As skincare routines and products become more and more popular, it can be difficult to know what products and ingredients are right for your skin. While there are many options available to consumers, not all skincare ingredients are meant to be used together. Additionally, when it comes to skincare, more is not always better. 

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To get the best results from your skincare routine, it’s incredibly important to choose products tailored to your specific skin type, as well as products that complement each other. You could be sabotaging your skin by using a bad combination of skincare ingredients. Here are some of the most common skincare active ingredients that don’t work together:

Retinol and Vitamin C 

Retinol is very popular to treat acne, wrinkles, dark spots, and uneven skin textures. Vitamin C also evens out the skin texture and works to resolve discoloration, but it works differently.  

Retinol is a derivative of Vitamin A, meaning that it works best in a high alkaline or high pH environment. Vitamin C is the opposite, meaning that it works best in an acidic environment to get the full antioxidant effects. If you use them both at the same time, neither will produce optimal results.

Instead of using both of them at the same time, use products with Vitamin C, like our Skin Brightening Serum, in the morning to protect your skin from environmental free radicals, and use our Retinol Serum in the evening to repair your skin while you sleep.

 

Niacinamide and Vitamin C

Niacinamide, also known as Vitamin B3, works to even out skin tone and reduce the appearance of pores and wrinkles. Both Niacinamide and Vitamin C are antioxidants, but they are not chemically compatible. Using one immediately after the other can reduce the potency and effectiveness of both.

Vitamin C does not conflict with Niacinamide when it’s used in gel form, like ascorbic or L-ascorbic acid. To get the most effectiveness out of both products, use Vitamin C in the morning and Niacinamide at night, or alternate your morning products every other day.

 

Soap Cleansers and Vitamin C

Most products with Vitamin C are meant to be used in the morning to protect the skin from exposure to daily pollutants. However, applying a Vitamin C serum right after washing your face with soap can dilute the effect of the product. Vitamin C has maximum efficiency in a highly acidic environment, however, soap cleanses have a high pH, which can limit the absorption of Vitamin C.

To get the benefits of both actives, find a morning cleanser with a neutral pH, like this Gentle Foaming Cleanser. If you have a cleanser with AHA or BHA that you love, pick one with a low percentage of active ingredients to prevent over-drying of the skin.

 

Hydroxy Acids (AHA or BHA) and Vitamin C

Hydroxy acids work to smooth, tighten, and brighten the skin. Alpha Hydroxy Acid (AHA) products include glycolic acid, which works to exfoliate the skin, reduce photodamage, and minimize wrinkles. Beta Hydroxy Acids (BHA) include salicylic acid, which dissolves dead skin cells and breaks down oil and debris inside pores.

These products are both acids, so they can be dehydrating and irritating to the skin. Vitamin C is also an acid, so using it on top of  AHAs or BHAs can cause problems.

Instead of using one right after the other, use your AHA or BHA cleanser and serum in the evening, and keep the Vitamin C as part of your morning routine.

 

Hydroxy Acids (AHA or BHA) and Retinol

Both retinol and AHAs or BHAs increase skin cell turnover. This helps to stimulate collagen production for more evenly toned, smooth, and wrinkle-free skin. However, in terms of exfoliating the top layer of the skin, less is more when using these products.

Combining retinol with hydroxy acids can be extremely drying and irritating to the skin, which can lead to red or flakey skin, sometimes even causing rashes. 

If you are really attached to both your retinol and AHA or BHA products, try to alternate your use of them every night.  Try adding the second product once weekly, then work your way up to 2-3 times per week, on alternate evenings. Watch your skin’s reaction closely and if your skin gets too dry, decrease your usage of one or both of the products.

 

Retinol and Benzoyl Peroxide

Retinol is often praised for its anti-aging properties, but it’s also an effective acne treatment. Retinoids prevent clogged pores by exfoliating the top layer of skin. If you’re trying to clear up your acne, it’s likely that you’re also using benzoyl peroxide, which eliminates acne-causing bacteria.

However, benzoyl peroxide can deactivate the retinoid molecule, which makes its powerful treatment useless.

Instead, use products like this Benzoyl Peroxide Face and Body Wash in the morning and your retinol products at night, to get the benefits of both ingredients. 

 

Retinol and Salicylic Acid

Salicylic acid is oil-based, so it’s great for exfoliating the top layer of skin, in addition to breaking up oil and debris in pores. Also, retinol and salicylic acid are both great at fighting acne, but they can be quite drying and irritating when used together. If your skin is oily, avoid overdrying the skin because if your skin gets too dry the body will try to overcompensate and increase its natural oil production in response.  

Instead, use your salicylic acid products in the morning and retinoids at night. 

 

Glycolic Acid and Salicylic Acid

Both glycolic acid and salicylic acid are forms of hydroxy acids that are effective at exfoliating the outer layers of the skin. However, glycolic acid is water-soluble and salicylic acid is oil-soluble, meaning the two just don’t mix.

Mixing these ingredients can cause a negative reaction that dries, irritates, and over-exfoliates your skin.

If you can’t pick between the two, try alternating them every other day. Or choose one for daily exfoliation and the other if you feel a breakout coming on.

 

Two Products with the Same Active Ingredients

When it comes to skincare, the number one thing to keep in mind is that less is more. Using two products with the same active ingredient can irritate the skin and make it more vulnerable to skin damage, pollutants, dryness, irritation, or flaking.

When you’re introducing any new products into your routine, take it slow and use a small amount before gradually increasing your usage. Also, be sure to patch test any new products before using them on your face. If you have any type of adverse reaction, stop using the product.

As always, if you have any questions about how actives affect your skin, contact your dermatologist or click the button below to give us a call!

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