Clash of the Actives: Be Careful When Mixing These Products with Retinol

Credit: Disney/Marvel

Imagine making a smoothie and throwing all sorts of ingredients into the blender, from apples to ice cream and salmon. While these foods taste good on their own, when mixed together, it becomes a big cup of bleh.

Likewise, while skincare actives can be good for you on their own, when you layer on too many, you risk the products clashing. Sometimes, it causes irritation, and in other cases, the actives can cancel each other out. Now that would be a waste, wouldn’t it?

If you are using a product with acne-fighting retinol, such as our almighty Clear Out, here are some common skincare ingredients to be more mindful of:

Benzoyl Peroxide

As one of the most popular products out there for clearing acne, benzoyl peroxide is effective at killing the pimple-causing P. acnes bacteria and shedding dead skin cells. It’s pretty strong stuff, but when combined with retinol, the actives can end up deactivating each other, making them less effective.

What to do: Choose one. There’s no need to have both titans in your routine. But if you’d like to, try using benzoyl peroxide in the morning and retinol at night.


AHAs

AHAs, such as glycolic acid and lactic acid, work by exfoliating the outermost layer of your skin. While retinol and AHA can work well together in a skincare routine, there’s also a chance for them to irritate skin, leaving it red, stinging, burning, and flaking. This is especially a concern if you have sensitive skin.

What to do: Experiment with how your skin reacts to these actives by starting with one of them first. If there’s no irritation, you can start introducing the other active into your routine. Still, it’s best to space these ingredients out. Consider applying AHA in the morning (followed by your sunscreen) and retinol at night.


BHAs

Similar to AHAs, BHAs such as salicylic acid are excellent exfoliants. BHAs go deep into the pores to break down dead skin cells and oil, which makes them great additions to a routine for acne-prone skin. But, they can also be drying. Depending on the concentration, when used together with retinol, there's a risk of irritation.

What to do: Use BHAs in the morning and retinol at night.

Note: While Balancing Cleanser, our recommended cleanser for those with oily skin, is formulated with glycolic acid and salicylic acid to break down sebum, it is perfectly safe to use with Clear Out every night. This is because we’ve added botanicals to keep the cleanser effective yet gentle to skin. In fact, it is one of the most gentle AHA + BHA washes out there.


Vitamin C

Vitamin C is a celebrated antioxidant that protects us from the villains out to attack our skin, such as UV rays and pollution. But when mixed with retinol, some might experience irritation and sensitivity.

What to do: Again, this does not mean you need to cut vitamin C out of your routine completely. Simply apply your vitamin C product in the day and use retinol at night.


More Retinol

Retinol, and especially the medical-grade retinol in Clear Out, is already a powerful active. So there’s no need to use it twice in your routine. By doing so, you could even risk irritation.

What to do: Choose one retinol-powered product and you should be good to go!

At the end of day, it’s best to listen to your skin. Your skincare routine should be personal to you so if you find that layering on these potentially clashing actives works for you, go ahead!


Want to be sure your current routine is A-OK for your skin?

Send any questions you have our way via Messenger chat or Instagram DM (@clearlybasics)!

Disclaimer: This article should not be interpreted as personal medical advice. For medical-related matters, please consult your dermatologist.

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Angela Milliken-Tull
Skin Type: Combination
Comments: Does not appear to cause any problems if suffering from rosacea. Too early to say if it improves this condtion.
After 4 decades of acne have I found a soloution?

I am a week into using Clear Out and so far everything I expected to happen has taken place. With 4 decades of mild but persistent acne I'm certainly committed to giving this a few months to (hopefully) work it's magic. So far I can almost see my pores clearing. This does mean, as I expected more spots appearing but if this means they are finally leaving than lurking under my skin to keep making an appearance every few weeks or months I'm happy with that. I also have some rosacea across my cheeks so was worried that it might become worse, however, the spots that more recently have been appearing alongside the redness appear to be reacting in the same way as other acne type spots. I experienced a little dryness around my eye sockets as I had applied too much product in this area but within a few days this disappeared. It's early days but I'm feeling hopeful and positive and an acne free middle age is certainly very welcome! I am now considering purchasing additional products for cleaning and brown patch treatment. Will update my journey in a couple of months.

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All I can say is wow

Got all the acne products on a whim and they did not disappoint! I have noticed such a difference in the texture of my skin. I have tried so many acne products and felt like nothing was working. The clearly basics range has lasted me soooooo long and I saw results in just 3 weeks! Really happy with my experience, I would highly recommend those with acne to try this brand. Love it!

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Adult acne is a new thing for me- I’ve had clear skin growing up so the outbreaks were very stressful! I did everything and anything I could, from watching YouTube reviews, trying out cult products to professional advice, but nothing quite did the job. So how the power duo panned out for me was definitely a pleasant (-ly hugeeee) surprise. I do acknowledge that my acne challenges are not on the extremely severe end, but I must say, emotionally the positive outcome of using both the power duo encouraged me to wear my skin as it is again. It’s really worthwhile trying as it is also a no fuss duo; hence the currently gild of my staple skincare products.

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The entire Clearly Basics product line is the only one that has cleared my skin. I tried any product you can think of including doctor prescribed medication and ointment and nothing worked. After having acne for over 15 years I am so happy to have clear, radiant skin!

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Stephanie A.

I am a Nurse and my hormonal acne has really escalated since having to wear the N92 masks daily. Since using the Clearly power duo, I have noticed the outbreaks on my cheeks (where the masks are really tight) are less frequent, and when they do happen,are much less
severe.

I have maybe seen some improvement but nothing amazing yet. Have used the product as instructed, religiously. Will try another bottle and stick to it for a few more months.

I love all of clearly basics! They made my confidence rise because I finally feel comfortable without makeup.
This cleanser is amazing 👏
My skin doesn't feel tight afterwards and now I don't get that mid day shine near as bad.

I love everything from clearly basics! It totally changed my life by clearing my acne. Now they have a new sunscreen and it's great.
It doesn't have a smell or leave your face white or greasy. Best of all it doesn't cause breakouts!

The products are just amazing!! My results in 4 months of using clear out extra strength!!

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Fahrin M.

Been using clearly basics for 3 months now and this is the best results I have seen with any skin care line I have tried for acne. I have converted all my products to clearlybasics and feel a sense of hope after discovering them!

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Sophie C.

Love this product 👏🏽

Works really well! Enjoy using this face wash, never stings or dries out my acne prone skin !

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Clear Out*
Emma S.

Worked really well in quite a short amount of time! I now see long lasting results, my skin is healthy and my acne is finally under control! The first product I have tried which works and is actually affordable!

I struggled with lots of painful cystic acne so tried the clear out product. Found by the end of the first bottle a lot of the smaller spots were not coming back and the more painful larger ones were coming back less inflamed. I was happy with the results from the first bottle so I ordered another, this is halfway through the second bottle and can see most of the acne on my cheeks has gone! I still get cystic acne in the T area but it is much less painful than before. Definitely recommend, but takes time to see real results.

Clearly Basics has been an absolute life saver! Not an over night miracle, be patient and stick with it, amazing products

I saw a huge reduction in new pimples and any new pimples scars healed and disappeared a lot quicker

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Anne F.

I have struggled with acne since I was 12 years old. All through my teenage and adult life my skin has been unpredictable and the breakouts have been constant and so frustrating. I’ve tried everything you could imagine but nothing worked reliably. Clear Out and lighten up have been a total game changer for me and I couldn’t be happier with the results

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Sinead C.

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I already use CB balancing cleanser and clear out extra strength, two years ago my skin was spotty, blackheads, raw and very visible. I wondered if the TLC would make a difference in my routine but it has, a glow and radiance I didn’t expect. This is no filter I’ve just woke up. I turned 50 this year the clearly basics range is also an amazing anti ageing tool!

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I suffered with acne for years, and when I finally learned to stop the acne I was left with red and brown scars and hyperpigmentation. But I started using the clearly basics Lighten up cream and Dark mark defends, followed by the moisturiser, and I saw a dramatic difference within days! My scars have lightened so much and most of them are gone. I find this moisturiser is also very hydrating but not greasy, it is absorbed into my skin effortlessly, and it wears beautifully under my makeup. I've now been using the products for 6 months and will continue to use it!

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Laura S.

This stuff changed my life!!!!
After reading the reviews I never thought it would work for me in the same way as it had for other people, as my skin was so bad and cystic. But after just a few months of using this and cutting down on dairy, my skin was 10 times better!
I’m still religiously using the Power Duo and don’t think I’ll ever stop 😊

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Leah N.

It's such a relief to finally have found something that works. I've had acne since I was around 11 and like most people, I tried so many different products and 'hacks' to try and get rid of the spots but nothing really helped.
I was hesitant to try clear out because of the price but I was reassured by the money back guarantee.
To be honest, the purging process they warn about was pretty severe for me. Mine lasted for the entire first bottle and I was so ready to give up. I contacted customer service and they offered me a refund or 50% off my next bottle, reassuring me it would be worth sticking with it. I agreed to persevere and I'm so glad I did! About half way through the next bottle I really noticed improvements and by the end, my skin was the clearest it had ever been. I've completely stopped having breakouts and only occasionally get a spot or two during my cycle. Overall my skin is smoother and I have much less redness and a more even skin tone. I keep using clear out nightly to maintain my nice new skin and I'll happily keep buying it knowing how well it works for me!

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Mandy R.

After a few weeks the results were already visible (right photo). Now the red spots are also less visible!!

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