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The Ultimate Guide to Layering Skincare Ingredients


Creating the perfect skincare routine involves more than just choosing the right products; it’s also about understanding how to layer them effectively. The wrong combinations can lead to irritation, inflammation, and even dehydration. In this guide, we break down the essentials of skincare match-making to help you achieve a harmonious and effective skincare routine.



Retinol and AHAs & BHAs: Handle with Care

Retinol is celebrated for its ability to boost skin cell turnover, stimulate collagen production, and combat free radical damage. As a derivative of vitamin A, retinol is converted into retinoic acid in the skin, where it delivers its benefits. However, retinol’s potent effects can become problematic when paired with other active ingredients like AHAs (alpha-hydroxy acids) and BHAs (beta-hydroxy acids).


Why the Caution?

Both retinol and AHAs/BHAs promote the exfoliation of dead skin cells. When used together, they can over-exfoliate the skin, leading to a compromised skin barrier, redness, tightness, and dehydration.


Pro Tip: Use these ingredients on alternate nights. If you have sensitive skin, consider alternating them weekly. PHAs (polyhydroxy acids) are a gentler alternative to AHAs that exfoliate and hydrate, making them a more suitable partner for retinol.


Retinol and Vitamin C: Timing Is Everything

Both retinol and vitamin C are powerful skincare ingredients, but using them together can lead to irritation. Retinol requires time for your skin to acclimate, and layering it with vitamin C can exacerbate sensitivity issues.


Optimal Use:

Morning: Apply vitamin C under your broad-spectrum SPF. Vitamin C enhances your sunscreen’s effectiveness by combating free radical damage from UV exposure.


Evening:Use retinol to support cellular repair and renewal processes that occur while you sleep.


Alternatively if you have had a negative experience with retinol products, consider either using a product with lower doses of retinol or attempt to find one containing retinyl palmitate, a gentler ester of retinol, which can be more easily tolerated by all skin types. If you opt to use retinyl palmitate and vitamin C together, ensure they are formulated together or as part of a range/routine to guarantee their compatibility.


Cautions: Both retinol and retinyl palmitate are not recommended for use during pregnancy.


Vitamin C and AHAs & BHAs: Separate for Success

Vitamin C is a potent antioxidant that requires a stable pH balance to be effective. When combined with AHAs or BHAs, the pH balance can be disrupted, rendering your vitamin C less effective.


Best Practice:

- Use vitamin C in the morning to protect your skin from environmental damage.


- Reserve AHAs and BHAs for your evening routine. Since exfoliating acids can increase your skin’s sensitivity to UV rays, they are best used at night, followed by a good moisturiser.


Confusion Busting Tips


1. Alternate Retinol and AHAs/BHAs: Prevent over-exfoliation by using them on different nights.


2. Morning Vitamin C, Evening Retinol: Protect and repair your skin with this powerful duo, but don’t use them together.


3. Keep Vitamin C and Exfoliants Separate: Ensure your vitamin C remains effective by not mixing it with AHAs or BHAs.


Mastering the art of layering skincare ingredients can transform your routine, making it more effective and tailored to your skin’s needs. With these guidelines, you can confidently create a regimen that maximises the benefits of each product while minimising the risk of irritation.


Remember, skincare is personal. What works for one person may not work for another, so always listen to your skin and adjust your routine as needed. Happy layering!

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