Better together

Perfectly paired cosmetics magnify your beauty results. Skincare expert Fiona Tuck talks about the best matches.

With skincare, it’s well known that some ingredients go together perfectly. Fiona Tuck, who has more than 25 years of experience in the cosmetics industry, advises on what we should be using for a truly effective result.

Vitamin C & antioxidants

Vitamin C pairs well with other antioxidants like vitamins A (retinol) and E because they help protect each other from being damaged before being absorbed. Antioxidants protect other molecules from oxidation, including other antioxidants.

If you’re concerned about either ageing skin or pigmentation, vitamins C and retinol used together are fantastic, and I advise pairing them unless you have very sensitive skin. If you do, you can just use a vitamin C product in the morning.

If you don’t have sensitive skin, you can happily mix vitamin C and retinol products together. The rule of thumb is to mix products of the same type: serums with serums and creams with creams. You could also buy a product that already combines the two ingredients rather than applying them separately yourself.

During the day this combination works as an antioxidant, protecting your skin from pollution, UV damage and free radicals in your environment. It works to prevent damage and reduce the signs of ageing simultaneously.

At nighttime, vitamin C soothes and repairs while boosting the action of retinol, which promotes cell renewal by increasing collagen and elastin production as you sleep, giving you firmer, bouncier skin.

Fat-soluble skincare

Fat-soluble ingredients penetrate the skin more easily because they’re already quite similar to your natural oils. These products are readily absorbed through your follicles and skin layers. But ingredients like peptides and vitamins C and B aren’t fat-soluble, so they need help to penetrate your skin.

A common ingredient to aid in absorption is black pepper. A lot of food recipes pair black pepper and turmeric — fat-soluble pepper enhances the absorption of water-soluble turmeric. In skincare, similar penetration pairings are used, but with a derivative of black pepper called piperine.

Not good together

There are a number of ingredients that don’t work as well when mixed together. If vitamin B, also known as niacinamide, is mixed with a hydroxy acid (including AHAs and BHAs), the vitamin B cells break because it needs to be kept at a more alkaline pH than what the hydroxy acid provides.

Unfortunately, there are a lot of products on the market that have both of these ingredients mixed together, which would lower the efficacy of the niacinamide. Be wary of glycolic, salicylic, lactic, malic or citric acid mixed with niacinamide in the ingredients list.

Retinol also doesn’t mix well with hydroxy acid. If you have a retinol serum with hydroxy
acid, the retinol will break down and the serum will turn a bright yellow or orange colour.

Fortunately you can still use each product separately, like a cleanser with AHA and a retinol serum. The hydroxy acid only affects the vitamins when they’re in a pre-mixed formula.