How To Layer Popular Actives

Oct. 10
Active ingredients are key components in treating your skincare concerns. The active ingredients in your products are what make tangible improvements to your skin. But what if you have more than one thing you’re trying to treat?
Using multiple actives together is an easy way to target multiple concerns in one routine. We’re going to get into some of the best active combinations, and which ingredients can be layered to achieve better results.
But first, here are the basic rules to follow when layering any skincare product, keep these in mind when making your routine order: 
  • Thinnest to thickest (in consistency, so watery liquids to heavier creams)
  • Water-based to oil-based
There are a lot of different types of acne, and no single ingredient can treat all of them. Not to mention the side effects that come with breakouts, things like dryness, redness, irritation, and scarring. Here are some combinations that can treat both acne and some of the side effects.
  • BHA’s & AHA’s: Beta hydroxy acids are effective at treating blackheads and whiteheads, while alpha hydroxy acids are better suited for pustules, papules, and pore size. Combining an AHA with a BHA will allow you to treat the different types of breakouts you may be experiencing. 
  • Niacinamide & AHA's/BHA’s: Niacinamide is known to improve pore size, oil production, and even treat fine lines and dull skin. Layering it with an AHA or BHA, like salicylic or lactic acid, gives you an effective treatment for excess oiliness, pore size, aging, and acne while brightening skin tone. 
  • Hyaluronic acid & Azelaic acid: Inflamed acne can benefit from azelaic acid’s ability to calm breakouts and reduce redness. Combined with hyaluronic acid, a hydration powerhouse, irritation and dryness from breakouts can be reduced. 
  • Benzoyl Peroxide & Azelaic acid: Benzoyl peroxide is a well studied acne treatment, known for its effects on inflammatory acne. By layering it with azelaic acid, also known to reduce inflammation and dullness, you can double up on targeting painful acne while fading redness and acne scarring.
*Note: mixing any two exfoliants puts you at a higher risk of irritation. Proceed slowly or consult a skincare professional. Any form of layered exfoliation should be used at MAX 1x per week to begin.
Preventing and treating signs of aging are high up on the list of skin concerns for a lot of us. Different actives target different signs of aging, so layering them can propel your results, and reduce the negative side effects of certain anti-aging ingredients.
  • Retinol & Hyaluronic acid: Retinol is the master of anti-aging, but many of us have experienced first-hand how irritating it can be for our skin. Add a hydrating factor, like hyaluronic acid, to counteract some of the dryness that comes from retinol.
  • Retinol & Niacinamide: Niacinamide strengthens your skin’s barrier, which can be useful in preventing over-exfoliation from retinol. Niacinamide will work to reduce pore size, brighten skin tone, and smooth texture, while your retinol targets fine lines and wrinkles.
  • Retinol & Ceramides: Retinol can make your skin more vulnerable, especially when you first incorporate it into your routine. Add a product rich in ceramides so you can assure the new skin being turned over is hydrated and supple. 
  • AHA’s & Peptides: Alpha hydroxy acids have proven to be effective against fine lines and wrinkles, and peptides assist in collagen production. These will work together to smooth and plump the appearance of fine lines and give you firmer skin.
  • Antioxidants & Sunscreen: Antioxidants (like Vitamin C)  fight off free radicals, the unstable atoms that contribute to sun damage. Apply an antioxidant serum before your daily SPF to boost your sunscreen’s efficacy.
*Note: It's best to not layer AHA's/BHA's with retinol. If you want both in your routine, I suggest using them on different nights and not layering them. See here what layering glycolic acid and Retin-A did to MY skin!
If you’re naturally dry, layering on hydrating actives will be crucial come winter. Here are some key combinations to look for or create.
  • Hyaluronic acid & Ceramides: HA binds moisture to the skin, while ceramides help your skin to retain that moisture. These together will attract moisture and hold it there, preventing you from getting dry or tight skin.
  • Squalane & Peptides: Squalane is one of my favorite hydrating ingredients because of its anti-inflammatory and oil-balancing properties. Combine that with the collagen-boosting effects of peptides, and you’ve got supple, moisturized, plump skin. 
  • Glycolic acid & Hyaluronic acid: Glycolic acid is one of the better acids for dry skin, as it exfoliates AND helps your skin retain its natural moisture. This will help with any flakiness, while hyaluronic acid will help balance your moisture levels. 
  • Hydrators & Occlusives: If you've got REALLY dry skin, you may need something to lock the moisture in. At night, apply your moisturizing product (whether it be a HA serum or basic moisturizer) and layer an occlusive on top. An occlusive layer essentially inhibits trans-epideramal water loss, so none of the moisture from your product will be able to evaporate. Vaseline or Auqaphor work in a pinch. You can also apply a facial oil on top of your moisturizer to lock hydration in. This can be done day or night. 
Final Thoughts
Be sure to keep stronger exfoliants (AHA’s/BHA’s, retinol) in your nighttime routine, and ALWAYS wear sunscreen in the A.M. There are many combinations that work when layering, so don’t be afraid to experiment to find what active combinations work for you.
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Exclusive Giveaway for My Cherie 🍒Community
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The Organic Skin Co.
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