"Can I Mix Vitamin C and Retinol?" and Other Layering Q's Answered
As our Product Development team can personally attest, there's a lot that goes into formulating a skincare product. You want to create a formula that targets dark spots, but how do you get there? It's not as simple as throwing a bunch of brightening ingredients together and hoping for the best. You must lean on science to bring key players together into a single formula that will provide the best results without any irritation.
Quick reminder: Everyone's skin is different. "If you notice that something doesn’t look or feel right, stop immediately and seek professional advice," says Dr. Stacy. "When combining skincare ingredients, those with sensitive skin, rosacea, acne, and psoriasis should be most cautious."
Ingredients to Layer Together
Retinol + Hyaluronic Acid
Hyaluronic acid is one of those versatile ingredients that gets along with pretty much everyone, but Dr. Stacy especially loves layering it with retinol, especially if you find retinol to be drying. "When hyaluronic acid is paired with retinol, moisture is sealed into the skin without reducing its effect [on aging skin]".
These two ingredients are very effective at evening out skin tone and repairing hyperpigmentation which is why we included both in our Instant Resurfacing Mask. If you are layering them, however, apply acids first. The AHAs will dissolve any dead skin cells first so the vitamin C can then penetrate the pores more effectively. If you're prone to skin irritation, this combo might be too strong for you. In that case, alternate them within your routine.
There's a lot of outdated research warning not to combine these two ingredients, but that's since been debunked. Not only do niacinamide and vitamin C play well together, they work even better when formulated as one, especially for treating dark spots and uneven tone. You'll find this combo in our Stroke of Brilliance Brightening Serum.
"When used separately, both of these ingredients act to negate free radical damage; however, they fight against different UV damage forms," says Dr. Stacey. "So, when these ingredients are used simultaneously, the skin’s protection from the sun is doubled compared to when these vitamins are used alone." This duo works wonders on aging skin; reap their benefits together in our Advanced Restoring Serum.
Sunscreen + Antioxidants
Up your sun protection game with this duo. Antioxidants help prevent skin damage on a cellular level. They also fight off free radicals (which contribute to aging skin). And since we all know that broad spectrum sunscreen protects your skin from UVB and UVA damage, this combo helps your SPF work even better. That's one of the reasons why both are found in Guards Up.
Ingredients to Avoid Layering TogetherVitamin C + Retinol
This is one of the most debated ingredient pairings, but Dr. Stacy recommends using them in different routines. Both retinol and vitamin C are active ingredients that effectively brighten and strengthen skin. They also, however, can be irritating or cause skin to purge. Like we mentioned earlier, if a product is formulated with both vitamin C and retinol and it works for your skin, there's no reason to be concerned. You can also opt for a a gentler form of retinol (such as bakuchiol or encapsulated retinol, both used in Press Restart) to avoid irritation altogether.
Retinol + AHAs/BHAs
Formulated together in one product (like our Overnight Facial), acids and retinol can deliver smooth, even texture and a more youthful complexion. If you don't see these two ingredients in a single product, though, we suggest using them on separate days to avoid any irritation and redness. As mentioned above, our Gentle Retinol Serum is an exception here and can be used every night.
Benzoyl Peroxide + Retinol
"Because both of these ingredients fight against acne, it may sound appealing to apply these ingredients simultaneously," says Dr. Stacy. "However, these ingredients cancel each other out when used together because benzoyl peroxide is likely to deactivate the retinoid molecule. In turn, acne breakouts will not improve." Plus, benzoyl peroxide can be pretty drying. We recommend reaching for salicylic acid to treat breakouts instead.
Next up: Here's the correct order you should be applying your skincare, from cleanser to SPF.