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Today I thought it would be helpful to pull together a list, not only on skincare ingredients that work really well together, but of those that don't tend to mix, whether they cancel one another out or just increase the chances of irritation. I have to caveat that by saying that some people may love or hate some of the combinations I'll talk about in this post; it's totally up to you, I'm just giving you the information I have. Some products on the market might even combine these ingredients, but remember; they've been professionally formulated to work together and we aren't chemists! That out of the way, let's dive into the ingredients and why I do or don't think they belong together...
Lactic Acid and CollagenI'd actually not really heard about this combination until I tried the QMS Medicosmetics Collagen System Sensitive* | £199 | and got some truly amazing results! The concept behind the system is prepping the skin using a treatment formulated with 7% glycolic and lactic acids, rinsing this off (after around 10 minutes), and then going in with the Day or Night Collagen serum. The aim is to clear the dead skin cells and aid the stimulation of cell turnover that collagen aims to produce. You can use either AHA acid exfoliant (glycolic or lactic) but I've specifically chosen lactic acid for its humectant properties and because it's really good for dry skin and, if you're using collagen in your routine, you probably have dry and / or mature skin. From my research, collagen is pretty good to be combined with most skincare ingredients, I just think it particularly works well with lactic acid.
Collagen products I recommend:
QMS Medicosmetics Collagen System Sensitive* | £199 | review coming soon
Algenist Genius Liquid Collagen* | £90 | review coming soon
Algenist Genius Collagen Calming Relief* | £55 | review coming soon
Lactic Acid products I recommend:
QMS Medicosmetics Collagen System Sensitive* | £199 | review coming soon
REN Ready, Steady, Glow Daily AHA Tonic* | £27 | full review
Farmacy Honeymoon Glow AHA Resurfacing Night Serum | £55 | full review coming soon
Vitamin C and Vitamin EAs you'll see from this post, Vitamin C is not an ingredient that plays well with others! I actually wrote an entire post on if Vitamin C is actually worth the money you spend on it given the lack of stability and compatibility issues with the ingredient, which you can take a look at here. Vitamin C is aimed at brightening the complexion and evening out the skin's tone so it looks radiant and healthy. It can also help protect the skin against free radical damage, and this ability is further boosted by combining it with Vitamin E.
Vitamin C products I recommend:
Omorovicza Daily Vitamin C* | £87 | full review
Drunk Elephant C-Firma Day Serum* | £67 | full review
Vitamin E products I recommend:
Alpha H Vitamin E* | £29 | full review
Retinol and SqualaneRetinol is a very powerful and effective ingredient in tackling skin texture, scarring and the signs of ageing. It is definitely something that should be gradually introduced into your routine and even then, you're probably not going to be using it every single night. One of the annoying side-effects you might experience, particularly with stronger formulations is some initial peeling and dryness. That's where squalane enters the picture! This oil is usually plant-derived these days and mimics the natural oils created by your skin, making it a great non-irritating multi-purpose moisturiser. I find it really helps stave off the drying effect retinol can have on the skin so you can experience those amazing benefits whilst keeping your skin soft and smooth.
Retinol products I recommend:
Beauty Pie Super Retinol Ceramide-Boost Anti-Ageing Face Serum | £13.64 | full review
Drunk Elephant A Passioni Retinol Cream* | £62 | full review
Squalane products I recommend:
Good Molecules Squalane Oil* | $8 | full review
Biossance 100% Squalane Oil | £27 | full review
Ordinary 100% Plant-Derived Hemi-Squalane | £3.05 | full review
Hyaluronic acid and anything!I love hyaluronic acid and I love it especially because it plays well with others! This humectant can be found in moisturisers and serums across the board, because it's fantastic at drawing water into the layers of the skin (ideally you want a formula with multiple molecule sizes). Just check that if you're using a blend, such as the Beauty Pie Superactive Capsules with Hyaluronic Acid & Biopeptide Serum | £12.13 | full review, that the other ingredients mesh well with with any strong actives in your routine. However, if you want to be on the safe side, use a single-ingredient formula, like the suggestions I have below.
Hyaluronic Acid products I recommend:
Good Molecules Hyaluronic Acid Serum* | $6 | full review
Niod Multi-Molecular Hyaluronic Complex* | £25 | full review
The Inkey List Hyaluronic Acid Serum | £5.99 | full review
- SWORN ENEMIES -
Retinol and strong AcidsThis is one of those products where, if you've had great results using these two together then go for it! If you use an acid and immediately go in with a retinol, you're potentially going to neutralise the effects of both, however if you use, say, an acid toner after removing makeup straight from work then wait a few hours and go in with a retinol before bed then you can dodge that issue, as it allows the skin to return to a neutral pH level. However you're still left with the issue of it potentially being a bit too harsh on your skin. Both processes can leave the skin a little dry, especially if you're on the sensitive side, so it could be a recipe for disaster. If you do want to do this, I recommend using a retinol that's less than 0.5% concentration and designed for very regular use, as it's going to be far less harsh. Again, sometimes these ingredients are deliberately paired together and you may get great results, just approach with caution and be sure to build up your tolerance instead of rushing right in. I personally have seen incredible results using the Dr Dennis Gross Alpha Beta Extra Strength Daily Peel | £19 (for 5 treatments) | full review | which combines an intense acid treatment and a low concentration of retinol. Alternatively, you could try a gentler acid like to counterbalance things a little; I recommend the Inkey List's PHA Toner | £9.99 | full review.
Acids and Vitamin CVitamin C is a bit like the bane of my skincare existence; when it works, it works great, but it demands you focus on it and only it, forcing all other actives out of your routine! It's so finicky that using it with acids could destabilise it and render them both ineffective. Additionally, as both Vitamin C and AHAs / BHAs operate at an acidic pH, it's likely to be too much for your skin and just cause you irritation in the long-run. Obviously this all relates to mixing these ingredients yourself and they could be combined in a formula by professionals to work together, given they're both acidic.
Niacinamide and Vitamin CI've honestly heard such mixed messages on this one, but I'm going to say that trying to combine them yourself by using two concentrated serums probably isn't the way to go; if you're really wanting to use these two together then opt for a product that formulates them together specifically to ensure the stability of both ingredients is retained. I recommend the Good Molecules Niacinamide Brightening Toner* | $14 | full review. The concern stems around a reaction between the two ingredients creating a byproduct that leads to sensitivity and redness in the skin, and the potential cancelling-out of the positive benefits. This used to be a total no-no but more recent research suggest combining Niacinamide with Vitamin C could be fine, however I still feel that given Vitamin C in general is such a volatile ingredient, you're best keeping the rest of your routine very simple if you want to use it as part of your morning lineup, maybe saving other actives for the evening or alternating each morning with them.
Niacinamide products I recommend:
The Ordinary Niacinamide 10% + Zinc 2% | £5 | full review
Fourth Ray Beauty Remedy 10% Niacinamide Serum | $16 | full review
Glycolic and Salicylic AcidsThis is another one where I just don't recommend playing chemist yourself. Using a high-concentration salicylic acid to combat breakouts immediately before or after a strong glycolic acid for glowing, even skin could really be a recipe for irritation. Whilst there's nothing about the two ingredients that might cancel one another out, it's just a lot! That's not to say, however, that you can't buy formulas that combine the two in a way that's safe for the skin. Whilst it's intense, absolutely not for beginners and something you need to build up to, the Ordinary's AHA 30% + BHA 2% Peeling Solution | £6.30 | full review | has been truly transformative for my skin. This combination can absolutely work, it's just more of a 'don't try this at home'!
Glycolic Acid products I recommend:
Pixi Glow Tonic* | £18 | full review
Alpha-H Liquid Gold* | £33.50 | full review
Salicylic Acid products I recommend:
The Ordinary 2% Salicylic Acid Masque* or Solution | £9.90 or £4.20 | full review
Super Facialist Salicylic Acid Anti-Blemish Pore-Purifying Clay Mask* | £9.99 | full review (sponsored)
Which skincare combinations work for you and which do you avoid?