Sometimes the array of products and conflicting advice out there can really confuse a person. Like most people I am not a skincare expert or a dermatologist or a cosmetic chemist (is there such a thing?), so all I can do is read up and make decisions for myself. I was recently asked about mixing and matching skincare brands. It turns out there is no ultimate answer, as even the “experts” disagree with each other. but here is a bit of sensible advice to follow… (this is a long post, sorry!)
I get a lot of information from Paula Begoun’s website, and although I don’t necessarily agree with everything, I generally believe what she has to say. According to Beautypedia, “Not only is it perfectly OK to mix and match products from different brands, but sometimes doing so is essential if you want to get the best results possible!” Other skincare gurus like Caroline Hirons also obviously believe in mixing skincare brands, taking the best products and formulas from each range and avoiding others. From this I take on board that mixing brands is fine, and I definitely do so myself.
There are some claims that you can’t use AHA/BHA and retinol together, but according to research done by Paula’s Choice this arises from a misunderstanding of how the ingredients work together and all focusses on the issue of pH levels. Apparently you can combine AHA, retinol and vitamin C (you can read the detailed scientific stuff here). I use a vitamin C serum in the mornings and leave retinol for night. I also use an AHA exfoliator at night prior to retinol serum (try Clarins Gentle Exfoliator Brightening Toner) and often use an AHA mask like REN Glycolactic Radiance Renewal Mask. I also use salicyclic acid but save it for the mornings. I combine several brands in my skincare routine, I just make sure each individual product meets my personal criteria.
The main thing you should be aware of is using too much of the same ingredient. So it is important to check that the active ingredient in your product isn’t being duplicated with every layer. Also, if you combine retinol and benzyl peroxide for example, your skin might end up a bit red and flaky. I think it’s best to go easy and find a combination which doesn’t irritate your skin. Alternate active ingredients between morning and night, or on every second day.
Other things you might want to avoid in individual products will depend on your own preference. Some people avoid parabens, mineral oil, fragrance of any type, and others stay clear of alcohol. I personally don’t mind parabens, don’t have a set view on mineral oil, don’t mind essential oil or natural fragrances, and I generally avoid alcohol where possible (except fatty alcohols) due to some interesting research by Paula’s Choice.
I prefer my skincare products to be cruelty-free and although I don’t need them to be completely “natural” I prefer plant-based ingredients. Favourite brands of mine for skincare include Paula’s Choice, Clarins, REN, Balm Balm, Dr Hauschka, Korres, the Body Shop and Nuxe. I like specific products from Clinique too, like the Moisture Surge Extended Thirst Relief Gel and their Mild Clarifying Lotion. And I love Estee Lauder’s Advanced Night Repair, although I probably wouldn’t repurchase it. Everyone’s skin is different, so what works for one person might not work for another. But I think the general consensus is that you can happily mix and match your brands without your face falling off.