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.



Shyenne Bahar November 25, 2017 - 7:48 pm

Hi Gio,

I have dehydrated acne prone skin. My skin has been so dehydrated and I don’t know what to use. It’s like my skin is dry beneath my skin but kind of oily on top of my skin. I don’t know if that makes sense. This is what I use, I was wondering if I can use these combinations.

Wash my face with water
The Ordinary Alpha Arbutin 2%+HA
CeraVe Pm facial moisturizing lotion
Clindamycin Phosphate
Cerave AM suncreen facial moisturizing lotion with RoseHip oil (sometimes)
Simple Grapeseed cleansing oil
CORSX Good morning Gel cleanser
CeraVE PM faicla moisturizing lotion
The Ordinary Natural moisturizing Factors +HA with Rosehip oil
Epiduo on my pimples
Tretinoin cream 0.1% on my acne marks and white heads
I dont use epiduo and tretinoin cream on the same spots on my face
Should I change the order of skin care?

Gio November 26, 2017 - 2:55 pm

Shyenne, it seems to me you’re using way too many actives. Its seems you’re throwing everything at your skin to deal with acne and terribly drying it out in the process. Before we go any further, which ones of these products were prescribed by a dermatologist and which ones did you add yourself?

Veronica Tag March 3, 2018 - 7:33 am

Hi Gio!

I found this post super informative and clarifying (not am easy task, given that skincare terminology can be quite dense!) I was wondering if you could give me advice on which products I should use and in what order.

I have dehydrated, acne prone, redness prone skin with a lot of acne scars that I’d like to heal. My doctor has prescribed tretinoin and metronidazole gel. I also own lactic acid 5%, saiyllic acid, and alpha arbutin, all from the ordinary. I cleanse with a simple, sensitive skin friendly cleanser and usually apply Neutrogena alcohol free toner after cleansing (at least after I shower) For moisturizing, I use HA or rosehip oil and Simple brand SPF moisturizer l.

I think it’s not wise to use so many direct acids on my face at once, but I’m unsure which ones to keep! And in what order/how often! Any input would be very appreciated. Best, Veronica

Gio March 16, 2018 - 11:49 am

Veronica, so glad you found it useful!

Mmm, as your doctor has prescribed such powerful ingredients, I’d keep your skincare routine as basic as possible. Let the actives do their job and just keep your skin moisturised. If your skin can take acids, use salicylic in the morning. It has anti-inflammatory properties so it should be suitable but if your skin finds it too much (it can get super sensitive on tretinoin!) wait until your skin has become used to tretinoin before introducing it again. As for lactic acid and alpha arbutus, I’d leave them aside for now.

Jodi December 8, 2017 - 9:12 pm

Hello, I love this blog post so much its so helpful and descriptive.
I am currently on a skincare journey of my own and trying to get a good regime going. I have dryish skin, but am breakout prone and have hyper pigmentation from old acne which I really want to lighten. I am trying to get a PM routine and see what products I use when.
I never cleanse in the morning its to much I just splash my face with water, use a tea tree oil spray and then effaclar duo
I use the Caroline Hiron’s double cleanse in the evening and that works well for me,
I recently ordered pixi glow tonic and use that in the evening however I don’t know if I should.

I have also ordered:
The ordinary salicylic acid 2%
Alpha Arbutin 2%
Rose hip seed oil
Vitamin C Suspension 23%
+ HA Spheres 2%

Would you be able to recommended a routine for me using these products and what I should be using in the AM and PM?

If you could I would be so thankful or even some tips

All the best

Jodi xx

Gio December 10, 2017 - 2:22 pm

Hi Jodi,

you’ve ordered a lot of great products! However, all these actives are pretty powerful so if you’ve never used glycolic acid or vitamin C, you may experience some initial dryness and irritation.

My advice is to start slowly.

After cleansing, you can alternate between The Ordinary Salicylic Acid and Pixi Glow. You can apply salicylic acid only on areas where you’re prone to breakouts.
Follow up with rosehip oil.

If your skin reacts well to this combination, after 3 or 4 weeks, you can introduce Vitamin C Suspension 23% + HA Spheres 2%. Mix it with a hyaluronic acid serum to get rid of the grittiness. At first, use it only a couple of times a week and slowly increase frequency once the stinging has stopped. Use it after exfoliation but before the oil.

This should already help lighten your hyperpigmentation and keep your breakouts at bay but if that’s not the case, after your skin has gotten used to vitamin C, then add alpha arbutin.

I understand that waiting can be frustrating but you don’t want to solve a problem only to cause another (dry and flaky skin). See how your skin reacts and, if it gives you the all clear, introduce the next active.

Hope this helps.

Beauty.pop December 13, 2017 - 5:17 pm

Hi Gio!
In the past i have tried the basic skii set (cleanser+toner+miracle essence ) and it has so far worked for my skin.

Now i am trying out the mario bedescu vitamin C serum. The question is can i still use the skii facial wash that contain niacinamide ? As your article talks bout niacimanide serum only. Tq

Gio December 16, 2017 - 10:11 pm

beauty.pop, yes you can use them together. I’ve written a follow up post about vitamin c and niacinamide here: http://www.beautifulwithbrains.com/use-vitamin-c-niacinamide-together/

Fatima December 19, 2017 - 8:06 am

Hey !
I would like to know , whether I’m using my night care routine in a proper order or not !
And yes , these layers are beneficial for my skin !
Please help …
The application are :

Aloe bha skin toner
The revolution intensive moist
Time revolution night repair
Mositfull collagen emulsion
It’s skin vc effector vitamin c
Hadalabo albutin milk .

Please let me know !
It’s would be of great help !
Thankyou 🙂

Gio December 23, 2017 - 7:36 pm

Hi Fatima, to be honest, I’d use the vitamin C serum and time revolution night repair on alternate days (or one in the morning and the other at night) after the moist.

Chris January 5, 2018 - 3:01 am

Hey Gio! 🙂 I see how helpful you are on giving people tips and setting them on the right path to their skin care routine, & I wanna know what you think mine would need or fix. im a guy (20) & I have oily prone skin I would say extremely oily but I also feel like it could be dehydrated, I also have acne prone skin and most of my acne is on my cheeks & chin, my chin tends to breakout pretty easily I would say around my mouth I have whiteheads and I get some cystic acne on my cheeks sometime, with that I have also have hyperpigmentation from post acne witch is my most concern too because I really don’t know how to target that and I’m scared to add products to my routine bc of the fear of getting more breakouts.
My routine is:
AM: I just cleanse with water
Thayers witch hazel toner ( I just stared using this due to recommendations)
Squalene oil
PM: Cleanse with water
Again Thayers toner
Rose Hip seed oil
I know that’s seems kind of a bit but I have tried so many skin care products such as cleansers, niacinimide, azaleic acid, moisturizers but I just started this routine to keep it basic because I don’t know what to do.

Gio January 19, 2018 - 4:40 pm

Chris, I’m all about keeping your skincare routine basic, especially when you have acne. It’s best to use a few products that work than plenty who can irritate it. But I don’t see anything in your skincare routine that can deal with acne and the dark spots it leaves behind. I recommend you use a salicylic acid exfoliant every night straight after cleansing instead of the toner and see how that works for you. Try it for a month and, if this alone isn’t enough, we’ll tweak your skincare routine further.

Riys January 5, 2018 - 3:02 pm

Hi! I wanted to know if it’s okay to continue my daily routine using a gentle cleanser with salicylic acid, before applying the ordinary niacinamide and a sunscreen contaning vitamin e, with 30 SPF in the morning. I use the same routine during nighttime but instead of sunscreen, i apply cosrx centella blemish balm. Twice a week, I would sometimes use bodyshop’s tea tree mask. My acne has subsided but i still have some active breakouts and i planned to use the ordinary granactive retinoid 2% emulsion to try and clear up my acne scars and dark spots.

Gio January 19, 2018 - 3:46 pm

Riys, your skincare routine sounds fine to me and you can definitely add Granactive Retinoid a couple of times a week to it. But I’d switch to a leave-in form of salicylic acid. SA works better when left on the skin for hours so using a leave-in exfoliant can help you reduce acne even more.

Teresa January 8, 2018 - 11:16 am

I came here while researching after getting my Epiduo prescription, which does contain Adapalene AND Benzolperoxyde (T_T) Well, it is no secret that a lot of people get irritation from Epiduo, so I guess I’ll have to see how I fare with it. I didn’t have any problems with Benzolperoxyde before, fingers crossed. At least they don’t clash with Niacinamide 🙂

Gio January 19, 2018 - 2:57 pm

teresa, both can be harsh on the skin, which is why Epiduo is available by prescription only. A doctor can tell you how to minimise the irritation but even so some people can’t use it. You have to try for yourself to see how your skin fares. Best of luck with it.

Charlotte January 12, 2018 - 12:36 pm

My boyfriend suffers from bouts of cystic acne mainly around his chin and he gets whiteheads too. The same cystic pimple often keeps coming back and often takes week so disappear.
I have introduced him to a simple cleansing and moisturizing routine, exfoliating a couple of times a week. Also I’m encouraging him to use The Ordinary’s Nacinamide in the evenings.
When he has had a breakout he’s tried at different times The Ordinary’s salicylic acid, and Acnecide’s 5% benzoyl peroxide, but of course these only work when the cystic pimple has turned into a whitehead.
Is there anything you recommend, or any good men’s skincare that he can try?
I wondered if retinol would help.

Any advice would be amazing!
Thank you so much.

Gio January 19, 2018 - 4:46 pm

Charlotte, sorry to hear about your boyfriend’s skin issues. Has he tried using salicylic acid every day? That should help prevent them too so he won’t suffer from them as often. Retinol can definitely help but if he’s having a bad breakout, he can try a sulfur masque like Obagi Oeffects. Hope this helps.

Gemma January 20, 2018 - 10:40 pm

Brilliant article, thank you! I am just beginning my anti-aging skincare journey (I am 41). I have fairly dry skin but blocked pores around nose and chin. I have the following products but cannot work out a weekly AM/PM regieme…please can you help??? I am also getting terrible reaction to something, like windburn…little blisters under my skin and itchy red patches on face and neck…any advice would be gratefully received, I have spent a fortune and don’t want to give up, I would love some guidance with what products I should use when:

Neostrata 4PHA Facial Cleanser
Paula’s Choice 1% Clinical Retinol Treatment
Indeed Vitamin C Cream (22%)
Paula’s Choice 2% BHA Liquid
Sunday Riley Good Genes Lactic Acid
Sunday Riley Luna Oil
La Roche-Posay Intense Soothing Care (Toleriane Ultra Nuit)

Can you possibly provide some advice on what I should use each week?

Gio January 28, 2018 - 1:14 pm

Gemma, as long as you have windburn, I wouldn’t really use anything apart from the cleanser and the La Roche Posay Cream. All the other products contain actives that help with anti aging but can also irritate skin. Get that sorted out first and then start your anti aging game.

You also said that you’re at the beginning of your anti aging journey but you’ve chosen some products that are better for pros. For example, Paula’s Choice 1% Clinical Retinol Treatment is for advanced users only. If you’ve never used retinol before, this’ll dry out and irritate your skin pretty badly. With retinol (and vitamin C) you need to build tolerance.

For now, keep it simple. Just cleanser and moisturiser. When your skin is recovered, start exfoliating. You have two options here. You can use only BHA all over your face every morning or you can use it only on your blocked pores and, twice a week, use Good Genes everywhere else. Paula’s Choice BHA and Good Genes Lactic Acid are both exfoliants so your skin needs only one of those products. But since you bought both, you can go with the second option until you’ve run out of Good Genes.

Wait three/four weeks for your skin to adjust to exfoliation and then introduce the Indeed Vitamin C cream three times a week in the morning. You’ve chosen one of the most powerful (and potentially irritating) Vitamin C products so I recommend you start small and build frequency gradually.

If after one more month your skin is reacting well (no dryness, flakiness, irritation), then introduce Luna Oil three night a week. When you’ve finished the oil, you can try going with Paula’s Choice Retinol Booster. Luna Oil has a gentler form of retinol so it’s best to start with that to build tolerance and upgrade later on.

I know this isn’t what you wanted to hear. When you start to see the first few wrinkles you want to throw all the best anti-aging ingredients at them. But those ingredients are too harsh for the skin if not introduced into your routine the right way. Using them all together now won’t give you wrinkle-free skin. On the contrary, it’ll give you seriously dried out, irritated and wrinkled skin. Starting gradually is frustrating but the results are worth it!

Princess January 21, 2018 - 10:21 pm

I’m 34 and still suffering from acne ? I need you advice on when to use retinol, and vitamin c. Was also wondering can retinol be used with Asterwoods Matrixyl 3000 +hyaluronic acid+vitamin c serum ? Whats a good vitamin c serum ?

Gio January 28, 2018 - 2:13 pm

Princess, yes you can sue the Asterwoods serum in the morning under sunscreen and the retinol at night. If you’ve never used retinol before, start with a couple of times a week and build frequency from there.

Naima Ali January 27, 2018 - 5:04 pm

Hi Gio,

In the morning, i use
-facial gel wash by simple to wash my face
-tone my face with ACV
-moisturize my skin by mixing dramatically different moisturizing gel with aloe vera

and at night
-i wash and tone my face with the same 2 things
-i apply a few drops of jojoba oil
-then aloe vera
-i use nixoderm as spot treatment

my question is how and what part should i use niacinamide? in the am / pm? what products should i cross out of the list?

Gio February 2, 2018 - 3:40 pm

Hi Naima, I would skip the AVC toner as its ph can irritate skin. Instead, I’d add a niacinamide booster (Paula’s Choice makes one) to your moisturiser in the morning. Hope this helps.

Syahidah January 30, 2018 - 1:30 pm

Hi, I want to know if my skincare regiment I use right now is good or not. My face is oily with clogged pores on nose and chin, dry on both cheek and forehead, with some brown scar from bump acne on my chin and new red scar from acne that every two day will pop out on the side of my nose.
AM :
1) Cetaphil cleanser
2) Cosryx AHA/BHA clarifying treatment toner
3) Cosryx Snail 96 Mucin Power Essence
4) Phyto Niacin Whitening Essence ( 5% Niacinamide + Hyaluronic acid)
5) Olay Total Effect Mosturizer
6) Sunplay SPF 50
then I put my makeup
1) Biore Cleansing Oil (sometimes I use castor oil+ grape oil to remove my makeup)
2) Cetaphil Cleanser
4) Skinfood Tomato Whitening Toner
3) Differin ( Adapalene 1%)
4) Cosryx Snail Power Essence
5) Phyto Niacin Whitening Essence
6) Mederma
7) Torriden Celmazing Centellareal Lotion (with Centella Asiatica Extract 48%)

Are there some product that I should not mix together? Am I layering the product too much? I also want to change to The ordinary glycolic acid 7% after I finish my Cosryx AHA/BHA toner.

Gio February 2, 2018 - 5:01 pm

Syahidah, your routine seems fine to me. Switching to The Ordinary seems a good idea. I like their Glycolic toner more than the Corsx Toner you’re using now.

Marpilfi January 30, 2018 - 9:01 pm

HI Gio: What a wonderful resource you are! I stumbled on your blog while looking up The ordinary products who’s labels I find quite confusing and am unsure of what active i would need to add to my routine. I am interested in both the salicyclic acid 2% and the niacamide 10%, although really I am fascinated by all of their offerings and at that price point, open to suggestions! I suffer from occasional adult cystic acne, controlled topically. Currently, I am using: AM and PM cleanser: Naturopathica Aloe Gel cleanser. AM active: Mad Hippie Vitamin C (stored in the fridge for extra stability) + the ordinary hyaluronic acid with B5. PM active: Trentonin (derm perscribed: .05, use intermittent over the very dry winter months) + spot treatment onexton (derm perscribed- it’s a benzoyl peroxide/clindamycin combo) + the ordinary hyaluronic acid with B5. I use a CC cream (it cosmetics) with an SPF of 50.

Gio February 2, 2018 - 5:05 pm

Marpilfi, thanks for your kind words. So glad you find my blog useful.

Both The Ordinary salicylic acid 2% and niacinamide 10% would be great additions to your skincare routine. You can use both in the morning so they won’t interfere with your prescription meds.

Natika January 31, 2018 - 5:10 pm

Hello. How about alpha arbutin and vitamin c serum, can i mix them together? Is it will form a reaction?
Thank you

Gio February 2, 2018 - 4:23 pm

Natika, yes you can use them together. But I’d use them one after the other rather than mixing two serums.

Marrisel sabasa May 4, 2018 - 6:56 pm

Hi gio…i used at night low ph morning of cosrx amd thayers toner and oil free moisturizing lotion (with birch sap).after these can i use retin a or vitamin c??

Gio May 19, 2018 - 9:43 am

Hi Marrisel, you can use vitamin C after toner but before moisturiser in the morning and retin A after toner but before moisturiser in the evening.

Firantis February 1, 2018 - 1:04 am

Hi Gio, I used my vit c (klairs freshly vit c drop) straight after cleansing, then wait for 20 minutes for following next step: First Essence, (naruko first renewal miracle essence) Toner (Klairs supple preparation) , Essence (Belif Hungarian Water), Serum (Klairs) and Moisturizer. (Belif peat miracle cream). However, I just realize that belif peat miracle cream contains niacinamide which make me hesitate now to use my vit c and belif cream in same routine. What do you thinks? Is both ingredients still effective?

Gio February 2, 2018 - 4:31 pm

Hi Firantis, I’ve explained in this post why using vitamin C and niacinamide together is ok: http://www.beautifulwithbrains.com/use-vitamin-c-niacinamide-together/

debbie February 2, 2018 - 8:44 pm

Hi, I hope you can help me with my day time and night time skin care routine. These are the products that I have timeless 20% vitamin c serum, pure hyaluronic acid serum, the ordinary matrixyl 10% plus HA, tretinoin cream 0.05%, hada labo skin plumping gel cream and cerave pm moisturizing lotion that has niacinamide in it. I have aging skin and I need some help to figure out what order to use the products. Oh and of course sunscreen. I would really appreciate it. Thanks so much.

Gio February 11, 2018 - 12:13 pm

Debbie, in the morning, use timeless followed by one of the hyaluronic acid serums, had labo and sunscreen. In thee evening, tretinoin, the other hyaluronic acid serum and cerave. Hope this helps.

Gioia DiDonato February 2, 2018 - 8:51 pm

Hi, thanks for your blog. It’s great and useful. Wondering about the following products and which order/ combination ….I’m 50 but often get told I’ look younger. I use Perricone high potency amino Face Lift , Skinceuticals Retinol 1, Timeless 20%C +E+Ferulic Acid Serum, La Roche Posay 50+, Derma e Firming DMAE Serum..and Hyaluronic serum at times and Clarins Beauty Flash balm Thanks Gioia

Gio February 11, 2018 - 12:11 pm

Gioia, always apply Timeless first thing after cleansing in the morning and Retinol first thing after cleansing in the evening. After that, use products with the lighter texture first and those with the heaviest last.

shirley February 4, 2018 - 5:54 am

I want to know if I can use vit c serum with vit e and hyaluronic acid added follow by pure emu oil and than a sunscreen. As for pm, use retin A .05% wait 20 minutes than add emu oil. Or is it better to mix emu oil with basic moisturizer?

Gio February 11, 2018 - 10:28 am

Shirley, I’m not a fan of mixing products because you could be diluting the active ingredients and their efficacy. But you can use them one after the other in the order you mentioned.

Georgina Southen February 10, 2018 - 10:34 am

I cleanse with a gentle cleanser (obagi), then use environ clarifying lotion (niacinamide) and follow with vita moisturiser (Mario badescu). I have just purchased a Vit C serum (Mario b also) and a hydrating sunscreen (Mecca).
My skin therapist suggested I don’t use the Vit C serum as my face was a little red when I saw her. And to use a form of retinol instead…. I’m confused as I’d previoauly been told that Vit c is a superfood for the face! After reading your post perhaps I should only use the Vit c at night and alternate with the Granactive Retinol I bought from the ordinary? What do you think? Georgina

Gio February 11, 2018 - 9:53 am

Georgina, if your skin is irritated, I would stay away from both for now. Both vitamin C and retinol are powerful antiaging ingredients that can fight wrinkles and boost collagen. But they can be irritating, especially when you first start using them. That’s why it’s best to start with a small dose once or twice a week and build both dose and frequency overtime.

My advice is to keep your skincare routine as basic as possible until the irritation has healed. Then, you can introduce one of these actives into your skincare routine. Use it for a month and, if your skin tolerates it well, then you can start adding the other.

Madelyn Hardy February 15, 2018 - 8:07 am

Hi Geo!! Let me see if I can pick your brain.
I just got all new products (The ordinary) and I’m noticing if I use some together, skin and the product seem to just ball up and roll off. Currently using:
Niacinsmide 10% Zinc 1%
Caffeine solution 5%+ EGCG
100% cold-pressed virgin marula oil
Hyaluronic acid 2% + B5
Azelaix ácida suspensión 10%
Natural moisturizing factors + HA
VITAMIN C suspension 23% + HA SPHERES 2%

I don’t use them all together or all at once, but could you suggest a regimen and an order to use the products that works well?

Gio February 17, 2018 - 8:36 am

Hi Madelyn, do you mean the best skincare routine so the products won’t ball up? Check out this post to find out how to prevent that: http://www.beautifulwithbrains.com/avoid-skincare-product-pilling/

Also, what is your skin type? Cos I’ve noticed you have some products that work best for dry skin and others for oily skin so it’s hard to recommend a proper regime for you. 🙂

Sofia February 16, 2018 - 11:44 pm

Hi Gio,
This blog is amazing! I have hormonal cystic acne at times and although it is usually manageable I still get them badly around my period. I was recently rx’ed Veltin by my derm and am wondering where to fit it into my night time routine.
PM: aveeno sensitive skin wash
The Ordinary Hyaluronic Acid + B5
The Ordinary Niacinamide 10% + Zinc
The Ordinary Azelaic Acid Suspension 10%
The Orindary Rosehip Oil
How should I incorporate the Veltin, should I alternate it with the niacinamide and azelaic?

Gio February 24, 2018 - 12:29 pm

Hi Sofia, didn’t your doctor mention how to use it (how often, when etc)? If so, do what he/she said.

As a rule, prescription medication should be applied on clear skin, after cleansing. One option would be to keep your skincare routine simple in the evening and use the other actives in the morning. But as Veltin is usually applied only on the affected areas, you may still be able to use the other actives on the rest of your face, just not on top of Veltin. Hope this helps.

shirley February 19, 2018 - 6:57 am

is it okay to use Retin A .05% with pure emu oil since they are both known as vitamin A?

Gio February 24, 2018 - 11:24 am

Shirley, to be honest, it depends on your skin type. I’d personally use an oil without or with less Vitamin A but I know that for some people this combo works. It really depends on how dry/sensitive your skin.

Joanna Taylor February 19, 2018 - 2:31 pm

Hi Gio,

First post here! I’ve just started to read your blog (its absolutely superb) and I’ve also just started to take my skin care seriously. I am 45, live in the UK and I have pretty good skin – I’d say ‘normal’. The things I’d like to focus on are, wrinkles – I’m just starting to get a few around my eyes and I have a few age spots. I’ve just bought Paula’s choice Wrinkle Repair Retinol Serum and Paula’s Choice C15 Superbooster. They are sold as a package, saying you should add the vitamin C to the serum…After reading this post I’m not sure that mixing them is right. What do you think? Also I’d love to know what you would recommend for the rest of my skin care routine; cleanser, toner, exfoliant and moisturiser? I hope I haven’t’ asked too much! Thank you, Joanna

Gio February 24, 2018 - 10:50 am

Hi Joanna, as you’re just starting out with these ingredients, I’d say use them separately. Vitamin C three or four times a week in the morning and retinol a couple of times a week at night. If your skin doesn’t dry out or flake, you can start using them more often.

I’m working on a post about how to take care of normal skin. In the meantime, here’s the gist: you don’t need that many products. Your skin is happy as it is and doesn’t need too much. For example, you don’t need a toner. You may also not need moisturiser but as you’re introducing powerful anti aging actives that could dry out your skin I’d say use one. Paula’s Choice makes some good moisturisers for normal skin.

As for cleanser, a milk cleanser that doesn’t leave your skin feeling dry is enough. Your skin also doesn’t need that much exfoliation but I’d still use lactic acid a couple of times a week. Just to give your natural exfoliating process a gentle helping hand.

The focus on your skin type is to maintenance the balance and don’t do anything that may strip it/dry it/cause damage. Keep it simple.

Joanna March 7, 2018 - 8:16 am

Hi Gio,
Thank you so much. Brilliant advice. Sometimes there is just too much information and this simplifies it beautifully. I just LOVE your website and blog. Its my go to place for advice and I look forward to using it for many years to come. All my best, Joanna

Gio March 16, 2018 - 4:33 pm

Awww thank you so much Joanna! So glad you find my blog helpful. It means a lot! 🙂

Cess February 22, 2018 - 9:33 am

Hye Gio . It’s good to see your efforts in educating us about skincare . You’ve been helpful by providing us information with explanation too . However, i would like to seek for your kind assistance to improve my daily routine .

Actually i dont really know my skin type. Maybe it’s combination (forehead+nose= oily, cheeks=dry). And also i have dull and uneven skin tone.

AM :
Vit c cleanser (bodyshop)
Soothing face toner (simple)
Sunblock (biore)
Vit e moisturizer (bodyshop)

Oil cleanser (biore)
Vit c cleanser (bodyshop)
Vit c serum (klairs)
Soothing face toner (simple)
Hiruscar post acne cream
Sleeping mask (freeman)

I want to reduce my whitehead on nose, have an even, hydrates and glowing skin tone. Can you suggest the best way/product ?

Thank you

Gio February 24, 2018 - 11:36 am

Hi Cess, thanks for your kind words. Your current skincare routine seems fine to me but I really can’t give you any recommendation until I understand what your skin type is or I may suggest something that makes things worse. You can check out this post to find out how to figure out your skin type: http://www.beautifulwithbrains.com/how-to-identify-your-skin-type/

grasi February 24, 2018 - 12:02 am

I saw a serum with a combination of niacinamide, vitamin c, retinol, salicylic acid, hyaluronic by Eva naturals. I was so excited and thinking about buying it because it’s all in one product. But now, reading this it seems like it was too good to be true

Gio February 24, 2018 - 1:27 pm

Grasi, I wouldn’t say it’s completely useless. It really depends on how they’ve formulated it, the concentration of each active and the ph. If you can, try a sample and see if it does anything for you.

utari March 1, 2018 - 3:38 pm

hi gio.
Can i use rosehip oil (which contains natural vit a) after i use vit c serum?

Gio March 9, 2018 - 7:27 pm

Utari, to be honest, it depends on your skin type and how resistant it is. I know people who can tolerate this combo very well and others who can’t.

Melinda March 2, 2018 - 4:53 am

My acne is weird,I use the proactive plus set and it’s works well but people are telling me using proactive is a bad idea because if I stop using it again I’ll break out again. Is that true? I have very oily skin so i feel like it will make me break out. Any suggestions for new products and how to deal with stress acne?

Gio March 2, 2018 - 6:07 pm

Melinda, I’m not sure why that would make it a bad idea? If your skin produces way too much oil, then you need products that can exfoliate it and keep those breakouts at bay. If you stop exfoliation, of course with your skin type, the breakouts will come back.

For stress, I recommend a form of mindfulness. Like meditation, journalling or just going for a walk. Anything that relaxes you. Finding groups online of people who are going through the same thing also helps.

Anam March 9, 2018 - 12:15 pm

Hi! I love your site! Thank you for this article, it’s exactly the info I needed now that I’m about to begin retinoids! Could you please tell me what you’d switch around or take out entirely from this routine (Im 29, normal to dry skin, no visible signs of aging):
Pyunkang Yul Toner
Hylamide SubQ anti-age
2 or 3 drops of The Ordinary Marula oil
Eye cream

Double cleansing
Pyunkang Yul Toner
Timeless Vitamin C Serum
Klairs midnight youth activating drop
Marula oil
Cosrx all in one snail cream

Alternate VitC and The Ordinary Granactive Retinoid 2% in Squalane before creams and oils (use only once or twice a week)

Gio March 16, 2018 - 7:16 pm

Anam, thanks! So glad you like the blog. I think your current routine is fine as it is, or is there something that’s not working properly/not giving you the results you crave? I believe in “if it ain’t broken, don’t fix it”.

Clara March 11, 2018 - 9:56 pm

I have hyper-pigmentation all over both my cheeks they are quite dark and sensitive /really oily skin. I slowly started getting rid of them by using these following products:
Wash my face with water
Klair’s supple toner
The Chok Chok Green Tea Watery Cream
All clean balm Heimish
Cosrx good morning cleasner
Klair;s supple toner
Missha time revolusion essence
Vitamin C wishtrend serum
The Chok Chok Green Tea Watery Cream
I alternate sometimes, I don’t use the serum but I exfoliate with the Neogen Bio-peel gauze lemon twice a week and sometimes I use the skinfood rice mask wash off.
However, I went to see a dermatologist and they told me to use retinol 20% for my acne. I don’t know what to change in my routine to actually be allowed to use the retinol and get rid of my pigmentation. Also, I was wondering do you have any recommendation for moisturisers for oily skin because whatever I use, my skin is always oily.

Gio March 17, 2018 - 6:43 pm

Clara, prescription retinol should be used in the evening on clean skin, straight after cleansing and toning. I’d also move Vitamin C in the morning as this combination together could be too much for your skin.

You can check out my fave moisturisers for oily skin here: http://www.beautifulwithbrains.com/best-moisturisers-oily-skin/

Ilaria March 13, 2018 - 10:45 am

Hi Gio!
First of all thanks for your amazing blog!
My evening beauty routine is:
-glossier facewash
-pixy glow, glycolic acid
-hada labo hyaluronic lotion moist
-hada labo perfect gel

I’m thinking about adding a vitamin c serum which is from an italian brand called Diego Dalla Palma (it has 10% of sodium ascorbyl phosphate), what do you think? Is it ok with my beauty routine? Can I add it after Pixy glow or it’s better to wait 20/30 min because of the acid ph? thank you!!! 🙂

Gio March 18, 2018 - 9:16 am

Ilaria, I’d use the vitamin C in the morning under sunscreen. That way, it doesn’t interfere with glycolic acid and boosts your sun protection too! 🙂

Stacy March 13, 2018 - 12:16 pm

Hi Gio!
I’m so glad I found your blog, it is one of the best I’ve read since I started my acne treatment almost 1,5 year ago. The information is so helpful and clear, I can’t get enough of it!
I’m in my late twenties and have an acne-prone skin. Currently I’m having another outbreak and trying to cope with it and establish the right routine. For now i use the following:

La Roche-Posay Effaclar Purifying Foaming Gel
Pixi Glow Tonic (5% Glycolic Acid)
The Ordinary Ascorbyl Glucoside Solution 12%
La Roche-Posay Effaclar Duo+ moisturizer + topical benzoyl peroxide 5%
NEOSTRATA Targeted Treatment Mineral Protective Facial Fluid SPF 50
Topical VICHY Dermablend Corrective Make-up SPF 35 to hide redness and pigmintation
La Roche-Posay Effaclar Purifying Foaming Gel
Stridex maximum strength pads (2% Salicylic Acid)
The ordinary Retinol 1% serum or Avene TriAcnéal EXPERT cream (rotate them every other day)

I was thinking of introducing The ordinary’s Azelaic Acid Suspension 10% in the mornings as additional step to cope with post-acne pigmentation and Niacinamide 10% + Zinc 1% in the evening to boost the Retinol serum.
What would you say about my routine in general? And would you recommend introducing additional steps above?
Thank you in advance! 🙂

Gio March 18, 2018 - 9:12 am

Hi Stacy, aww thank you! So glad you like the blog. 🙂

I think your skincare routine is pretty good as it is. Yo0u’re already using very powerful ingredients so I would caution against adding anything more, especially when it’s not necessary. La Roche Posay Effaclar Duo Moisturiser already has niacinamide and zinc so you don’t really need to get the Ordinary one as well.

Azelaic acid is good for pigmentation but it’s best for dark spots caused by sun exposure or melasma. If you simply want to get rid of the discolouration left behind by pimples, vitamin C + retinol + glycolic acid should be enough to do the trick. Talking about glycolic acid, as you’re already exfoliating at night with salicylic acid, you may not need it in the morning too. Still, the concentration in Pixi Glow is small so if you’re not drying out your skin, you can keep using it, at least on the pigmented areas.

Hope this helps,


Kiera March 13, 2018 - 10:49 pm

Hi Gio, great blog! I was wondering if you had any guidance on my skincare routine. I have oily skin, pretty much all over, but it also seems dry underneath as someone mentioned above. I am prone to whiteheads and under the skin spots on my chine, and blackheads on pretty much all of my face apart from my cheeks. Currently I use:
Boots your good skin cleanser for blemish prone skin
The body shop seaweed toner
Liz Earle super skin eye cream
La Roche posay efaclar mat moisturiser

Usually just take my make up off with a make up wipe
Body shop seaweed toner
Liz Earle superskin eye cream
Either Nivea night cream or polaar moisturiser.

I was wondering if I could add the ordinary niacinamide + zinc, and retinol 1% to my routine, to reduce blemishes and the scarring?

Gio March 23, 2018 - 6:43 pm

Kiera, you can certainly add the ordinary niacinamide + zinc. But I wouldn’t go with retinol 1%. That’s for advanced users. If you’ve never used retinol before, your skin needs to build tolerance to it. You can learn how to do that here: http://www.beautifulwithbrains.com/strength-retinol-need/

But before you add then, I’d add a salicylic acid exfoliant first. For your skin type, that’s a must. It exfoliates the pores from within, preventing and reduce pimples, blackheads and whiteheads. You can use it every morning and every night after cleansing.

I’d also consider adding a hyaluronic acid serum. If your skin is dry underneath, this can restore the balance. If you feel these are too many steps, you can do without The Body Shop toner. Hope this helps.

Emma March 14, 2018 - 7:56 pm

After accutane my skin is no longer as oily but still prone to flaking around the t-zone and i still get some spots once in a while. My big issue is that all those years of acne and picking at my skin have left me with quite a bit of scarring, enlarged pores and generally uneven skin – especially my forehead is full of small ghosts of spots and small scars. While i am too tired to do any skin-care in the morning (i just clean my face and moisturize), each night I clean my face with micellar cleansing water, use a toner containing witch hazel and aloe vera, apply a vitamin c serum and then moisturize.
I’m wondering if there is anything i can add to my skin care routine or anything else i can do to help improve the look of my skin – exfoliating, masks etc? I’ve been reading about collagen tablets and am also wondering if you would recommend them. Thanks in advance, great article 🙂

Gio March 23, 2018 - 6:32 pm

Emma,. I’d definitely recommend exfoliation. Usually, I recommend salicylic acid for oily skin but glycolic acid works better for scars and uneven skin tone. Try a product that has both like Drunk Elephant Glycolic Night Serum. Use it straight after cleansing three or four nights a week. You may also want to go to a dermatologists for peels as these can help solve the issue a lot more faster than topical products.

Re collagen drinks, there is some proof they help skin BUT when you drink collagen, your body doesn’t know you’re doing it to repair scars. It takes that collagen and uses it for whatever process it needs at the time. So if you’re looking at the as a solution for scars, they’re not it. But if you feel like your skin and body need more collagen to function properly, they can help. Hope this helps.

Camille March 19, 2018 - 1:51 pm

Hi just wanna ask if i should continue my skincare routine. Im actually dealing with acne and dark spots.
Cosrx low pH goodmorning cleanser
Lush Tea Tree Toner
Neutrogena Ultra sheer sunscreen
Cetaphil Moisturizing Cream

Cosrx low pH goodmorning cleanser
The Ordinary Glycolic Acide 7% Toning Solution
Niacinamide 10% + Zinc 1%
Alpha Arbutin 2% + HA
Cetaphil Moisturizing Cream
100% Organic Cold-Pressed Rose Hip Seed Oil

then i use Lush Mask of Magnaminty once a week and The Ordinary AHA 30% + BHA 2% Peeling Solution once a week also. Thanks in advance!

Gio March 23, 2018 - 7:46 pm

Camille, that depends,. How are you finding your current skincare routine? Is it working well or are you unsatisfied?

One thing I’d recommend is ditch Glycolic Acid 7% toning Solution and replace it with 2% Salicylic Acid. They both exfoliate skin but salicylic acid can get inside the pores and prevent/treat breakouts so it’s more suitable for your skin type.

Lyn March 19, 2018 - 2:50 pm

Hi Gio i just want to ask if i can use my doc prescribed meds with cosrx? Heres my routine in pm
Simple micellar water
Cosrx 1 step original pad
Tret/clindamycin solution (formulated by my derma)

Gio March 23, 2018 - 7:41 pm

Lyn, yes you can.:)

Jo March 21, 2018 - 2:49 am

Hi Gio,
Thank you for your well researched tips. I had a few questions please. I have a combination skin tending towards drier side with white patches appearing on my cheeks in the morning.
In the evening I follow this regime:
Wash my face and follow with my P50 biologique researche toner or /use a Retinol product
Follow it up with a either vintner’s daughter serum or Dermalogica overnight repair serum
Follow it up with Dermalogica skin smoothing cream which has A,C, E.
I had some samples of photo replenish oil and multivitamin power serum left over which I tried the last couple of days and it seems to be helping with the dry skin. My questions are:
1. Can I use a Retinol over my P50 BR toner
2. Can the Dermalogica cream with A,C, E be used along with the Retinol product or will VIT C react with Retinol as per what you have mentioned above?
Thank you so much!

Gio March 30, 2018 - 5:19 pm

Hi Jo,

to answer the first question, it really depends on how sensitive your skin. If it’s very resistant, it could tolerate this combo well. If it’s very sensitive, it’s best not to risk it.

As for the second question, if I’m not mistaken that cream should contain a derivative of vitamin C so you can use it with retinol.

Becca Bicer March 22, 2018 - 3:18 pm

Gio, your blog is a godsend! It’s incredible that you take the time to interact with so many followers. I am gearing up to start aesthetician school in the Fall and absolutely nerd out over all of your articles 🙂 it would be an honor to get your input!
About a year ago I moved from Washington DC’s humid climate to Colorado’s extremely dry climate, so it’s been quite a shift for my previously combo/oily t-zone skin to now all-around dry skin. I’m 27 and have some fine lines and early expression lines to combat. Here’s my current routine.
Sanitas Lemon Cream Cleanser, or Yu-be Foaming Skin Polish 1x/week
Mario Badescu Glycolic Acid Toner (3%)
Drunk Elephant C-Firma Day Serum
Sunday Riley Good Genes lactic acid treatment
TruSkin Eye Gel
Supergoop CC Cream or moisturizer + SPF 35

Bioderma Sensibio Micellar H20
MB Glycolic Toner
Drunk Elephant TLC Framboos Glycolic Night Serum alternated with Sunday Riley Luna Retinoid Night Oil
Argan Oil or Marula Oil

A couple questions…
1. I use the lactic acid after the vit c just based on the “lightest to heaviest” rule. The serum says it’s 15% L-Ascorbic Acid. Is this the right order? I also got a sample of the Biossance Squalane + Vitamin C Rose Oil and LOVED it (may be just because the smell is extremely pleasant, the opposite of the Drunk Elephant vit c serum) so I’m also considering a switch- any input on these products?
2. I don’t struggle with acne but have lots of sebaceous glands and blackheads in my nose, cheeks and chin area and am looking to clear out those pores, so just purchased The Ordinary’s Niacinamide + Zinc and Salicylic Acid with the hope to introduce those into my routine. Would you recommend AM or PM and in what order?
3. I unfortunately haven’t noticed the retinoid benefits from the Luna oil and was looking into getting a stronger retinol formula like one from The Ordinary in case that would have any impact on your suggestions with my night routine.

Open to any suggestions in general as well! Thanks so much in advance!

Gio March 30, 2018 - 5:35 pm

Becca, thank you so much for your support! Interacting with my readers is a pleasure. 🙂

The first thing I’ve noticed about your skincare routine is how many exfoliating products you use. You’re already using 3 and want to introduce one more! Salicylic acid is the best exfoliant for your skin type so use that. You have two options here. Drunk Elephant Glycolic Night Serum has both glycolic and salicylic acid so you can just use that every night after cleansing. Or you can ditch that and use The Ordinary Salicylic Acid every morning and night after cleansing instead. I’d also ditch the glycolic acid toner and Sunday Riley good genes. You only need the right exfoliant for your skin type, not every exfoliant out there. I know you’ve probably heard that Glycolic acid boosts collagen and is good to treat wrinkles but that’s true at 10% or higher concentrations so you really don’t get any other benefits apart from exfoliation from all these products. And in this case, exfoliation is a job better done by salicylic acid.

You can apply niacinamide + zinc either morning or night after serums.

Sorry Luna didn’t work for you. You can check out this post on how to gradually up your retinol dose: http://www.beautifulwithbrains.com/strength-retinol-need/

You can also find my guide to The ordinary retinoid products useful: http://www.beautifulwithbrains.com/the-ordinary-retinoid-products-guide/

Hope this helps.

Brittany March 23, 2018 - 5:32 pm

Hi Gio,
I have been struggling with dark spots and hyperpigmentation on my cheeks and some on my forehead. Ive been changing up my routine so many times and cant seem to find the right one that actually helps. Currently my skincare routine is
the ordinary alpha arbutin
aveeno positively radiant moisturizer with spf30
nip+fab 5% glycolic acid pads
the ordinary vitamin C suspension 23% in HA
the ordinary alpha arbutin
I was wondering if the alpha arbutin would work well in the evening with the vitamin C since theyre different pH levels. I’m a bit confused on how I should organize all of these products for the best results, or if I should add any other products to help like retinol? Thanks!

Gio March 30, 2018 - 6:25 pm

Brittany, if you feel the dark spots aren’t fading well you can certainly replace vitamin C with retinol in the evening. Just use it on alternate nights with the glycolic pads until your skin gets used to it.

Lauren March 29, 2018 - 12:43 am

Hi Gio! I’m so happy I found your blog—I had basically perfect skin as a teenager (minus a brief battle with KP) and naively assumed I’d never have to worry about a lengthy or involved skincare routine. Alas, midway through college I began having trouble with my skin and now, three years later, I’ve made little to no headway combatting the problems and have developed a bit of a skincare obsession in response. My skin type is dry but also I gues a combination—when left alone, my t-zone is very oily but unfortunately it also gets dry very easily, which results in a confusing situation—in trying to treat breakouts, the areas get red/tight/flaky (and oily on top, though I know this is a reaction to being too dry), but if left alone the areas are overly shiny and breakout prone, which I then have a hard time treating without it drying out, etc etc. I have blackheads all over my nose (which strangly doesn’t get dry) and in the crease of my chin, clogged pores all over my chin and in between my eyebrows, and get what I guess are pimples (normally no head, but not cystic and don’t hurt—but super red) on my forehead and chin/jaw.
My current routine:
AM: cleansing water
vitamin C suspension 23% + HA Spheres 2 %
neutrogena night cream (I need a heavier moisturizer than just a day cream in the winter)
pm: cleansing water
skin laundry cleanser OR skinmedica AHA/BHA exfoliating cleanser (every other day)
2.5% benzoyl peroxide spot treatment, when necessary and just on breakouts
marine hyaluronics
neutrogena night cream
rosehip seed oil (sometimes with a drop of tea tree on rough breakout days)
This has been my routine for 3-4 months and I’ve seen improvements but still not what I want.
I recently bought 5% lactic acid and granactive retinoid 5% in squalane and am wondering where/how/if to begin incorporating them. Your advice on that or general thoughts on the whole situation would be greatly appreciated!! Thank you 🙂

Gio March 31, 2018 - 11:13 am

Lauren, I hear ya! Benzoyl peroxide works but it’s very harsh on the skin.

The first thing I’ve noticed is that you’re not using a leave-in form of salicylic acid (SA). SA is the only exfoliant that can get inside the pores and remove all the crap that causes breakouts. Getting it from a cleanser doesn’t work because it needs to be on the skin for several hours to do its job. Lactic acid won’t help in this case either because you don’t need to exfoliate only the surface of your skin. You need to exfoliates the pores too. If you haven’t used it yet I’d ask The Ordinary if you could exchange Lactic Acid for Salicylic Acid 2%. Even if not, forget about the lactic acid and the exfoliating cleanser and start using salicylic acid every morning and night. You should see a big improvement by doing this.

At first, I recommend you stop using benzoyl peroxide for a while. See how salicylic acid works on its own and, if it’s not enough, then spot treat with either benzoyl peroxide or tea tree oil diluted in water.

Also, have you considered using hyaluronic acid followed by a lightweight moisturiser in the morning? At night, hyaluronic acid and reship oil might be enough too. My first recommendation for oily skin is to supplement a light moisturiser or oil with hyaluronic acid rather than go with a heavier cream as that could contribute to breakouts too. Hope this helps.

chinitapr March 29, 2018 - 4:57 pm

Hello Gio. This is the most useful article I have found on the internet. I was ecstatic to scroll to the comments and see you have taken valuable time to answer. Thank you for doing this!

I have severe melasma that doesn’t budge. I am 43 with some visible signs of aging and very dry skin. As you can see, I am struggling. The only thing that helps my melasma (but does not completely eliminate it) is tri-luma which is a mix of tretinoin, hydroquinone and a steroid. Unfortunately, I can only use it once a day for 3 months at a time then take a break which usually means my dark spots get dark again. On top of it, my skin is so dry.

I am hoping you can help me answering a few questions: Can I use a moisturizer on top of tri-luma and if so, is there any ingredients that I should avoid in the moisturizer? Also, since I use tri-luma only at night, could I use brightening products like vitamin c, alpha arbutin or kojic soap during the day to help the process ? Are there any ingredients or products that might help me maintain the tri-luma advances when I have to take a break from it?

Any suggestions would REALLY be appreciated! I really hope I can get your thoughts on this.

Gio March 31, 2018 - 11:22 am

Chinitapr, yes you can use moisturiser on top. I would choose a basic one like Cerave. It has niacinamide to help hydrate skin and strengthen your skin’s protective barrier but without any harsh ingredient that could dry out your skin more. The Ordinary Natural Moisturising Factors is another great option.

I would advice against kojic soap as that can be drying. But once you’ve got the dryness under control, you can introduce a vitamin C serum to your skincare routine.

I would advise to use alpha arburin during your break from tri-luma. If that doesn’t work, try azelaic acid.

Hope this helps.

Michelle March 29, 2018 - 8:19 pm

Hi Gio!
I’ve been so impressed with your knowledge and the advice you’ve given, I thought I’d ask for help with bringing down the cost of my skincare regimen. I’m close to 50 and live in Colorado (dry, dry skin, melasma, outside a lot, and sensitive skin that breaks out even if it hears the words “organic” or “plant-based.”). I use and love Epionce products, and they’re the closest thing to simple and organic that my skin can tolerate. Right now I’m using SkinMedica’s Lytera line (AHA/BHA cleanser and cream in the AM with Lytera, and Lytera, Retinol and moisturizer PM). I would like to use The Ordinary because it appears to be simple, filled with active ingredients, and cheap, but I cannot figure out which products to use, and when. Any thoughts? THANK YOU!

Gio March 31, 2018 - 3:43 pm

Michelle, switch to a gentle, ph balanced cleanser http://www.beautifulwithbrains.com/best-low-ph-cleanser-skin/ and follow it up with The Ordinary Salicylic Acid 2%.As a moisturiser, you can use The Ordinary Natural Moisturising Factors. The Ordinary also has several retinol products. Check this guide to help you choose: http://www.beautifulwithbrains.com/the-ordinary-retinoid-products-guide/

As a PM moisturiser, you can use The Ordinary Natural Moisturising Factors or opt for an oil. Both rosehip and marula are very good.

Lauren G. April 3, 2018 - 1:42 am

Hi Gio! THANK YOU for finally putting together a list of do’s and dont’s people can ACTUALLY understand! That being said, I’d love to ask your advice on my skincare routine which is new to me.. specifically nighttime for sure..

Clinique extra mild facial soap
Tretinoin cream (derm prescribed)
Lancome Visionnaire serum
Clinique All About Eyes cream
Clinique Moisture Surge Intense moisturizer
** just started this regime for my super dry, dull, beginning to age and wrinkle skin with large pores, dark sun spots all over, and breakouts. However, I know there’s citric acid in my moisturizer which is causing burning and redness the second I put it on after my Tretinoin and Visionnaire serum – however, I LOVE the results with the moisturizer, just want to make sure I’m not inactivating anything as I can “suffer” through the nighttime irritation as long as it’s OK to do so. Thoughts? Lastly, should I use the Visionnaire in the AM with my Clinique moisturizer or add in an exfoliating or Vitamin C serum here? Thanks SOOOOO much in advance!

Gio April 8, 2018 - 5:05 pm

Lauren, mmm, are you allergic to citric acid? There’s only a tiny amount in the moisturiser so it shouldn’t cause that reaction. But then there’s nothing else in there that could be the culprit, it’s a very gentle cream. I wonder if it may be because of the alcohol in the serum, which could be making your skin drier and more sensitive? Anyway, there’s nothing here that can deactivate tretinoin. 🙂

I don’t recommend using vitamin C or glycolic acid with tretinoin. Once your skin has gotten used to tretinoin then you can add a vitamin C serum in the morning. They’re both powerful ingredients so it’s best not to use them at the same time.

Jane April 5, 2018 - 5:54 am

Hi Gio,

Thanks for been awesome. Thanks for taking time out to answer everyone. It’s really kind of you.
Your blog is super useful and helpful. Really appreciate it.
I am new to skin care . Until last year, all I needed for my face was a cleanser, a moisturizer and sunscreen. Sometimes a toner. Nothing too crazy. I had great skin no breakouts. And then boom – my skin became angry with me and things went down hill from there.
I have oily skin. And now I am acne prone. Mostly cystic( I think these are the ones u can feel under your skin right?) I have gone crazy with buying different products to help treat my acne as you can see below. But I know I am doing something wrong. Pls help. What do I take out? What do I need to include ? What should I not be using together?
My main problem would be treating the acne and the clearing out the pigmentations they leave behind.

Morning routine
– Wash with water
– Toner – Jeju volcanic lava pore toner or olehenrisken balancing oil control toner
– essence – drops of youth by Body shop
– Vitamin c serum – the ordinary ascorbyl glucoside
– Moisturizer dr jart water fuse + the ordinary rosehip oil
– SPF- Neutrogena hydro boost

– Cleanser – Body shop tea tree oil cleanser
– Toner – olehenrisken balancing force oil control toner (contains BHA/AHA – salicylic acid, glycolic acid and lactic acids)
– Essence – Neogen code 9 essence (contains niacinamide)
– Serum – JEJU volcanic lava pore serum (face Shop)
– Serum- the ordinary niacinamide
– Lotion – JEJU volcanic lava lotion (face shop) + tea tree oil
Evening 2 or 3 times a week
– cleanser – Neutrogena benzoyl peroxide rapid clear stubborn acne
– Tone – JEJU pore toner
– Exfoliate – olay tumeric clay scrub
– Essence – neogen code 9
– Serum – the originate salicylic acid
– Spot treat acne – Neutrogena stubborn acne leave on mask
– Pore clearing sheet mask
– JEJU pore face lotion + tea tree oil

Thanks for your help

Gio April 14, 2018 - 8:51 am

Jane, thanks for your kind words. Happy to help.

Mmm, the first thing I noticed is how many products you use. It’s never a good idea to throw too much at acne or you won’t know what really works. You may also be using something that’s clogging your pores even more but again, with so many products, it’s difficult to tell.

I’d like to propose you to take a step back and follow a basic skincare regime for a while.

1. Cleanser (use something without benzoyl peroxide as that should be used as spot treatment only, not all over the face)
2. Salicylic acid exfoliant (you have several products with this, pick one and stick with it for a while)

3. Vitamin C serum
4. Sunscreen

3. The Ordinary niacinamide
4. Rosehip oil

If you find this still isn’t helping, then do introduce a spot treatment with benzoyl peroxide.

Once your acne is under control, then you can also reintroduce the other products, one by one. That way, you’ll be able to tell if any one of them is upsetting your skin.

If you find your skin feels a little dry in the morning, then you can use an hydrating serum or lightweight moisturiser. Hope this helps.

heather April 5, 2018 - 6:02 pm

HI!! I love the blog…so informative!! I have a couple of questions regarding some products that i currently own…Can The ordinarys lactic acid 5% and Vit C 23% in HA spheres be used together in the am? Also, I use Hylamide subQ anti-aging serum, what would be be the best order to apply this product in the morning? Before or after the lactic acid? Thanks!!!!

Gio April 14, 2018 - 11:37 am

Heather, if your skin is very resistant, you may be able to use them together but I don’t recommend it. It’s safer to use vitamin C in the morning and lactic acid straight after cleansing in the evening. You can apply Hyalmide SubQ after vitamin C in the morning.

Merry Nguyen April 20, 2018 - 3:41 am

Hi Gio! I’m about to start a skin-care regime and would love your advice on it. My skin type is pretty normal. I’ve been experiencing some redness but have no experience with acne. I’ve been told by a skin professional I should look more into exfoliation as my forehead and outer areas of the face is darker than the center and my forehead has a somewhat rough texture with semi-visible tiny white pores all over (that’s the best way to describe it haha). Here’s how I plan to do it:
Murad Acne Cleanser 1.5% salicylic acid with time- released capsules
Fresh Rose Deep hydration toner: hyaluronic acid
Drunk Elephant C-Firma & B-Hydra serums
Drunk Elephant lala whipped creme
Drunk Elephant SPF 30 sunscreen

Drunk Elephant jelly cleanser
Fresh toner
Drunk Elephant TLC serum
Drunk Elephant eye cream
Drunk Elephant lala creme
Drunk Elephant facial oil

For nights, I plan on alternating my use of serums and oil with Sunday Riley’s good genes lactic acid treatment and luna oil with retinol. Please let me know how this process looks, thank you!

Gio April 27, 2018 - 10:55 am

Merry, I agree that you should definitely look more into exfoliation but I think you may overdoing it a bit. Drunk Elephant TLC already has glycolic acid, salicylic acid and lactic acid. So just use that one and ditch the Murad Acne Cleanser and Sunday Riley Good Genes. If you’ve already bought them and want to use them up, I guess you could alternate them with TLC. But really TLC is all you need for exfoliation.

Start using that three times a week for one month and, if your skin’s happy with you, add the luna oil on the other nights. Hope this helps.

Kendra Kammer April 20, 2018 - 6:19 pm

Wow! Your individualized responses are amazing!! Thank you for taking the time to help everyone!

Gio April 27, 2018 - 10:20 am

Kendra, my pleasure. Happy to help.

Elis Kay April 26, 2018 - 5:50 am

Hi Gio, love how informative this article is! I’m 24 and my skin normal with no break outs or large pores. However since I started wearing makeup up I am struggling with hyper pigmentation around my eyes and top lip.
I’ve started using this routine to help fade the HP.
Exfoliate face with salicylic acid (st ives)
Lemon essential oil
SPF 50 suncream
Garnier cleansing micellar water
Exfoliate face with salicylic acid (st ives)
Hydra bright complex serum( containing lactic acid)
I also wanted to know if I can use products containing lactic acid and glycolic acid in the same day but at morning and night. Any suggestions for new products to use would be very helpful thank you.

Gio April 27, 2018 - 10:19 am

Elis, please please please stop using lemon essential oil. It’s irritating and phytotoxic so it can make your skin more prone to sun damage. I know you’re using sun damage but high concentrations of citrus oils aren’t recommended.

Salicylic acid works better at unclogging pores than fading hyperpigmentation. Glycolic acid and lactic acid are both good options. You can check out a product that has both, like Paula’s Choice line of AHA exfoliants. Hope this helps.

ghie A. May 1, 2018 - 8:36 pm

Hello Glo..can i mix Tretinoin with a night cream that contain vitamin C and alpha Arbutin.. Im using Obagi C therapy Night cream, can i mix tretinoin with it?..thank you..

Gio May 4, 2018 - 8:01 pm

Ghie, I wouldn’t mix anything with tretinoin. You can apply the other products in the morning so they wouldn’t interfere with tretinoin.

VANESSA May 4, 2018 - 6:20 am

I’m looking for a new skincare routine. Can Niacinamide be used with retinol or salicylic acid?

Thank you,

Gio May 5, 2018 - 12:03 pm

Vanessa, yes it can.

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