Confused about Actives? These Are the Ingredients You Should Never Mix Together

August 6, 2018

With beauty brands offering more potent active ingredients in skincare than ever before, we’re all becoming our own at-home beauty mixologists.

But without a chemistry degree or dermatologist-approved skincare routine, do you really know what skincare ingredients you should and shouldn’t be using together? From acids to retinols, here’s what you should never mix and match…

Vitamin C + Acids

Vitamin C is amazing at brightening areas of pigmentation, stimulating collagen production and protecting against damaging environmental factors, like pollution.

But, Vitamin C is an extremely unstable antioxidant – meaning you have to be careful what you use it with, otherwise you risk it either not working, or your skin could have a reaction to it.

Alpha-hydroxy-acids, such as glycolic and lactic acid (both found in chemical exfoliants and peels) and beta-hydroxy-acids like salicylic acid (found in spot treatments) are too strong for vitamin C to handle – meaning they’ll change the pH and basically render it useless.

Exfoliators + Skin Brightening Treatments

Whether it’s a toning lotion or grainy scrub, exfoliators work by encouraging dry and dead skin cells to be removed – so that your brand new, baby-soft skin can shine through beneath.

The thing is, ‘brightening’ products often contain alpha hydroxy acids, which also work to encourage skin cells to peel and therefore do pretty much the same thing. This double dose of exfoliation can lead to your skin becoming sensitive and super dry. If in doubt, stick to one.

Retinol + Acne Treatments

Retinol works to speed up cell turnover and smooth the appearance of skin and fine lines. It encourages new skin cells to grow, and push up through the top layers of dull skin.

Because of this, they can often result in slight skin peeling. Pair this with a pure acne treatment (like salicylic acid or benzoyl peroxide) that are designed to slough away skin cells and dry up blemishes, and you’re in for a dose of extreme dryness, redness and irritation.

Retinol + Alpha-Hydroxy-Acids + The Sun!

Using retinol and AHAs together is another recipe for redness and irritation. Both ingredients increase photosensitivity – meaning you’re at a much higher risk of burning, even in cloudy weather.

If you’re using any kind of retinol or skin brightening AHA make sure you’re wearing a daily SPF 50, and use them in the evening to further lessen the risk of UV damage.


So which skincare ingredients CAN you mix?

Retinol or AHAs + Hyaluronic Acid

When using a retinol product, an AHA or another exfoliating product, it’s important to replenish the hydration back into your skin.

Hyaluronic acid is thin enough for your retinol product to still penetrate through, but it gives your skin an instant hit of hydration to help with any irritation too.

Vitamin C + Vitamin E

Up your dose of daily vitamins by using C + E together in your skincare. Together, they work to penetrate into different levels of the skin, reducing the appearance of acne scars, hyperpigmentation and protecting the skin from environmental factors.

5 Things To Remember When Mixing Skincare Ingredients

  • Always apply retinol at night, and use an SPF in the day.
  • Lock your skincare serums in with a moisturiser, don’t moisturise first as most serums won’t be able to penetrate through.
  • Hyaluronic acid is everyone’s hydrating best friend.
  • Only use one exfoliating treatment at a time.
  • If your skin stings, feels tight or looks very red – take a few days off.

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