7 Skin-Care Ingredient Duos That Work Better Together


Just like us, sometimes our skin-care ingredients work better in pairs. The symbiotic relationship between these dynamic duos allows them to work even better than they would on their own.

Vitamin C + Vitamin E

These two antioxidants work in tandem to promote a healthier complexion. “Vitamin C helps brighten skin and promote collagen, and vitamin E helps prevent damage from free radicals,” Melville, NY dermatologist Kally Papantoniou, MD says. This combination was largely popularized by SkinCeuticals’ C E Ferulic serum ($169), notes Fort Lauderdale, FL dermatologist Dr. Matthew Elias, who explains that although vitamin C has many benefits, it has difficulty being absorbed by the skin. The pair is “more stable in combination,” adds Greenwich, CT dermatologist Lynne Haven, MD. Combining vitamin C with other antioxidants enhances its delivery to the skin, leading to better results, and vitamin E also helps prevent the oxidation of vitamin C.

Saliclyic Acid + Niacinamide

According to Dr. Elias, niacinamide pairs nicelywith “almost anything inyour skin-care regimen,”with the exception of vitamin C. Davie, FL dermatologist Mariana Blyumin-Karasik, MD says salicylic acid and niacinamide specifically have “a winning synergy for breakouts and blemishprone skin.” Salicylic acid is a betahydroxy acid derived from willow bark that helps unclog pores. However, Dr. Blyumin-Karasik notes that because it has an acidic pH, it can be a bit drying, and pH-neutral niacinamide is the perfect ingredient to balance it out. “Both of these ingredients work well to reduce oil production and inflammation in the skin, and have moderate antibacterial properties and brightening effects,” she adds. “Hence, clear skin tango is achieved with the help of this duo.”

Hyaluronic Acid + Ceramides

Hyaluronic acid and ceramides are a match made in hydration heaven. Ceramides help protect the skin barrier and retain moisture levels, while hyaluronic acid helps hydrate the skin directly by attracting water, Dr. Papantoniou says. “These ingredients blend well together because they’re cousins of various skin hydrators, ranging from lightweight water-soluble hyaluronic acid to a moderate thickness, oil-based emollient such as ceramides,” explains Dr. Blyumin-Karasik.

Glycerin + Hyaluronic Acid

A molecule that can hold 1,000 times its weight in water, hyaluronic acid “hydrates skin and can penetrate its superficial layers to smooth the appearance of lines,” says Dr. Papantoniou. Glycerin is on double duty, helping to attract water to hydrate the skin and then retain the moisture. “Together, these ingredients slow down water evaporation and promote skin water retention and the gradual shedding of dead skin cells on the surface,” explains Dr. Blyumin-Karasik. “Overall, this leads to plumper and smoother-looking skin.”

Retinoids + Benzoyl Peroxide

Retinoids have seemingly endless benefits, including reducing wrinkles and hyperpigmentation. One of their most beloved perks is their ability to fight acne, and when paired with benzoyl peroxide, the duo doubles down on breakouts. Retinoids
exfoliate the skin and minimize oil production, which can help reduce acne flare-ups. “Benzoyl peroxide helps reduce bacterial growth, and when paired with retinoids, this works well for acne.” However, Dr. Elias warns against mixing these two ingredients on your own because “they can cancel each other out and lead to zero efficacy. That being said, there are now some stable prescription products that combine a retinoid and benzoyl peroxide.” If you’re interested in using one of these products “to supercharge your acne treatment,” Dr. Elias advises talking to a board-certified dermatologist.

Glycolic Acid + Retinoids

Retinoids are already highly efficacious on their own, but glycolic acid can be a welcome boost for the active ingredient. “Glycolic acid helps exfoliate, and the retinoids help promote healthy skin maturation and exfoliation, reduce oil production, and boost collagen production,” says Dr. Papantoniou. “Together, the two potentiate each other, further helping to fade discoloration and the appearance of fine lines.” But, because both ingredients can be irritating, it’s important to ease in. Avoid using glycolic acid and retinol at the exact same time, and rather incorporate them once a week each, slowly working your way up to alternating them nightly if your skin can tolerate it.

Extra: Tiger Grass + Aloe Vera

Tiger grass goes by many names, including cica and gotu kola. Whatever you call it, it’s well-known for color correcting and
reducing inflammation, making it great for those with sensitive, irritated skin, including rosacea or sunburn. Pairing tiger grass with aloe vera just makes sense, as they have similar benefits. Dr. Blyumin-Karasik says, “Both botanicals have incredible anti-inflammatory and skin barrier–repair properties, which makes them essential for calming and healing reactive or irritated skin.”

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