Mixing skin care ingredients is an effective way to ensure your skin gets as many benefits as possible from each product. Layering products on top of each other can help each individual product work to its max potential; however, there are some definite no-nos.
To start, don’t overload your skin with products. More is not always better. And second, make sure the ingredients you’re mixing work well together.
Not all ingredients play nice- combining some ingredients will turn your skin into a war zone and no one wants that. Here are some need-to-know ingredients that don’t work well together.
skin care ingredients that dont mix

Skin Care Ingredients You Shouldn’t Mix

Alpha and Beta Hydroxy Acids + Retinol

Essentially, each of these ingredients works to remove old and damaged skin cells. In regards to skincare, alpha and beta hydroxy acids generally include glycolic, lactic and citric acid, while beta hydroxy acid refers to salicylic acid.
These acids work as exfoliants and also help improve color irregularities. Retinol helps treat acne and improves brown spots, wrinkles and fine lines. It does this by working as a peeling agent that stimulates cell turnover, ultimately having the same effect as an exfoliant.
Both of these ingredients possess potentially irritating side effects on their own and combining them will make them even more harsh on your skin. Mixing these skin care ingredients together can cause dryness, redness, and irritation by damaging your skin’s moisture barrier.
Use them at different times of the day or even on different days of the week. We’d recommend using the exfoliating acids in the morning and retinol cream at night.

Retinol + Vitamin C

Vitamin C is essentially an acid, so mixing it together with retinol has the same effects as mixing alpha and beta hydroxy acids with retinol- irritation, peeling and redness. Moreover, using these two specific ingredients together can increase your skin’s sensitivity to the sun- leading to burning and UV damage.
Even if mixing them together wasn’t harmful, they both function best in different pH environments. Vitamin C functions optimally at a pH of less than 3.5, while retinol works best at a pH of 5.5-6; therefore, if you want to get the most benefits from each of the products (and avoid any negative effects) keep the retinol in your nighttime skin care routine and the vitamin C in your morning routine.

Oil-based + Water-based products

Have oil and water ever worked well together? No. It’s no different when you try to use them together on your skin. Oil repels water, so if you try to use these two products together the oil will leave a film over your skin which will prevent the water-based products from absorbing.

Glycolic Acid + Salicylic Acid

Acids, acids and more acids. As we’ve mentioned before, using more than one acid is not a good idea. Individually, each of these ingredients is great for removing dead skin cells from your skin, but together they can cause a major reaction. At the very least, they will strip your skin of moisture and cause irritation.

Niacinamide + Vitamin C

If you have blemish-prone and scarred skin, these two products are great…separately. If you mix these two skincare ingredients together you’re in for trouble. Niacinamide cancels out all of the good properties of Vitamin C and the substance that remains can cause redness and trigger more acne breakouts.

Vitamin C + Alpha and Beta Hydroxy Acids

Once again, acids don’t play well with other acids. Not only is Vitamin C essentially an acid, but it’s also really unstable. Layering it with other acids will destabilize the pH balance, irritate your skin, and negate any positive effects of the Vitamin C. To be safe, let each ingredient shine on its own.
The combination of Vitamin C and salicylic acid, in particular, can have some benefits for individuals with oilier skin, but even still we’d recommend waiting at least a few minutes between applying each product.

Benzoyl Peroxide (BPO) and Retinol

When you mix two potent beneficial ingredients together, will you get an even bigger benefit? Not always. Benzoyl Peroxide (BPO) is a potent acne treatment and retinol is a potent anti-wrinkle agent, but these are two forces that should never be combined.
Even if you don’t have a history of sensitive skin, mixing these two ingredients will likely lead to dry, flaky and peeling skin. BPO also cancels out many of the effects of retinol, so not only can combining them harm your skin, it doesn’t help it either.


Mixing the wrong skin care ingredients can cause irritation to the skin. It is best to keep some active ingredients separate, by using them on separate days or at separate times of the day.
Do any of these no-no mixes surprise you? Let us know in the comments!
Author Bio:
Kelly Foulk is a holistic lifestyle and wellness expert. She transitioned to natural and organic beauty over half a decade ago and since then she’s helped many others make the transition as well. Kelly previously was the owner organic hair care brand Ethos Hair Care. When she’s not sharing her knowledge of organic beauty, you’ll find her practicing yoga or meditation.