Is Mixing Skin-Care Products Dangerous?

Credit: Mirko Iannace/Corbis

Could your daily beauty routine be putting your skin at risk? Find out which ingredients you should never combine to avoid problems down the road.

Every dermatologist and skin-care professional has their own opinion when it comes to combining ingredients. Some doctors say strong ingredients should never be mixed together and should be used solely on their own, while others disagree, saying it’s safe to use them together as long as they’re applied at different times of the day. Before you layer product on top of product, seek out the advice of your dermatologist or plastic surgeon to reduce your risk of irritation.

Don’t mix vitamin C with:

1. Alphahydroxy Acids (AHAs): Overloading your skin with too many acid based-ingredients (both vitamin C and AHAs are acid-based) increases your chances of redness, peeling and irritation. “Some AHAs even come with instructions to wash it off after a certain amount of time so that the skin can accommodate and tolerate it,” says Miami dermatologist Loretta Ciraldo, MD.

2. Copper Peptides: Copper peptides help to encourage elastin and collagen formation, making it necessary for wound healing. But when used with vitamin C, the effects of each are cancelled out, rendering the benefits useless.

3. Retinol: Many experts will say that super-strength concentrations of vitamin C and retinol shouldn’t be applied to the skin together, or only with extreme caution, since both are very powerful and can cause the skin to become dry. However, there are some topical products that contain both ingredients, but chances are they contain low concentrations of each, making them safe to use. 

Don’t mix retinol with...

1. Benzoyl Peroxide: Retinol and benzoyl peroxide can ward off acne and prevent the formation of new blemishes, but when used simultaneously, they can counteract each other’s benefits. “Both are drying, exfoliating, peeling agents, and when they’re mixed together, they can cause excessive peeling, unwanted pigment, lasting redness and even blistering and scarring,” explains Seattle dermatologist Jennifer Reichel, MD.

2. AHAs: Both retinol and AHAs can help to generate new collagen, but be careful when using them together. “It’s okay to use both as long as you are not too sensitive to the combination,” says Dr. Ciraldo. “Most women with sensitive skin need to alternate, applying the AHA in the morning and retinol at night for the first few weeks so a tolerance can be built.” If you’re using either a retinoid or AHA, it’s essential to use a daily sunscreen as well, since both cause UV sensitivity.


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  • Lani

    I don't agree with this article at all! My spa mixes these an My skin is smooth, also if you go to Paula's choice, she debunks these myths. Her sight talks about VItamin C serum mixed with a daily AHA, which does wonders for the skin and I agree! She also says it's fine to use an AHA then a retinol after for maximum benefit. Of course if your's skin's sensitive your approach would have to be different.

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  • Zeyna

    H.e.l.p :S Could someone pls kindly advıse ıf DIY vitamin C serum and Rosehip / seed oil wıll counteracter ıf applıed day/ nıght on top of each other

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  • Kathy

    Not sure I understand. There are prescription items that use Retinol and Benzoyl Peroxide together, I've used this item with great success. They don't "counteract" each others benefits. Sure, they can be drying to the skin which is to be expected. But, it sure has helped my acne.

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  • Tara

    I agree this makes no sense. I am a Medical Aesthetician and Nurse that suffers from acne, I use Benzoyl Peroxide in my cleanser with Benzoyl Peroxide treatment cream and Vitamin C with sunscreen in the a.m. And switch to Retinol at night. I have no breakouts and made skin looks great. This is the best treatment for people with acne. There is also a BHA/AHA moisturizer that SkinMedica sales that they suggest you use with their retinol and they have scientific studies to prove the effectiveness of their products.

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  • Vicky

    I use Vitamin C & retinol products all the time together. My skin is in the greatest shape it's been in for 5 years. I refuse to fall victim to the constant injections and fillers that Hollywood and the plastic surgery industry is trying to make us do.

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  • F. Victor Rueckl, M.D.

    I think the point being made is that you need to consult a skincare expert and not buy and use all products without understanding effects. Yes, some products shouldn't be used together - as in, applied at the same time. But using a good Vitamin C serum and sunscreen daily, and a Retinol at night a few times a week, is one of the best anti-aging regimens out there. But Vitamin C is for daytime, and Retinol is for nighttime. They can be used together in a regimen, but not applied over top of one another. Perhaps this could have been explained a bit better in this piece.

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  • Jodie

    Sorry but what a load of bs!!! Where is your research supporting these false claims? Paula Begoin has tons of research showing that combining is not harmful at all and actually beneficial esp where using vit c and retinol is concerned. Back your claims up!! Oh right you can't!

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