4 Skin Ingredient Combinations You Should Never Put on Your Face

Layering skincare products can make each of the active ingredients you use more effective. Or, it can do the opposite. Certain combinations just don’t play nicely together, and when two ingredients clash, your skin ends up paying the price. To make sure you’re never caught up in the aftermath of product layering gone wrong, we called in Dr Low Chai Ling, Medical Director of The Sloane Clinic. She gave us the all of the information on the combinations to be avoided at all costs.

Keep reading to find out which ingredients you need to keep far away from each other!

#1. Vitamin C + AHA
When layering vitamin C, you have to look out for active ingredient neutralization because antioxidants, like vitamin C, are inherently unstable. “Vitamin C is very pH sensitive, and mixing it with AHAs tends to substantially diminish its delivery within the skin,” Dr. Low says. Powerful alpha hydroxy acids actually alter the pH level of vitamin C, which degrades its antioxidant properties.

AM: Because Vitamin C serum helps protect your skin from free radicals, most dermatologists have recommended applying it in the morning to prevent damage during the day, Use a Vitamin C serum in the morning. It helps to lighten brown sun spots, prevent blackheads, even out skin tone, lift discoloration from breakout scars and reduce the appearance of wrinkles while encouraging collagen production. It also prevents environmental damage while giving the skin a brighter and fresher look. Sloane Inc's Vitamin C Elixir is formulated with an active hydra-stabilized Vitamin-C (L-Ascorbic Acid) helps to reduce the visible sign of photo aging by fighting destructive free radicals. These productive functions result in retextured, toned, and younger looking skin.

USD $78, available at Sloaneshop.com

PMMost dermatologists recommend using glycolic acid at bedtime. All alpha hydroxy acids( like glycolic acid) can increase sensitivity to UV rays and you want all the benefits of glycolic acid without additional problemsSloane Inc Sleeping Peel has slow-release AHAs to promote healthy cellular turnover and unveil a fine luminosity. It effectively helps to fight bacteria and increases the rate of natural dead skin exfoliation, while helping to promote moisturization by renewal of native skin collagen.

USD $78, available at Sloaneshop.com

#2. BHA + Benzoyl Peroxide
Decreased tolerability is a concern whenever exfoliants (physical or chemical) are combined,” Dr. Low says. Because beta hydroxy acids, like salicylic acid, and benzoyl peroxide are both exfoliating ingredients, you run the risk of irritating your skin. Keep the two separate to prevent redness and peeling.

Benzoyl Peroxide as a spot treatment: Dr. Low calls this ingredient an "oldie but goodie," adding that it "helps multiple issues, including bacterial overgrowth and clogged pores." This ingredient can be used to treat mild to moderate acne, but it's pretty strong, so wean your way into it by using every other day at first to get your skin acclimated to the ingredient. Use it as a spot treatment and not on your whole face.

$11.50 SGD, available at all leading drugstores & supermarkets

BHAs: BHAs such as Paula's Choice Skin Perfecting 2% BHA Liquid Exfoliant exfoliates both the skin's surface and inside the pore, unclogging pores and improving skin’s appearance. The result is a dramatic improvement in the skin's appearance, feel and function, which leads to healthier-looking skin and a noticeable improvement in the appearance of wrinkles.

USD $28, available at Paulaschoice.com

#3. BHA or AHA + Retinol
Dr. Low says there are a number of issues at play when combining AHAs or BHAs and retinoids. First, there’s the increased potential for irritation that comes with combining exfoliating acids (like gylcolic, lactic, and salicylic) with retinoids. And then, there’s the matter of ingredient deactivation. Like vitamin C, retinol can be somewhat unstable. Alpha hydroxy acid oxidizes it, making it less effective. So, you could end up with aggravated skin that’s not even reaping the benefits of your products.

Retinol is the most abundant form of Vitamin A in the skin. In order for your skin to be healthy, you need to keep supplying it with that essential vitamin. It can literally repair your skin on a DNA level. Hence, it’s powerful stuff. If you want to combat those signs and prevent them from showing up and getting worse, retinol is the key. It helps even out your skin tone and smoothes fine lines and wrinkles. So, you know, to keep that youthful glow, protect it now…along with sunscreen and drinking water, of course. If you’re prone to dryness, you may want to start out with an over-the-counter retinoid, which will give give you anti-aging and skin-improving results in a much more gentle way.

You may also wish to build your skin's tolerance to retinol by using it every alternate day and slowly increasing the usage as your skin becomes stronger.

USD $55, available at Paula's Choice.com

#4. Retinol + Retinol

Perhaps this goes without saying, but we'll say it anyway: Don’t layer multiple retinols. To avoid inflaming your skin, use only one at a time. You’ll do more harm than good if you apply a retinol serum and top it off with retinol cream. “This includes taking care not to use your facial retinoids on the delicate eye area, followed by your retinol eye cream,” Dr. Low says. The eye area is an easy spot to overdo it—be mindful of the active ingredients in your eye creams


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The Skin Radar is an online avenue which documents my tumbling thoughts, ideas and musings from my daily life, mainly based on skincare and beauty. It is designed to take the clutter out of beauty journalism to provide trustworthy and objective insights, new finds and sneak peaks- all in a beautiful and clean platform.

I test all products & treatments with age and skin colour in mind, break down the latest health fads, and source for expert opinions from international skincare leaders. All in all, my goal is to make sure that I am on top of every beauty innovation and skincare trend the world has to offer.