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Here’s a dirty little secret that I fear has been buried amidst the beauty world’s mania for mixing: “Cocktailing” your creams can be counterproductive at best and downright detrimental at worst.

I’m talking about our obsession with layering various lotions and liniments onto our face at the same time, a terribly tempting trap that’s so easy to fall into, really, what with the superabundance of serums and salves lining the cosmetics aisles.

Now, to be clear, not all cocktail concoctions are created equal; I’ve been batting for bespoke beautifying blends when it comes to say, concealing dark circles. It’s when you start mashing together your blemish busters that it all goes to bust.

Here’s why. Any beauty junkie worth her bathing salt will be familiar with retinol, that near-miraculous multi-tasker that’s one of a select handful of ingredients boasting a scientific stamp of approval for alleviating acne, freckles, fine lines and such.

But because retinol packs such a potent punch, you run the very real risk of peeling, dryness or worse if you layer it over or under other zealous zit zappers like benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid spot treatments.

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What combos should you avoid? Take it from La Roche-Posay Singapore’s marketing manager Royston Ho, who warns of the best laid plans backfiring if these particular combustible components are used together: “Retinol should not to be used with products containing alpha hydroxy acid such as glycolic, lactic or citric acids, as retinol is an ‘unstable’ compound and can potentially increase skin photosensitivity.”

Translation? Retinol plus AHAs, found in clinical chemical peels, at-home peeling masks and such, equal chafing and stinging sunburn.

The solution is simple: When in doubt, use sunscreen. Here’s Royston Ho again: “As retinol in general increases photosensitivity, it must be accompanied by a good sunscreen when applied in the day.” A quick “primer” on the “right” way to apply sunscreen – always slap it on as the very last step before makeup proper. Easy, yes?

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Product recommendation-wise, zero in on formulas with skin-friendly physical filters; I’m in love with SkinCeuticals’ Physical Fusion UV Defense SPF 50, a fabulously flattering tinted tincture with a skin-soothing marine plankton broth. 

Another top tip: Ease yourself into your new regime by using retinol every other day. Not sure where to start? Consider checking out La Roch-Posay’s lovely Redermic R range, which comes rigged with a next-gen, timed-release form of retinol and the brand’s beloved thermal spring water for maximum efficacy and minimal irritation.

So, to recap. In the spirit of today’s trendy molecular dermatology, be cognizant of the components you’re chucking in your skin cocktail:

  1. Steer clear of other strong stuff if you’re using retinol;

  2. Resist the urge to mix things up too much;

  3. And always use sunscreen, the latter being sound advice for all, retinol or no!

Redermic R Anti-Aging Dermatological Corrector Intensive, $79.90, and Redermic R Yeux, $63.90, are available at the Derma Center at Westgate Mall and major pharmacies like Watsons, Guardian and Unity. For more information, visit www.laroche-posay.com and follow La Roche-Posay Singapore on Facebook and Instagram.

SkinCeuticals Physical Fusion UV Defense SPF 50, $69, is available at the Derma Center at Westgate Mall and selected pharmacies. For more information, visit www.skinceuticals.com and follow Skinceuticals Singapore on Facebook.