Layering: 3 C’s Of Mixing Skincare Like A Medical Esthe
Is this idea of layering your actives, whether its different serums or different textures, basically using different products that complement and combine together to do great things? For your skin, but yes, lots can go wrong because, if youre trying to layer things that dont work together, they could both be useless or even worse. They could cause major irritation to the skin. Sometimes formulas also ball up on each other and ill actually share a layering disaster. That happened to me just a few weeks ago, if you read articles online, its like layer, these ingredients, but dont layer, these and its like okay, i basically have to consult a medical textbook or for most people you know googles figure out whether or not i can Layer, my ingredients and then im relying on some reporter or some influencer to tell me these things. What are you supposed to do? I created a mnemonic that i like to use called the three cs: contradictions, complementary character and basically, as youre looking at your actives, you want to see. Are there any contradictions? Are they complementary? What are their characteristics? So first off lets start with contradictions. When you have two things that you want to layer together or use in the same routine, are they going to contradict each other if one is extremely basic or alkaline and one is extremely acidic? We know that acids and bases neutralize each other, so youre not going to want to use both of those in the same routine unless theyre already stabilized in a pre existing product.
One example of things you dont want to mix are benzoyl peroxide and vitamin c. You know benzoyl peroxide as an amazing acne ingredient and vitamin c is a great brightener and really something to give an antioxidant boost to the skin. But vitamin c is an antioxidant. Benzoyl peroxide is an oxidizer, so if you use them in the same routine, they actually cancel each other out and they attack each other instead of doing good work on your face. If you wanted to use both of these actives in the same routine, i would say use them as separate times a day. For me, i would choose the benzoyl peroxide as a wash in the evening and i would choose the vitamin c in the morning. Another contradiction. You might want to look for are things that get more intense or more irritating when combined, for example, we know that retinoids are amazing, but they can have this period of retinization. The skin has to get used to them first, and especially, if youre on a prescription that can be quite the journey and similarly things such as chemical exfoliants like alpha hydroxy acids or beta hydroxy acids. They can exfoliate and therefore somewhat irritate the skin exfoliating. The skin can also cause other ingredients to penetrate deeper and if you have a very basic routine and you just throw you know, exfoliating acids and retinoids into your routine all at once. Those can be very, very irritating retinoids also work at you know a ph of around 5.
5, which is what the skin kind of likes to hang out at, which is slightly acidic, but some really potent acids tend to work at a lower, ph, sometimes 3.2, sometimes 3.4, And some as low as even a ph of 3. – and you know these two things – arent necessarily going to cancel each other out, but if you use them together, theyre not working in optimal environments, especially if you have sensitive skin. This is going to not be the funnest time. One contradiction that a lot of people like to cite are niacinamide and vitamin c. The concern is that there was like one study that showed high levels of vitamin c under specific atmospheric and temperature conditions turned niacinamide into niacin and irritated the skin. But studies on skin and the experts who have looked into this, such as dermatologists and chemists, have found that this doesnt actually happen in the real world, especially with skin care products. Now, if youve got the ordinarys, 100 niacinamide powder and you go mixing in some pure l, ascorbic acid and put that on your face yeah, maybe that could cause some issues. But if youre just layering actives, i dont think its a huge problem, especially if both of them are under 10 and niacinamide is actually a very, very stable ingredient. Vitamin c, specifically l ascorbic acid, can be a little bit more finicky, but niacinamide is super stable. So it is a really great ingredient to layer with, because most other things work pretty well with it.
So once weve got our contradictions out of the way we got ta look at whether or not our ingredients are complementary. Are we using these for a purpose like whats the purpose of layering things on your skin if they dont do anything so, for example, if you layer a vitamin c and a vitamin e that could be a really great blend, these antioxidants can kind of refresh each Other and actually boost up a sunscreen so right there are three things that would be amazing to layer if you were going to mix a vitamin c with just like a random water, gel serum. Why? If youre, not looking for the vitamin c benefits on its own like, why would you combine these things if they dont do anything right kind of goes back to neutralizing things as well? Lets say that you have a cleanser thats, more soapy, its more basic and then lets say that you have a liquid enzymatic exfoliant that you like to use in the shower on some days, and you decide. Oh im gon na mix my cleanser with this exfoliant and make like an exploding, cleanser well theyre, not really helping each other theyre canceling each other out. Theres, no purpose! If you wanted a nice exfoliation just use the cleanser. So you want to make sure that these things are actually doing your skin good again. Mixing antioxidants together can be amazing and give them a super boost, and mixing antioxidants with sunscreen is a great idea.
Layering exfoliated acids and humectants are another great idea. For example, if you used a beta hydroxy acid or an alpha, hydroxy acid, first to exfoliate, you know those dead layers of top skin cells, and then you wanted to go in with something that actually penetrates deeply into the skin, such as specific weights of hyaluronic, acid Or maybe you did even want to go in with a peptide blend as long as you know, your skin is at the right ph to accept that optimally. That would be a really good way to get some of these ingredients deeper into the skin and specifically, lets say that you had a peptide, serum or a peptide cream, and you wanted to actually lock it into the skin, using a hydrating peptide blend and sealing that In with an occlusive moisturizer, especially if that occlusive moisturizer has you know some green tea extract, that is going to be an awesome idea. Another really great blend are some of these ingredients that work on hyperpigmentation consider using a tyrosinase inhibitor such as alpha arbutin, and combining that with licorice. If you layered, two of those serums or one in a toner one in a serum or a serum and a moisturizer, those could be really awesome and especially, if youre trying to treat a specific condition such as hyperpigmentation or such as acne using different actives. That have been medically proven to treat that condition in combination as long as it doesnt irritate your skin can be a great way to go.
So, for example, we know that salicylic acid is amazing for acne, and we know that sulfur is also really good. So what if you were to find some sort of a salicylic acid, wash or even toner and serum, and then use some sort of a moisturizer or a spot treatment that has sulfur as long as its not stripping your skin? These could actually work really well and in your favor same with the hyperpigmentation example, lets say that you wanted to use like a low level of lactic acid or a polyhydroxy acid. That would be, you know even better and more gentle, and you wanted to use that before an alpha arbutin or before a vitamin c. That would allow that vitamin c to penetrate in deeper and do more work and remember vitamin c likes an acidic environment and what are alpha hydroxy acids or polyhydroxy acids theyre acids. So those would be really awesome to layer, um and as long as youre not causing irritation, youre getting more benefit and then the piece of character is what most people forget. Most people dont even think about this, but you have to look at the character of the product. You have to look at how its formulated you know. If you have a serum, you apply it to the skin, and then you put on a moisturizer and it starts to ball up and get all pilly thats. Not really doing you any favors, because those textures dont mesh when youre layering you want something to either penetrate and something else to seal it in or you want them to be homogeneous so the same, and you want those serums to be able to kind of mix Into and soak into the skin, a really good idea would be something water based first like a hydrator, a humectant or even an exfoliant, and then sealing that over the top with a nice moisturizer that doesnt ball up.
That would be great, you know, but if youre to do like you know a chalky niacinamide serum and then you apply one of these. You know moisturizing creams, that has a little bit of clay in it. That could get super gunky super quick and just not feel elegant on the skin, and then, if you were to just combine like two toners, you just have like a liquid mess. If anything, you would want to apply one of those toners. First, wait a little while so that its actually penetrated and then apply that second one or for me, i really like toners and then serums, because at least i know one is going to penetrate first and then the other can go on top because its a different Viscosity, and also with cleansers like if youre trying to thin out a cleanser, then maybe you would want to mix them, but normally mixing cleansers doesnt do any good when you have a cleanser, its normally formulated in a specific way to do a specific thing, and you Want to give it the liberty and the ability to do that, the way the manufacturer and the formulation process, you know hoped that it would be, and if you mix like two different cleansers are those surfactants going to attach to each other instead of the dirt and Oil on your face, is it actually going to clean as well? Is it going to negate you know some of the antioxidants or something beneficial in one of those products, its really hard to tell unless youre a cosmetic chemist, so i would say make sure that you are using products that actually layer nicely together and test them out On your hand, before you shove them on your face, dont waste a full face full of product when you could do a couple, dots on your hand and see if they end up peeling up or balling up – or you know, god forbid, having some really weird.
Bubbly reaction, fun fact: let me tell you a story about when i was 12 and were talking about a weird bubbly reaction, my best friend at the time and i were painting our nails and we were trying to make like a custom nail. Polish and my mother was very adamant about not having styrofoam cups in the home because they were not supposed to be eco, friendly or good for us. So whenever my younger brother or i would bring styrofoam cups home from the school cafeteria like with water, she would always reuse them right. She would plant something in them or she would store buttons in them or whatever and um this one day, my best friend and i we were trying to paint our nails. We wanted to mix a custom nail polish, and so we started pouring in purple. We started pouring in red and a little bit of pink and like it was so cool to see, because you saw the colors like blending in together and we were sitting there like giggling, like looking at the colors that were all doing that and all of a Sudden, i pick this styrofoam cup up and the bottom just comes off and the nail polish was like eating through the styrofoam cup and it was starting to bubble and fizz, and to this day i still dont know what that was im. Trying to think. If i had mixed like acetone or nail polish remover in there too, but my mom starts screaming shes like no, no, no honey.
You know the floor is ruined right like put that down, but also, oh, my god. You dont want that on your skin. So she immediately went had me rinse off and all this stuff, but i was probably 11 years old. That was like one of my youngest memories, of like scary, chemistry and thats, just an example of not mixing things that maybe shouldnt be mixed and thank god i dont have burns or anything but like it was bubbling. That was an exothermic reaction and i dont know what caused it. If anybody knows the chemistry of that, let me know, lets analyze what happened, but even recently, i had a bad experience when layering products remember how everyone forgets that character step. I forgot the character step and i was trying to mix. Actually it was the ordinarys niacinamide. It was a vitamin c esther that really expensive one thats, the dupe for skin scuticles from obagi, and then i was putting my sunscreen over the top and i was using the elta md, which also has niacinamide in it, and it has a little tendency to ball Up its not horrible, but like a slight tendency. Next thing, you know it feels like. I had just applied one of those gimmicky exfoliating gel peels. It was like my skin was just flaking off and it wasnt skin cells. It was the product balling up on itself and i was sitting there. I was like rubbing my face in my car, like while im driving and im just like.
Oh my god, i was not meaning to exfoliate. Today i was trying to literally protect my face from the sun, with this vitamin c and like some niacinamide, because i was having a couple of irritation breakouts over here and the niacinamide it just balled up. It just was gross the vitamin c and its encapsulated version. Just couldnt penetrate through that into my skin to get where it needs to go, and then the sunscreen. On top of that, just made it all goopy, and then i ended up just like rubbing all of it off and it was gross and it felt like my skin was peeling all day. You know i felt like a snake shedding its skin, but the skin was moist and then i was like picking it off of my face and it is something that i dont want to relive. But it goes to show that cosmetic formulation is so complex and even layering skincare products can be such an ordeal that its impossible to know how everything will react, its impossible to always get it right and yeah. Sometimes it goes wrong and in the case of the random ass nail polish, sometimes it goes very, very wrong. But at least you have this guide and the three cs so that you can do your best and you can curate a skincare routine. That actually works for you, but that also gets you excited about actives and how to use them and what to do to take care of your skin in the best way that you can, while also enjoying the process.