Flawless nightly serum breakdown of the formula

Last night, I watch Dr. Sam bunting video on her new serum the Flawless Nightly serum. When she talked about the selection of actives I was very impressed and I discussed it with my friend Andre know as wearebats on Instagram (here to follow him). We agreed to write this blog post to discuss this promising formula. 

Granactive Retinoid aka hydroxypinacolone retinoate (HPR)

We think The Ordinary was one of the first brand using this retinoid in a bigger market scale. Before them, Cantabria Labs were already working with the ingredient under a trademark complex called RetinSphere where HPR and retinol are encapsulated in liposomes. The ingredient was present in two of their lines, the Biretix range specifically designed for acne. The treatment cream is formulated with 1% Granative Retinoid Complex (0.1% of the molecule), and also on the Endocare Cellage or Cell Pro range.

So Granactive (or hydroxypinacolone retinoate) is an ester of the famous and bioavailable retinoid form called 9-Cis-Retinoic Acid or All-trans Retinoic Acid (RA), also known as retinoic acid or Tretinoin. The vitamin A pathway is always on in your skin. To put it simply our skin cells take the retinol (= vitamin A) from the blood, stock it or use it. When cells use retinol they convert it into retinal (or retinaldehyde) and then into RA. Finally, the RA binds to the three retinoic acid receptors in the skin cells and starts working, mostly by activating gene expression making skin act in a more serene choreography and essentially making it act “younger”. HPR is a modified form of tretinoin that is thought to bind to the same receptors as tretinoin. What is very interesting with Granactive is how gentle it is. Literature is scarce about it, and most of the data are coming from Grand industry (the manufacturer of Granactive) and some studies, interestingly enough one of the most comprehensive being done by the Estee Lauder Group. However, and that’s the most challenging part of investigating ingredients, most of the clinically studied preparations combine Granactive with retinol. So it is hard to know which actives are having the real impact in gene expression — what controls cell proliferation, fibroblasts activity, collagen fibril maturation, melanogenesis, etc. — It is a very promising ingredient that needs more backup science especially to demonstrate an increase of collagen, elastin and all that jazz deep down in the skin.    


Bakuchiol is a meroterpene phenol abundant in seeds and leaves of the plant Psoralea CorylifoliaIn, from where it is extracted for cosmetic use and seems to have retinol-like activity including some sharing in the gene expression board. A clinical trial and double-blind assessment did show a similar effect when compared with Retinol in reversing photoaging. Moreover, Bakuchiol presented appreciable antioxidant capacities, mitochondrial lipid peroxidation protection, and anti-fungal activity.  Like Granactive, it is a promising ingredient that still needs more work done. If you want to know more about bakuchiol read this post from @wearebats here.

Azelaic acid 

What an amazing ingredient. This acid has an anti-acne effect and helps to fade the tenacious melanin deposits, (hyperpigmentation) by inhibiting tyrosinase and the process of melanin production called melanogenesis.


Niacinamide is a powerful ingredient that helps to support the skin barrier by increasing the endogenous production of ceramides, has anti-inflammatory properties, has a sebum reduction by inhibition of the enzyme 5a-reductase and similarly to Azelaic Acid it has been proven to have tyrosinase inhibitory activity.

Why this serum is so well done? 

Looking at the ingredients Dr. Sam wanted to formulate an anti-aging and anti-acne treatment without the conventional downsides, irritation, redness, discomfort… often associated with some retinoids. According to the literature, Granactive is the molecule to use. However, the scientific literature is still small so rather than betting everything on it, Dr. Sam added another promising ingredient Bakuchiol to add to the game. The best, and what brings the cherry on top of the cake, is to have mixed in azelaic acid and Niacinamide to increase the anti-acne power of this serum and support the skin barrier, all in the same product which in real life terms means a reduction of 3 steps in your routine. With the inclusion of certain emollients and Allantoin, this is really a concentrate of beneficial ingredients. 

Do we recommend you to try this serum? 

Absolutely and we will definitely buy it and put it to the test. We love when skincare is so well formulated! A work of scientific Art. If you want to hear Cyrille talk about it watch the video.    

  • ☀️Organic sunscreens to pair with retinoids
  • ☀️Mineral sunscreens to pair with retinoids

Thank you for your time

Andre and Cyrille 

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