Derms Warn: Don’t Ever Mix These Ingredients Together

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Two is not always better than one, and in the case of beauty, there are a whole lot of exceptions when it comes to working in tandem.

“In general, it’s a good idea to ask your dermatologist or aesthetician about treatments that can be performed together during the same appointment,” advises Omaha, NE, dermatologist Joel Schlessinger, MD. His advice for avoiding some not-so-positive pairings: “While there are many that can work together to enhance your overall results—like neurotoxins and fillers, for example—others can do more harm than good. If you’re planning to have a spa or in-office treatment done, make sure you give your dermatologist or aesthetician a complete list of the skin care products you are using, as well as any medications you’re currently taking. Certain treatments may have contraindications with your current skin care regimen or medications.”

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Retinol + a Ton of Treatments

It may be the gold standard, but retinol is one ingredient you have to be mindful of when pairing. “One example of an ingredient you should be aware of is retinol and/or Retin-A [tretinoin],” Dr. Schlessinger says. “If you’re planning a cosmetic treatment, we usually recommend that you stop using retinol for a few days. Retinol encourages cell turnover and this can make skin too sensitive for things like laser treatments, waxing and facials. The same goes for prescription tretinoin, as well.”

Greenwich, CT, dermatologist Kim Nichols, MD says she advises any of her patients getting a chemical peel or a laser to stop using retinol a few days prior to the treatment, while New York dermatologist Jody A. Levine, MD goes as far as a week-plus out on her time table: “Prior to office procedures such as a peel, microneedling or ablative laser, one should not use a product that makes the skin overly sensitive. A retinol/retinoid should be stopped seven-to-ten days prior, depending on the strength, and strong AHA-BHA products should be avoided for around five days.”

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Sunscreen + Sleep

May sound strange, but Dr. Levine says she sees this “mixing” mistake a lot. “I always recommend patients wear a daily moisturizer with sunblock in the morning. One mistake I see people make is using their moisturizer with SPF in the nighttime as a night time moisturizer. There is no need to use SPF at night and it can unnecessarily dry out the skin or clog the pores.” 

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AHAs + Retinol

Norwalk, CT, dermatologist Deanne Mraz Robinson, MD, stresses these ingredients are great when they hit your skin solo, but a definite no-no when applied together. “A mixture of retinoids/retinols with alphahydroxy acids, like glycol, can lead to extreme irritation and redness.”

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Salicylic Acid + Retinol

While Dr. Nichols says these two in tandem isn’t necessarily dangerous, she doesn’t really rcommend it, either. “Applying both of these ingredients at the same time may results in irritated or overly dry skin.”

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Benzoyl Peroxide + Retinol

Seriously, we are really sorry, retinol. “Topical retinoids such as tretinoin cream and topical benzoyl peroxide will deactivate each other,” says Dr. Mraz Robinson. “You can mix other forms of topical retinoids such as adapalene [now OTC] with benzoyl peroxide, but this can increase the risk for irritation and inability to tolerate the topicals.”

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Vitamin C + Various Ingredients

In addition to the AHAs and salicylic acid, Dr. Mraz Robinson says stay away from applying retinol and topical vitamin C at the same time, as the combination will break down the topical retinoids and decrease their effectiveness. Likewise, this one hits the no-mix list for Montclair, NJ dermatologist Jeanine B. Downie, MD: “No retinol with vitamin C and no retinol mixed directly with glycolic acids—it can be way too irritating and may flare redness, dryness, rosacea and aggravate melasma.”

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Prescriptions + Various Skin Care

“Some prescriptions, like Accutane [Isotretinoin], cannot be combined with certain skin care products and procedures. Be sure to speak with your dermatologist and pharmacist about these prescriptions,” says Dr. Nichols.

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Aczone + Benzoyl Peroxide

Sounds simple enough, but Dr. Mraz Robinson says that a mix of topical Aczone 7.5% (aka topical Dapsone acne medication) and benzoyl peroxide can actually temporarily stain your skin orange. 

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Waxing + a Facial

This duo is not ingredient-based, but important all the same. Dr. Schlessinger says you should never schedule a wax on the same day as any other cosmetic procedure (unless of course, if each treatment targeted a different area, such as a facial and a body wax). “Waxing exposes a fresh layer of skin, leaving the complexion too sensitive for things like facials and laser treatments. Many facials, for example, involve deep exfoliation that can irritate freshly waxed skin.”

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