How to Combine Skincare Ingredients Without Irritating Your Face

How to Combine Skincare Ingredients Without Irritating Your Face

In recent years, beauty culture has championed extensive, complex routines with skincare concoctions that feel like we’re transforming our bathrooms into mini science labs. While the combination of skincare ingredients can keep our faces happier than ever, not all pairings are a match made in heaven, leading to lots of irritation and sensitivity. Our latest article will educate you on all the dos and don’ts of mixing skincare, allowing you to harness the magic of so-called “ingredient cocktails.”

Skincare ingredients that should (and shouldn’t) be used together

We’re far more aware of the ingredients in skincare products than we were 20 years ago. While there’s a growing collective knowledge about individual substances, there seems to be an education deficit around how you should, and shouldn’t, be combining them. Some ingredients used together work harmoniously, jointly tackling targeted skin concerns. Others are simply a recipe for irritation, redness and a compromised skin barrier. Let’s explore popular skincare ingredients and how to combine them with the rest of your routine.

Vitamin C

Use with - vitamin E

Don’t use with - AHAs/BHAs

Vitamin C is most effective when used in a slightly acidic environment, so adding a high PH product prior like an AHA/BHA can destabilise the ingredient and limit its effects. Put simply, you might not get the brightening, smoothing and rejuvenating properties that vitamin C is favoured for.

In turn, reach for a product with vitamin E, a fellow antioxidant that can pack double the punch when protecting against oxidative stress and skin barrier repair.


Use with - retinol and hyaluronic acid

Don’t use with - AHAs/BHAs

 While niacinamide is generally well-tolerated when mixed with other ingredients, the presence of AHAs/BHAs can alter the pH level of the skin, potentially limiting the efficacy of the ingredient.

 Instead, increase the hydrating, texture-evening properties of niacinamide with the support of retinol and hyaluronic acid. It can also help to reduce the potentially inflammatory symptoms of retinol products, working in perfect harmony.


Use with - niacinamide and suncreen

Don’t use with - AHAs/BHAs

 When first introducing retinol to your routine, you’re likely to experience a little irritation while your skin acclimatises, often coined the retinol uglies. However, if you’re facing prolonged sensitivity it may be because you’re using the ingredient in tandem with exfoliating AHAs/BHAs, like glycolic acid.


When applying retinol, choose instead to reach for products with niacinamide to support and prevent any sensitivity or skin inflammation. Don’t forget to layer a generous slather of SPF the morning after a retinol session, as this ingredient leaves your skin temporarily more sensitive to sun damage.

Glycolic Acid (AHAs/BHAs)

Use with - hyaluronic acid and ceramides

Don’t use with - retinol and vitamin C

Providing gentle exfoliation, glycolic acid and other AHAs/BHAs when mixed with actives like retinol and vitamin C is a fast track route to irritation, deregulating your natural pattern of skin cell turnover and potentially weakening your skin barrier.

Support glycolic acid with intensely moisturising ingredients like hyaluronic acid and ceramides. This will help support your skin against the exfoliating effects of AHAs/BHAs, preventing excess dryness, dehydration and peeling.

Hyaluronic Acid

Use with - retinol, AHAs/BHAs and pretty much everything else.

 This hydrating ingredient has properties that can support and combine well with basically any other without irritation. It’s especially recommended to use with ingredients that can trigger potential sensitivity in the skin like retinol and AHAs/BHAs, as it naturally attracts and retains the moisture often lost when using the former.

Vitamin E

Use with - vitamin C and niacnimide

Don’t use with - retinol and AHAs/BHAs

 Again, vitamin E is an ingredient that overall is well tolerated when mixing with others throughout your routine. However, when combined with retinol and AHAs/BHAs it could potentially irritate, so it’s recommended to spread out the use of each.

 It’s better to tag team this ingredient with its fellow vitamin C, as together they work well to provide enhanced UV damage and reduce the common signs of ageing.


Use as - the final layer of your skincare routine, applied before makeup

Don’t  - physically mix with another product

 SPF is a form of vital daily defence against sun damage and should be sought in a pure form - i.e. not as part of a “moisturiser with SPF” or by you mixing it with your day cream. This can reduce the efficacy of the sunscreen, and defeat the point of applying it in the first place.

 Use a generous layer of sunscreen instead as the final step of your skincare routine, before you move onto makeup. Depending on your skin type either seek something lightweight and oil-free or a hydrating cream formula that will keep your face plump and glowing.

 How to soothe your skin after a combination gone wrong

If you’ve ever experienced and skincare combination gone wrong, you’ll be all too familiar with the redness, sensitivity and irritation that follows. Have no fear, in just a few easy steps you can help soothe and restore your skin after a beauty experiment gone awry.

1.   Gentle Cleansing

While your face is probably feeling a little tender right now, it’s important to still cleanse both AM and PM to stop dirt and impurities from building up. Opt for a gentle cleanser that hydrates and soothes, without stripping or further irritation. Our Glycolic Facial Cleanser softly buffs away daily oil and grime while being supported by nurturing ingredients like cucumber and green tea extract to illuminate and calm unhappy skin.

2.   Targeted, soothing serums

Serums are targeted skincare products with high concentrations of active ingredients that can tackle specific concerns, like sensitivity from a regretful skincare combination. The Facial Hydrator Serum has been formulated with a blend of natural oils to bring life back into a face in SOS mode. Rich in argan and hemp seed oil, just a few drops of our best-selling serum can start to soothe stressed skin. 

3.   Nourishing hydration

Hydration plays a crucial role in calming irritated skin, as dryness often exacerbates feelings of sensitivity. After massaging in a potent serum, lock each ingredient in with a layer of thirst-quenching moisturiser, either our Nourishing Day Cream or Hydrating Night Cream, depending on your time of day. Each has been formulated with moisture-restoring ingredients like green tea extract and aloe vera juice to simultaneously hydrate and pacify sensitivity.