Skincare ingredients you should & shouldn't mix

Did somebody say skincare mixologist?

They say you shouldn’t mix your drinks and never mix business with pleasure, but did you know there are some skincare ingredients you definitely should introduce to one another?

Skin expert Dr Sophie Shotter explains which skincare ingredients can make magic when they’re combined, and which ones just don’t get on.


Mix it up

Some skincare ingredients bring out the best in each other, so it’s time to get skin smart and make your skincare regime work even harder.  

In the mix: Vitamin C & sunscreen

Sophie says applying a free-radical fighting vitamin C serum under your SPF can help make your sun protection work even harder. Vitamin C and SPF are skincare’s new power couple, thanks to the antioxidant properties in vitamin C helping your sun protection to be even more effective.  

Get the lowdown on why vitamin C is making headlines in the beauty world for all the right reasons.

In the mix: Hyaluronic Acid & Alpha or Beta Hydroxyacids

While you should take care when layering skincare acids, Sophie suggests people who are prone to breakouts could benefit from layering Hyaluronic acid over AHAs or BHAs.

“AHAs or BHAs will chemically exfoliate the skin and are also great ingredients for helping with breakouts,” she says. Your skin might be left feeling dry and tight after applying AHAs or BHAs, so instead of confusing your skin by applying a thick comedogenic moisturiser, Sophie’s top tip is to follow up with Hyaluronic acid which helps keep skin supple without clogging your pores.

In the mix: Vitamin C & vitamin E

Sophie reveals vitamin C and vitamin E can actually make each other more effective when used together, because they’re both naturally occurring antioxidants that protect the skin from oxidative stress. Free radicals, be warned!

In the mix: AHAs & BHAs

It’s not for everybody, but Sophie recommends that oily, spot-prone skin can benefit from combining AHAs and BHAs. “BHAs like salicylic acid are oil soluble and will penetrate deeper into pores,” she says. “AHAs like glycolic acid are water soluble and will focus on exfoliating the skin’s surface.”

In the mix: Nicotinamide & vitamin C

Nicotinamide (also known as niacinamide) and vitamin C are another of skincare’s dynamic duos. Sophie suggests layering up these key players can help even out skin tone. “Together these two ingredients can deliver powerful results for skin discolouration.”

Ones not to mix

And then there are some skincare ingredients which are best kept apart. That’s not to say they aren’t amazing on their own, just don’t rub them in one after the other!

Give it a miss: Alpha Hydroxyacids & retinol

Sophie warns that combining these ingredients may lead to skin irritation and increased sun sensitivity. There are ways to incorporate both into your skincare regime if you want to, though. “Some people use these products on alternate nights, and others will use an AHA in the morning and a retinol at night,” Sophie says. Just remember to use SPF if you’re doing this. 

New to retinol? Check out everything you need to know about retinol and discover why you need it in your skincare regime right now.

Give it a miss: Vitamin C & retinol

While vitamin C and retinol are both big news in any skincare regime, Sophie advises using them at opposite ends of the day to avoid irritation.

“Retinol is used to stimulate fibroblast activity and produce collagen,” she says. “The body can’t produce collagen without having enough vitamin C, so these go hand in hand.” Sophie’s recommendation is to use vitamin C in the morning for anti-oxidant protection during the day, and apply retinol at night.

Give it a miss: AHAs & vitamin C

The same goes for this combo, you can use both as part of your daily skincare routine but it’s not a wise idea to layer them.

“The chemical name for vitamin C is ascorbic acid, so effectively you would be layering an acid with an acid and that could be too much for sensitive skin types,” Sophie warns. Her advice? Use a vitamin C in the morning and an AHA at night.

Want to know more about what’s in your skincare? Check out our skincare ingredients A-Z to swot up on all the key terms.