The Dos And Donts Of Mixing Skincare Ingredients


Is there such a thing as perfect skincare ingredients?

Brands come out with products lines that are meant to work seamlessly together, and for good reason: since skincare isn’t a one size fits all, what works for others if they combine different brands and formulations might not work for you.

Into The Gloss spoke with Dr. Debra Jaliman, board-certified dermatologist and assistant professor of Dermatology at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, and Dr. David Lortscher, another board-certified dermatologist who’s also the CEO and founder of Curology to set you straight on the ingredients that you might wanna think twice about before playing chemist and smothering it on.



Retinol isn’t exactly an exfoliant, but it does encourage cell turnover, which means it can peel you out too much.

ITG notes that mixing retinol with other exfoliants can cause extra dryness and damage the skin’s protective barrier. Remember: Acids + Retinol: no.

Try protecting with an extra layer of SPF. It’s doubly helpful because even on days when you don’t use retinol, your skin is still going to be extra sensitive to light.

“Retin-A helps replace older skin with fresh, new skin, which is more prone to sunburn,” says Dr. Jaliman.



These are the families where oft-used terminology in your fave beauty products like glycolic, lactic, and salicylic acids belong. As mentioned above, retinol can be too much when paired with acids, but beware of layering AHAs and BHAs with Vitamin C, too. It’s still an acid even with the ‘vitamin’ rebrand, so try using your vitamin C once every couple weeks instead of your acid to help with skin tone and hyperpigmentation.

But when you’re exfoliating chemically, remember to pump up the hydration! Add in a mild serum, like a hyaluronic acid or aloe, to replenish after you peel.


Benzoyl Peroxide

Often touted as acne’s worst enemy, benzoyl peroxide works by killing the bacteria that causes acne, making ideal as a spot-treatment for whiteheads.

But a note from the experts:

“Benzoyl peroxide oxidizes Retin-A, and can be irritating to the skin if applied together,” says Dr. Jaliman. Dr. Lortscher adds, “Topical dapsone [like Aczone], when layered with benzoyl peroxide, will turn skin a temporary yellow-orange color, so it’s best to avoid.”

Since benzoyl peroxide is antibacterial, it will pair more nicely with the acne-fighting ingredients in your AHAs and BHAs.


Vitamin C

ITG writes that if you’re already using Vitamin C as a serum, then you might want to look into your cleanser, because it might be hindering your serum’s attempts at making it work with your skin.

“Residue left over by cleansing oils creates a barrier preventing water-soluble vitamin C from penetrating the skin. So make sure to really wipe your face off.”

Dr. Lortscher says, “Don’t overthink the pH thing too much. Waiting 20 to 30 minutes between applications may be an excessive precaution.”

If you want to maximize the glow, exchange vitamin C for other ‘actives’ like your acids. For enhanced effectiveness, try using vitamin E and ferulic acid, both of which enhance the effects of other vitamins when used together.



Just because you mixed in your SPF 30 to your SPF 15 won’t mean you get SPF 45.

Try not to mix sunscreen-infused foundation with actual sunscreen either, as it can mess up the protection factor of either product and leave you exposed.

“ Sunscreen should be applied as your last skincare step and go on as one even layer,” writes ITG.

You can however, add an antioxidant serum under your sun protection.

“Layering an antioxidant serum—like vitamin C—and other skin treatments under your sunscreen allows the direct benefits of these ingredients to soak into your skin,” says Dr. Lortscher.

Science shows that vitamins C and E can have a positive effect towards correcting photodamage (aka what the sun UVA and UVB rays can do to your skin, eek!) when combined with sunscreen.

Which leaves us repeating one of skin care’s top mantras: Never leave home without putting on sunscreen.


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