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Serum Cocktails: A Beginner’s Guide to Mixing Serums for Optimal Results

Can you mix serums and create a super powerful combination of face-benefitting ingredients? We reached out to a derm to find out.

Fun fact about me: I love serums! I mean, I don’t really understand why someone wouldn’t like a highly concentrated formulas meant to target any particular skin issue. But I’m also a skin care junkie, which means that I may have far too many serums in my own personal collection.
Because of my addiction, there are days when I want to mix my anti-aging serum with my brightening one or my hydrating one with an anti-aging one. In these instances, I tend to mix a few drops of different serums for a more diverse approach to treating my skin issues. Plus, it saves me some extra time in my routine.
But skin care products are all formulated in different ways which made me wonder whether or not it was actually okay to mix and match these different serums. Would it affect their performance? What about my skin? To find out I reached out to dermatologist Joshua Zeichner, the director of cosmetic & clinical research in dermatology at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City.

Is it okay to mix serums?

The short answer is yes and no. “Some products can be compounded, but not all. In fact, some ingredients like vitamin C and retinol are highly unstable and do not play nicely with other ingredients,” says Zeichner. This means that you’ll want to avoid mixing any serum with vitamin C serums, like the Cosrx Triple C Lightning Liquid.
This doesn’t mean you have to avoid cocktailing your serums completely, though. “Botanicals, skin brighteners (besides vitamin C), skin calming ingredients, and hydrators are likely OK to combine,” says Zeichner. So, while you might be bummed that you can’t cocktail your more potent serums like vitamin C, AHA/BHA or retinol, you can mix and match your other serums for a customized approach to your skin issues.
Below are some of my tried-and-true serum cocktails:

For dry skin:

My skin is usually on the dry side but the winter can make it extremely dry, so much that my normal routine just doesn’t cut it. In this case, I love to supplement my anti-aging serums with more hydrating ones so I can add an extra layer of moisture without missing out on any potent ingredients.
A great combination is the Enature Birch Juice Hydro Serum and the Goodal Keratina Anti-Aging Serum. The birch juice serum is packed with nourishing ingredients like 69% birch juice along with chamomile and plantain seed extract to calm and soften skin texture. This serum adds just enough of an extra boost to my go-to Goodal serum, which is formulated to increase the cell turnover process and rid it of excess build up, leaving skin softer and firmer. This combination will kiss dry patches goodbye while at the same time prevent signs of aging.

For oily and acne-prone skin:

Some of the best products for acneic skin are usually actives like vitamin C, AHA/BHA or retinol, which are the ones we need to avoid mixing, but there are tons of other effective non-active serums that can be mixed to your heart’s content. Look for serums that are formulated for acne-prone skin since they will help to regulate oil production while also treating and preventing acne.
The Neogen Pore Refine Serum does just that since it includes green tea extract and centella asiatica to calm and repair skin. But when it comes to acne-prone skin, you usually want to do two things: treat acne and brighten scars. While we can’t mix vitamin C, there are tons of other brightening products that you can mix in, like the Hanskin Bio Prism Brightening Serum. This serum contains multiple plant extracts, including dolwoe extract that helps prevent pigmentation and camu-camu extract, a brightening powerhouse ingredient that contains 60 times more vitamin C than a lemon. Since this is a natural derivative of vitamin C, it’s okay to mix it with other serums. This powerful combination will help to fight acne and brighten pigmentation all at once.

For sensitive skin:

Sensitive skin tends to be extremely reactive, making calming serums the go-to as they help to soothe skin and keep redness at bay. Given how reactive sensitive skin can be, sometimes it’s a hassle to find serums that are compatible with it. But this doesn’t mean you can’t mix and match your serums! “Hyaluronic acid hydrates and protects the skin, ensuring the skin barrier remains healthy even if you are applying potentially irritating ingredients like retinol or vitamin C,” says Zeichner.
The Klairs Rich Moist Soothing Serum is packed with moisturizing hyaluronic acid, along with centella asiatica to calm, and licorice root extract to brighten. This serum would go well with the nourishing Neogen White Truffle In Oil Drop. They can work together to soothe the skin while reinforcing its natural barrier, protecting it from potential environmental stressors. The Neogen serum is enriched with white truffle oil, niacinamide and hyaluronic acid which work together to strengthen damaged skin and fight signs of aging.

Bottom line:

Cocktailing your serums is an easy and fun way to cut down your routine as well as customize it to fight the skin concerns you’re looking to alleviate. Just make sure to avoid mixing more volatile ingredients like vitamin C, AHA/BHAs, and retinol .

+What do you think? Can you mix serums? if so, what are your favorite serum combinations? Let us know in the comments below!

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