High linoleic)
Shea (White refined)
Vitamin B3 (niacina..)
S Lactate (could it increase risk of outbreaks?)
Green Tea Extract (does this actually do anything?..)
Preservative blend
Ultrapure gel 
Vitamin E (alpha)

1. More moisturizing. The lack of occlusives besides shea and ewax leave a lot to be desired, also retinol by itself can feel a bit drying even though niacinamide and glycerin counters some of it. One interesting (and expensive) option would be to add a ceramide/cholesterol/linoleic/stearic acid blend. And/or adding Hydrolyzed Jojoba Esters, Hyaluronic Acid or even silicones.

2. Reduce the amount of lipids (20%), shea could be comedogenic. Increasing overall tolerability to make it work well for most skin types.

3. Increase potency without significantly adding to risk of side effects. E.g. add Rosehip oil as it contains natural retinoids? N-Acetylglucosamine as it synergizes with retinol to improve hyaluronic acid synthesis and decrease hyperpigmentation?

4. Make it synthetic preservative free and pass USP 51 using antimicrobial functional ingredients instead e.g. lauric acid.

Let me know if you have any ideas, if you have a lot of experience with such formulas I'd also be open for consulting! 


  • BelassiBelassi Member, PCF student
    shea butter causes breakouts but without knowing the percentage you're using I cannot comment further

    Cosmetic Brand Creation. Concept to name to IMPI search to logo and brand registration. In-house graphic design inc. Pantone specs. Cosmetic label and box design & graphics.
  • ZinkZink Member
    Around 4% same with the oils. 
  • BelassiBelassi Member, PCF student
    Yes, that will do it.
    Cosmetic Brand Creation. Concept to name to IMPI search to logo and brand registration. In-house graphic design inc. Pantone specs. Cosmetic label and box design & graphics.
  • ZinkZink Member
    Well, both niacinamide and retinol are know to help prevent acne and it's a ~1/500 report, so it's not causing a lot of problems, but yes, reducing that risk or just making it better vs breakouts is always good as negative reviews weigh heavily. What do you suggest to offer occlusivity instead?

  • Safflower oil is your problem as is Shea butter due to latex impunity.You can use VegieLight and small amount of carrot oil but keep the latter low as it adds color.We like the Montanov.
  • Meant Latex impurity 
  • DASDAS Member
    Have you thought about cutting out the butters and oils and make something more traditional like petrolatum and glycerin?. 
  • Chemist77Chemist77 Member, PCF student
    Carrot oil CLR Berlin has a very strong color and as suggested by @DRBOB@VERDIENT.BIZ keep it low.
  • ZinkZink Member
    edited March 2018
    I'm agnostic regarding the base at this point, could do a silicone base or something just using capric/caprylic triglycerides and a light emulsifier although it's nice when you can find functional naturals with good tolerability across the board (rose hip, maybe? carrot oil? or maybe it could be an allergen or irritant for some?).

    Why is safflower a problem? Acneic people on average have lower amount of linoleic acid in their skin and there is some (weak) evidence that it could be anti p.acnes

    Petrolatum and glycerin, maybe, but would be more interested in finding a superior natural or skin identical option if possible, e.g. using ceramides/cholesterol etc to make a light but highly moisturizing lotion insted of a heavier more occlusive one.

    Can't find VegieLight!

  • ZinkZink Member
    Comedogenicity is related to dosage, hence why me using measly 4% shea butter isn't breaking a lot of people out, although I think it could be replaced with something better!

    “Substances that are strongly comedogenic when tested neat (by itself) or in high concentrations become non-comedogenic after sufficient dilution.” – Kligman, 1996

    For example, a study by Draelos and DiNardo published in 2006 found that 100% acetylated lanolin alcohol gave a very high comedogenicity rating of 4-5. At 50%, the comedogenicity was still 4-5. But when diluted to 25%, the comedogenicity dropped to a measly 1. Most products contain multiple ingredients, most at concentrations well below 25% – these could easily be rendered benign by dilution. For reference, a typical face lotion is 80% water, which means that the other ingredients max out at 20% concentration (and that’s if the lotion contains only one other ingredient).
  • Rabbit ear test is not very reliable except for screening   I am aware of paper you posted above but don't believe it(squalene in sebum is comedogenic at low levels as is oleic and linoleic +linolenic acids)) and if what you say is true, than why are you getting comodones with retinol? 
  • ZinkZink Member
    What's a "low level"? A person can get comedones for a dozen reasons, regardless, this is a bit off topic as I'm not looking to keep shea butter in the formula.
  • Some reasons are more important than others such as Peroxidation of squalene in sebum which is likely present on skin in the ppm range: not all potential comedogenic substances are concentration dependent.
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