5 Synergistic Ingredient Pairings to Level Up Your Skincare Routine

Active ingredients are the MVP of any skincare formula, where they deliver visible results and target your concerns, whatever they might be. And these days, it’s possible to make them even *more* powerful with the help of certain ingredients, which can help them work better and prevent them from breaking down — and that’s just the short version.

We’re not talking about pairings that simply work well together, like the power couples we’ve covered before (such as avocado and retinol). Rather, these synergistic ingredient combinations work together to deliver results that are even greater than the combined effects of their separate actions. For instance, just vitamin C and just vitamin E — two OG ingredients that absolutely belong together — deliver way more benefits when in the same formula than they ever would in two separate serums cocktailed together. It’s a rare advantage to find it but when you do, it’s worth incorporating into your routine, stat. Here, a few of the most potent combos out there.

Vitamin C + Vitamin E + Ferulic Acid

The good vibes between vitamin C, vitamin E, and ferulic acid are well-known in the skincare realm, which is why it was a no-brainer to combine the trio in our Guava Vitamin C Dark Spot Serum. And by good vibes, we mean good: Research shows that ferulic acid can further stabilize the pairing of vitamins C and E than just E alone — important, since vitamin C is notoriously prone to breaking down when exposed to oxygen — as well as double its photoprotection.

We repeat: Ferulic acid *doubles* the amount of protection from the sun that vitamins C and E can provide. That’s kind of a big deal, seeing as sun exposure is responsible for everything from fine lines to dark spots. (That doesn’t mean you should skip your sunscreen though — scroll on to learn why that is.)

Vitamin C + Sunscreen

While the combo of vitamins C and E and ferulic acid are a protective powerhouse against sun damage, they also have a synergistic effect when paired with humble sunscreen. Sunscreen is the OG defender against sun damage, and it gets even more powerful when it’s paired with antioxidants, such as (what else?) vitamins C and E. In fact, one study found that the pairing of sunscreen and antioxidants can reduce the formation of free radicals by 78% compared to broad-spectrum sunscreen alone. 

Vitamin C + Niacinamide

These two brightening all-stars belong together — and not just because niacinamide is one of those magical ingredients that plays nice with other ingredients. It’s also because the two target two separate pathways in the pigment production process, effectively breaking it. Vitamin C is a tyrosinase inhibitor, meaning it blocks an enzyme (tyrosinase) that’s integral to melanin formation. Niacinamide, on the other hand, blocks any melanin that manages to form from getting to the superficial skin cells. Together, they can keep discoloration from worsening — or even happening altogether.

Ceramides + Hyaluronic Acid

You might already be aware that dry skin and dehydrated skin are two different things — dry skin lacks oil, whereas dehydrated skin lacks water. Not surprisingly, then, ceramides and hyaluronic acid are peas in a pod, especially when skin starts to look lax, flaky, red, or all of the above. For starters, hyaluronic acid is clutch for drawing water into skin, since it can hold up to 1000 times its weight in water.

But it can’t hang onto that water forever, which is where those oils come in via ceramides. Ceramides are lipids, a class of molecules that include oils and fats, that are naturally found in the skin barrier, where they help protect against external aggressors and keep water sealed into the skin. When you combine the two, your skin not only gets water, but also better retains it, which is why we recommend double-seruming with Plum Plump Hyaluronic Serum and Avocado Ceramide Recovery Serum. It’ll be key as we head into the dry, dull winter months. 

Ceramides + Fatty Acids + Cholesterol

Ceramides on their own are great, but they’re even better with friends. Ceramides are just one type of lipid found in the skin barrier, along with fatty acids and cholesterol. One study in the Archives of Dermatology has found that the combination of ceramides, fatty acids, and cholesterol are more effective in repairing the skin’s moisture barrier than any one or two of the ingredients on their own. (And, according to another study, the latter may even delay healing of the skin barrier.) 

Naturally, you can find all three in our Avocado Ceramide Recovery Serum. Not only does it contain those namesake ceramides, as the name implies, but it pairs them with cholesterol and avocado butter and extract, which are brimming with fatty acids. This combination is part of the reason that the formula is so effective at replenishing and fortifying the skin barrier.

Beta Hydroxy Acid + Retinol

While there’s a myth out there that BHA can inhibit the benefits of retinol — which, by the way, include speeding cell turnover to firm and brighten skin — that’s not actually the case. If anything, the BHA helps it work better by clearing the dead skin cells that could otherwise prevent the retinol from sinking into skin and working its magic.

Retinoids can also help your BHA perform better, too. Because retinol speeds up cell turnover, it minimizes the potential for dead skin cells to pile up and form a clog. With that taken care of, BHA can in turn be more effective at exfoliating skin — since it’s not busy spelunking into pores. However, BHA and retinol are a potent pair, so start slow if you’re new to it. ​​Try applying BHA in the morning and retinol at night or using them on alternating days and take it from there.

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