It’s a truth universally acknowledged that all good things must come to an end. Brangelina, Breaking Bad – even Bake Off with its gloriously kitsch new format won’t last forever. This, of course, is upsetting; nobody likes change. But for beauty devotees the world over, it’s even more distressing to know that this age-old adage can also be applied to skincare. I hate to be the bearer of bad news but the effects of your fancy serum do not last forever. It’s not actually the serum’s fault. It tried its darned best. The real perpetrator? Your skin. “Your fibroblasts are really similar to your muscles. If you continuously do the same cardio and weights routine, your muscles get bored quickly and build up a resistance. The same goes for your skincare. Skin cells get used to the effects of the ingredients and they quickly become bored and unresponsive,” explains cosmetic dermatologist, Dr. Frances Prenna Jones.
In short, your skin stops responding to products over time. “It’s why we wanted to deliver a product that stops women from having to constantly search for something that continues to work,” says Anthony Gonzalez, director of research & development at Avon. That game-changing product goes by the name of Reversalist Treatment Infinite Effects, £28, and its concept is really rather genius.
The premise is similar to a HIIT workout, the fitness concept that had us booking into 1Rebel, Kobox and Another Space quicker than you can say Lululemon. Crucially, HIIT’s popularity boomed because it's a proven method that stops your fitness regime from plateauing. Personal trainer Toby Huntington-Whiteley explains: “If you continue to do the same exercise your body becomes efficient, so stops burning calories. Interval training, however, is based on alternating high- and low-paced exercise that prevents this from happening. It’s much more dynamic.”
Avon’s Reversalist works in exactly the same way. Based on proprietary rotational technology, it’s essentially two high- and low-paced products in one. You apply the low-paced (hyaluronic-packed) cream to skin for seven days to prep and nourish before swapping with the high-paced retinol formula for the following seven days. “By rotating the formulas weekly, you’re consistently ‘reminding’ the receptors in your skin cells to get ready to receive the hit of retinol and fully reap its benefits,” adds Gonzalez. Continuously switching back and forth between each cream also means skin is unable to build up resistance. “Our research showed that the effects of continued exposure [to the same anti-ageing cream] can plateau at around seven days. However, skin cells exposed to ingredients in rotation didn’t show this effect, instead this variation saw collagen produced at a higher rate and therefore helped to increase the results on skin,” beams Gonzalez.
Avon isn't the only brand to have cracked the skincare fatigue conundrum. Dr. Frances Prenna Jones has created Fix Holiday, £245, which, as its name suggests, is designed to give your skin a little rest and recuperation between powerful anti-ageing treatments. Although considerably pricier than Avon’s, its technology is a tad more scientific. The hero ingredient is sirtuins, found in resveratrol (think red wine and grapes) and yeast, which get to work on mitochondria (the energy centre of a skin cell), targeting the energy inside in order to slow down cell turnover. “Sirtuins are highly sophisticated and are even being used to treat degenerative brain conditions such as dementia. They’re adept at hindering negative DNA replication and give cells a fighting chance at healing themselves,” says Prenna Jones. "When used in skincare, the effects are similar; they give tired fibroblasts a rest so that when you use your drivers such as retinols and acids, you get a much better result from the activity."
Unlike Reversalist, Fix Holiday is only to be used every four to six weeks to coincide with your cells' natural cycle, yet Prenna Jones marches to the same beat as Avon, in that she wants women to feel like they don’t need to constantly seek out new formulations. “Shifting skincare trends like the 17-step Korean one mean we’re trying a whole host of different ingredients and formulations at once. We drive our fibroblasts like mad, overwork them and they get burnt out, so no matter how potent your anti-agers are, your skin cells are too knackered to respond to them,” she explains.
Similarly, Lancôme has released Visionnaire Crescendo Night Peel, £60, which again consists of two phases. The first packs a noticeable punch thanks to 5% AHA peel, which, when used for two weeks, rids skin of pesky dead cells and forces it to make bright, shiny new ones. This is followed by two weeks of gentler 0.5% salicylic acid and glycolic acid to target fine lines and wrinkles. Recommended for use only six times a year, in a pinch it's best harnessed before big events but, again, it's all about how you apply your skincare rather than what you apply.
L’Oréal, on the other hand, has taken a slightly different approach with its revised Laser Renew cream, £22.49. It’s still designed to be used every day but L'Oréal has overcome skin lethargy by using Pro-Xylane, which mimics a naturally occurring sugar that stimulates the formation of glycosaminoglycans, or GAGs. These molecules are akin to the cement between bricks, and help to strengthen and support the skin’s architecture over time. “We also harnessed the Skin Atlas methodology to test the product. It’s the most complete measurement technique in the world to include all ethnicities, and we found the change seen in six months was the equivalent of erasing around seven years of skin ageing,” explains Atoshi George, senior scientific expert for L’Oréal Paris.
After enlisting various friends and family members as guinea pigs to trial the products, they were clambering over each other to get another hit of Avon Reversalist and Lancôme Night Peel. So is rotating your skincare the biggest new trend beauty has seen in a while?
“Yes,” asserts Prenna Jones, “in exactly the same way interval training revolutionised the fitness industry.” And the results from Avon’s year-long clinical testing support Prenna Jones’ opinion. Avon tested the product on 120 women for a year (much longer than usual skincare testing periods of a few months) and found that although the women were a year older, they looked younger than when the testing began. With some of the most impressive results to date, no wonder this trend has left the beauty industry breathless – just like a HIIT class.