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Are you a fan of retinol? 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.

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? Combining retinol with AHAs, usually found in clinical chemical peels and at-home peeling masks, may cause chafing, stinging and sunburn.

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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?

Product recommendation-wise, I’m in love with Biore’s new UV Perfect Spray SPF 50+ PA+++ ($9.90), a delightfully cooling spritz-on sunkiller that can be layered over makeup.

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Another top tip: Ease yourself into your new regime by using retinol every other day. Not sure where to start? Consider checking out La Roche-Posay’s lovely Redermic R range (from $79.90), 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. Be cognisant of the components you’re chucking in your skin cocktail: Steer clear of other strong stuff if you’re using retinol;resist the urge to mix things up too much; and always, always use sunscreen, the latter being sound advice for all, retinol or no!

Want more? Try my recipe for a bespoke beautifying blend when it comes to concealing dark circles, and check out the “right” way of applying sunscreen for the best possible protection.