You’d think finding the right active ingredients would end all your skincare problems. Well, it gets harder. Because now you have all these chemicals that can be catastrophic for your skin if you don’t know what you’re doing. Okay, catastrophic may be an overstatement. However, the fear-mongering about not mixing different active ingredients together is distracting you from what’s important. And that is what skincare ingredients you can and you should mix together.
Because anybody with a bit of common sense already knows the usual suspects that irritate the skin and probably shouldn’t be mixed together.
But on the flip side, there are some amazing skincare active combinations that work so well for the skin. And you’re missing out on them because you’re too focused on what to avoid.
Why Mix Different Ingredients
The right combination can neutralize/reduce the potentially unpleasant side effects of the active ingredients. The right combination can give your skin a context of what you’re trying to achieve. As a result, you have yourself a very targeted and deliberate routine.
When you combine and layer different actives together, your end goal should not be to bombard the skin with a bunch of chemicals until it gives up and magically starts to glow.
It’s all about finding the right ingredients that have a default synergy between them, which translates to faster and better results. For that reason, we’ve put together the perfect skincare ingredient combos that you can comfortably use. Because these ingredients work way better together.
Remember that almost all active ingredients can be comfortably used together as long as you use one active during the day and the other one at night or just alternate between them. However, we’ll be focusing on mixing and/or layering actives in the same routine.
What to Mix with Vitamin C
Vitamin C, as an antioxidant, is a goldmine. It addresses a variety of issues like hyperpigmentation, dullness, sun damage, and fine lines.
Even though L-ascorbic acid, the pure form of it, can be sensitizing for the skin, a lot of the derivatives can be well-tolerated by most skin types. Here are the skincare ingredients you can mix with vitamin C.
Vitamin C + Hyaluronic Acid
This is the gentlest combination you can try when you’re using a vitamin C product. Hyaluronic acid is incredibly compatible with other actives and doesn’t get in the way. The reason why you should use them together is because of the plumping effects of hyaluronic acid.
Sun damage not only causes dullness or dark spots but also causes dehydration. So while you’re actively fighting that with vitamin C, hyaluronic acid will increase the water content in your skin.
This will amplify the radiance-boosting effects of vitamin C, and help improve your skin barrier, which will make your skin stronger against free radical damage.
Vitamin C + Vitamin E
You’ll see that vitamin C is often paired with vitamin E. Nobody actually uses these two separately as vitamin E barely makes it alone on the shelves. So this is not a combination you do yourself. But there is a reason why it made the list.
Vitamin E is an antioxidant that fends off free radicals. Any antioxidant, both the ones present in your skin and the ones you topically apply, starts depleting the second you’re exposed to the sunlight.
But here’s the thing; vitamin C recycles vitamin E. So when the two are present in the skin, there’s a regeneration of antioxidants, meaning that they stay in the skin for an extended period of time.
The point is, do not obsess about using a pure vitamin C serum. Using it with vitamin E does not reduce the benefits but gives you more powerful protection against UV damage.
Vitamin C + Vitamin E + Ferulic Acid
Ferulic acid is an antioxidant. But compared to vitamin C and vitamin E, its antioxidant capacity is much lower. It’s unlikely that you’ll find a lot of stand-alone ferulic acid serums. Because it might not provide the level of protection you need.
However, when combined with these two vitamins, ferulic acid will enhance the antioxidant effects and provide longer-lasting protection against oxidative stress.
It’s also the perfect stabilizer. That’s why you’re more likely to see these 3 together. The combination, as confirmed by an article in the Journal of Investigative Dermatology (1), increases UV protection by 8-fold!
Even though the test gives specific concentrations of the antioxidants, it still suggests better UV protection when you combine them together instead of using them alone.
Vitamin C + SPF
Applying vitamin C before you apply your sunscreen is a great way to double up your protection. As we’ve established, the sun depletes the antioxidant levels of the skin.
Even though your SPF is your main protection, the presence of antioxidants will amplify the protection. While your sunscreen starts to wear off, you’ll have another protective layer against UV damage until you get a chance to reapply your sunscreen.
Plus, you’re trying to reverse sun damage with vitamin C, why would you keep doing it by not using sunscreen?
Ingredient suggestions for different routines: Niacinamide and azelaic acid are the perfect additions to an anti-pigmentation routine.
What to Mix with Retinol
Vitamin A, both over-the-counter retinol and prescription retinoids, is one of the most effective anti-acne and anti-aging ingredients. And they’re all notorious for causing dryness and sensitivity.
By pairing retinol with other actives, you can reduce these effects significantly while boosting retinol’s effects. So these are the skincare ingredients you can mix with retinol.
Retinol + Hyaluronic Acid
As a general rule of thumb, remember to regularly moisturize your skin when you’re using vitamin A. And that calls for skin-replenishing ingredients one of which is hyaluronic acid.
As retinol will accelerate skin turnover, the top layer of your skin will be continuously replaced. And during the period when your skin is trying to adjust to retinol, your skin barrier is somewhat disturbed and has trouble keeping water in.
Combining retinol with an excellent humectant like hyaluronic acid will help your skin have a smooth transition. However, keep this in mind. When your skin is damp or wet, whatever you apply next is going to penetrate deeper and faster.
This increases the chances of irritation. It’s not about acids conflicting, but it’s about your skin being more permeable when wet. There’s a reason why toners, which are mostly lightweight liquids, are known for “helping the skin absorb better”.
So if you’re prone to sensitivity, apply your hyaluronic acid serum first and wait a couple of minutes before applying your retinol cream or serum.
Retinol + Niacinamide
Niacinamide is another multi-tasking gem that brightens, soothes, and replenishes the skin. And it’s suitable to use with retinol. However, the perfect combination would be using a retinol serum with a niacinamide cream.
Niacinamide is also helpful in improving the skin barrier and preventing transepidermal water loss. Using it with retinol will reduce the potentially drying effects of retinol.
Instead of grabbing a niacinamide serum, just use a niacinamide cream as your daily moisturizer to get rid of peeling, flakiness, and dryness.
Addressing these issues will make it easier to wear foundation when you’re using retinol. Similarly, skin-restoring ingredients like ceramides will also pair well with retinol.
Ingredient suggestions for different routines: Depending on your skin type, alternate between retinol and a glycolic or a salicylic acid product. This will give you your glowiest skin ever. Additionally, polyhydroxy acids in low concentrations can be used in the same routine where you use retinol. They are that gentle.
What to Mix with Niacinamide
As a standalone ingredient, niacinamide does everything. At the same time, it doesn’t do anything. It needs a context to work best. It needs friends. So, depending on your skin goals, you should consider mixing it with other actives to better signal your skin. These are the skincare ingredients you can mix with niacinamide.
Niacinamide + Hyaluronic Acid
For dehydration, use niacinamide serums and hyaluronic acid together. Dehydration itself is a problem, but it also can cause other problems. These include enlarged pores, excess oil production, redness, flakiness, and dullness.
So pairing the two water-based ingredients is a great way to deeply hydrate the skin and reduce the associated problems to a great extent. You can use both of them in serum form. You can also use a hyaluronic acid serum and top it off with a niacinamide cream.
Ingredient suggestions for different routines: Use niacinamide with a salicylic acid product to target acne, enlarged pores, and excess oil production.
Instead of focusing on what to avoid, focus on what skincare ingredients to mix to amplify your results. Because the fear is often unsubstantiated.
The worse thing that can happen is that the ingredients might reduce each other’s effects. Another possibility is that your skin breaks out. It’ll stop once you stop using the products and you’ll get over it. So you’ll live.
Read Next: The Best Moisturizers To Use With Retinol
- Lin, F. H., Lin, J. Y., Gupta, R. D., Tournas, J. A., Burch, J. A., Selim, M. A., Monteiro-Riviere, N. A., Grichnik, J. M., Zielinski, J., & Pinnell, S. R. (2005). Ferulic acid stabilizes a solution of vitamins C and E and doubles its photoprotection of skin. The Journal of investigative dermatology, 125(4), 826–832.