Is Mixing Skincare Products Dangerous?

Is Mixing Skincare Products Dangerous?
Is Mixing Skincare Products Dangerous?

Skincare seems simple enough. We cleanse, we tone, we moisturize. We may throw serums or masques or peels into the mix. If one product runs out, we may switch to another, ignoring brand, primary ingredients or regimen. Perhaps we may consider mixing or layering products and treatments for various results and that’s totally fine, right? All skincare is good skincare. Actually, that’s just not the case.

In dealing with skincare and especially one line that has several steps, it's important to pay attention to the order in which they were prescribed. “Most lines have been created to work synergistically meaning that they can't harm the skin if used correctly. Combining different lines can be tricky for the general public and is best left to the skincare experts,” says Cynthia Steele, a Medical Aesthetician at Advanced Aesthetics of Arkansas.

The danger of combining ingredients can have a minimal to catastrophic effect, says Steele. “For instance, if a person with sensitive skin is using a cleanser with a lactic acid, a toner with alpha hydroxyl acid and a moisturizer with a retinol base, their skin would become very irritated with possibly a burning sensation,” says Cynthia.

Skincare is sort of like a chemistry experiment. Some chemicals work great together. But others absolutely should never be combined. Best results are achieved when a qualified skincare expert is available to assist in the best possible treatment regimen. “Specific ingredients that should be mixed, for example, for a person with hyperpigmentation, should first contain ingredients that suppress the melanin, along with a retinol base for exfoliating, and of course an SPF. Plant based ingredients can work synergistically as a melanin suppressor along with a fruit acid exfoliator and non-chemical sunscreen. In dealing with hyperpigmentation, I always include an antioxidant, preferably L-Ascorbic acid, which has the most penetrating effect of all antioxidants,” explains Cynthia.

Products can be layered and mixed, but only as directed and when we pay attention to active ingredients. Otherwise, we may be inviting all new problems and issues that a skincare professional will need to address and correct, and possibly need a whole new skincare regimen to address. “Personally I will mix lines often, depending on the specific needs of a specific person. Usually these can be tolerated if they are not redundant or over-stimulating,” notes Cynthia. Again, know those ingredients! “It's frustrating as a skincare specialist to see a patient that has no idea what ingredients are in their products, because they purchased them from a neighbor! Especially, when you are trying to perform a laser treatment or a chemical peel on them. It has become an epidemic in this industry, the number of so called "healthcare professionals" that have no business recommending products. Multi-level marketing has turned the beauty industry into a "Health and Safety" issue for the public,” explains Cynthia. “We see patients that are having major issues with products that have been recommended improperly and therefore we, as well as dermatologists are in great need of trying to reverse the damage,” notes Cynthia.

Have you been mixing skincare products? If all seems to be great, you may have the right chemistry going on, but if not – start anew! Otherwise you may be inviting all new problems that need product intervention – in the hands of a professional.

About the Author

Aly Walansky is a lifestyles writer with over a decade of experience covering beauty, health, and travel for various esteemed publications. Her blog, A Little Alytude ( was launched in 2006 and continues to be a strong voice in the lifestyles arena. Based in the ever-trendy Park Slope area of Brooklyn, she divides her time between her shih tsu Lily, her soap opera addiction, and scouting out fun new martini bars.