Peanut butter and jelly, Ben Affleck and Jennifer Lopez, Vitamin C and ferulic acid. Some matches are made in heaven. But in the realm of lotions and potions, mixing and matching could be risky business instead. Learning to (not to) layer skincare is an art.
The benefits of your favourite skincare actives—Vitamin C! Niacinamide! Retinoids!— are all over the internet. It is easy to fall prey to the cure-all layering routines that promise smooth, poreless skin in just a few weeks. But that get-glow-quick scheme can leave your skin overstimulated if you’re whipping dangerous skincare cocktails. These are not only be harmful together, but could also cancel each other out. If you’re a neophyte, you may want to keep these ingredient non-pairings in mind before putting your routine together.
Retinoids + Vitamin C = redness, irritation and potential sunburns.
Retinoids are Vitamin A derivatives that rev up skin cell turnover. This unclogs dead skin cells and helps improve collagen production. Vitamin C is an antioxidant that blocks tyrosinase production (which is responsible for pigmentation) and scavenges free radicals too. Both these powerhouse ingredients are anti-ageing marvels. But when layered together, they leave your skin photosensitive, which can increase chances for sun damage. These ingredients have a huge pH gap, so if you wear both together, you could be lowering the retinoid’s pH and raising the Vitamin C’s pH levels. This means that both ingredients could be rendered useless. For best results, use a Vitamin C serum in the AM and then apply a Vitamin A-based product on at night.
Retinoids + Alpha Hydroxy Acids = raw, painful skin.
Retinoids and AHAs (like lactic or malic acid) both improve cell turnover, bolster collagen production and promise to leave your skin blemish, fine line and pigmentation-free. But if you’re tempted to use both together in an attempt to get brighter skin quicker, wait! Both remove dead skin layers on the top, thinning out the skin in the process. This can cause contact dermatitis, burns or scarring, especially if your skin isn’t used to exfoliation.
Retinoids + Benzoyl Peroxide = Irritation, and zero effects.
The theme here is to use retinoids carefully—they’re good servants, but bad masters. This is especially so when used with benzoyl peroxide. The two anti-acne ingredients work in very different ways, and may actually cancel out each other when used together. Benzoyl peroxide is able to kill the p.acnes bacteria that causes acne. Because when it is applied, it degrades and releases oxygen, which is able to kill the bacteria on the surface. Retinoids, on the other hand, work by reducing comedone creation by reducing pore obstructions by keratin and debris.
Benzoyl Peroxide + Vitamin C = no results.
If you have a zit and a patch of pigmentation, you may want to fix both, ASAP. But if you spot treat with BPO and then apply a Vitamin C-based toner, neither will actually work. Benzoyl peroxide works by creating oxygen, which oxidises the already-unstable L-ascorbic acid molecules, rendering them both useless.
We did an in-depth dive into the perils of acne and how to fix them, here.
Niacinamide + AHAs = potential irritation and redness.
Niacinamide helps restore cellular energy, repair damaged DNA, which makes it a cure-all ingredient that most pros love to suggest. While some people can tolerate these two ingredients together, some with sensitive skin may be worried about the niacin flush—which occurs when niacinamide hydrolyses into nicotinic acid when combined with an acidic product. This conversation can cause facial flushing, which can result in redness and tingling.
There really can be too much of a good thing—and some power duos are best used separately instead of together. It might be best to ease in actives and space them out, because too many strong ingredients–while they may feel satisfying in the short run—can hurt more than they can help.
The list of skincare DON’Ts is never ending – and we are happy to discuss it all with you! Click on our WhatsApp icon to chat with us at any time!