Many skincare products have active ingredients—the key factors that help deliver results. Some active ingredients complement each other when used together while others may do more harm than good when mixed. Before you start playing chemist and layering ingredients on your skin, it’s good to know something about how they may interact with each other.
Read on to learn more about how to combine skincare active ingredients with potentially good benefits and skincare ingredients you should never mix.
Active ingredients in skincare are those that produce biological or chemical effects that target specific skin concerns. Each person may react differently to various ingredients—consider patch testing new products. Also, if you’re using prescribed oral or topical medications, including those used for acne, it’s important to speak with your physician about possible interactions with some skincare active ingredients that may not be covered here.
Acids are chemical exfoliants that can help you achieve more radiant-looking skin. They aid in exfoliating dead skin cells from the skin surface to reveal the smoother, younger-looking skin underneath. Acids are often included in over-the-counter beauty products or used in higher concentrations by physicians in services such as chemical skin peels.
There are many acid-based products used in skincare, but some of the main ones used for chemical exfoliation of skin include:
- Alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs) – Weaken dead skin cell bonds to enable easier removal
- Beta hydroxy acids (BHAs), also known as salicylic acid – contain oil-dissolving properties that penetrate the skin’s outer layer and assist with breaking down pore-clogging dead skin and oil
- Poly hydroxy acids (PHAs) – Similar benefits to AHAs, but gentler for those with sensitive skin
- Retinoids – Over-the-counter forms include retinol, which is used to improve skin texture, acne, uneven skin tone, texture and hydration
You can layer skincare acids if you know which are compatible for simultaneous use, but it’s best to find one that works for you and stick with it. Using too many can irritate skin and make it over dry.
Retinol is a derivative of vitamin A retinoids that is available in varying strengths.
Retinol and vitamin C – While you can mix vitamin C and retinol, it isn’t recommended that you do it. They are both powerful skincare ingredients that can help diminish the appearance of wrinkles and help increase collagen. Using them together on your own is unlikely to give you good results. The two products may cancel each other out when used at the same time. The exception to using retinol and vitamin C together is in quality skincare products that are specifically formulated for combined use.
Retinol and niacinamide – When used in combination with niacinamide—a form of niacin (vitamin B3)—retinol can help improve the appearance of skin blemishes, help diminish the appearance of aging, help to even out skin tone, and more. Used together, such as in Biopelle KNR Serum, retinol and niacinamide may work better, according to Healthline, with niacinamide lessening retinol-induced sensitivity. A moisturizer used with retinol or retinol-derived products can also help with this.
Retinol and peptides – Peptides work to help skin produce collagen and hyaluronic acid in the skin, and can help reduce inflammation. Used in combination with retinol, which can help increase skin’s cell turnover rate, you get the benefits of both.
Do use products containing retinol and sunscreen. Retinol use can make skin more sensitive to the sun and is typically recommended for night time use. Whether you’re using retinol in the AM or PM, be sure to use a sunscreen during the day.
Avoid using products containing retinol in combination with vitamin C, AHA and BHA acids, or benzoyl peroxide, which can be too harsh for skin. Retinol is also not recommended for those with rosacea.
Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant that can help slow signs of early aging, fight free radicals, help prevent sun damage and more.
Vitamin C used in conjunction with these ingredients can offer these benefits:
- Vitamin C and vitamin E – can help prevent photodamage
- Vitamin C and ferulic acid – Ferulic acid, used to fend off free radicals, helps to stabilize vitamin C
- Vitamins C and E and ferulic Acid – Boosts UV protectio
Ferulic acid is a popular antioxidant that is common to many serums containing vitamin C. It can help shield and protect skin from pollution and other free radicals that can cause wrinkles. When paired together, ferulic acid helps stabilize vitamin C and increase its ability to minimize sun damage (though it’s no replacement for sunscreen!).
A 2005 study suggested that ferulic acid has the potential to offer twice the amount of photoprotection when combined with vitamins C and E.
Stop using products containing ferulic acid if you develop side effects such as redness, hives, skin peeling.
Benzoyl peroxide kills bacteria located under the skin. It’s used to help prevent and treat acne.
To prevent excessive skin irritation, avoid using benzoyl peroxide in combination with other skincare products that contain:
- Salicylic acid or other peeling agents
- Drying or abrasive cleansers
- High-percentage of alcohol content such as some astringent toners
Also, using benzoyl peroxide in combination with retinol can render both less effective. It’s better to use one or the other.
AHAs and BHAs
AHAs and BHAs can work well when they are correctly formulated together as ingredients in a product that is designed to minimize irritation.
However, layering AHA and BHA ingredients yourself should be avoided because it can cause extensive irritation and drying.
Sun Sensitivity and Active Ingredients
Some active ingredients used on their own, such as glycolic acid, salicylic acid and retinol may not mix well with sun exposure and can cause sunburn and sun damage.
However, skin are products containing salicylic acid are “safe as used when formulated to avoid irritation and when formulated to avoid increased sun sensitivity,” a Cosmetic Ingredient Review (CIR) Expert Panel concluded. Make sure that products containing salicylic acid or glycolic acid contain sunscreen or be sure to layer on a separate sunscreen.
Maintaining Glowing, Healthy Skin With Biopelle
Ingredient compatibility is a good reason for sticking with professional skincare solutions that are designed to safely work together to give you glowing, younger-looking skin. Biopelle creates award-winning, dermatologist-recommended skincare products that are meant to work together to address skin concerns Explore these products to maintain and optimize healthy skin:
Biopelle Tensage Daily Serum ($136) This serum, ideal for all skin types including sensitive skin, contains antioxidants such as niacinamide, Vitamin C, and Vitamin E, as well as moisturizing ingredients such as snail secretion filtrate and squalane. It can be used both morning and night and helps repair, protect and maintain the appearance of youthful-looking skin
Tensage Antioxidant Defense Serum ($125) This oil-free serum is packed with 10% Vitamin C, ferulic acid and deschampsia antarctica leaf extract, a powerful and newly discovered antioxidant for pollution defense. The combination of ingredients not only helps protect against free radicals, it helps brighten skin tone and reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles as well.
Biopelle Tensage Advanced Cream Moisturizer ($81.50) This moisturizer, which can be used morning or night, includes vitamin E, snail secretion filtrate, and the antioxidant-rich botanical meadowfoam seed oil to help address signs of aging and skin damage as well as help improve the appearance of firmer, smoother looking skin.