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Thread: Is it Safe to Mix Products?

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    Super Moderator NoDayButToday's Avatar
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    Default Is it Safe to Mix Products?

    Dear Paula,
    If I want to simplify my beauty routine, or for other reasons, I sometimes mix my products together. For example, I will mix 10% benzoyl peroxide gel with my normal moisturizer for a 2.5% anti-acne medication. Or, I add a couple drops of pure salicylic acid to a benzoyl peroxide product. Occasionally, I add some milk of magnesia to my sunscreen or to my nighttime moisturizer if I want to control oil, or I add a couple drops of glycerin if I find a product is too drying. But I'm wondering: Can I do that? I mean, can salicylic acid and benzoyl peroxide coexist in one product? Does adding something to sunscreen mess up its protection? Can that be counteracted by adding a squirt of, say, a sunscreen with SPF 50? If a toner had a good pH, and I added a couple drops of salicylic acid, would it still be stable? I haven't tried all of these yet, but am quite enjoying being a cosmetic chemist in my own bathroom.

    Lizzie, via email


    Dear Lizzie,
    Although I admire your ingenuity in thinking about cosmetics, I must advise that what you're doing is indeed affecting the stability, performance, and safety of the products you're experimenting with. The answer to the question of "Can I do that?" is yes, of course you canóbut it doesn't mean you should, or at least no more than if you were to add some lavender oil to your hair dye to reduce the ammonia-like odor. Cosmetics chemistry is as much art as it is science. Adding ingredients to finished products in an effort to create an enhanced version or to alter the original function won't necessarily blow up in your face, but you are negating the effectiveness of the very ingredients that could be helping your skin.

    For example, salicylic acid (BHA) must be in a base that has a certain pH range if it is going to exfoliate skin. Mixing it into a product with a pH above that range will not produce the results you're looking for, and may cause undue irritation. According to the chemists I spoke to, salicylic acid and benzoyl peroxide don't coexist well in the same product because they need different pH ranges for optimal effectiveness. In addition, the FDA does not permit both active ingredients in one product, which explains why no company is making a BHA/benzoyl peroxide solution (Source: Code of Federal Regulations, Title 21, Volume 5, April 1, 2005). Furthermore, how do you figure that adding a 10% benzoyl peroxide product to a moisturizer will result in a 2.5% concentration? It might, but unless you break down the formula in a lab, the final percentage is a guess, even if any benzoyl peroxide survives.

    Milk of magnesia is an effective absorbent for excess oil, but adding it to a moisturizer defeats the purpose because it also "absorbs" the oil-soluble ingredients in the moisturizer, which in turn reduces its oil-absorbing ability on your skin. Mixing an oil-absorbing agent with a moisturizer is sort of like thinking you're eating healthy if you sprinkle some flax seeds on your doughnut.

    As for adding ingredients to sunscreens, yes, doing so will disrupt the level of protection it was designed to supply. You can "counteract" this by mixing in a sunscreen with a higher SPF number, but the bottom line is that if you do so routinely, it will keep you in the dark about just how much sun protection you're getting. Adding SPF 50 to an SPF 8 product does not net SPF 58, though the protection provided is certainly better than applying an SPF 8 alone. Adding salicylic acid to a sunscreen is a problem, again because of the pH factor. Sunscreens need a pH range of 5 to 8 to be most effective. Given that salicylic acid requires a much lower pH range to be effective, adding it to a sunscreen does nothing but lower the level of protection the sunscreen should provide, and that's not good news for your skin. The only type of mixing I generally encourage is when you have a need for a richer moisturizer, perhaps due to seasonal dryness. In that case, it is fine to add a few drops of glycerin and, say, olive or jojoba oil, to your regular moisturizer. However, to avoid affecting the stability of the ingredients in the entire container of product, be sure to do the mixing in your hand, or apply the oil over the moisturizer directly onto your skin.

    Source: Paula Begoun

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    Zee
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    Default Re: Is it Safe to Mix Products?

    Paul Begoun just irritates me beyond measure. If you want to make your own private brews in hand and it isn't irritating your skin - why not?

    Really what is this woman's training? I thought she was a make up artist.
    Drive a car, drive a boat, drive a plane. What does it matter? As long as I'm drunk!
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    SVZ
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    Default Re: Is it Safe to Mix Products?

    nah what she says makes sense though, some ingredients need certain enviroments to perform well. which is why some creams work and others don't - even if they have the same active ingredients.

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    Elite Member moomies's Avatar
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    Default Re: Is it Safe to Mix Products?

    I agree with what Paula says, too. If it was all natural ingredients like making your own facial mask with bananas and avocado or something, I wouldn't be as worried about mixing things up but cosmetics have chemicals and metals in them though at lower concentration, I'd be worried about chemical reaction and possible harm/irritation it might do to your skin.

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    Default Re: Is it Safe to Mix Products?

    Also when people tend to mix their own products, they link more = better. more can lead to acid burns and adverse reactions though..

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    Elite Member Voodoo Child's Avatar
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    Default Re: Is it Safe to Mix Products?

    I tend to stick to the one line of product and that is Thalgo. It works for my olive complexion.

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    Default Followup to: Is it Safe to Mix Products?

    Dear Paula,
    I just finished reading your Dear Paula answer in today's [January 26, 2006] Beauty Bulletin to Lizzie's question about mixing products. You mention that different products require different pH levels to be effective and mixing them isn't the best idea, which makes sense. However, it leads me to a question I have had for quite some time. If I put a BHA product on and follow it with one containing benzoyl peroxide, what is that doing to their effectiveness? How long does it take for the BHA to do as much as it is going to do?

    Tonya, via email


    Dear Tonya,
    Good question! Quite a few readers contacted me with the same concern. The issue the reader (Lizzie) presented of mixing products together to create a "hybrid" product was interesting. She wanted to mix a salicylic acid product with a benzoyl peroxide product which would be a problem due to the differing pH levels required for each product to be effective. However, generally speaking, when you apply products in layers, absorption happens very quickly and the stability and effectiveness of each product should not be altered if applied within as little as 30 seconds of one another. Just a short delay between products greatly reduces the impact of various ingredient interactions so each formulation has a better chance of imparting its unique benefit.

    Sunscreen is another matter. It is a problem if you mix a sunscreen with anything else because you should never adulterate a sunscreen. Instead, you need to apply it generously and that means it has to be the last thing you apply, after everything else. Sunscreen is designed to remain on the surface layers of skin, not absorb into it. It wouldn't be a good idea to mix sunscreen with products that are meant to penetrate to have the most benefit. There are products you can mix, such as adding a few drops of oil to your moisturizer to treat very dry areas, but the combinations she presented would not be a good idea. Further, to ensure product stability, it is never a good idea to mix two separately packaged items together. If you opt to add an oil to your moisturizer, mix them together in the palm of your hand, not into the products themselves.

    One last issue: you may be wondering about applying sunscreen last and how using a foundation over that affects it. There is no question that doing so dilutes the sunscreen somewhat, but you can minimize this by lightly blending the foundation over skin rather than rubbing or wiping. You can also apply a foundation with sunscreen over your regular sunscreen to ensure what is removed during the blending process doesn't seriously degrade the amount of sun protection you're getting.

    I hope this answers your question.

    Source: Paula Begoun

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