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Can too many products be harmful to your skin?

Korean beauty has brought amazing new products into our peripheral to give us the soft, dewy skin we all love. With that, though, also came the rise of the multi-step skincare routine. When added together correctly, a multi-step skincare routine can do wonders for your skin, but it’s a little more complicated than throwing a few random products together. It’s essential to check if the products in your skincare routine work well together, so you’re not doing more harm than good. With so many options out there, knowing what products work well together and what products don’t is easier said than done. Don’t fret, though; we’re here to help you decipher the best way to build an effective skincare routine!

What are the main steps to a skincare routine?

For any skincare routine, the necessary steps include cleansing, toning/treating (depending on the needs of your skin), moisturizing, and SPF protection.


Cleansing removes environmental toxins, dirt, excess oil, and bacteria from the surface of your skin. All of those can lead to breakouts, skin dullness, and skin aging.


This step is crucial if you have acne or acne-prone skin. Toners balance your skin and provide an extra level of cleansing to unclog pores. Use a FDA-approved acne treatment if you have current or regular breakouts to unclog pores, reduce inflammation, lower sebum production, and kill acne-causing bacteria.


Moisturizers lock in hydration and support the skin barrier function. If your skin becomes too dry or damaged, the skin barrier weakens, causing redness and irritation. Lack of moisture in the skin also gives an aged and dull appearance.

SPF protection (during the day)

A broad-spectrum sunscreen will protect your skin from harmful UV rays that cause premature aging, dark spots, and cancer.

Optional additions to add into your skincare routine

After you have the core products for your skincare routine, there are many add-on products that you can use to address additional skin concerns you have.


Serums are water-based products that contain a rich set of ingredients that quickly absorb into the skin. Serums address specific concerns like dark spots, aging, or hydration. Apply your serum after cleansing and toning/treating, but before moisturizing.

Face oils

Like serums, face oils can be added to your skincare routine to address specific skin concerns and add a boost of hydration. Since oils do not penetrate the skin as well as serums, apply them following your moisturizer to lock in hydration.


Chemical exfoliants work by breaking the bonds between skin cells to exfoliate the top layers of your skin. This step is essential for anyone that has oily or acne-prone skin to prevent clogged pores. Exfoliants contain salicylic acid, lactic acid, or glycolic acid and can be used daily or weekly, depending on the concentration. Salicylic acid is recommended for acne or acne-prone skin since it can penetrate deep into pores, while glycolic acid and lactic acid remain on the surface of the skin and are better for addressing skin dullness and texture.

Anti-aging products

Anti-aging products are meant to reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles and improve skin texture and radiance. Common anti-aging ingredients include retinoids, vitamin C, hydroxy acids, Coenzyme Q10, peptides, and niacinamide.

Products to NOT combine
More than one acne treatment

When dealing with breakouts, your skin tends to be more sensitive, inflamed, and even painful. Since most acne treatments work as exfoliants, combining more than one acne treatment can further irritate and inflame the skin. Only use one treatment at a time, consistently and as directed for at least eight weeks to see results.

Retinol with acne treatments

When used in excess, retinol and acne treatments like salicylic acid or benzoyl peroxide can lead to excessive drying, redness, and irritation. If you want to incorporate both products into your skincare routine, we recommend using your acne treatment in the morning and applying your retinol at night.

Vitamin C with retinol or benzoyl peroxide

Benzoyl peroxide will oxidize vitamin C and negate its effects. Retinol and vitamin C work best at differing pH values and are best used separately (i.e. vitamin C in the morning and retinol in the evening). Other exfoliants like lactic acid, glycolic acid, and salicylic acid work best at a lower pH and can be combined with vitamin C.

Salicylic acid with AHA’s (lactic acid, glycolic acid)

Different exfoliants like salicylic acid, lactic acid, and glycolic acid should not be combined, especially at higher concentrations. Exfoliating too much can cause dryness, redness, and irritation, worsening acne. 

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