The world of skincare has changed quite a bit over the last decade or two. Consumers' demands for transparency about ingredients means that we're all more educated on what actives make our skincare effective, and what products are best for each of us. However, one thing that isn't widely discussed is which ingredients play well with each other, and which ones don't. In this article, we'll go over some of the most beneficial ingredients that you should have in your routine, when you should apply them, and what you should do if you have two ingredients you need that don't get along.
Retinol and Hyaluronic Acid / Ceramides / SPF
Retinol is highly active and it can be irritating, especially if you’ve just started using it or have increased the amount you use. Following up your retinol with hyaluronic acid and ceramides will increase moisture in your skin and alleviate any irritation as your skin adjusts to the retinol.
Vitamin C with Antioxidants / SPF
Few people realize the protection Vitamin C can offer when paired with your sunscreen. Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant. Vitamin C is very effective at neutralizing free radical damage from the sun, and sunscreen is able to block out up to 99% of harmful UV rays when used properly. So thinking of your Vitamin C serum as the perfect way to cover that last small percentage will give you all the coverage you need. Plus, vitamin C is hydrating and brightening and can keep your skin from drying out on hot, sunny days.
AHA/BHA acids with moisturizing ingredients /SPF
Alpha hydroxy acids (AHA) and beta hydroxy acids (BHA) are both effective acids that work wonders for acne-prone skin. AHAs are water soluble, making them great for improving the surface of the skin (the most common form of an AHA is glycolic acid). BHAs are oil soluble, meaning they can penetrate much deeper into your pores to pull out excess sebum and they’re usually best for sensitive skin (the most common BHA is salicylic acid). And if you get chemical peels, chances are you’ve come in contact with both of these ingredients. They’re amazing at brightening and clearing up an over-active complexion, clearing out black heads and clogged pores with ease. However, even the most oily skin can start to dry out and flake when paired with AHAs and BHAs, so it’s important to pair it with moisturizing products and sunscreen to prevent irritation and sunburns because your skin will be more susceptible to both. If you’re acne prone, a hyaluronic acid serum will keep your skin well hydrated without triggering blemishes.
Benzoyl Peroxide with gentle moisturizers / SPF / topical antibiotics
Benzoyl peroxide is a wonderful exfoliant and is a great solution for certain skin types when combating severe acne. It clears out pores and aggressively eliminates active flare ups as an effective spot treatment. However, it can also lighten and irritate the skin, so gentle moisturizers, antibiotics, and sunscreen are great additions to this product. Since acne-prone skin typically needs a light moisturizer to avoid clogging pores, SPF to reduce further inflammation, and topical antibiotics to get rid of the active acne infections.
Niacinamide with almost anything (yes, that includes vitamin C)
There’s a lot of outdated research going around that persists, claiming that vitamin B3 (niacinamide) and vitamin C will have negative interactions with each other and leave your skin irritated. So we’re hear to clear it up and say that niacinamide and vitamin C are perfectly fine—nay, GREAT—together. If you use a modern day, medical-grade formulations and store them at room temperature, you won’t have any issues.
And while niacinamide is compatible with just about anything, we do have one recommendation: if your cleanser is the only product with niacinamide, then you’ll need another product that contains it to get the benefits. Niacinamide works best when left on your skin, so since cleanser is removed after a minute or less, it won’t be very useful. It’s not bad for your skin, but it’s not enough.
SPF with any skincare product
Having an anti-aging (or ANY) skincare routine that doesn’t include sunscreen is like washing your dishes without water. You can apply all the actives and serums you want, but if you aren’t protecting your skin every day from the number one thing that ages it (the sun), then you’re just making it that much harder for your other products to do their job. Just make sure it’s the last step in your morning routine. If you plan to apply makeup after this step, keep it light and wait for the sunscreen to absorb. Or switch to a tinted sunscreen that does double duty like HA Physical Tint SPF 44.
Retinol with Vitamin C / AHA or BHA acids / Benzoyl Peroxide
First things first, retinol and benzoyl peroxide cancel each other out, so mixing them in the same routine renders both useless and your time and money wasted. But aside from that, Vitamin C and hydroxy acids are notorious for leaving your skin slightly sensitive because of their exfoliating properties, and retinol has the potential to cause some irritation as it increases cell turnover. Mixing all of these ingredients can lead to skin that’s left feeling raw and irritated, so if they’re all part of your routine then keep the retinol at night when it will work best, and use the rest in the morning.
If you're using an acne spot treatment that contains benzoyl peroxide at night and you still want to use a retinol, keep the amount of retinol low, don't use it every night, and try mixing it with your moisturizer to soften its effects. We've even seen some patients who apply the retinol around a blemish to avoid directly irritating it.
SPF with Makeup
Disclaimer: we don’t mean, “Don’t apply makeup if you’re using sunscreen” with this statement. What we mean when we tell you not to combine SPF with makeup is to avoid REPLACING your SPF with a makeup that claims to have SPF. The first problem is that many brands that claim to have SPF offer much less than the recommended minimum of SPF 30+. And even if they do offer more protection, makeup isn’t always applied evenly and it comes off easily, making it a less desirable method for protecting your skin. You’re fine to wear makeup or moisturizer with an SPF every day if you like how it feels on your skin, however, we encourage you to continue wearing your regular sunscreen underneath it. A good alternative between the two is a tinted sunscreen with moisturizing properties in it like this one, because its primary function is being a physical sunscreen, and it offers a slight tint to give you a glow with some light coverage.