Rationale: Cult Skincare That Puts Science First

You probably hadn’t heard of Rationale until recently. That’s because although the Australian brand has been around since 1992, it was previously only stocked in medical and dermatology settings. The decision to go consumer-facing has seen 14 flagship stores-come-clinics open around the country in quick succession. And these aren’t just ordinary retail outlets; they’re impeccable. Think fastidiously placed walls of product, marble-tiled shop floors that positively gleam, and the sort of clean, geometric lines common to the pages of any design book. But, like with all products that make claim to drastically improve the skin, one must look beyond looks. Where Rationale is concerned, they’re more than a pretty face.

Rationale’s ethos is deeply rooted in science and as such they analyse skin through the lens of skin health. Your Rationale journey will begin with a one-on-one consultation that feels medical at times (that is, if your GP’s office involved softly diffused light and low-tempo electronic music). You’ll be gently probed about your skin concerns, current routine, and prevailing lifestyle factors like how much you stress, drink, and exercise. All this is followed by a double cleanse and then the pièce de résistance: skin scanning and UV imaging, where a very hi-tech and presumably expensive camera takes close-up photos of your face, which reveal the deep layers of your skin otherwise invisible to the naked eye. Here, the consultant will talk you through the series of images—each unveiling a fascinating level of detail in regards to things like sun damage, hydration, inflammation, pigmentation, and ageing—allowing them to adroitly devise a tailored treatment plan and suite of complementary products.

Rationale dub their range ‘The Essential Six’. The idea is that the products—three for morning, three for night—are so expert in their roles and duties that they offer a complete and comprehensive skincare plan. For morning there’s two antioxidant serums (the Immunologist Serum and the Super Antioxidant Serum) followed by a day cream (the Photo Dynamic Day Cream SPF15). For night, there’s a ceramide-enriched cleanser which doubles as a liquid exfoliant (the ProCeramide Cleanser), an AHA serum (the Catalyst Serum), and a vitamin A night cream (the DNA Night Cream). The lot will set you back just over $900, but the theory is that there should be no need for anything else.

The regime is dedicated to reversing the effects of solar exposure on the skin. Australia has some of the highest UV radiation levels in the world, increasing our risk of skin cancer and leaving us vulnerable to sun damage. The daytime products offers protection not just from UV rays, but also visible light and infrared radiation, while the nighttime products work to reverse daytime damage by refreshing the skin’s lipid barrier to encourage regeneration and repair. We especially love the Beautiful Superfluid SPF50 formulations; tinted sunscreens that also provide protection from the blue light emitted from devices (research is still underway but according to some studies four days in front of the computer is equivalent to twenty minutes in the mid-afternoon sun).

In a flooded market where formerly niche ingredients like acids and enzymes now roll off the tongue, Rationale is set apart because of its scientific backing. Developed by founder Richard Parker (who himself has suffered from acne and pigmentation) and perfected over years with dermatologists, the formulations are isotropic, or ‘skin-identical’. This means they harness ingredients that mimic those found naturally in the skin, making the active ingredients more easily absorbed and accepted by the skin. “Everything we do begins by studying the way the skin naturally does what it is we are seeking to replicate, protect or repair… These insights then become the very essence of every product we make,” Parker says.

The treatments on offer also lean into science. For example, the CryoGenic Facial involves therapeutically cooling the skin to reduce redness and inflammation; the EpiNova Photosonic Facial combines an enzyme reactivation treatment with LED light therapy and micro-circulatory massage. While the titles might sound sci-fi, the experience is anything but cold or clinical and, like with any good facial, you will soon forget your worldly worries as each and every pore is carefully attended to by a deft, human hand.

You can find out more about Rationale here or follow them on Instagram. Photography and words by Really Well.

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