Welcome to the skin care chemistry lab as led by cosmetic dermatologist Dr Sam Bunting. Turns out our beauty equations may need revising...

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Could certain ingredients in our beauty regimes  be doing more harm than good? With so many products in our skincare itineraries there's a chance we need to add or subtract a potion or two to make sure they're all working at their best.

“I think active ingredients need to be carefully combined – if too many are used together, they run the risk of causing an irritant reaction,” cautions cosmetic dermatologist and Get The Gloss Expert Dr Sam Bunting . “The other thing that can happen is that they can inactivate each other, rendering them useless.”

From the basics to the more specialist ways to tackle specific skin problems, we asked Dr Bunting for her words of wisdom and beauty tips for ensuring that we’re using the most effective and cost-efficient combination of components for addressing our anti-ageing concerns. Pencils at the ready, your cosmetics class is now in session...

Retinol + AHAs = 0

Retinol is regarded as one of the most effective anti-ageing ingredients out there. Plumping and collagen-boosting, products containing it are definitely worth investing in - just make sure that you’re careful not to cancel out its benefits. “Vitamin A derivatives like retinol are fragile so are best applied in isolation (always at night), so avoid layering with ingredients like AHAs or BHAs (like salicylic acid) which might inactivate them,” recommends Dr Bunting. “You can, however, combine them by using AHAs or BHAs in the morning, under the protection of broad-spectrum sunscreen.”

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(Retinoids ÷ vitamin C) + sunscreen = even skin tone

Retinoids such as vitamin A have proven results, but to get the most out of them, look to alternate them with other non-reactive ingredients too, such as vitamin C to help brighten and even skin tone, address pigmentation, plus boost skin’s resistance against free radicals. “I like combining retinoids and vitamin C in a routine, but again splitting them so vitamin C is applied in the morning. I think this combo plus sunscreen is a fantastic combination for most people to try if they’re interested in getting the most out of their skincare,” says Dr Bunting.

Brand A + brand B = C

Worried about mixing and matching products from different beauty brands? Often it doesn’t make the slightest bit of difference, provided you pay attention to what’s on the labels. “I don’t think you need to be brand-loyal; but you should pay attention to what is in the ‘pot’ if you want to combine actives,” explains Dr Bunting.

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Acne + cleansing oils + cleansing brushes = ERROR

At my last count, I was applying 1, 2, 3, 4....6 things on my face every morning. And that’s even before I get to my makeup. It appears that I’m not alone in this, but I do worry that I will one day suffer from formula overload and make my skin somewhat confused in the process too...

“It’s all about making wise choices – understanding which beauty practices and products are good for your skin type and which are not. A skincare routine should be rational, with each step having purpose. For example, if someone with breakout prone skin decided to embrace the trend for cleansing oils and aggressive use of cleansing brushes, they could easily run into problems.”

Sunscreen > moisturiser + SPF

With an increasing variety of different skin care products out there with ‘SPF15’ or ‘PA++’ etc. included in the name, it’s easy to think those alone can provide sufficient protection from the sun’s rays. However, this may not be the case. “Multitasking products frequently underperform in my experience – there’s only so much space for ingredients in the formulation,” says Dr Bunting. “Sunscreen needs to be applied evenly all over the face in a generous amount to deliver the SPF/UVA protection specified on the bottle. Most people don’t apply moisturiser that way, which means if it is supplying your sun protection, you’ll end up skimping. The other thing is moisturisers are usually not as well-formulated as sunscreens for full broad-spectrum protection. So my advice is to apply a separate moisturiser and sunscreen.”

And finally…

Cleanser + moisturiser + sunscreen = standard formula

“Everyone needs: cleanser + moisturiser + sunscreen,” states Dr Bunting. The underlying formula which you can increase accordingly to suit your needs, it's all a bonus after you have this nailed.

“You can then add in the extras you need for your issues, whether they be anti-ageing, pigmentation or blemishes. Smart ingredient selection will often treat more than one issue – it’s why I often think it’s a very valuable exercise to seek expert advice about your skincare. It can save on a lot of skin-related heartache and expense.”

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