Can You Use Retinol With AHA?

Can You Use Retinol With AHA?

So, you’re new to all thing’s skincare, or maybe you’ve decided to up the ante when it comes to your already established routine. Either way, you have no doubt already stumbled across the likes of retinol and AHA. You understand that adding both into your daily routine will take your skin clarity to the next level, the question is, can you use retinol with AHA? That is exactly what we’ll be investigating it today’s blog post. 

If you are still wanting to know a little more about both ingredients and their benefits, I’ll share with you some links below to our dedicated blog posts. 

What is retinol and what are its skincare benefits?

What are AHAs and what do they do for the skin?

Now, let’s dive in and find out more about using AHAs and retinol together in your daily skincare routine.

What goes on first AHA or retinol?

This is very much dependant on which product formula these ingredients come in. There is a basic skin rule that involves applying your skincare products in the correct order, starting with the thinnest consistency, and moving up to a thicker consistency. By doing this you are ensuring that each active ingredient can penetrate the skin and get to work without having to compete against a physical barrier caused by a thick product applied first.

Retinol is often formulated in products that are usually applied towards the end of your routine, such as oils, serums, and moisturisers. AHAs, such as glycolic acid are often found in many products with the most popular being cleansers and toners, meaning they will be the first to be applied on the skin before retinol.

Is AHA the same as retinol?

No AHA and retinol are not the same. This confusion may be a result of the misconception that retinol exfoliants the skin, when in fact, it increases the skin cell turn over cycle resulting in new skin cells making their way to the surface quicker. AHAs, also known as alpha hydroxy acids, such as glycolic acid and lactic acid are chemical exfoliants meaning they can slough away dead skin cells, bacteria, and impurities that can build-up on the skin surface. You’ll also find that retinol and AHAs work on different areas of the skin, with retinol penetrating the lower layers of the skin more effectively than AHAs.

Can you use retinol and glycolic acid together?

Yes and no, you can use retinol and glycolic acid together but should be applied during different times of the day. As retinol is sensitive to UV light and becomes useless when exposed to sunlight, it is best to apply it in the evening. This therefore means you can use your glycolic acid product during your morning routine. By applying these ingredients in separate formulations you’ll reap the rewards of the plethora of skin benefits they provide, whilst by-passing any increased skin sensitivity or irritation.

Before trying any new skincare ingredients or products it is best to perform a patch test for 24 hours. Apply a 10p size about of the product on the inside of your forearm, leave the product there overnight and if there is no sign of irritation in the morning, your skin is happy and ready for you to apply it to the face.

Can I use AHA and retinol together?

Yes, but with caution and ensuring you are applying it during the correct time of day. Many of us are unfamiliar about the fact that the pH levels of the skin play a vital role in ensuring the skin barrier remains healthy and happy. When you apply skincare products that contain different pH levels an imbalance occurs which can often lead to flare-up in reaction or skin reaction. Therefore, there should always be at least 30 minutes in between applications when using an AHA and retinol. If you have a skin that can be slightly temperamental you should alternate the time of day to apply AHA formula followed with your retinol product in the evening.

I would strongly advise against using AHA and retinol together as this will lead to the skin becoming stripped of oil and become dry, tight, uncomfortable, and prone to suffering from more skin damage when exposed to free radical, such as UV rays, pollution, central heating, and harsh weather conditions. If you have any concerns with your products, consult with your GP or dermatologist for peace of mind.

Does retinol go on before or after serum?

As I have already mentioned, this really depends on the product formulation your retinol is blended in to. You’ll often find that retinol is found in face oils, serums, and moisturisers which are applied towards the end of your routine. Serums are lightweight and have a thinner consistency which tend to work in the lower layers of the skin. Many find that applying 2 serums containing complimentary ingredients before a thicker moisturiser deliver impressive results.

When should you apply retinol?

You should apply retinol at the end of your evening skincare routine, this will avoid the retinol from losing its potency as it won’t be exposed to sun light. You’ll find retinol is formulated in products, such as serums and moisturisers which remain on the skin for a longer period compared to cleansers that are rinsed off. By applying retinol in the evening, you are allowing it to receive the best opportunity to work undisturbed on the skin whilst you catch up on your beauty sleep. To counteract the common drying effects of retinol I would also recommend you use a serum enriched in hyaluronic acid. The humectant traits of this clever ingredient will draw moisture into the skin and lock it into skin keeping it healthy and plumped all day.

I hope that today we have answered some of the questions you have about whether you can use retinol with AHA. If you have any further skincare questions you can come and find me over on Procoal’s Instagram, look forward to seeing you there!


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