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Skincare Ingredients Not to Mix in One Routine
A basic skincare routine should be easy. You’ve got your cleanser, moisturizer, and sunscreen; products that work in perfect harmony. But it gets challenging when you realize you need more than that to address skincare concerns, treat acne, get rid of fine lines, or improve skin texture.
When crafting a more complicated routine, it’s important that you’re mixing ingredients that bring out the best in each other — not the other way around. With all the acne treatments, exfoliants, and multi-ingredient serums, it’s hard to determine which ones can be layered and which ones will only result in terrible skin irritation.
Here, we break down the dos and don’ts of mixing skincare ingredients so you can build your perfect skincare routine efficiently. Let’s get into it!
What Skincare Should Not Be Mixed Together?
In the world of skincare, there are some ingredients you should never mix together. Skincare products that contain a high concentration of active ingredients, like chemical exfoliants, should rarely be mixed with other products with the same exfoliating or drying effect. Here are some examples.
Retinoid or Retinol and Alpha Hydroxy Acids
Vitamin A derivatives like retinol/retinoids and alpha hydroxy acids like lactic acids, ascorbic acid, and glycolic acid are some of the best anti-aging skincare. Both exfoliate the outer layer of skin, remove fine lines and wrinkles, even out skin tone, and also unclog pores. They are also “capable of potentially irritating side effects,” says a board-certified dermatologist based in Dallas.
Combining the two can potentially lead to excessive dryness and a damaged skin barrier since they both speed up skin cell turnover.
Retinoid or Retinol and Salicylic Acid
Retinol and retinoids are favored by skin experts because of their ability to zap away wrinkles and fine lines. Because they don’t directly kill acne-causing bacteria, it can be tempting to pair a retinoid with salicylic acid.
Salicylic acid is considered one of the best active ingredients for acne-prone skin. It regulates oil production and has anti-inflammatory properties. But beta hydroxy acids actually don’t fare well with retinoids. Instead of layering the two, try using salicylic acid in the morning and retinoid in the evening. Overdrying the skin causes irritation, redness, and heightened sensitivity to UV damage. Both are potent ingredients and should therefore only be combined only when required.
Retinoid or Retinol and Benzoyl Peroxide
Benzoyl peroxide is another superstar anti-acne treatment, and it’s also one of the ingredients you should never try to mix with retinol. Not only do they cause excessive irritation, dryness, and redness, but they actually cancel each other out, says Dr. Shari Marchbein, a board-certified dermatologist from New York City.
There are exceptions, however. Past research has shown that some formulations of tretinoin, a commonly used retinoid, stay stable when used in conjunction with benzoyl peroxide. Another product called Epiduo Forte is able to successfully combine adapalene and benzoyl peroxide.
In summary, it’s still good practice to keep BP and retinoids away from each other. That doesn’t mean you can’t use both. Instead of applying them on top of each other, try using each ingredient on alternate days. Using benzoyl peroxide during the day and retinoids at night works, too.
Retinoid or Retinol and Vitamin C
Vitamin C is one of the trickier skincare ingredients because it thrives in an acidic pH balance which can easily be thrown off by other products. But Vitamin C is great at protecting the skin, and it can also even out discoloration.
Retinoids are most effective at night since they restore the skin and build collagen while also making skin more sensitive to the sun. Vitamin C, which contains antioxidants that fight oxidative free radicals, functions best throughout the day. The easy fix is to use both at the times they were intended: apply vitamin C during the day and retinol at night.
Many experts also recommend combining vitamin C with vitamin E, another antioxidant that protects the skin. The two ingredients combined also help slow down signs of aging and remove dark spots.
Vitamin C and High pH Cleansers
Vitamin C works best at low pH. Using soap-based cleansers, which alters the skin’s pH levels, can reduce its ability to absorb vitamin C. We recommend using a low pH cleanser in combination with your Vit C serum to maximize the latter’s effects.
What Ingredient Should Not Be Mixed With Hyaluronic Acid?
HA is a renowned humectant that helps skin hold on to water. Being a hydrating product naturally found in our body, HA is well-tolerated by just about any skin type. The good news is, you won’t have to worry about irritation because it can play nice with even the most powerful skincare favorites.
What Skin Care Ingredients Can You Mix?
You can mix hydrating water-based products, like hyaluronic acid or niacinamide serum, with exfoliating skincare products.
For example, you can’t mix retinol with other exfoliants, but you can (and maybe have to) pair it with a hyaluronic acid product, which contains moisturizing ingredients that can counteract potential dryness. Drying + moisturizing = better skin tolerance.
In fact, HA goes with almost any product. You can mix it with retinols, AHAs, BHAs, vitamin C, and niacinamide.
Once you have a good grasp of the do’s and don’ts, crafting the perfect skincare routine will come naturally. We hope this guide has been helpful!
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Frequently Asked Questions
What ingredients should skincare not have? How can I avoid skin irritation?
If you want to avoid potential irritants, it’s best to go for paraben-free, alcohol-free, and fragrance-free products. While skin can withstand a certain amount of the said ingredients, it’s best to avoid them if you have ultra-sensitive skin as they can easily dry you out.
Other ingredients include prescription drugs in over-the-counter products, as these aren’t as regulated. A few examples are hydroquinone and tretinoin, which are best used under professional supervision.
Joey is an AB Psychology graduate of the University of St. La Salle – Bacolod. Her life’s passions include writing, film, and spending hours on end binge-watching fashion vloggers on Youtube.