What skincare ingredient combinations can you mix and what must be avoided?

Your skin is the biggest organ of your body. Consumers today seek awareness of the products they use. Educating yourself is imperative to take a clean and safe approach to see effective results in the long run. Regardless of your skin type or concern, rest assured there is an ingredient for you. Beauty jargons can create a barrier of understanding. You can be left in the dark and feel helpless to navigate your way through. We are here to decode those confusing scientific terms to make it easier for you to make appropriate and well-informed decisions.

What is the importance of understanding ingredients?

It is important to know about the ingredients used in the skincare products you use to get optimum results. There are a few important reasons why an understanding of skin care ingredients is beneficial:

  1. To understand if the product can cause irritation to your skin when paired with other products and to understand the compatibility of different ingredients used for different skin concerns.
  2. To learn if the formula used will penetrate through your skin to a level of effectiveness.
  3. How a specific ingredient will affect your skin in remodelling, regeneration and renewal of cell creation.
  4. To understand if the ingredients used are safe for your skin and the environment and if they have any damaging side effects.

This image highlights the importance of understanding the ingredients used in skincare.

    What are the different kinds of ingredients used in skincare products?

    Ingredients are classified into different categories depending on the functions they perform. These classes are listed down below:

    1. Active Ingredients: They are responsible for the bioactivity in skincare products. Bioactive means having an effect on a living organism to change the structure of your cells. This is the ingredient that is performing the function to address your skin concern. That does not mean inactive ingredients are not necessary. They are the key drivers to make the active ingredient work. The most common inactive ingredient is water. Examples of active ingredients compose of Alpha Hydroxy Acid (AHAs) and Beta Hydroxy Acid (BHAs) including Glycolic Acid, Lactic Acid, Citric Acid and Salicylic Acid. They are chemical exfoliants used to clear pores or remove the top layer of the skin, mainly to treat acne. (Insert Active Ingredient article here)
    2.  Humectants: This is another important active ingredient. They help to retain moisture within the skin. They soak the moisture from the environment and bind it in the skin. They include ingredients such as Algae Extract, Hyaluronic Acid, Aloe Vera, Butylene Glycol, Ceramides, Hydrolyzed Collagen, Glycerine, Propylene Glycol, Sorbitol and Honey.
    3. Anti-ageing Ingredients: These ingredients generally have a wrinkle-reducing, brightening, tightening effect or encourage cell collagen production to reduce the signs of ageing. Retinol, Ceramides, CoQ10, Hydrolyzed Collagen, Peptides, Hyaluronic Acid and Niacinamide are a few ingredients to look for. They work to rejuvenate the skin by speeding up cell turnover. They slow down signs of ageing and reduce fine lines, improving uneven skin tone and pigmentation.
    4. Antioxidants: They are substances that help neutralise the effect of free radicals that cause damage to our skin. Free radicals can interfere with the protein or DNA of your skin and can lead to accelerating the ageing process, inflammation or even skin cancer if not dealt with effectively. Antioxidants act as a shield reducing the skin's exposure to these antioxidants. Antioxidants include Ferulic Acid, Resveratrol, Vitamin A, C and E. They protects us against pollution, harmful exposure from the sun or any other environmental stress that could cause damage to our skin protecting our overall skin integrity.
    5. Skin Brightening Agents: They have an anti-pigmentation effect, evening out discolouration and skin tone. They reverse pigmentation in the skin and prevent melanogenesis, the effect of evening out skin tone by regulating the deposition of melanin in the skin. These include Alpha-Arbutin, Kojic Acid, Licorice Extract, Resveratrol, Vitamin A, Niacinamide and Vitamin C.
    6. Surfactants: These are Surface Active Ingredients. They cleanse your face by creating foam when oil and water are rubbing together. Generally found in soaps, makeup removers, shampoos, cleansers etc. Surfactants are extremely harsh on the skin as they strip the face of all the natural oils leaving it dry.
    7. Emulsifier: These ingredients hold your oil and water together. Since oil and water repel each other emulsifiers help to bring them together. You can find these in lotions and creams.
    8. Preservatives: They prevent the growth of microbes and bacteria formation. Sometimes they may cause irritation on the skin as do products that have gotten spoilt. Preservatives are used to stop the active ingredient in products from going bad and to stabilise the shelf life. Some common ingredients are Benzyl alcohol, Dehydroacetic Acid, Parabens, Phenoxyethanol, Sorbic Acid, Gluconolactone, Sodium Benzoate. There is a lot of confusion about how safe some of these ingredients are to use.
    9. Emollients: These ingredients have a smoothing and softening effect on the skin. They mainly consist of Natural butters, Natural oils, Silicones, Cetyl Palmitate, Iso-lanolin, Isopropyl Myristate, Mineral oils, Squalane, Sucrose Cocoate. They are important for those with dry skin.
    10. Solvents: They are used to dissolve the active ingredients to stabilise the formulation. Sometimes they help to penetrate the active ingredients deeper into the skin. These include Ethylhexyl palmitate, Glycerine, Iso-lanolin, Propylene glycol.
    11.  Fragrances: These are generally listed as essential oils or as the fragrance itself as they are generally proprietary rights. 

    This image highlights the different ingredients used in skincare products.Which ingredients can be used together?

    Your skincare routine should include products that complement each other in order to avoid over-drying, over-exfoliating, or irritating the skin. Here is a list of ingredients that work well together:

    1. Retinols and Hyaluronic acid: Due to its moisture retention properties, it makes a great ingredient to use with Retinols that increase collagen production. Using the two together will make the skin feel hydrated with improved texture.
    2. Vitamin C and SPF: This is the best skin-protecting formula. It is proven that using Vitamin C with SPF protects the skin from the damage caused by UV rays as well as boosts skin’s antioxidant defences. It also prevents dark spots, pigmentation and ageing caused by sun damage.
    3. AHAs and BHAs: The most efficient way to deep cleanse your pores is by pairing an AHA quotient which is water soluble with a BHA quotient that is oil soluble. BHAs can penetrate into the deeper layers of the skin while the AHAs exfoliate the surface. But you must always remember to moisturise after to bring back the balance.
    4. Niacinamide and Hyaluronic Acid: Niacinamide reduces inflammation and redness. It also helps reduce the appearance of pores. Hyaluronic acid binds water and retains skin moisture. They both are water-based solutions and can be used together to give your skin the required moisture while regulating the sebum production and minimising pores. It is unlikely to experience any irritation with this combination.

    This image informs you on which ingredients can be used together.Which ingredients cannot be used together?

    Are you trying to figure out how the products you use in your skincare routine react when applied together? We must ensure that the products we use on our face should be approached with caution to avoid damage. Learning about the ingredients before the application is a great way to address our skin concerns without harming it. Here we have listed some commonly used ingredients in skincare products that do not mix well together:

    1. Vitamin C and AHAs/BHAs: Vitamin C is highly acidic in nature. It has an exfoliating effect on the skin which is why it should not be mixed with Active Ingredients such as Glycolic, Salicylic or Lactic Acids. Using these with Vitamin C will destabilise the pH balance and not allow it to work.
    2. Retinols and AHAs/BHAs: Retinols reverse the ageing process that boosts collagen production and reduces wrinkles, fine lines and age spots. AHAs and BHAs on the other hand peel the surface of your skin to encourage the growth of newer, evenly pigmented cells. Applying these ingredients together can cause excessive dryness or irritation.
    3. Benzoyl peroxide and Tretinoin: Tretinoins is used for acne treatment to reduce wrinkles, fine lines and dark spots. Benzoyl peroxide is also used to treat and prevent acne by killing bacteria as well as shed the dead skin cells. This might cause irritations and you must consult a professional before mixing the two.
    4. SPF and Makeup: Do not mix your SPF with your foundation or primer or any other makeup products. It is supposed to form a layer on your skin surface to protect it from the harmful rays. Relying on the SPF in makeup does not give full coverage. There is a chance of it being diluted reducing its efficiency.

    Read more on how to layer your skincare products.

    The order in which you layer your skincare products matters to get the maximum out of your routine. There are certain ingredients that we want to form a layer and protect us while other ingredients that need to penetrate into the skin. Applying the wrong product first can cause complications and won’t deliver expected results.

    We have listed the steps in brief below for you to understand:

    Step 1: Cleansing

    It is important to get rid of the dirt particles sitting within our skin before we start with our skincare routine.  Skipping this step can lead to clogged pores and bacteria build-up that can cause inflammation and infection.

    Step 2: Toner/Mist

    This helps to close the pores and tighten the gap after cleansing. It reduces the penetration of impurities that can damage the skin. You should apply a few drops on a cotton pad and gently wipe it on your face. Some prefer skipping this step but using a toner can help to reach the active ingredients into the skin even more effectively.

    Step 3: Antioxidant Serum

    These contain concentrated ingredients to target specific skin concerns. They provide treatments to nourish and restore cell growth making the skin healthier and younger. There are multiple serums out there for every skin concern that might worry you. They penetrate deep into the skin and deliver active ingredients to it.

    Step 4: Moisturiser

    To maintain the balance in your skin you must moisturise. It helps avoid excessive dryness or oiliness, irritation, prevents acne breakouts, itchiness and maintains the overall health of your skin.

    Step 5: Sunscreen

    Harmful sun rays seep in through the ozone layer. This can cause various skin concerns such as premature ageing, dark spots, hyperpigmentation, discolouration or even skin cancer. To protect your skin from the UVA and UVB rays you must apply sunscreen daily regardless of the time of the day or year as they are always present.

    Summary

    Now you know all about the different ingredients present in your skincare routine. Why it is important to learn about them and which are the ingredients that can and cannot be used together. This will help you make more well-informed decisions and know what is good or harmful for your skin before application. You must be safe and try to make the most of your routine and no better way to accomplish this than being aware.

    - By Howrah Lookmanji

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