How to layer skincare ingredients

Many elements may be mixed to create a wonderful skin formula; however, some do not belong together. Certain active ingredients used together can damage the skin barrier, resulting in inflammation, irritation, and dehydration.

Retinol and AHAs & BHAs
Retinol and AHAs & BHAs

But how can you determine what makes a good skincare partner and what doesn’t? Here’s the dirt on the art of skincare compatibility…

Retinol and AHAs & BHAs

Retinol is a hero element that promotes skin cell turnover, collagen production, the shedding of dead skin cells, and the prevention of cellular damage caused by free radicals.

Retinol is a vitamin A derivative and a natural precursor to retinoic acid, if you’re feeling nerdy. Retinol is transformed to retinoic acid, which is the active form of vitamin A, once absorbed into the skin, so the skin may benefit from it.

Retinol
Retinol

In fact, when retinol is used with exfoliating acids like AHAs and BHAs, which, like retinol, encourage the sloughing of dead skin cells, retinol can induce sensitization. You risk compromising the skin barrier by using these products in the same evening (you shouldn’t use either in the morning).

This can appear as redness, tightness, and dehydration.

Using these active ingredients on alternate evenings – or even alternate weeks if your skin is more sensitive. Notably, I would say that PHAs (polyhydroxy acids) are the exception to the rule as they’re a gentler AHA that both exfoliates the skin and acts as a humectant.

Retinol and Vitamin C

Retinol and vitamin C are two potent active substances with remarkable skin-boosting qualities, but when used combined, they might irritate the skin.

Retinol
Retinol

Retinol should not be taken with vitamin C since it needs acclimatization and might cause irritation in certain people. This isn’t to say that you can’t combine the two in your routine!

Applying vitamin C in the morning beneath your broad-spectrum SPF since SPF protects the skin from UV radiation while vitamin C protects the skin from free radical damage induced by UV exposure.

Then, at night, apply retinol to promote the skin’s natural cellular repair and proliferation activities, which occur while you sleep.

Another option is to switch to retinyl palmitate, the ester of retinol and palmitic acid – a complex fatty acid. This is gentler and known for being more tolerated by all skin types.

Retinol and Vitamin C
Retinol and Vitamin C

This type of vitamin A can be layered with vitamin C but only use together if they have already been placed into a formulation together such as Skingredients Skin Protein, as all of the ingredients and levels would be compatibility tested to ensure they work together.

*Both retinol and retinyl palmitate are unsuitable for mamas-to-be.

Vitamin C and AHAs & BHAs

Vitamin C packs a punch in terms of antioxidant protection, but it’s an unstable ingredient that requires a particular pH balance in order to work wonders on your skin.

Layering an AHA or BHA skincare product with vitamin C could disrupt and destabilise the pH balance which makes applying your vitamin C pointless.

Vitamin C
Vitamin C

AHAs and BHAs should ideally be used in the evening because exfoliating acids can make our skin more susceptible to UV damage – even if you’re properly applying broad-spectrum SPF. Instead, stick to vitamin C in the mornings and use a BHA or AHA on the nights you’re not using retinol.

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