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What ingredients should I not use together?

I'm thinking of expanding my skincare routine. I want to buy this clinique moisturizer (, The Ordinary Niacinamide 10% + Zinc 1%, and The INKEY List Salicylic Acid Cleanser 5 oz/ 150 mL. Is it okay to use these products together? Will the ingredients in some products reduce the effectiveness of other products? Which ingredients should I not use together in skincare?



Re: What ingredients should I not use together?

Hi @sophiasong13 ! FYI, we're not supposed to link to non-Sephora sites in our BIC posts, so you might want to delete that link before a mod sees it. 🙂 


Ingredient conflicts: Niacinamide plays nice with pretty much any other ingredient, so no worries there. In fact, the 3 products you listed shouldn't conflict with one another. The only issue is using a BHA cleanser in addition to an AHA (glycolic and lactic acids) moisturizer if you've never used an AHA before. 


Since Clinique doesn't state the % of AHA in their moisturizer, I have no idea if using it alongside BHA would be too much exfoliation for your skin. So I can't recommend using that moisturizer. 


Do you know your skin type/behavior (dry, oily, a mix of very dry in some areas and very oily in others, or perhaps balanced throughout—not too dry or oily anywhere)? That'll help determine which moisturizers may work well for you. They don't have to be pricey to be effective; good ol' CeraVe Moisturizing Cream works well for many people. 

Your skin concerns: You mentioned pores, uneven texture, and mild redness. The salicylic acid (BHA) cleanser and niacinamide serum should help. I do have a few more suggestions... 

Bear in mind that if your pores are normally visible, no ingredient can "close" or "erase" them, and that's okay! Pores are a normal feature of human skin. But sometimes crud gets into pores and stretches them wider than usual. Salicylic acid can degunk your pores so they won't look stretched wider than usual, and niacinamide can help with maintenance. 

Also consider adding another cleanser to your routine, rather than using the BHA cleanser all the time. You could use a gentle cleanser like CeraVe Hydrating Cleanser most nights (and mornings, if you choose to wash your face twice a day), and use the BHA cleanser just 2 or 3 times a week. To get the most out of the BHA cleanser, let it sit on your face for a minute before rinsing it off. You might also want to add a leave-on BHA exfoliant and use it no more than 3 times a week. Besides the Paula's Choice BHA exfoliants (which I personally love), a good inexpensive option is The INKEY List Beta Hydroxy Acid (BHA) Blemish + Blackhead Serum 1 oz/ 30 mL . 

An AHA exfoliant can also help balance skin texture. I recommend not introducing one until your skin's used to the rest of your new routine, though. Introducing too many new products at once can make your skin throw tantrums, and some people's skin won't tolerate glycolic acid. Lactic acid is a gentler AHA, so consider adding The Ordinary Lactic Acid 5% + HA 1 oz/ 30 mL or The Ordinary Lactic Acid 10% + HA 1 oz/ 30 mL to your routine in a few weeks. Mandelic acid's an even gentler AHA; you could try The Ordinary Mandelic Acid 10% + HA 1 oz/ 30 mL instead. 

Even gentler than all those AHAs is PHA (polyhydroxy acid), which also exfoliates skin. Consider using The INKEY List Polyhydroxy Acid (PHA) Gentle Exfoliating Toner 3.4 oz/ 100 mL instead of an AHA. 

Retinoids (like retinol, adapalene, prescription tretinoin, etc.) can also help with skin texture and acne control. But again, don't consider adding one until your skin's used to your other new products. You might not even need a retinoid if you get good results from the other products. There are many over-the-counter retinol options. Of the ones Sephora sells, I'll tag First Aid Beauty FAB Skin Lab Retinol Serum 0.25% Pure Concentrate 1 oz/ 30 mL , Paula's Choice RESIST Barrier Repair Moisturizer with Retinol 1.7 oz/ 50 mL (that's a handy 2-in-1 low-strength retinol + moisturizer product), and The INKEY List Retinol Anti-Aging Serum 1 oz/ 30 mL . But there are other good options outside Sephora. 

Whatever you use on your face, your last skincare step in the morning should be a broad spectrum sunscreen with at least SPF 30, applied to skin whenever it's exposed to sunlight (including riding/driving in a car) and reapplied every couple hours, regardless of weather or season. If you don't already use a sunscreen daily, I can recommend a few. Kinda depends on your personal preferences: matte vs. natural/radiant vs. dewy/glass-skin finish, chemical vs. mineral (both types are safe for skin), and tinted vs. invisible vs. "eh, a little white/grey/purple tint doesn't bug me" cast. Never rely on foundation or tinted moisturizer that contains SPF as your sole sunscreen: you probably won't apply nearly enough of it to your skin to effectively block UV rays. 

Remember that patience is key. None of these products or ingredients are overnight miracles. Build up your new routine and give it a couple months to work, and then reassess your skin for results. 

Re: What ingredients should I not use together?

Hi, @WinglessOne, thank you so much for all of the helpful information! I really appreciate your help, and as I am a beginner in skincare, I learned a lot from your response! I do have a few more questions though, if you don't mind.


I'm now a little hesitant on buying the Clinique moisturizer. However, I do want something that hydrates my skin while also addressing some of my skin concerns, unless the niacinamide serum and the salicylic acid cleanser is enough to minimize pores, help with uneven texture, etc. I saw that you tagged Paula's Choice RESIST Barrier Repair Moisturizer with Retinol 1.7 oz/ 50 mL, but unfortunately, it seems to be unavailable in my region (I live in Canada). Do you have any other inexpensive suggestions? 


I've also seen somewhere that zinc isn't good for your skin. How would you rate The Ordinary Niacinamide 10% + Zinc 1%  against the The INKEY List Niacinamide Oil Control Serum 1 oz/ 30 mL?


I understand that I should alternate between using the salicylic acid cleanser and a gentler cleanser. Should I be using an AHA/PHA only on days that I am not using the salicylic acid cleanser? Or should I even incorporate AHAs/PHAs in my skincare routine at all?


And lastly, I've never used sunscreen daily, which I now realize is a big mistake. I have the Neutrogena Hydro Boost Water Gel Sunscreen at home - is that good enough for day-to-day use?


Thanks again!

Re: What ingredients should I not use together?

No problem, @sophiasong13 ! 


Do you know your skin type/behavior (dry, oily, combo, balanced)? Some moisturizing ingredients seem to work better for oily skin than dry skin, and vice versa. Rather than jump straight into a retinol moisturizer, let your skin get used to this routine: 


1. Wash with a gentle cleanser most of the week, alternating a couple times a week with The Inkey List BHA cleanser. 


2. Treat with a niacinamide product. 

I've used The Inkey List's serum but not The Ordinary's. If you're okay with a viscous feeling serum, The Inkey List's is fine. I wasn't fond of the way the serum felt, so I stopped using it. Plus, that serum left hard white crusty bits on the cap each time I closed it which isn't a bad-for-skin thing, just an annoying "great, now the bottle looks like a bird perched over it" thing. 😂 

About zinc: it's not bad for skin in general. In fact, it can theoretically soothe skin. But there's been recent buzz about The Ordinary's serum containing too much niacinamide for most people's skin, which is allegedly the reason it also contains 1% zinc as an anti-inflammatory agent. Various brands make 10% niacinamide serums, including Paula's Choice (who also makes a 20% niacinamide serum). But according to clinical studies, niacinamide's effective at much lower strength—no higher than 5%. 

With that in mind: if you don't want to try The Ordinary's serum, consider a different product that contains niacinamide plus other good stuff. A nice inexpensive one is Good Molecules Niacinamide Brightening Toner. GM doesn't state the % of niacinamide in this toner, but I suspect is below 10%. This toner also contains a vitamin C derivative, soothing licorice root extract (which also brightens skin), hydrating sodium hyaluronate, and skin-brightening arbutin. I've been testing this product and, so far, my mostly-dry combo skin likes it. And nothing in this toner will conflict with the rest of your routine. 

3. Moisturize with something that works for your skin type/behavior. I mentioned CeraVe Moisturizing Cream, which is a good option for skin that leans dry. Each day and night, I use Vanicream Daily Facial Moisturizer. Ooorrrr, you could try CeraVe PM Facial Moisturizing Lotion (use it day and night, despite its "PM" name) which just happens to contain niacinamide. 🙂 You could skip step 2 of this routine and just use this moisturizer for your daily dose of niacinamide. Or keep step 2 and still use this moisturizer. 


4. Sunscreen in the morning: I think there are different versions of Neutrogena Hydro Boost Water Gel Sunscreen with varying SPF levels. If the one you use is at least SPF 30, then you're good! 



Once you've followed that simple routine for a few weeks, you can add an AHA or PHA exfoliant step. Most folks would slot that between steps 1 and 2, but you can do it anytime before moisturizer. You're on the right track with using this exfoliant on your non-BHA nights. Once your skin's gotten used to this exfoliant, you can try using it on BHA cleanser nights (patch test a small area of your face first) if you want, and see how your skin tolerates that combo. You don't really need to layer BHA and AHA, though. 


And after your skin's gotten used to that AHA/PHA addition, see if your skin texture's improving. If it's not, then consider adding a retinol product. Slow and steady with all of this will help keep your skin happy. 

Re: What ingredients should I not use together?

@WinglessOne, wow! Thank you so much! I feel like I have relatively balanced skin. I've actually tried CeraVe moisturizing cream before as a body lotion, and I had an allergic reaction to it (I got red blotches on my skin, although I don't know which ingredient(s) caused the reaction). I'll have to try a different brand.


I've also heard that retinol can't mix with Vitamin C or AHA/BHAs. Does this mean that I shouldn't add retinol products into my skincare routine if I use the Good Molecules Niacinamide Brightening Toner or any products with an AHA/BHA?


Thanks for the information! I really appreciate all your help!

Re: What ingredients should I not use together?

Hi @Dalton2006! Thank you for your reply, I really appreciate your help!


I don't think that I'm going to buy the Clinique moisturizer now. I still want something that hydrates though, while also addressing some of my main skin concerns (redness, uneven textures, pores). Do you have any inexpensive suggestions?


I also noticed the two Paula's Choice products you tagged in your other reply, but unfortunately, they are unavailable in Canada, where I live.


Thanks again for your help!

Re: What ingredients should I not use together?



Thank you for your suggestions! I will check out the products, and thanks again for the information! 

Re: What ingredients should I not use together?

Also, should I even use the clinique moisturizer? I'm a teenager, and I saw somewhere that glycolic acid helps with anti-aging, so would it be unnecessary or bad for my skin if I use the clinique moisturizer? 


My main skin concerns are pores, uneven textures, and mild redness. Would these products help with my skin concerns? Or does anyone have any other recommendations (preferably not too expensive)?


Any help is appreciated! Thank you!

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