"This beauty product features two peptides working in synergy to produce an even skin tone."

Is the usage of synergy in the above statement wrong or an acceptable hyperbole?

*Merriam-Webster defines synergy as a mutually advantageous conjunction or compatibility of distinct business participants or elements (such as resources or efforts).

It leads me to think that it should only be used in reference to business entities or people working together.

1 Answer 1


Yes, ingredients can work in synergy. From the Oxford English Dictionary:


  1. Joint action, cooperation

There follows Theological Examples, then a definition and examples for Physiology, then examples from Pharmacology, which I give below, omitting only the first example

1945 Sci. News-Let. Jan. 14/3 Synergy..acquires tremendous importance in applied chemistry. It means tripling the effectiveness of an insecticide or doubling the yield of a reaction.

1978 Jrnl. Infectious Dis. 137 123/1 Testing for synergy with combinations of any number of agents..might lead to the discovery of antibiotic combinations considerably more potent than those now in use.

2008 Proc. National Acad. Sci. U.S.A. 105 13977/1 Very little is known about how the evolution of resistance is affected by the nature of the interactions—synergy or antagonism—between drugs

Finally, definition #4:

  1. Any interaction or cooperation which is mutually reinforcing; a dynamic, productive, or profitable affinity, association, or link.

I omit three examples that illustrate the synergy between people or institutions and give the fourth example, below, about synergy between products:

2006 Wall St. Jrnl. 27 Nov. r4/1 A software and hardware ‘ecosystem’ that tries to mimic the successful synergy between iTunes software and iPod gadgets

Whether you believe the claims of the beauty product is another issue, but two chemicals can work in synergy.

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