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Which Active Skincare Ingredients Should You Never Mix?

Obagi Spot Relief Kit

So you’re keen on skincare, we are too, there’s lots to learn, like layering of active ingredients! You may spend your evenings layering on some of your favourite serums and creams, but not all active ingredients mix well, and can cause irritation, dryness and breakouts if layered incorrectly. We’re here to help outline the facts, so you can get the best results from your skincare products.

From vitamin-c’s, to AHAs and retinoids, we’ve got the low down on what not to mix.


Not to be layered with: Vitamin C, AHAs or BHAs.

Retinol is a powerful antioxidant, and powerhouse skincare ingredient, brilliant at reducing signs of aging and clearing breakouts. Whilst being an amazing active ingredient, retinol can cause sensitivity to the sun and therefore SPF should be worn after applying retinol.

Much like retinol, AHAs and BHAs (alpha and beta hydroxy acids) can also cause skin to become sensitive to the sun, so remember, retinol and AHAs & BHAs shouldn’t be mixed! The excessive exfoliation of both ingredients is likely to lead to irritation, redness and excess skin sensitivity.

If you wish to have both products in your skincare routine, stick with using retinol in the evenings only, and use the AHA or BHA face wash or serum in the mornings once or twice a week.

If you’re looking for a retinol based product to introduce into your skincare routine, why not try the Obagi360 Retinol 0.5 to exfoliate away dead skin cells, reduce visible signs of ageing and help keep breakouts at bay.

Obagi360 Retinol 0.5

Vitamin C

Not to be layered with: Retinol

Vitamin C is an antioxidant, which protects the skin from oxidative free radical damage. This ingredient works to lighten dark spots and brighten the skin for a clearer, more radiant complexion, and due to this, products containing vitamin C are best used in the morning.

In the skincare world, retinol and vitamin C are worlds apart, and this should be reflected in your routine! Apply your vitamin C products in the morning to brighten and protect your skin throughout the day. Don’t mix this ingredient with retinol; retinol promotes collagen production, repairs the skin, and is best applied at night.

Ensure to keep these two active ingredients separate from each other, as they have two very different functions, so work best independently.

A highly recommended vitamin c product is the Obagi Professional-C® Serum 15%, clinically proven to stimulate collagen production, reduce fine lines and wrinkles and protect the skin from environmental damage.

Obagi Professional-C Serum


Not to be layered with: AHAs, BHAs or Retinols

AHAs and BHAs are powerful active ingredient groups, they work to exfoliate the skin, to deliver a clearer, more even tone and texture – by doing so the skin becomes increasingly sensitive to sunlight, so it is recommended that SPF is applied after AHAs or BHAs, and they are not to be layered with retinols.

Glycolic acid, a powerful AHA, should not be mixed with salicylic acid, a potent BHA, unless in a pre-formulated blend. Applying a salicylic acid serum with a glycolic serum will leave your skin dry, over-exfoliated and possibly quite red! Less is more in this case, so don’t layer multiple AHA and BHA products, rather choose your favourite and stick with that.

Why not try the Obagi Nu-Derm® Exfoderm® Forte, containing both glycolic and lactic acid, this preformulated blend of AHAs will help to keep skin looking radiant, whilst reducing breakouts and signs of ageing.

obagi exfoderm


Not to be layered with: Vitamin C

Niacinamide and vitamin C are a big no no! Niacinamide will cancel out the beneficial properties of vitamin C, causing irritation and inflammation. Keeping these two active ingredients apart, layering them together can lead to breakouts.

To avoid disaster and experience the benefits of both active ingredients, use your vitamin C products in the morning only, and leave your retinol based products for use at night time.

Niacinamide is a pore refining agent, it will reduce the appearance of enlarged pores to give a more even, smoother complexion. After applying your Niacinamide, try the Obagi Daily Hydro-Drops® Facial Serum to smooth and hydrate your skin.



Not to be layered with: …it can be layered with everything!

Don’t forget your SPF. SPFs can be layered with all active ingredients. Best applied in the morning, prior to make-up application, SPFs can do a brilliant job at preventing environmental damage and signs of ageing caused by UVA and UVB rays – SPFs are suitable for, and recommended to everyone!

Looking for a staple SPF for your skin routine? Try the Obagi Sun Shield Matte™ Broad Spectrum SPF50, for ultimate protection against UVA and UVB sun damage, so you can look your most youthful, always.

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