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Notes On… Layering Skincare

You may (think you) have your skincare routine down pat. Cleanse, exfoliate, serum, oil…and so on. But, there is more to it than merely the sequence of application. I often meet with clients who are (incidentally, or sometimes on purpose) essentially giving themselves the equivalent of a chemical peel each and every evening by combining all sorts of active ingredients through layering. Sure, their skin is radiant… but this is a very, very bad idea, as they are removing a layer of skin every single evening. You don’t have to stop using your favourite products, and you certainly don’t have to wave goodbye to the relentless pursuit of glow-y skin. You just need to tread carefully when mixing active ingredients. Here’s how. 

Wonder ingredient retinol is a peeling agent that encourages skin cell turnover. The combination of retinol and AHAs or BHAs can be extremely drying on skin and wreck havoc on the delicate acid mantle. You can still use both as part of an effective routine, but alternate the days you use them, or, include the AHAs/BHAs in the morning and retinol as part of your evening routine. Otherwise, the combination of the two is a recipe for redness and irritation. Also steer clear of pairing retinol with acne treatments. Why? Salicylic acid + retinol =  dryness and redness. 

Speaking of AHAs and BHAs, you must be careful when layering them with Vitamin C. Vitamin C is, believe it or not, also an acid (L-ascorbic acid, to be specific). Acids and other types of acid must be kept mutually exclusive as you can have too much of a good thing, especially when said good thing chemically exfoliates your face. 

Citric Acid (surreptitiously found in plenty of moisturisers and other skincare products) is a nightmare when mixed with, well, virtually anything. Layering this causes lots of irritation, so it’s best to refrain from using at all, where possible. 

Anything to add here re: mixing actives, other actives to avoid, when is mixing actives is OK? 

Are some skintypes may be more tolerant than others? 

Skincare is never a one-size-fits-all solution, and, as with most things in life, what works for someone else may not work for you. That said, there are a couple of basic rules everyone should abide by. If in doubt, stick to 1-2 actives per day, maximum. And remember: more is not more.

Tips to remember:

Always apply from the thinnest to thickest consistency, from watery to creamy to oily texture and from lowest to highest pH.

Avoid layering active ingredients over silicone-based products as they may not absorb

Avoid mixing water-soluble actives into oil-based products as they may not penetrate