Mix And Match: The Skincare Ingredients You Should Never Use Together?

by Gio
skincare ingredients to never use together

Skincare ingredients can be such divas.

All the best anti-aging superstars do wonders on their own but ask them to collaborate and they throw a tantrum. They just won’t do their best work. So frustrating!

Wonder who these prima donnas are? Here are the skincare ingredients you should never mix (and how you can force them to get along if you must):

Want to get the most out of your skincare products? Click on the image below to subscribe to my newsletter and receive the “How To Combine Actives Like A Pro” cheatsheet.

never mix retinol with aha bhs

Retinol + AHAs/BHA

AHAs (glycolic and lactic acid) and BHA (salicylic acid) are all powerful exfoliants. Retinol (a form of vitamin A), can accelerate cellular turnover (that’s scientific lingo for speeding up your skin’s natural exfoliating process).

This means that all these ingredients help you get rid of the old, dull, and damaged cells on the surface of your skin and replace them with new, bright, and healthy ones.

When used on their own, that is. When used together, they’re more likely to cause redness and irritations. Oh, they can make your skin much more sensitive to sunlight, too.

This combo is proof that too much of a good thing is a bad thing.

The fix

  • Use them at different times of the day or week. I use glycolic acid in the morning and retinol at night. But you can use glycolic acid on Monday and retinol on Tuesday. It’s up to you.

Related: AHAs VHS BHA: Which One Should You Use?

never mix retinol with benzoyl peroxide

Retinol + Benzoyl Peroxide

Did you know that retinol can treat acne, too? So does benzoyl peroxide. It has a peeling action that keeps the pores clean and kills the bacteria that cause acne.

But, benzoyl peroxide is very harsh on its own. That’s why it’s more of a last resort treatment to be used on pimples only.

Use it together with retinol and it gets even harsher. Expect flakiness, redness, peeling, and irritation. Do you really wanna take the risk?

The fix

  • Choose one!
  • If you only get the odd, stubborn pimple, you can apply benzoyl peroxide only on the annoying bugger, and retinol everywhere else. But give other pimple-busters, like salicylic acid or sulfur, a chance first.

Related: Salicylic Acid VS Benzoyl Peroxide: Which One Should You Choose?

never mix retinol with vitamin c

Retinol + Vitamin C

Retinol and vitamin C are my two all-time fave ingredients. They’re both so powerful: they fight free radicals, boost the production of collagen, and brighten skin.

But, they don’t play well together. Retinol works best at a ph of 5.5-6. Vitamin C (in the pure form of l-ascorbic acid) needs a ph of 3.5 or lower. You see the problem?

It’s tricky to formulate a product at a ph that’ll satisfy both vitamin C and retinol. But, that doesn’t mean they’re useless together (there are so many great products out there that contain both). They still work, just not to their full potential.

The fix

  • Use these ingredients at different times of the day or week.
  • Choose time-released products. This simply means that retinol is put into a capsule and released slowly into the skin over a period of several hours. Vitamin C is delivered all at once. So, long after that’s being absorbed, retinol is still being pumped into your skin, finding nothing in its path that can deactivate it.
  • Go for another form of vitamin C. Magnesium ascorbyl palmitate,for example, has an optimal ph of 7-8.5, so it can easily be formulated with retinol, without compromising on efficacy.

Related: Types Of Vitamin C In Skincare Products

never mix vitamin c with niacinamide

Niacinamide + Vitamin C

A quick Google search will highlight two problems with this combo:

  1. Niacinamide turns Vitamin C yellow, making it ineffective.
  2. Mixing Niacinamide with Vitamin C turns it into Niacin, a substance that can have temporary flushing and tingling in people with inflammatory acne or erythema.

So, yes, if you have inflammatory acne or erythema, you don’t want to use these two together. Scroll down to the fix to figure out how to make the most of them.

Everyone else, don’t worry. These reactions don’t happen straight away. They occur so slowly, you won’t even notice a difference. I’ve explained why in detail in this post.

The fix

  • Wait 30 minutes. Apply vitamin C first and, half an hour later, niacinamide. Or vice versa.
  • Don’t have that much time to waste in the morning? Then, use them at different times of the day or week.

Related: Can You Use Niacinamide And Vitamin C Together?

Are you using these antiaging superstars together? Share your thoughts in the comments below.



Ana March 21, 2016 - 5:01 pm


Gio March 21, 2016 - 5:38 pm

Ana, glad you find it useful. ๐Ÿ™‚

Reem March 2, 2017 - 1:04 pm

I use a retinol in the night. In the morning,I apply vitamin c serum. Is this wrong ? If yes so, what is the best way to get the benifit of two?

Gio March 3, 2017 - 9:16 pm

Reem, I do the same too, so no, that’s not wrong. Just applying sunscreen after vitamin C and you’ll be fine.

Louise August 29, 2017 - 10:36 am

Hi, thanks for your great info! I would really love a bit of advice please?? About 6 weeks ago I started a new regime..I began using a tretinion every third night, vitamin c 20% serum in the evening (not on retin nights) and a cerave pm cream morning and night that has niacinamide in, and my skin has broke out worse than ever??? I thought this may happen but decided to stick at it thinking I’d get past this messy stage but It’s still exactly the same?? I’m thinking am I allergic to one of them? How would I know which one? I’ve loved reasearching all these amazing ingredients and couldn’t wait to get started and I’m hugely disappointed in my poor faces reaction!!! I have sensitive oily skin. Any advice very much appreciated xx

Gio September 1, 2017 - 3:53 pm

Louise, there can be a purging period with tretinoin but after 6 weeks it should have stopped. This makes me think that at least one of the products may have comedogenic ingredients. Here’s a list of them: http://www.beautifulwithbrains.com/what-ingredients-are-comedogenic/

Check if any of the products have any highly comedogenic ingredients in them. If so, stop using it straight away. In the meantime, you can exfoliaute with salicylic acid to help the breakouts disappear faster. Hope this helps.

Stephanie Sprinkle November 25, 2017 - 5:05 am

I thought ret. And benzoyl peroxide were good to use together esp. For acne…there is something dermatologist prescribe called Epiduo…and it is just that benzoyl peroxide with adapaline which is the main component on differin another retinoid product

Gio November 26, 2017 - 2:14 pm

Stephanie, I know some prescription treatments use them together but there is a reason why they are prescription. My main objection to using them together is that it may be too irritating hence why it should be prescribed by a professional only.

Laurie March 22, 2016 - 12:38 am

I did not know that about niacinamide! Yikes. I’ll have to be sure to use it in the evening only since I use my vitamin C serum in the morning.

Gio March 22, 2016 - 9:28 pm

Laurie, not many people know that, but that niacinamide is so underrated. Shame, cos it’s one of the best ingredients you can use for your skin. Using it at night is certainly a good idea.

Ylva May 19, 2017 - 11:28 am

Hi! Love the blog! I’m trying to figure out my skincare regime… can you use niacinimide with AHA/BHA?

I currently use them at night and vitamin c in the morning, and am looking to introduce both retinol and niacinimide in my regime but I’m not sure how to best combine for AM and PM routines.

Gio May 21, 2017 - 9:46 am

Ylva, thanks! Yes, you can use niacinamide with AHA, so at night it would be perfect.

wasmachtHeli March 22, 2016 - 9:32 am

Just to add: When you mix a bit of vitamin E into the niacinamide and vitamin C (in case you’ve combined them), it may prevent some of the degradation and stabilize the vitamin C.

Gio March 22, 2016 - 9:31 pm

Hรฉlianthe, good point, thanks for sharing that.

Fabienne March 24, 2016 - 10:39 pm

Very informative! Thank you!
A quick question: does niacinamide also interfere with vitamin c- derivates like tetrahexyldecyl ascorbate? I’m womdering because Paula’s Choice has some products witch combine niacinamide with this derivate.

Gio March 27, 2016 - 8:20 pm

Fabienne, yes, the problem can still occur, but more slowly. But, after reading this today http://www.kindofstephen.com/post/141145450693/can-you-use-niacinamide-and-vitamin-c-ascorbic, I don’t think there’s much to worry about. The two vitamins only make each other a bit less effective rather than completely useless.

Gio March 27, 2016 - 9:56 am

Chris, thanks so much for sharing that. I’ll add it to the post.

Marita November 16, 2016 - 12:37 pm

Can you tell me about mixing several peptides together with eco friendly extracts

Gio November 16, 2016 - 1:24 pm

Marita, there’s nothing wrong with that. These ingredients are often used together. Hope that answers your question.

Sasha March 29, 2016 - 5:48 am

Thank you for this amaZing info blogg about skincare.
I use PC Clinical Retinol at night ,and in the morning Transderma C,Transderma im suprised so few have written about,.Checjhk it out,itsthe mรฅste PURE products out there,its expensive,but for ONCE ,and i meanONCE ,an expensive product was realyyyy goood.
They also have tTransderma M,wich contains:Squalane,Cholestrol/Lanosterol,Esters,Alpha-To hopherol,Ceramde 3,Ceramide 5,Phytosphingsine.
That is a serum i love!
So there are few but really good products.
About PC,they have a veeery high standard too a good price.
Have a nice day from Sweden.

Gio April 3, 2016 - 12:52 pm

Sasha, thanks for the recommendation. I don’t think I have ever seen Transderma around, but I will look for them. The serum sounds really good. I am a fan of PC too. Incredible formulas at affordable prices. What’s not to love?

Cat July 26, 2016 - 2:29 am

Wow Gio, this is so informative! Thank you! i printed it out.

Gio July 31, 2016 - 6:45 pm

Cat, you’re welcome. Glad you find it useful.

julina August 6, 2016 - 10:31 pm

Thanks to share the knowledge about vit c and niacinamise, i have been using both those ingredients, maybe i will use one at day and one at night.

Gio August 7, 2016 - 12:23 pm

Julina, my pleasure.

CK October 12, 2016 - 4:49 pm

Wonderful article thank you. What about Vitamin C and Glycolic acid? Do AHAs change the ph balance for vitamin C when used together?

Also, I’ve been using Vit C + Glycolic acid during the day. I’ve heard conflicting info saying avoid using glycolic acid during day even with SPF 30+ as it may cause sun damage. How much risk is there(if any) using glycolic acid with SPF during the day?

Gio April 29, 2017 - 1:38 pm

CK, the reason why most people say you shouldn’t use glycolic acid in the morning is because we rarely apply the amount of sunscreen needed to achieve the level of protection on the label. And even if we do, we don’t reapply it throughout the day. It’s better to use it at night and stick to vitamin C in the morning.

Catharine December 1, 2016 - 3:43 am

Some of these are myths that The Cosmetics Cop debunks on their site. They do reference the flawed scientific study that have led to these myths. However, it’s important to note the type of Renitol/Vit A used does make a difference.

Gio December 2, 2016 - 9:59 pm

Catharine, thanks for your comments. I’ve seen different experts express different opinions by citing different sources. In any case, most of these ingredients are too strong to be used together for most skincare, so I prefer to use them separately anyway.

Valiant December 2, 2016 - 7:37 pm

Hi Gio, how about using together vitamin c such as l ascorbic acid or ascorbyl methylsilanol pectinate with an acid like aha/bha/pha?

Gio December 2, 2016 - 7:52 pm

Hi Valiant, I ‘m not a big fan of using them together but that’s more because these ingredients are powerful and can be too much for the skin all at once. I prefer to use them on separate days.

Valiant December 2, 2016 - 8:15 pm

Thanks for the advice gio and how about mixing aha/bha together? I saw a brand like cosrx combine aha and bha together and i also saw a brand like paula’s choice who separated those acid.

Gio December 2, 2016 - 8:22 pm

Valiant, those acids both exfoliate skin. The difference is that glycolic also hydrates it, so it’s great for dry skin, while salicylic unclogs the pores, so it’s best for oily skin. If you have combination skin, it makes sense to use an exfoliant with both acids. Or to use them on alternate days. Otherwise, just pick the one that best suits your skin type.

Valiant December 2, 2016 - 8:39 pm

Hi thank you for the answer. If i had another question, can i ask you by email?

Gio December 2, 2016 - 9:56 pm

Valant, you’re welcome. And yes, of course.

Amy September 12, 2017 - 7:52 am

Hello, is the topic of Retin A, vitamin c, niacinamide, and such still a conversation on here? I’m so confused I could just toss it all and go back to being foot loose and fancy free. lol Actually I love skincare but have not always taken good care of my skin. I’m not taking care of it and will be a lifer now…since it’s half over already. I hope this conversation is still alive today because I could use some advice. Namaste!

Gio September 17, 2017 - 9:03 am

Amy, of course. If you have any questions, ask away! I always reply to comments on old posts too, even though it may take me a couple of days sometimes.

Gerd October 18, 2018 - 11:20 am

Hi Gio,

I want start using Niacinamide and Retinol serums at night and a moisturiser as well… How should I go about?
Not sure what product to put first after I wash my face – How long to wait between each product etc
Also just want to make sure if this wont be to strong for my skin?

renee January 5, 2017 - 3:55 pm

Hi, thanks a lot for the info! I am wondering if I am using MAP , then can I apply B3 serum right after or before it ?

Gio January 5, 2017 - 5:51 pm

Renee, hi and you’re welcome. Yes, you can use them together but I’d wait a few minutes between the two to give the time to the first product to fully absorb before you apply the next one. Hope it helps.

sarah z February 12, 2017 - 10:43 pm

Thanks for the great article, I was thinking of adding Vitamin C to my routine but seeing how I already have retinol maybe I’ll find something else. Is niacinamide okay to use with retinol?

Gio February 24, 2017 - 8:36 pm

Sarah, my pleasure. Yes, you can use niacinamide with retinol. If your skin needs the extra help, you can add vitamin C too. Just alternate between the serum (ie, one day retinol, the next vitamin c).

Chris February 13, 2017 - 10:17 pm

Where is the research that says that retinol and BHAs/AHAs can’t be used together? We already know that separately each of these ingredients will increase skins sun sensitivity, so combining them doesn’t seem like an issue.

Gio February 27, 2017 - 2:17 pm

Chris, some people think they can’t be used together because of the ph differences but I don’t agree with that. My issue is that both these ingredients can cause sun sensitivity, flakiness and irritations, especially at first. Imo, it’s best to use them separately to avoid any potential issues, especially if you have dry/sensitive skin.

Dr. Rowett February 24, 2017 - 4:50 pm

Great article but the statements regarding mixing Niacinamide and Vitamin C need clarification. Pure Niacinamide is actually bright yellow and that contributes to the coloring of mixture with Vitamin C. Also if a product contains a unstable form of Vitamin C you should not even purchase it as it will weaken and discolor when the first bit of air hits it. There are many forms of stabilized C that are the ideal choices when shopping for serum and those stable forms are those that will work and will NOT interact with Niacinamide. The combination of these 2 antioxidants are the BEST combination for actually reversing photo damaged skin as well as evening tone and stimulating cells to a collagen producing state. I really just wanted to clarify as there were a couple of erroneous articles written regarding the 2 that had absolutely no scientific support of their thesis on the subject. I would not want anyone who is truly looking for substantial results overlook the combination of stable C with Niacinamide. I suggest to my patients that they do their homework and choose a serum that already contain both of these superior actives as we have had tremendous results with treatments that have both already in their formula. The reason I say to find a product that has both is that they have the correct stable c that will play very nicely with the Niacinamide (B3) (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16029679

Gio February 27, 2017 - 4:03 pm

Dr Rowett, thanks so much for your comments and your clarification. It’s good to know that there are ways to use these two powerful actives together.

Dinah March 28, 2017 - 6:26 am

Hello! Thank you so much for this article. I’m curious if it’s safe to use Drunk Elephant’s C-Firma Day Serum (15% l-ascorbic acid) with niacinamide, or if I should wait 30 minutes in between. I’m not sure if that particular vitamin C product is considered stabilized, but the serum is contained in an airless pump.

Gio March 28, 2017 - 7:24 am

Dinah, it’s safe to use them together. The reaction I’m talking about occurs so slowly, it won’t be a problem for skin. But you can wait or use one in the morning and the other at night if you’re still concerned about it.

Dinah March 28, 2017 - 7:59 am

Thank you for your swift reply, Gio! That’s good to know. So glad I came across your blog. Take care, and thanks again for your help!

Gio March 28, 2017 - 8:22 am

Dinah, my pleasure and thanks for your kind words. So thrilled you like my blog!

Ayu February 26, 2017 - 1:52 am
Gio February 26, 2017 - 8:08 pm

Ayu, thanks for bringing that to my attention. I don’t think the ph issues are as bad as some think and I agree with Paula that you could use them together but they’re all pretty powerful ingredients. Using them separately may be best or they may cause irritations.

Laura March 30, 2017 - 10:00 pm

Hi, this post is super helpful! I’m currently using retinol serum on a nightly basis but once I hit the 12-week mark, I’m thinking about alternating nightly between my retinol and a vitamin c serum. Would I reap the benefits of both if I use retinol one night and vitamin c the next?

xo, Laura

Gio April 5, 2017 - 7:29 pm

Laura, that’s what I do. Actually, I alternate between vitamin C, glycolic acid and retinol. That way I can get all their benefits without the potentially drying side effects. So, yeah, you can do that without compromising their efficacy. ๐Ÿ™‚

Julie Zink April 25, 2017 - 6:15 pm

Can you use a retinol with niacinamide?

Gio April 29, 2017 - 1:11 pm

Julie, yes you can.

Amy September 12, 2017 - 8:14 am

Yes, you can meaning they will not weaken their state? I use a product called Hada Labo super hyaluronic acid. I’m sure it has other ingredients but I cannot read the language…it’s from Japan. I wonder if it is in a product with other ingredients if that would be OK. I’m not really making sense here. I’ve read to much I think and now I’m just a little brain fogged. There is so much to learn.

Gio September 17, 2017 - 8:56 am

Amy, yes, you can use them together without compromising their effectiveness.

Hyaluronic acid plays well with most ingredients so I wouldn’t worry about it too much.

Gwen May 10, 2017 - 2:31 am

AHA/BHA products can be used with Retinol if your skin has a high tolerance to them. I use them together with no adverse effects but my skin is used to acids. I do make sure to ALWAYS wear a high spf. Everyday, no matter conditions.

Gio May 14, 2017 - 3:53 pm

Gwen, thanks for the tip. I don’t like to mix them because I think they’re too much for most people but if you can take it, why not?

Gisele May 15, 2017 - 1:12 am

So it’s okay to mix retinol/it’s derivatives with niacinamide?

Gio May 21, 2017 - 10:16 am

Gisele, yes, it is.

Anon June 13, 2017 - 1:06 pm

Hi, thanks for the info but can I mix Niacinamide with Azelaic acid and Arbutin?

Gio June 17, 2017 - 11:41 am

Anon, yes you can, but I recommend you choose either azelaic acid or arbutin.

Tanya June 19, 2017 - 2:22 am

Hi –
Due to aging, fine wrinkles, age spots, red spots (maybe a little rosacea) and adult acne – I went a little crazy, trying to find anything that might help. I just got Plant Therapy’s Life Essentials – peptide complex, retinol 2.5% and glycolic acid 10%.
Can you please advise which is best for what – and when is best to use each one? All of this is so confusing. Thank you, in advance!

Gio June 24, 2017 - 8:16 am

Tanya, I hear ya! There are so many ingredients and rules in skincare, it’s hard to put it all together! Have you ever used retinol before? I know it doesn’t seem like it, but 2.5% is a VERY high concentration. It could seriously dry out and sting your skin if you’re not used to retinol. If you’re a retinol newbie, start with a smaller concentration (less than 1%). I wrote a post about what strength you should be using at any stage here: http://www.beautifulwithbrains.com/strength-retinol-need/

Re glycolic acid, what skin type do you have? You mentioned acne, so I think salicylic acid (BHA) would be more appropriate for you. It unclogs the pores from within, preventing breakouts and has anti-inflammatory properties so it should work better for your rosacea too.

You can use peptides both in the morning and at night.

Joanne June 29, 2017 - 10:02 pm

Hi! I am so glad I found this article. I’ve been trying to get a good skincare regimen going for awhile. But I went slightly overboard with buying different products and now I’m a bit confused on how to use them together or even if they can be used together! This is what I finally came up with. Please let me know if there are any products you think I shouldn’t be mixing. My skin is oily and acne prone and have red marks (p.i.e) from acne that I’m trying to fade.
A.M. :
1. Drunk elephant’s Vit. C SERUM
2. Drunk elephant hydra intensive moisturiser (really like that it’s a gel consistency and not feel too heavy for my oily skin)
3. Shiseido sunscreen

OR alternate days
1. First Aid Beauty Facial Radiance pads (It has lactic and glycolic acid in the first five ingredients list) as a toner
2. The Ordinary Niacinamide 10% and zinc 1%
3. Drunk Elephant gel moisturiser
4. The Ordinary Azaleic Acid (this comes in a cream formula and I use it after the gel moisturiser because it feels weird to use gel formula on top of cream formula.lol.)
5. Sunscreen
* Should I be using the Radiance pad with the glycolic and lactic acid at the same time as the azaleic acid?
* Can i use niacinamide together with azaleic acid and the Radiance pad?

1. Niacinamide serum
2. Gel moisturiser
3. Prescription tretinoin .05 % cream

*Sorry for the super long message. Hope you can let me know what you think of my routine and if there is anything you think I should change. Thank you!

Gio July 7, 2017 - 10:52 am

Joanne, I like your skincare routine, but I would use the Radiance pads at night. Exfoliating acids can make skin more prone to sun damage so it makes more sense to use them at night. If you want to use them during the day, you need to be religious with sunscreen reapplication.

Also, wait until the gel moisturizer has fully absorbed before applying the azelaic acid cream to aid its absorption.

Kim July 1, 2017 - 11:55 pm

Thank you for your post! After using Retinol 0.5% , how long should I wait prior to apply Metacell renewal B3? Thanks

Gio July 7, 2017 - 10:56 am

Kim, just wait until the retinol has fully absorbed and you can’t feel it anymore when you touch your skin.

Chioma July 23, 2017 - 6:19 pm

Wonderful post! Highly informative. One question, can I mix AHAs and vitamin C. At night I started using the Vinoperfect essence and serum with glycolic acid from Caudalie and then I follow with the CEO vitamin C moisturizer from Sunday Riley on top. Are these products okay to use together?

Gio July 28, 2017 - 4:52 pm

Chioma, yes, it’s ok to use them together.

Heppi22 July 31, 2017 - 3:26 pm

How about niaciamide vs green tea seed extract?

Gio August 5, 2017 - 11:18 am

Heppi22, yes, you can use them together.

Stephanie August 16, 2017 - 3:19 pm

Hi there!
Thanks so much for all your guidance!
I’m feeling so inspired but still a bit confused.

I’m unsure how to use what I currently have and what to potentially add. My skin is currently dry, especially around my nose (perhaps due to product?) and I have dark spots/pigmentation.

I recently purchased the Mario Badescu Gycolic Wash and would like a system with my new Ordinary products I purchased, the:
Azelaic Acid Suspension 10% – 30ml
Magnesium Ascorbyl Phosphate 10% – 30ml
Niacinamide 10% + Zinc 1% – 30ml
Alpha Arbutin 2% + HA – 30ml

I’d like to add a Retinoid or Retinol..not sure which. (I am 32 and seeing new wrinkles and the beginnings of a soft neck! Also considering purchasing the Vitamin C Suspension 23%+ HA Spheres 2%, the Buffet, and Squalane.

Am I overdoing it? Looking for help to make sure I’m doing the right thing. Thank you SO MUCH!

Gio August 19, 2017 - 10:01 pm

Stefanie, wow, that’s a lot of skin whiteners you bought. For the time being, I would leave the azelaic acid aside and try the alpha arbutin to see how your skin reacts. I’m suggesting you try that first because it has HA, so it’s more suitable for dry skin like yours.

If you like the Magnesium Ascorbyl Phosphate 10% serum there is no need to invest in Vitamin C Suspension 23%+ HA Spheres 2%. Personally, I prefer the MAP because the other serum has a gritty texture. You can read my full review here: http://www.beautifulwithbrains.com/the-ordinary-vitamin-c-suspension-ha-spheres/

The Niacinamide + Zinc serum is wonderful too, but it’s more suitable for oily skin. You can give it a go to see if your skin likes it but if you find it doesn’t do much for you, you can get your niacinamide fix from Paula’s Choice niacinamide booster or an Olay serum.

The Squalane is a great addition to a skincare routine for dry skin as is retinol. Paula’s Choice makes some good serums with retinol. I recommend her line over The Ordinary because the latter uses high concentrations. Retinol can irritate and dry out the skin, so it’s best to start with low doses and build your way up from there. I’ve written a post on how to do that here: http://www.beautifulwithbrains.com/strength-retinol-need/

In the morning, I’d use the cleanser followed by vitamin C, alpha arbutin, squalane and sunscreen.
In the evening, cleanser, retinol, niacinamide, squalane and moisturizer.

Hope this helps.

kim Stone August 17, 2017 - 4:06 am

Wow, so much to take in! I am so glad I ran across this but I am still confused. Could i get your thoughts on my skincare routine?
My current skincare regimen is;

A.M. Cleanse with Cerave Hydrating Cleanser
Paula’s Choice Resist C15 Super Booster
Olay Regenerist Regenerating Serum
Cereve Eye Repair Cream
Elta MD Uv Clear 46

P.M. Cleanse with Coconut Oil, then Cerave Hydrating Cleanser
Cerave Pm Facial Moisturizing Lotion
Tretinoin gel .04 OR on alternate nights, either Alpha %12 Glycolic AHA OR Alpha %14 Intensive serum AHA
Paulas Choice Moisture Boost or Eucerin Q10 Anti Aging Face Cream
Cereve Eye Repair Cream
Sometimes I will finish with a face oil.

Please give me your thoughts and let me know if you think I should change anything.

Thanks again for such an informative article!

Gio August 19, 2017 - 9:49 pm

Kim, I like your skincare routine a lot. You are using all the right ingredients. The only changes I would make:

AM: apply eye cream before moisturizer
PM: apply Cerave lotion after the eye cream and before the facial oil. As a rule, active ingredients like tretinoin and AHA are best applied on clear skin so they can penetrate it better.

H September 9, 2017 - 4:43 am

Can I use niacinemide with clindamycin?

Gio September 17, 2017 - 9:21 am

H, yes you can.

Cora September 10, 2017 - 9:08 pm

LOVE your blog. Can you comment on my routine?
Normal to dry skin, slightly congested and hyperpigmentation.
Drunk Elephant vit C

I have the options of;
12% Mandelic Acid
Drunk Elephane TLC BHA/AHA
The ordinary Niaci/Zinc
The ordinary Retinoid


Gio September 17, 2017 - 9:19 am

Cora, I like your morning routine. In the evening, I would stick to Drunk Elephant BHA/AHA, at least until the congestion hasn’t disappeared. The ordinary Niaci/zinc could be too harsh for your skin type. Instead, alternate the exfoliant with the retinol. Hope this helps.

Amy September 12, 2017 - 8:30 am

Hello, the above comments…using tretinoin and AHA are best applied to clear skin?? do you mean clean skin with nothing else on it, just freshly washed?

Gio September 17, 2017 - 8:59 am

Amy, yes, wash your face and then apply AHAs or tretinoin.

Krista September 13, 2017 - 12:40 pm

I am currently introducing Murad’s retinol product into my night time routine, first retinol product ever. I do currently use Drunk Elephant C-firma in the mornings and wonder if the funnel effect of the DE product can cause the retinol I’m using at night to be ineffective ?

Gio September 17, 2017 - 8:02 am

Krista, no, it doesn’t. Using vitamin C in the morning and retinol at night is a great way to get the best of both worlds. ๐Ÿ™‚

amanda September 20, 2017 - 9:35 am

hi gio…first off, you sure are helpful and patient…hats off to you. getting to it, i like to change it up- either because i have too many products and don’t want to waste them all and/or i have no idea what i’m doing..lol…for example- i have matrixyl 3000 with ha from timeless but i can’t figure out what to finish it with or add to it for maxium effect. i have nice skin, 46 , no acne but now that i am getting older, my sking is more combo and i’m basically trying to maintain few wrinkles, address little sun damage and discover the best tone i can…my pores are medium size.. SO, ugh, sorry so long, i only use sunscreen in the day time- night is a circus. the ordinary retinoid 2% with algenist vit c ..some nights matrixyl with shiseido wrinkle cream or nia24 lotion…ultimately, i want to try the resurface by shani darden and just find a good moisturizer and be done with it…i ‘ve tried PC stuff..the ordinary buffet (made me break out)…how do you feel about the resurface? and what do i do with this matrixyl bottle i have? thanks and sorry to blather on…

Gio September 23, 2017 - 2:55 pm

Hi Amanda, thanks for your kind words. ๐Ÿ™‚

No worries, I’m happy to help. I’d use the Algenist vitamin C in the morning because vitamin C can boost the effectiveness of your sunscreen. You can use the matrixyl + ha serum either in the morning or night. These ingredients aren’t fussy and play nicely with other actives. I’d use it whenever your skin feels a little drier. For example, if you feel the retinol serum is drying out your skin a little, then use matrixyl + ha in the evening. If, instead, your skin feels a little drier during the day, put it on in the morning.

The resurface treatment is a retinol serum. It’s overpriced but it should work very well. I’d wait until you finish the ordinary retinoid 2% to try it because it’s not recommended to use more than one form of vitamin A at the same time. Or you could just stick with the ordinary serum.

amanda November 17, 2017 - 8:34 am

thank you kindly for your help!

Gio November 26, 2017 - 2:37 pm

You’re welcome. ๐Ÿ™‚

Lora New September 21, 2017 - 9:44 am

Gio, Could you recommend a thorough niacinamide product? 53 yrs old, few wrinkles, heavy discoloration and pigmentation. I do use the Paula’s Choice retinol products.
And by the way, your blog is amazing. I can’t believe I just stumbled upon it tonight. I am a cosmetic/skin care junkie. So this information is like music to my ears. LOL

Gio September 23, 2017 - 2:55 pm

Lora, aww thanks for your kind words. So glad you’re enjoying the blog. Hope to see you here often. ๐Ÿ™‚

Lora New September 21, 2017 - 9:51 am

Well….I guess you can disregard my suggestion on niacinamides. I just found where you have already covered that. I should have known. You are on top of your game my dear. Kudos!!!!

Gio September 23, 2017 - 2:56 pm

Lora, glad you found it. Let me know which one you picked. ๐Ÿ™‚

Elaine September 28, 2017 - 3:36 am

Thank you for sharing your oh-so-helpful tips! I would like to make my own niacinamide serum. Can I use the Niacinamide sold at the health stores or those sold on iHerb? I asked the same question about ascorbic acid and was told I could use regular vitamin C capsules but preferably Quali-C. Would appreciate your advice on these two issues. Thank you:)

Gio September 29, 2017 - 12:10 pm

Elaine, I’m not a fan of making my own skincare products because there are too many things to think about: ingredients that neutralise each other, a ph that makes the formula ineffective, the right preservative system to keep everything stable… If you want to go down this route, I recommend you check out communities like https://www.makingcosmetics.com/

They will be able to answer all your questions.

Madeleine October 7, 2017 - 6:52 pm

Hi Gio, should a prescription Retin A be used on clean skin or hours later/post moisturiser?

Gio October 14, 2017 - 10:12 am

Madeline, for best results, use it on clean skin, just after cleansing. But I know some dermatologists recommend to apply it after moisturiser if your skin is sensitive to reduce the irritating side effects.

LKN October 14, 2017 - 12:09 am

Hi- I don’t know if you still answer questions on this great thread, but I would love some advice. I’m in my late 30s with a fair amount of skin damage from my wayward youth, I have wrinkles, hyperpigmentation, sagging and an orange peel like texture on my face. I also have a fair amount of acne, and alot of acne scarring and tend to have dry flakey patches in some places, with too much oil and breakouts around my hairline and chin. So this is what I’ve been using (I’m on a budget so I use cheaper things when I can, but splurge if it’s really worth it.)
AM: Nuetrogena fresh foaming cleanser and Say yes to tomatoes acne wipes (has Saliclic Acid) then a Lumirance serum with vitimin C and HA and Clinique laser focus eye cream then a moisturizer with sunscreen like Clinique even better or Garnier clearly brighter.
(My skin is often too dry durring the day as is)
PM Nuetregina fresh foaming cleanser. Lierac hydra chrono serum. Then tretinoin cream .025. Then Robanda rejuvinating serum, Clinique laser focus eye cream and Clinique smart night moisturizer.
I’m guessing I should be using a stronger sunscreen, I would love a recommendation of one that wont be white or greasy and is good under makeup. And I was thinking of adding the Olay serum with niacinamide since it’s affordable. And maybe a Glycolic acid in morning? I would love any advice you can give. I’m not sure the serums I use have very high concentrations of the right ingredients either. Thanks so much!

Gio October 14, 2017 - 11:46 am

LKN, first of all, stop using the acne wipes. They may have salicylic acid but all that rubbing isn’t doing your skin any good. You should definitely use salicylic acid but a much better product would be The Ordinary Salicylic Acid. Use it just after cleansing. I wouldn’t add glycol acid. I know it’s a great ingredient but imo when skin is upset you want to stick to a few actives that work rather than throwing everything at it. At this stage, this may do more harm than good.

I’d also recommend you use niacinamde as that can help with both acne and dryness. Olay makes some good moisturizers with niacinamide but make sure you stay away from anything that contain Isopropyl Palmitate, Myristyl Myristate or anything with Palmitate and Myristate. You can use it both morning and night instead of your Clinique moisturiser.

Some of the flakiness and dryness may be caused by an overuse of vitamin A. You say you are using both tretinoin and the Robanda rejuvenating Serum, which has retinol. Pick one and use it only two or three times a week.

The Vitamin C serum you’re using doesn’t have a very concentration of vitamin C. If you’re on a budget, the ordinary makes some nice vitamin C serums that work better. But again, I’d use them only after your skin has stopped flaking. I really think you’re overdoing it with skincare at the moment and need to go back to basics:


1. Neutrogena cleanser
2. The Ordinary Salicylic acid
3. An antioxidant serum like Skin Actives Antioxidant serum (you can change this to a vitamin C serum when your skin is in better condition)
4. Mositurizer with niacinmaide
5. Sunscreen


1. Cleanser
2. Tretinoin (or retinol serum) (two or three times a week)
3. Moisturiser with niacinamide

If your skin feels dry, you can also add a hyaluronic acid serum either in the morning or evening, but at the moment, your main concern is getting your skin back into top shape so use only what you absolutely need. You can go back and tweak things later.

Kate October 16, 2017 - 4:43 pm

What about glycolic acid and vitamin c? Can they be paired together?

Gio October 19, 2017 - 12:47 pm

Kate, yes, they can. If you have sensitive skin, they may be a bit too much for you but most skin types won’t have any problems with this combo. Just use glycolic acid first and vitamin C later.

Syifa Nur Insani October 22, 2017 - 4:13 am

thank you for sharing.. btw can you comment about my skincare routine? I’m 18 y.o & my skin type is combination to dry.
– water based cleanser
– hydrating toner using hyaluronic acid
– mosturizer using aloe vera
– sunscreen
– milk cleanser
– water based cleanser
– exfoliating toner using glycolic acid
– hydrating toner using hyaluronic acid
– mosturizer
can I mix glycolic acid & hyaluronic acid?
and I bit confused about when should I put my acne treatment? is it after mosturizer or after toners or before using anything? my acne treatment is either from salicylic acid or from tretinoin

thankyouu so much, I hope u can answer this ๐Ÿ™‚

Gio October 28, 2017 - 2:54 pm

Syifa, your skincare routine sounds good to me.
Do you suffer from acne? You didnโ€™t mention it when you talked about your skin type. If you have acne, then you can use your anti-acne treatment after cleanser. Just skip the glycolic acid. Or use glycolic and anti-acne on alternate days.

Melisa October 23, 2017 - 12:32 pm

HI Gio! I’m starting a new routine for pigmentation and i’ve got some doubts about niacinamide and vit c, using them together in am…
1_Alpha Arbutin 2% + HA
2_Niacinamide 10% + Zinc 1%
3_? can i use after this Ascorbyl tetraisopalmitate solution 20% in vitamin F ?
4_ Solar protection ๐Ÿ™‚
1_Alpha Arbutin 2% + HA
2_Ascorbyl tetraisopalmitate solution 20% in vitamin F
3_Azelaic acid suspension 10%
Could i add to this routine a chemical exfoliator once o week? like glycolic 5% maybe?
Thank you so much!!

Gio October 28, 2017 - 2:58 pm

Hi Melisa, I understand that you want to get rid of that pigmentation fast but you’re loaded your skincare routine with A LOT of skin-lighteners. If you’ve never used any of these before, I’d choose either alpha arbutus or azelaic acid. Also, I’d use vitamin C in the morning and niacinamide. You can use them both in the morning but again my concern is that you’re using too many active ingredients together. If your skin isn’t used to them, especially at these high doses, it’s best to start slowly and use them at separate times. You don’t want to get rid of pigmentation only to experience severe dryness and peeling. Once your skin gets used to these actives, then you can start using them a bit more frequently.

Melisa October 29, 2017 - 6:31 pm

Hello Gio! Thank you for your answer, i’m gonna take your advise and start much slower, specially because the last 9 months i was pregnant using nothing but natural cosmetics and no acids… with exception of HA and vitamin c (both niod). I look like a dalmata, a happy dalmata at least haha.
So am i ok to start like this? at least to begin the first month and start introducing slowly the rest…
1_Niacinamide 10% + Zinc 1%
2_Ascorbyl tetraisopalmitate solution 20% in vitamin F
3_Hydratarion (got drunk elephant b-hydra gel to finish)
1_Alpha Arbutin 2% + HA
2_Hydratation (i’ve got drunk elephant lala retro whipped cream to finish..)
I really don’t wanna end worst than before…
Thank you SO MUCH!

Gio November 5, 2017 - 5:52 pm

Hi Melissa, this should be fine if your skin isn’t sensitive. If it is, you may want to use vitamin C serum only 2 or 3 times a week and get your skin used to that before you go in with the alpha arbutin.

Also, I’ve just realised that the niacinamide serum you’re using is more suitable for oily skin while the vitamin C in Vitamin F is better for dry skin. That’s not to say both can’t work for you but I had a few readers complain this niacinamide serum is too harsh for their dry skin. Likewise, if your skin is oily you may find this vitamin C serum a tad too rich. What’s your skin type?

Gio October 28, 2017 - 2:54 pm

Syifa, your skincare routine sounds good to me.

Do you suffer from acne? You didn’t mention it when you talked about your skin type. If you have acne, then you can use your anti-acne treatment after cleanser. Just skip the glycolic acid. Or use glycolic and anti-acne on alternate days.

Jenny October 29, 2017 - 9:34 am

Thanks for your article! I want to buy The ordinary suspension 23% + HA2% sphere and Tony Moly galactomyces 96.5%, can I use both of these together in the same routine? Will the vitamin c react to galactomyces if I don’t wait for 20 minutes in between my uses of these two product?

Gio November 5, 2017 - 5:53 pm

Jenny, I think you can use them safely together.

Alishba October 30, 2017 - 12:31 pm

Hello gio, ur blog is amazing. I just wanted to know that I use a night cream and a cleanser which has glycolic acid. I have two clay mask that I use once a week each. Am I taking too much of glycolic acid? And also I have acne prone skin so if I want to use an acid during the day. Which one would you recommend?

Gio November 5, 2017 - 6:06 pm

Alisha, your skin will tell you if you’re using too much glycolic acid. If there’s no irritation, you can keep using it safely.

I recommend salicylic acid for daytime. It exfoliates the pores and helps prevent breakouts.

katy October 31, 2017 - 1:25 am

I had some of these questions a few years ago, and I came across an article on Paula’s Choice (and her accompanying site, Beautypedia) that said the OPPOSITE of what you’ve got here. Like that you can’t mix Retinol and Vitamin C. According to the research she cites, not only can you put them together, but they work VERY WELL together and enhance each product’s benefits.

Here’s the link for your perusal: http://www.paulaschoice.com/expert-advice/skincare-advice/myths/five-retinol-myths-busted.html (Meanwhile, I’m still confused!)

Gio November 5, 2017 - 5:19 pm

Katy, I often use products that have both ingredients. I don’t the low ph for vitamin C deactivates retinol but it could make it a little less powerful.

Farah November 6, 2017 - 5:25 pm

Hi gio! Thank you for writing such an amazing blog! Recently iโ€™ve just started new routine of skin care. But iโ€™m confused with the layering technique. I plan to use the ordinary alpha arbutin and vitamin C at PM routine. Is it okay? Which one should i use first after toner? Thankyou in advance!

Gio November 26, 2017 - 2:50 pm

Farah, which of the two has the lightest texture? Use that one first.

Tana November 11, 2017 - 7:23 am

You are such a boss for spelling this out!!! I had been using timeless vitamin c with cerave pm on top, but this contains niacinimide. Can you recommend a good non comedogenic moisturizer for night time without the niacinimide? I have also tried neutrogena hydroboost, but it congealed into little balls when applied on top of the vitamin c. I am pregnant and trying to do the best i can to combat these clogged pores and pigmentation without my beloved differin gel, so I can’t afford to loose any vitamin c potency. Thank you so much, you rock!!

Gio November 26, 2017 - 11:58 am

Tana, is there a reason why you don’t want to use niacinamide? Niacinamide helps fade hyper pigmentation and doesn’t interfere with vitamin C. I’ve written about what really happens when you use the two together here:

You didn’t mention your skin type but I’m assuming from your clogged pores that it’s combo/oily? Please correct me if I’m wrong. But if I’m right, you can try Paula’s Choice Hydralight. Moisture Infusing Lotion or Drunk Elephant B-Hydra Intensive Hydration Gel.

sara November 16, 2017 - 4:44 am

Hello, i have a question. Can you use Dipropylene glycol, Niacinamide, and glycerin with Tretinoin, Clindamycin, and Azeliac acid ? Thanks!

Gio November 26, 2017 - 2:43 pm

Sara, is there a reason why you want to use Tretinoin, Clindamycin, and Azeliac acid? These ingredients are all very powerful and potentially irritating so I wouldn’t use them together unless prescribed by a doctor.

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