Back to School: What Skincare Ingredients Not to Mix

Niacinamide. Benzoyl peroxide. Salicylic acid. Retinol. Vitamin C. The list of active skincare ingredients we love slathering on our skin goes on and on. But while matching and mixing these ingredients, know that some ingredients don't go well together. Each of these potent ingredients demands to be the star of the show. Sharing the stage could lead to major tantrums in the form of irritation, redness, dryness, burning, discoloration, or just a general lack of desired results. Some skincare ingredients reduce the effectiveness of others when combined and ultimately make it a waste of money. Therefore, you should pay close attention to the mixtures you apply to your skin.

To prevent your skin-care routine from becoming a chemistry experiment gone wrong, check out these ingredients that may seem like a dynamic duo but are a disaster for your skin. 

Retinol and Vitamin C

Retinol is known for creating skin cell turnover. Combining it with vitamin C (an acid) can cause irritation and redness of the skin. Your retinol and vitamin C serums should be kept separate.

Use vitamin C during the day since it works best with light, and retinol should be used at night because light increases its degradation rate.

As an alternative, kojic acid works well with retinol and vitamin C to brighten your skin and reduce hyperpigmentation.

Retinol also works well with moisturizing ingredients like a hyaluronic acid serum. The MOOD calm face serum and Elevate face serum has ingredients like hyaluronic and niacinamide which help moisturize your skin and reduce the risk of irritation caused by retinol.

AHA's and Retinol

Combining alpha hydroxy acids like glycolic and citric with retinol is another recipe for skin irritation. When you use AHAs independently, they can disrupt your skin barrier and cause irritation. So pairing it with retinol - which also causes skin irritation - is not a good idea.
They should be used alternatively instead (use retinol on one evening and an acid-based product on the next).

Vitamin C and AHA's and BHA's

AHA'S and BHA'S are generally exfoliating agents. Combining either of them with vitamin C is not advisable. The three are acidic ingredients, so they can cause severe skin irritation when layered on each other. Vitamin C should also not be used after exfoliating because your skin pores are open and easily irritated.

Vitamin C and SPF are dynamic duos because they both work together to protect your skin from damage caused by ultraviolet rays.

Vitamin C and Benzoyl peroxide

Vitamin C smoothes skin wrinkles and improves the overall skin appearance and texture. Benzoyl peroxide should not be paired with vitamin C because it deteriorates vitamin C and renders it less active or totally ineffective. Use Vitamin C in the morning and benzoyl peroxide at night. They can also be used on different days. They just shouldn't be layered at the same time on your skin.

Retinol and salicylic acid

Salicylic acid is a type of BHA(beta hydroxy acids) that is effective in treating skin conditions like acne. It reduces your skin's sebum production, which leads to fewer acne breakouts. Salicylic acid may remove too much oil, which causes dryness of your skin and potential irritation. So the combination of salicylic acid and retinol should be avoided because it can be too drying and irritating for your skin. Niacinamide can be used in place of either because its anti-inflammatory properties help to calm your skin.

Niacinamide and vitamin C

Niacinamide is an anti-inflammatory skincare ingredient that works perfectly well with almost all your other skincare ingredients. Because of its anti-inflammatory properties, the skin rarely reacts to it, and side effects like irritation are unusual.
Niacinamide and vitamin C are both antioxidants but shouldn’t be used right after the other. They are less effective when used together unless the application interval is at least 15 minutes apart.

 Copper peptides and Vitamin C

Copper peptides are becoming famous in the skin care industry because of their ability to stimulate skin renewal. Mixing copper peptides and Vitamin C is a no-no because it compromises vitamin C and reduces its antioxidant property. They should instead be split between your morning and night skincare routine.

 Retinol and benzoyl peroxide

Using retinol and benzoyl peroxide is not recommended because benzoyl peroxide deactivates the retinoid molecule. They cancel each other out and render themselves less effective.


SPF effectively protects your skin against the harmful UV rays of the sun. Therefore it can and should be used in every and any skincare routine. But SPF should not be mixed with moisturizers and makeup.

Generally, it's recommended to use an irritating skincare ingredient on its own for a few weeks. If you notice any signs of irritation, you shouldn't combine that particular ingredient with any other potentially irritating ingredient.
Be sure to seek advice from a board-certified dermatologist if you notice skin irritation, stinging, redness, or dryness after using a skincare ingredient.

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