4 Skin Ingredient Combinations You Should Never Put on Your Face

Updated 10/02/17

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. Kraffert, board certified dermatologist and president of Amarte. He 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!

skincare ingredient combinations to avoid

BHA + Benzoyl Peroxide

“Decreased tolerability is a concern whenever exfoliants (physical or chemical) are combined,” Dr. Kraffert 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. 

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. Kraffert says. Powerful alpha hydroxy acids actually alter the pH level of vitamin C, which degrades its antioxidant properties.

BHA or AHA + Retinol

Dr. Kraffert 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 + 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. Kraffert says. The eye area is an easy spot to overdo it—be mindful of the active ingredients in your eye creams.

Have you been layering any of these off-limits combinations? 

Related Stories