4 Skincare ingredients you should NEVER mix; A dermatologist opines

Dr Niketa Sonavane, Cosmetic Dermatologist and Founder of Ambrosia Aesthetics is here to school you on skincare ingredients that don’t go well together.

Updated on Mar 30, 2021  |  11:05 PM IST |  1.4M
4 Skincare ingredients you should NEVER mix; A dermatologist opines
4 Skincare ingredients you should NEVER mix; A dermatologist opines

So, you've decided to step up your skincare routine and take on the world of layering skin serums. What a disappointment it would be if your dedication to layering your skin care products turns into a rashy disaster. Layering skincare ingredients that work well together can put you on a highway to healthy skin. But if you combine skin serums that don't go well together, you could be wasting your time and money. Or worst still, suffer from severely red, dry and itchy skin.

The ingredients that shouldn’t be layered are those that increase the risk of skin irritation together with or make each other ineffective when combined. Your skincare routine should include ingredients that complement each other in order to avoid over-drying, over-exfoliating, or irritating the skin.

Here are a few skincare ingredients that you should not use at the same time and pro tips on how to combine them in your skin routine.

Sulfates and Vitamin C

Foaming or sulfate-based skin cleansers have an alkaline pH. While vitamin C has an acidic pH. When you use a foaming face wash and later apply a vitamin C serum, your skin can't absorb it well. Not only will you be wasting your expensive vitamin C serum, but also not getting the desired results.

The answer: Wash your face with a low pH cleanser that contains AHA/ BHA before applying a vitamin C serum or skin cream.


Vitamin C and Retinol

Similarly, Retinol works at an alkaline pH. While Vitamin C needs an acidic pH. If you combine these two ingredients at the same time, they will cancel each other out. Besides this, both Retinol and Vitamin C have a strong potential for skin irritation. Combining them together is a sure shot recipe for skin disaster.

The answer: Use your Vitamin C serum in the day time to get the most out of its skin protective antioxidant benefit. And use your Retinol serum at night in order to boost skin repair and collagen formation.

Retinol and AHA/ BHA

By now you have got a hang of the fact that you should not combine acidic and alkaline pH. Also, don't combine two different exfoliating ingredients for the fear of skin irritation. This rule applies to combining Retinol with any acid, especially potent ones such as Glycolic acid and Salicylic acid.


The answer: Use your exfoliating acids and Retinol on alternate nights. Make sure you slather plenty of moisturizers and use SPF during the day as your skin is likely to be dry and prone to sun sensitivity.

Niacinamide with AHA/ BHA or Vitamin C

Vitamin C, Glycolic acid, Lactic acid and Salicylic acid have an acidic pH, while Niacinamide serum has an alkaline pH. Needless to say, Niacinamide will raise the pH of the acid making it less effective. The combination also increases the flushing and redness that Niacinamide tends to cause.

The answer: Alternate between your Niacinamide and Vitamin C serum in the day time and layer it with your moisturizer and sunscreen. Use your AHA/ BHA serum every night followed by moisturizer.

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