The Dos and Don'ts of Mixing Skincare Ingredients

So you're new to the world of skincare. Or perhaps you've decided it's time to step up your skincare routine with more than just a cleanser and moisturiser. In any case, you've done your homework, read some online reviews, and stocked up on products within your price range that will address your main areas of concern. Now it's just a matter of determining whether the ingredients in all of these creams, serums, and masks complement one another. 

Important factor to consider when curating your skincare product lineup is skin irritation. Your skincare routine should include complementary products to avoid over-drying, over-exfoliating, or irritating the skin. More does not always equal better.

We've put together a complete guide of the dos and don'ts of mixing and matching the most popular skincare ingredients found in products.


Retinol is one of the most revered skincare ingredients that dermatologists love to recommend. Also known as vitamin A, what makes retinol so great is that it promotes skin cell turnover, which can help improve the appearance of fine lines, wrinkles, uneven skin texture, dark spots, and acne. The only catch? Retinol can be extremely irritating. Retinol is an effective anti-aging ingredient, but can cause skin dryness.

Do Mix: Retinol with moisturizing ingredients like hyaluronic acid and ceramides as well as SPF.

Make sure to moisturise; humectant ingredients like hyaluronic acid can draw and hold water molecules to your skin's surface layers, while oil-based emollient ingredients help seal in moisture. It's also important to remember that retinol can make you more sun sensitive.

SPF should be worn every day of the year, not only to prevent skin cancers, wrinkles, and sun spots, but also because many other ingredients we apply to our skin, such as retinol and retinoids, can make the skin more sensitive to the sun.

Don't Mix: Retinol with vitamin C, benzoyl peroxide, and AHA/BHA acids.

AHA and BHA acids are exfoliating, which can dry out skin and cause further irritation if your skincare routine already includes retinol.

Benzoyl peroxide and retinol, on the other hand, cancel each other out. It is not recommended to use benzoyl peroxide and retinoids together because they literally cancel each other out, making them less effective.

Finally, because vitamin C protects the skin from environmental aggressors and retinol repairs and rebuilds the skin, they should be used at different times of the day. 

Vitamin C

Vitamin C protects the skin from oxidative free radical damage and works best in the morning. This ingredient also lightens dark spots and brightens the skin. 

Do Mix: Vitamin C with antioxidants and SPF

When combined with other antioxidants, such as vitamin E, vitamin C can improve results and efficiency. The same is true for putting vitamin C on top of sunscreen. Vitamin C serums should always be layered under sunscreen because they complement each other and protect skin from UV damage.

Don't Mix: Vitamin C with retinol

In contrast to vitamin C, retinol and retinoids build collagen and help repair the skin, so they're best used overnight. Since vitamin C thrives in the daytime, it's best to keep these ingredients separate from each other because they have such different functions.


Salicylic, glycolic, and lactic acids are all effective exfoliants that can improve skin texture and tone, as well as treat acne. Having said that, all three of these acids have the potential to dehydrate and irritate skin. Bottom line: After using products containing AHA or BHA acids, use a hydrating product. 

Do Mix: AHA/BHA acids with moisturizing ingredients and SPF.

Moisturizing after applying AHA and BHA is important to prevent irritation. To hydrate and soothe skin, look for ceramides, hyaluronic acid, and glycerin. Using a product that combines multiple low-level AHA and BHA acids can be an extremely effective way to exfoliate and unclog pores.

Both AHA/BHA acids and retinol, can cause sun sensitivity. You should wear sunscreen every day regardless of what products you use in your skincare routine, it is especially important to not skip this step when using these ingredients. 

Don't Mix: AHA/BHA acids with retinol

I strongly advise those who use retinoids for acne or anti-aging to avoid combining them with other acids because the combination may cause excessive skin sensitivity, irritation, and redness. In fact, AHA and BHA should not be combined with retinoids on the same day. Also, be cautious when combining different acids or even physical and chemical exfoliants, as this can cause irritation and even eczema.


This antioxidant, also known as vitamin B3, is an anti-inflammatory that can brighten skin, even out discoloration, reduce sebum and minimise the appearance of pores.

Do Mix: Niacinamide with (almost) every ingredient in your skincare routine

Because niacinamide is anti-inflammatory, the skin reacts very little to it, and side effects like irritation are uncommon. It should be compatible with the majority of other skincare products, and for the best results, use a leave-on product like a moisturiser.

Don't Mix: Niacinamide with Ascorbic acid (commonly found in Vitamin C)

Despite the fact that they are both antioxidants, Ascorbic acid is one ingredient that is incompatible with niacinamide. Both are very common antioxidants used in a variety of skincare products but they should not be used one after the other since their potency is significantly reduced when used together.

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