We all know that there are certain drinks that should never be mixed because they don’t go well together (red wine + vodka? = disastrous morning!). The same theory applies to skincare; certain products are not meant to be applied together if you don’t want to wake up looking like you got involved in a bar fight. In this article, we will tell you how you can prevent skin irritation and what skincare product is safe to mix and not to mix. Let’s dive deep into the art of skincare mixology!
Ingredients That Can’t Be Mixed
1. Retinol and AHAs/BHAs
We’ve heard of the great benefits of retinol and skin exfoliants like AHAs and BHAs and at some point, we might have thought “what if I used these two together to achieve maximum glow?” If you are one of those people who went with it, you probably learned your lesson.
Using retinol and AHAs/BHAs (glycolic and salicylic are some examples) at the same time can cause skin irritation, skin sensitivity, and redness especially if you have sensitive skin. The reason is that AHAs’/BHAs’ main job is to exfoliate the skin, which retinol does as well. Over exfoliation can cause the skin to become dry and flaky that can trigger the production of sebum and the beginning cause of acne. However, these ingredients are not totally combinable; alternating (not using at the same time) between these products can have its skin benefits. A 2015 research has concluded that using retinoic acid and glycolic acid had shown improvement in the appearance of acne scars. Bear in mind that you should be careful in combining these together and you should let your skin adapt to the product before introducing a new one.
2. Retinol and Vitamin C
Double the product, double the glow? Nope! It might seem like a good analogy but using both products will not actually lighten dark spots faster. In truth, mixing Retinol and Vitamin C may be a potential recipe for disaster. These actives, when layered together, can cause irritation and redness to your skin. Retinol is best used at night because it increases the skin’s photosensitivity and may cause sun damage when used in the morning. In contrast, Vitamin C is best used in the morning since one of its essential functions as an antioxidant is to protect our skin from harmful pollution and UV damage.
3. Glycolic and Salicylic Acid
Combining glycolic and salicylic acid can be tricky – you need the perfect percentage of these two to avoid damaging your skin. Since both are powerful acids for peeling and exfoliation, mixing them together may tend to weaken your skin barrier and cause irritation. Glycolic targets the skin surface while salicylic works by exfoliating and penetrating deeper into the skin layer. It is commonly suggested to avoid mixing these two together and use them separately to avoid over-exfoliation and further damaging your skin.
4. Tretinoin and Products with Peeling Effects
Unless prescribed by your dermatologist, combining tretinoin with other peeling products such as benzoyl peroxide, salicylic acid, and sulfur might not be a great idea especially if you are self-treating. It is best to consult with your doctor so they can perform a full diagnosis of your skin type, the severity of acne, and the proper dosage of products that should be used and combined.
5. Retinol and Benzoyl Peroxide
Some things are better left alone, as with the case of retinol and benzoyl peroxide. Retinol or retinoids are a powerful anti-acne and anti-aging ingredient, however, combining retinol and benzoyl peroxide will not make your acne go away faster. In truth, these ingredients together cancel each other and can leave your skin dry and irritated.
6. Vitamin C & Benzoyl Peroxide
Same case as using benzoyl peroxide and retinol, using vitamin C serum and benzoyl peroxide might not be a perfect match. Benzoyl peroxide can oxidize vitamin C and make it less potent. Hence, these two together will cancel each other out and make it less effective. It is best used separately by using vitamin C in the morning and benzoyl peroxide in the evening or as prescribed by your doctor.
Ingredients That Can Be Mixed
1. Vitamin C and SPF
Known as the power couple of skincare, vitamin C and sunscreen together, help fight free radicals and combat UV light throughout the day. Vitamin C is one of the superior ingredients in anti-aging and reversing skin damage. Some studies have shown that using vit C and SPF together boosts your protection against photoaging. Using sunscreens higher than SPF 50 will not offer you better protection against harmful ultra-violet rays than using Vitamin C and SPF together.
2. Retinol and Ceramides
Ceramides are fat or lipids that make up about 30 percent to 40 percent of our skin's outer layer and are responsible for retaining skin moisture. When you are using retinol, your skin has a tendency to get dehydrated and sensitive; adding ceramides into the mix will make sure that your skin gets the proper amount of moisture to keep it from drying out. By maintaining a healthy barrier, your skin will get a plump and youthful glow. To know if the product has ceramides, check for ingredients such as ceramide NP, AP, EOP, NG, NP, NS, or natural oils with high levels of fat such as jojoba oil, sunflower oil, and hemp oil.
3. Vitamin C and Niacinamide
Hearing vitamin C and niacinamide together probably gave you a little pause. The first thought that many of us come to mind is, “Can I mix them together? They sound dangerously mixed.” However, contrary to the popular myth, these two products are safe to use together. Both offer brightening properties for hyperpigmentation and reducing the appearance of fines lines and wrinkles.
4. AHA (Alpha-Hydroxy Acids) and BHA (Beta Hydroxy Acids)
AHAs and BHAs, when not combined with retinol, are safe to use together in moderation. AHAs such as glycolic acid, is a water-soluble exfoliant that targets the outer layer of the skin and removes dead skin cells while BHAs, such as salicylic acid, penetrate deeper to unclog pores and reduce acne breakouts. Since these two are still active acids, it is still best to not overuse them.
Things to Keep in Mind
When introducing new products to your skincare routine, it is always recommended to do a patch test to make sure that you do not have an allergic reaction to the ingredients. It is also recommended to incorporate new products one at a time and give at least a one-week interval before introducing another product. If you have severe acne or an unusual skin condition that may be alarming, do not self-treat; consult with your doctor or dermatologist so they can perform a thorough check-up and provide you with the best solution to your problem.
Chandrashekar, B. S., Ashwini, K. R., Vasanth, V., & Navale, S. (2015). Retinoic acid and glycolic acid combination in the treatment of acne scars. Indian dermatology online journal, 6(2), 84–88. https://doi.org/10.4103/2229-5178.153007