'The purpose of science is not to

defeat nature but to harness it.'

meet dr vanessa lapiner

I’m more than a little passionate about safe, intentional, powerful skin care. It would be truthful to say I’m a little obsessed.

And that’s how it should be.

Firstly, as a dermatologist, constantly seeking the very best high performance, results-driven products for my patients. And secondly as a mother of four, very aware of the health of the next generation (and the ones to follow that).

Yet, until now, I found the options wanting.

There was only one solution. To create it myself.  So, inspired by my thousands of patients who have achieved transformational results by embracing my Total Approach to Skin Health, I set out to create skincare firmly rooted in an integrative dermatology approach.  Several intense years later, guided by research and honed by my own intuition and experience, the DR. L protocol to defend, renew and liberate the skin was born.

Today we see this protocol manifest in a dynamic, dermatologist-powered, inside-out solution straight from the clinic to your home.  A range of products that, rejects the trade-off between safety and efficacy, and embraces the concept of pure yet scientifically driven holistic beauty.

Welcome to a new age of skin care.

Welcome to root4

MBChB | MSc Med (Cell Biology) | FC Derm (SA)

Dr Vanessa Lapiner is a specialist dermatologist, the founder of root4, TASH360 and AD&L.


Hey there!

I’m Vanessa. I’m a specialist dermatologist based in Cape Town, South Africa, founder of root4 as well as of TASH360: an integrative dermatology centre committed to providing a Total Approach to Skin Health.

I am on a mission to cut through all the confusion and fake news around skincare and arm you with the facts (as well as honestly pure and yet beautifully potent products and the confidence which goes with that). With root4 it is all about zero compromise: not on efficacy, not on safety, not on truth.

The skincare world can be overwhelming. Ask me anything and let me simplify it for you.

Want to learn more about my holistic Total Approach to Skin Health? Head over to www.tash360.com.

Want to read all the nitty-gritty of my career distinctions? Head over to my bio here.

Want to never lose out on great content backed by science delivered to your inbox? Subscribe to our #stayrooted blog

Want to connect with like-minded people as obsessed with skincare as you? Join our people-powered beauty tribe @root4rendevous where real stories, information sharing, honest reviews and specialist tips and advice empower you to achieve your #skingoals.

ask dr vanessa lapiner

Welcome to the confusing world of Vitamin A! The simplest way to understand the different forms of Vitamin A is to understand the Vitamin A pathway:

In order to have an effect in the skin, vitamin A must be converted along this pathway to reach its biologically active form called retinoic acid. So whichever form you apply, it ultimately needs to reach retinoic acid before any of the benefits can happen. There are four steps to the conversion into retinoic acid; beginning with retinyl esters – the weakest form of vitamin A, into retinol, then to retinal or retinaldehyde, and then finally retinoic acid.

To summarise; retinol is two conversion steps away from retinoic acid, retinal or retinaldehyde however requires just one conversion step to retinoic acid. This conversion process is dependent on many factors including your own skin’s ability to perform this conversion process, the amount of retinol in the product to begin with, and if it’s degraded (basically how old your product is or how long it’s been opened.) Prescription Retin-A (whose active ingredient is tretinoin) as well as root4’s Granactive Retinoid can bind directly to the retinoid receptors – no conversion required.

The fewer conversions, the more benefits delivered to the skin. Simple.

Typically, prescription retinoids are notoriously irritating to the skin (think flaking, redness and sensitivity) and not everyone can tolerate them. The beauty of root 4’s Granactive Retinoid is that you get all the benefits and potency of a retinoid but without the irritation. Our NovA and SupernovA Oils also contain naturally occurring trans-retinoic acid from rosehip oil as well as bakuchiol, a plant-based retinol alternative making them truly stand-out products in the cosmeceutical world.

Collagen (and elastin) are key structures in the extracellular matrix of the skin when it comes to ageing. There are different types but in a nutshell: type I collagen is the important one for skin: it provides our skin with its structural support and volume. As we start losing our collagen (as early as in our early 20’s), so fine lines and wrinkles start to develop.

This is the reason why cosmetic companies have been including collagen into their skincare products. The better question would be whether they SHOULD be including collagen.
Collagen molecules are big. Too big to be absorbed through the skin barrier. So the collagen in that expensive cream or serum cannot penetrate into the connective tissue where it is needed. Its function in skincare products is really just for hydration.

My advice is rather to incorporate ingredients like retinoids to build up collagen as well as ingredients which will protect against loss of collagen. These include SPF (preferably a non-nano mineral one) and antioxidants which protect against damaging free radicals.

As an aside, I do believe in the value of oral hydrolysed collagen supplements (an explanation for another day).

I am not a fan of ‘typing’ skin because very few people maintain the same skin type over the years and there are so many factors such as climate, hormones or medications which impact these definitions. I think it’s simpler to describe whether you have dry, dull, tight-feeling skin when you wake up as opposed to waking up feeling greasy.

If your skin is dry, you need to really focus on moisturizing agents which won’t clog your pores and exacerbate your acne. If you’re breaking out, you don’t want to use harsh anti-acne products which are going to dry out your skin even more! Don’t stress – it is possible to treat both at the same time.

Our root4 products focus heavily on protecting and restoring the skin barrier which is key in treating dry skin (I know I sound like a broken record when it comes to the importance of the barrier but I am a dermatologist after all). We do not use any harsh soap which would strip your skin of its oils and we avoid potentially irritating ingredients such as synthetic fragrances. We do include prebiotics to protect the all-important skin microbiome (more ‘good’ skin flora, less space for acne-causing Cutibacterium Acnes) in our cleansers and masks and our Face Crème, serums and face oils are jam-packed with ingredients to boost and seal in hydration: think hyaluronic acid, skin-identical ceramides, squalene and d-panthenol along with a troop of other non-comedogenic and skin barrier loving oils.

Our acne-specific products include our Retinoid Star System (the NovA and SupernovA Oils) which normalize skin cell migration through the hair follicles. This prevents blackheads (the starting point of acne). I recommend starting with the NovA Oil and stepping up to the SupernovA Oil once you can comfortably tolerate nightly use. Use the Mask Antidote containing clay extracts and anti-inflammatory Niacinamide daily to help manage breakouts. This also contains arbutin which will help to lighten the pigmentation left behind by those pesky spots. If you’re going all out – come and visit us to compound your own PRP Plus Serum – the most anti-inflammatory product of all. See the full list of recommended products for acne-prone skin here.

Don’t forget about diet. Good skin starts from the inside out. Up your omega intake by eating more fatty fish (sardines and anchovies are mwah!) and try to reduce your dairy intake.

Let’s start by clarifying exactly what “clean beauty” means:

Clean for your skin and your health: While there isn’t one definition, the clean beauty movement embraces both natural and man-made ingredients, putting the focus on safety over source. So it’s not about where it comes from: Not all “natural” ingredients are safe and not all synthetic ingredients are unsafe. Often, ingredient concentrations are more important than the actual ingredients themselves. But there is no question that this term is being abused.

Currently the FDA has limited regulatory oversight over cosmetics manufacturing and ingredient standards. In fact, US cosmetics regulations have not been updated since 1938. The EU has more regulations and is considered to be the ‘global standard’, but still has many shortcomings. So despite their widespread use, terms like ‘natural’ and ‘clean’ are unregulated resulting in ‘greenwashing’ with claims of products being organic if it contains just one drop of an organic essential oil.

When it comes to root4, I use the word ‘safe’. It holds us much more accountable. Our products avoid any questionable ingredients including but not limited to petrochemicals, PEGs, mineral oils, liquid paraffin, GMOs, silicones, phenoxyethanol, sodium lauryl sulfates, parabens, phthalates, oxybenzone, microplastics, artificial dyes and artificial fragrances.

Clean for the environment: You can trust that every single ingredient in our root4 formulations as well as our packaging, suppliers and business practices have been obsessively self-regulated. Sustainability is at the core of our root4 philosophy. We strive to work in a responsible way that is not harmful to people, animals or our planet.
Read about our sustainability practices here to make sure that you are making the best, most informed decisions for both yourself as well as for our environment.

Teens do not need complicated skin regimens! As an absolute minimum, a good cleanser (Cleansing Elixir) and SPF (3D Defense SPF50 Mineral Sunscreen) is all that is needed.

If breakouts are an issue, include our NovA serum with 4% Granactive Retinoid to prevent blackheads as well as our Mask Antidote which is truly an acne problem-solver. Its clay extracts, anti-inflammatory Niacinamide and prebiotics offer multi-targeted acne actives.

As a general guideline, we recommend applying products in the following order from the most water-based product to the oiliest one:
1. Cleanser or MultiMasker

2. Mask (remove then continue with the following)

3. Complete Serum or PRP Plus Serum

4. Eye Crème Solution (at night)

5. Face Crème Originale

6. Integrative Serum

7. NovA or SupernovA serum (at night)

8. 3D Defense SPF50 (in the morning)

Our essential oils are distilled through clean processes such as careful steam distillation, resin tapping and cold-pressing. We never use extreme heat or chemical solvent extractions like as hexane in order to preserve the ingredient integrity and to avoid contact with known skin irritants. Inexpensive essential oils are often synthetic, adulterated, or unethically sourced but only the purest essential oils are used in our root4 products.

We advise our customers to use their products within 6 months of opening for highest quality. You can find our period after opening (PAO) symbol on the back of our bottles. This symbol looks like a can with an open lid and a 6M (6 months) time period indicated. This specifies the length of time during which it is best to use the product after opening.

We use four special preservatives all derived from nature-identical ingredients such as corn sugar and flowers. We advise our customers to use their products within 6 months of opening for highest quality. Unopened products, that are not exposed to heat and high temperatures have a shelf life of approximately 2 years (although we have some batch samples that are still fresh and viable long past the 2 year mark.) We recommend storing our products in a cool, dry setting under 75°F/ 24°C to preserve their quality.
Keep your products out of direct sunlight. Store in a cool, dark, dry place under 75°F/ 24°C to preserve their quality.

The colour of our products may vary in their shades of green owing to natural compounds used. This variation/change does not indicate that the product has lost its efficacy. We could use chemicals such as CL 19140 to colour our products, but we have made a commitment to use only the safest ingredients in our products. The beautiful green colours of our products comes from unique combinations of chlorophyll, malachite, curcumin and spirulina. Since nature is not always consistent in colour, our products will not be either.

The texture and scent of our products may vary owing to natural ingredients used. Traditional cosmetic and skincare companies use potentially harmful chemical stabilisers and emulsifiers to ensure the consistency of their products. root4 is committed to producing extraordinarily effective products but without these questionable ingredients. This does translate into texture and scent variation from product to product. We are changing the dialogue from variance being frowned upon and consistency being king to revering variance as a sign of what it is: sustainably sourced safe skincare.

While every ingredient we use is carefully selected to meet safety and efficacy standards, it is recommended that consumers who are pregnant or nursing consult with their physician for any contraindications. Our Eye Crème Solution, NovA and SupernovA serums do contain granactive retinoids which are a form of Vitamin A. These should be omitted during pregnancy. Our Integrative Serum is our Essential Oil serum. As with any medical condition, we strongly recommended that prior to using essential oils, you seek the advice and recommendation of a competent, trained health care advisor who is experienced in essential oil usage. Our Integrative Serum does NOT contain Clary Sage (Salvia sclarea), Sage (Salvia officinalis), Idaho Tansy (Tanacetum vulgare), Hyssop (Hyssopus officinalis), Fennel (Foeniculum vulgare), and Wintergreen (Gaultheria procumbens) which are the essential oils advisable to avoid during pregnancy. Please note that a complete ingredient list can be found here.

Vegan products include the Complete Serum, Integrative Serum, NovA Oil, SupernovA Oil and Eye Crème Solution.

We are committed to producing products which are sustainably sourced and cruelty-free. No root4 products have been tested on animals.

You can trust that with root4 there has been zero compromise. We are not a big corporation mass producing cost-optimised products to boost our bottom line. As a non-negotiable, we carefully select ingredients that are sustainable, cruelty-free and clean. Our highly concentrated formulas do not contain any fillers and are free from petrochemicals, PEGs, mineral oils, liquid paraffin, GMOs, silicones, oxybenzone, microplastics, artificial dyes and artificial fragrances. Our commitment to sustainability extends to our packaging, suppliers and practices. Read more here.

Yes, our products do not contain any harsh soaps, synthetic fragrances or parabens and are packed full of soothing, anti-inflammatory ingredients. If you have sensitive skin, we recommend starting with our NovA Oil and using it only twice weekly to start. Slowly increase use by an extra night a week. Once you can comfortably use the NovA Oil nightly, you can step up to applying the SuperNovA Oil, starting with twice weekly use as before. Stop use five days prior to any in-house peels or laser therapies and resume use five days thereafter.

Yes all our products are not only noncomedogenic but they specifically target acne through utilizing the power of ingredients such as granactive retinoid, bakuchiol, niacinamide, clay extracts and prebiotics. The anti-inflammatory nature of root4’s products make them the perfect product to prevent and treat breakouts. Often products targeted at oily skin contain soaps and alcohols that strip the skin of its natural oils. This causes an overproduction of oil and more sebum build-up. Our face oils contain rosehip, jojoba, almond and pomegranate seed oil which help to balance oily skin and contain no harsh barrier-disrupting ingredients.

During breakouts our Mask Antidote with its clay extracts can be used daily to help manage the problems areas and our NovA and SupernovA Oils will normalize skin cell migration through the hair follicles preventing blackheads ( the starting point of acne). Our skin-identical ingredients such as ceramides help to combat the dryness triggered by prescription anti-acne topicals as well as isotretinoin.

Yes, being dermatologist-developed, root4 products do not contain any harsh soaps, synthetic fragrances or parabens and are packed full of soothing, anti-inflammatory ingredients such as prebiotics, niacinamide, aloe vera and chamomile. Our Face Crème Originale contains skin-identical ceramides as well as squalene and d-panthenol along with a troop of other skin barrier loving oils to support the compromised skin barrier of dermatitis patients.

Carry out an open patch test to products on a 5cm by 5cm patch of skin on the inner bend of your elbow flexure. Apply leave-on products to the same patch of skin twice a day for a week. If the product is a cleanser, mask or rinse-off product then wash it off after a minute or two. If the product is a retinoid oil then only apply every third day for four applications. If the treated skin continues to look and feel normal by the end of the week of testing, then you are unlikely to have a significant allergy to the product. If you develop a patch of red, dry skin, itching or frank eczema at the site of application, it is likely that there is an allergy to one of the product’s ingredients. A positive reaction to an open patch test may indicate that formal patch tests should be undertaken to identify a specific contact allergen. Immediate signs of skin irritation are usually due to an irritant contact dermatitis rather than an allergic contact dermatitis. In contrast, an allergic reaction is often only evident several days after applying a product.

We advise that customers stop using the NovA and SupernovA Oil and MultiMasker five days prior to any in-house peels or laser therapies and resume use five days thereafter.

DR. L protocol

Each ingredient in the root4 range is meticulously considered to encompass the DR. L objectives of defend, renew and liberate – 3 specific skincare steps to your healthiest, most radiant skin.