Ion-beam sputtering (IBS) has been studied as a means for scalable, mask-less nanopatterning of surfaces. Patterning at the nanoscale has been achieved for numerous types of materials including: semiconductors, metals and insulators. Although much work has been focused on tailoring nanopatterning by systematic ion-beam parameter manipulation, limited work has addressed elucidating on the underlying mechanisms for self-organization of multi-component surfaces. In particular there has been little attention to correlate the surface chemistry variation during ion irradiation with the evolution of surface morphology and nanoscale self-organization. Moreover the role of surface impurities on patterning is not well known and characterization during the time-scale of modification remains challenging. This work summarizes an in-situ approach to characterize the evolution of surface chemistry during irradiation and its correlation to surface nanopatterning for a variety of multi-components surfaces. The work highlights the importance and role of surface impurities in nanopatterning of a surface during low-energy ion irradiation. In particular, it shows the importance of irradiation-driven mechanisms in GaSb(100) nanopatterning by low-energy ions and how the study of these systems can be impacted by oxide formation.