Team players

While we all love to mix and match products in our skincare routines, sometimes better together isn’t always the best mantra to follow. Here we investigate the products that do and don’t work together.

It seems like in the development of skincare through the years, a point has finally been reached where we know what works, and what definitely does not. With the advancement of technology and science, there’s so much on the market and it can be overwhelming. There’s the tendency for people to overload their skincare, with the mindset that the more you use, the better your skin will be.

In fact, that’s far from the case, and it’s something Dubai-based dermatologist and medical director of CosmeSurge, Dr. Lana Kashlan sees “too often”, she tells Emirates Woman. “I see patients come in with irritations and breakouts that come from using too many products, products that are too harsh, or scrubbing or exfoliating too much,” she explains. “When it comes to the skin, less is more.” Her advice: stick to a few key active ingredients and be gentle.



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Those active ingredients can include anything from retinol to alpha and beta hydroxy acids (AHAs/BHAs) to vitamin C serums to hyaluronic acid. However, while the ingredients in these products can work wonders on the skin, what many may not know is some of them should never be mixed together, and doing so can actually hinder you from achieving that radiance everyone craves.

Luckily Dr. Kashlan is here to set us all on the straight and narrow with our skincare, so we’ll all be achieving that oh-so coveted glow.

Vitamin C

A key product that needs to be in your routine in order to protect your skin. Vitamin C is an antioxidant which helps to reverse the damage done to skin cells from environmental exposures like UV radiation from the sun and pollution, which helps to brighten the skin.

Do mix with: other antioxidants like vitamin E and ferulic acid

“Studies show that vitamin C is best absorbed with vitamin E and ferulic acid, so look for formulations that have these ingredients,” Dr. Kashlan explains.

Don’t mix with: AHAs/BHAs and retinol

Dr. Kashlan advises against mixing vitamin C with exfoliants like AHAs/BHAs, as the combination is too irritating on the skin. Meanwhile, vitamin C has the opposite effect of retinol, so they should not be used together either.

The Hero Buy

La Roche-Posay Pure Vitamin C10 Face Serum, Dhs192


Retinol has been on the skincare scene for years but appears to have only gained popularity in people’s general skincare routines in recent years. According to Dr. Kashlan, it’s one of the few ingredients that truly has been proven to reduce fine lines and wrinkles, due to the active ingredients stimulating collagen production. The vitamin A derived ingredients in retinol creams also help unclog pores and brightens the complexion, but it can also be extremely drying on the skin.

Do mix with: hyaluronic acid and ceramides.

Due to the drying effect of retinol, you need to ensure you put the moisture back into your skin. “I always apply a ceramide rich moisturiser right after I apply my retinol at night because retinol are drying by nature and without a moisturiser can lead to redness, peeling and irritation,” Dr. Kashlan says.

Don’t mix with: AHAs, BHAs and vitamin C

“I don’t recommend combining retinol with any other exfoliant like alpha hydroxy acids because the two ingredients can be too irritating,” she says. As for vitamin C, it’s a protective skincare product, whereas retinol is there to rebuild and repair.

The Hero Buy

Sunday Riley Luna Sleeping Night Oil, Dhs215

Salicylic Acid

A go-to to help clear up acne, salicylic acid is a beta hydroxy acid that helps to exfoliate dead skin cells, unclog pores, cut down on oil on the skin surface.

Do mix with: Benzoyl peroxide

“Salicylic Acid is often used for acne-prone skin and combines well with benzoyl peroxide and sulfur-containing products that also fight acne,” Dr. Kashlan says.

Don’t mix with: AHAs and retinol

“Be careful when combining salicylic acid with other exfoliants like AHAs or retinol because it can be irritating if you have sensitive skin,” she adds.

The Hero Buy

Tata Harper Clarifying Mask 30mL, Dhs268


An overall gem that is a must-have in anyone’s skincare routine. This vitamin-based product helps regulate oil production, effectively minimising the pores and brightening the skin. It’s also anti-inflammatory so it can be helpful for people who suffer from rosacea or acne.

Do mix with: There’s no confusion here, as niacinamides can be combined with almost any other ingredient including retinol, vitamin C and zinc.

The Hero Buy

The Ordinary Niacinamide 10% + Zinc 1% 30mL, Dhs23

AHAs and BHAs

Perfect for giving your skin a good exfoliation, alpha and beta hydroxy acids brighten a dull complexion and unclog pores.

Do mix with: AHAs and BHAs that have moisturising ingredients

Look for AHAs and BHAs that have moisturising ingredients like ceramides or dimethicone so that they won’t over-dry the skin, Dr. Kashlan advises.

Don’t mix with: Retinol

AHAs and BHAs should not be used with retinol as the effect will be “too irritating” on the skin, according to Dr. Kashlan.

The Hero Buy

REN Ready Steady Glow Daily AHA Tonic, Dhs125

Hyaluronic Acid

Another powerful product that is a must, must, must in your routine. Hyaluronic acid is a powerful skin hydrator so it helps to moisturise and plump the skin. It makes the skin appear more dewy or glowy because it improves skin elasticity. Who doesn’t want that?

Do mix with: Like niacinamide, this can be mixed with almost any ingredient.

However, Dr. Kashlan points out hyaluronic acid is a “large molecule and is often too big to be absorbed by the skin”. Her advice? To look for a product that contains micronised hyaluronic acid, or is in a vehicle that allows for topical penetration.

The Hero Buy

SkinCeuticals Hyaluronic Acid Intensifier, Dhs367

For more on all things beauty, pick up a copy of June’s ‘The Beauty Issue’ or download it here.

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Images: Supplied, Feature Image: Kate Lavie Instagram