By Erin Garry | @eringarry

Many of us have taken the extra time in quarantine to nail down the perfect skincare routine. Our skin is getting a much-needed break from wearing makeup every day, commuting into cities full of pollution, and mindless face touching. Despite religiously following a routine over the last few months, I was still not achieving the clear complexion I wanted. I knew the order to apply products in order to reap their full benefits (toner, then serum, then moisturizer, etc.), but upon further research I realized it is actually more important to understand what is in each product

With so many skincare products trending, I was quick to try to incorporate them all, but it is important to understand how their ingredients interact with each other. Here are some do’s and don’ts of mixing common skincare ingredients.


Do: Apply moisturizer

Don’t: Use with other exfoliants

Retinol, derived from vitamin A, is the holy grail of skincare products, helping to unclog pores, fight acne, and prevent fine lines and wrinkles. This ingredient does all these wonderful things by stimulating collagen production and promoting cell turnover but comes with the price of irritation and dryness. When used with other exfoliants, products with AHA or salicylic acid, your skin will be left feeling raw and irritated. Similarly, you should not use toners when applying retinol because the toners further dry out your skin. When using retinol regularly, it is important to always moisturize to keep your face hydrated and apply sunscreen daily (which you should be doing anyway) to protect your new layer of skin. 

Tip: Use exfoliating products in the morning and retinol products at night or on alternate days to reduce the chances of irritation. The sun can also cancel out the effectiveness of retinol, so best to allow this product to do its magic overnight. 

Vitamin C

Do: Use with vitamin E + ferulic acid

Don’t: Use with niacinamide 

Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant, known for leaving skin with a perfect glow so that its golden hour at any time of day. Vitamin C wins the award for evening out skin tone, brightening your complexion, and fading sunspots. When used in conjunction with vitamin E and ferulic acid, the trio of antioxidants work together to stabilize each other, fight free radicals, and boost collagen production. Vitamin C on its own does a good job of fading acne scars, but when used with a product that works to fight acne, such as niacinamide, results in redness and breakouts. 

Tip: Find a vitamin C product that also has vitamin E and ferulic acid to get the most benefits. If struggling with acne and breakouts, use Niacinamide to treat instead of vitamin C. 

Hyaluronic Acid

Do: Use with AHAs/BHAs

Don’t: Mix with glycolic acid

Hyaluronic acid is a sugar found in our skin that locks in moisture, but just as collagen, depletes as we age. Various serums and creams with hyaluronic acid work to draw moisture to the skin and leave you looking hydrated and dewy all day long. It is important to use a moisturizer on top of your product with hyaluronic acid to really lock in the ingredient and act as a barrier to outside substances. Because of its hydrating property, it is great to use after exfoliants such as AHAs and BHAs as your skin is fresh and your pores are clean. The only AHA that doesn’t mix well is glycolic acid. Commonly used to treat hyperpigmentation and acne, glycolic acid may cancel out the effectiveness of hyaluronic acid because of its pH levels.

Tip: You can increase the amount of natural hyaluronic acid produced in your body through foods such as bone broth, citrus fruits, and leafy greens. 

Skincare Ingredients Cheat Sheet

– Vitamin C + Vitamin E + Ferulic Acid = Antioxidant Protection

– Vitamin C + Glycolic Acid = Even and Bright Skin Tone

– AHAs/BHAs + Hyaluronic Acid = Clear Complexion

– Retinol + Hyaluronic Acid = Antiaging Powerhouse

– Niacinamide with anything but Vitamin C = Acne Fighter