5 Skincare Combinations to Avoid

In the world of 10-step skincare routines and medicine cabinets stocked with dozens of products filling our Instagram feeds, our nightly regimes have never been more in-depth. AHAs, BHAs, vitamin C, retinols, acids, oils — by the time we go to bed every night, we’re layers-deep in our never-ending quest for great skin.

But unfortunately, mindlessly slathering on products won’t always give us the results we’re looking for — some combinations of popular skincare ingredients can do more harm than good by potentially causing breakouts, dryness, and other irritations.

Before you add a new product to your routine, make sure it won’t have a negative reaction with another one of the products you use. Before you play scientist and mix powerful ingredients, be aware of these product combinations to avoid, and how you should use them instead:


Vitamin C + Retinol

The ingredients in each of these have different purposes (vitamin C’s pH level is lower), which can work against each other and cause irritations. Rather than using them at the same time, reach for your vitamin C in the morning, and keep your retinol for before you go to bed. That way retinol can work overtime while you sleep, and the vitamin C can give you antioxidant protection when you wake up.


Vitamin C + AHAs/BHAs

Although vitamin C is labeled as a vitamin, it still is technically an acid (L-ascorbic) — combining two acidic ingredients can lead to irritations like peeling and dryness. It can also cause vitamin C’s low pH to be altered, leading to redness and inflammation.

A good rule of thumb is to use acids like AHAs/BHAs at night, since they can make your skin more susceptible to sunburn if used in the morning. Once again, using vitamin C in the morning can give added benefits to the skin.


Retinol + AHAs/BHAs

Adding retinol after acidic skincare can increase dryness and reduce the effectiveness of the ingredients. If retinol is a part of your everyday routine, skip out on it on days you use AHAs or BHAs.


Benzoyl Peroxide/ Salicylic Acid  + Retinol

Using benzoyl peroxide with retinol can lead to them deactivating each other’s potency. On the other hand, salicylic acid and retinol can cause dryness and flaking. Instead, use acne products in the morning, or on opposite nights that you use retinol.


READ: This Is the Correct Order to Apply Your Skincare Products


Do use: AHAs/BHAs/Acids + Sunscreens

While all of us should be using an SPF of 30 or higher every day, acids and acne products can make skin even more sensitive to the sun. Make sure that you use sunscreen after your moisturizer to avoid diluting them if used together.