These Are The Skincare Ingredients You Should Never Mix

If you’re as skincare-obsessed as we are, you probably spend your evenings layering at least three different products on your face before you’ve even moisturised. If you don’t already layer your skincare, it’s a now’s the time to start. It’s a clever way of forcing ingredients into your skin and making each product work to its max. potential, especially if you’re using single-ingredient products from brands like The Ordinary and Skincare by BEAUTY BAY. But before you turn your bathroom into a laboratory, there are some need to know ingredients that don’t play well together…  

Can I use vitamin C with AHAs/BHAs?

Vitamin C is effectively an acid (it’s sometimes known as ascorbic acid), so layering it with AHAs and BHAs like glycolic, salicylic, and lactic acids is a big no-no. It’s also really unstable, so any acids you layer it with will destabilise the pH balance and render it completely useless before it even has chance to work its magic.  

Can I use retinol with AHAs/BHAs?

Retinol doesn’t exfoliate like AHAs and BHAs do, but it is a peeling agent, so it does stimulate cell turnover to get rid of old and damaged skin cells. Mixing it with acids can cause dryness and irritation and damage the skin’s moisture barrier, and together they’ll also increase skin’s sensitivity to the sun, meaning you’re at a much higher risk of burning and UV damage. Use these ingredients on alternate days or weeks if you’re after the benefits of both. 

Can I use retinol with vitamin C?

Using retinol and vitamin C together is yet another recipe for irritation, peeling, and redness since these are two very active ingredients. Best practice is to use retinol at night and vitamin C by day.   

Can I use oil-based products with water-based products?

It’s basic high school-level science: oil and water don’t mix. In fact, oil actually repels water, so when it comes to your skincare, using an oil-based product will leave a film on your skin which prevents water-based formulas from absorbing. If you want to use both formulas in the same routine, apply your water-based products first, and oil-based products on top. 

Can I use glycolic acid with salicylic acid?

Both ingredients work by removing dead skin cells from the upper layers of your skin, but more is not always better! Glycolic acid and salicylic acid are great ingredients used separately (or in pre-formulated blends) but mixing the two yourself could cause a major reaction and compromise your skin barrier. One word: ouch.  

Can I use niacinamide with vitamin C?

Used separately, both ingredients are great for treating blemish-prone and scarred skin, and you’ll find they’re used together in some multi-ingredient serums. However, combining them DIY-style is potentially a recipe for disaster. Niacinamide can cancel out the good properties of vitamin C and turn it into a substance that causes redness and can trigger acne breakouts.  

Can I use niacinamide with AHAs/BHAs?

Both niacinamide and AHAs/BHAs (like glycolic, lactic, and salicylic acids) can help to improve skin texture, pigmentation, acne, and signs of aging, but mixing or layering these ingredients won’t necessarily have any benefits. Acids have a low pH of 3-4, whereas niacinamide has a higher pH at around 5-7. If combined, the niacinamide will raise the pH of the acid meaning that it’s less effective and won’t absorb as well. This combo may also cause redness and flushing.