What Is Skin Care Cocktailing?

If you've ever found yourself aimlessly scrolling through social media, there's a good chance you've come across a post or video on skin care cocktailing. This involves mixing several products together to shorten your routine and eliminate the step-by-step process. Time-saving as it may seem, however, board certified dermatologist and 456 Skin co-founder Dr. Carlos Charles advises against it. Keep reading to find out why.

Related: These Are the Changes Dermatologists Are Making to Their Skincare Routines in 2021

Turn Down the Cocktail

Multi-step skin care routines are par for the course these days. While some people's routines involve simple systems (cleanse, moisturize, and protect with SPF in the morning), others take pride in their lengthy 10-plus-step regimens. Whichever camp you fall into, Dr. Charles says that his patients are often looking for ways to streamline their routines without sacrificing a more-involved regimens' benefits. "So the question I'm often is asked, 'Is it okay to mix several products, and if so, how do I do it?'" he explains. In short, he says not to: "Skin care products have several ingredients that make them work well, and the active component is just one piece of the puzzle; its other additives are factors, too," he explains. "When blending products together, you run the risk of disturbing the balance of the ingredients in each product, which can potentially lead to undesired outcomes."

skin care products on white background with shadow
skin care products on white background with shadow

Sitthiphong / Getty Images

Lots of Layers

Irritation is less likely to happen when you take a layered, as opposed to a mixed, approach. "Using products that work well together is a good way to achieve your skin care goals," Dr. Charles says, noting that sticking to an effective application sequence is infinitely more impactful than blending all your serums and moisturizers.

Pairing Up

While Dr. Charles doesn't recommend mixing any products together and applying them as one, he does note that certain formulas layer particularly nicely. "Antioxidants such as vitamin C and a daily broad spectrum sunscreen layer well," he shares. "In fact, this is the morning routine for several of my patients. It is an excellent way to both protect against the deleterious effects of the sun, while also taking advantage of the antioxidant, which can help mitigate the effects of free radical damage from UV light and general environmental pollution." As for another layered combination that Dr. Charles recommends? A topical retinoid followed by a simple ceramide-rich emollient cream. "The moisturizer will help to offset any of the potential irritation that may occur as a result of the retinoid," he says.