Can You Use Glycolic Acid and Retinol Together?

Can You Use Glycolic Acid and Retinol Together? - Colleen Rothschild Beauty
glycolic acid and retinol

When it comes to treating and preventing the signs of aging, glycolic acid and retinol are two of the most effective ingredients on the market. But what exactly do these powerhouse ingredients do? Keep reading to learn more about glycolic acid and retinol. Plus, I’ll tell you the right way to incorporate them in your skincare routine (hint: they shouldn’t be applied together!).

What is Glycolic Acid?

Glycolic acid is a type of alpha-hydroxy acid (AHA) derived from sugar cane. Glycolic acid is a chemical exfoliator that gently dissolves the bonds between dead skin cells, allowing them to slough off the skin’s surface. The result? Smoother, more glowing skin. Glycolic acid can help to reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, fade hyperpigmentation, and eliminate breakouts.

I love glycolic acid because it provides all the benefits of a physical exfoliator (like a scrub) without stripping away moisture or causing microtears on the skin’s surface. And by removing dead skin cells, glycolic acid allows better penetration of other skincare ingredients. That means that your other skincare products will actually be more effective if you incorporate glycolic acid into your skincare routine.

Most skin types can benefit from using some sort of alpha-hydroxy acid product, like our Glycolic Acid Peel Pads with Blue Agave. This spa-strength treatment dissolves skin-clogging dirt, debris, and excess sebum for a fresh, even complexion.

Glycolic Acid vs. Retinol

Like glycolic acid, retinol is a powerful anti-aging ingredient. So what’s the difference between glycolic acid and retinol? Retinol is a derivative of vitamin A that encourages skin cell turnover and boosts collagen production. Like glycolic acid, retinol can improve the appearance of fine lines, wrinkles, hyperpigmentation, and acne.

However, retinol does not help to remove dead, dull skin. When using retinol, it’s also important to exfoliate regularly to reap the maximum results (more on that later).

How to Incorporate Glycolic Acid and Retinol Into Your Skincare Routine

Here’s where things get tricky. While glycolic acid and retinol are effective actives for any anti-aging skincare routine, you should never use them at the same time. Trust us, using both together is a recipe for irritation.

One option is to use either glycolic acid or retinol in your skincare routine. Glycolic acid is the more gentle ingredient. So if you’ve never used any actives in your skincare routine or you’re in your 20s, start with glycolic acid. If you are in your 30s or older, you can opt for retinol instead.

The other option is to alternate using the ingredients. For example, use Glycolic Acid Peel Pads with Blue Agave two to three evenings per week, then use Retinol Supreme Night Oil on the other nights. This method has some serious benefits. Since retinol increases skin cell turnover, you’ll actually need to step up your exfoliation game to buff away the additional dead skin. Glycolic acid can provide the perfect solution, provided that you don’t use the ingredients at the same time.

To avoid irritation, use either glycolic acid or retinol for several weeks. After your skin has adjusted, slowly add the second ingredient to your routine.

Both glycolic acid and retinol increase your skin’s sensitivity to the sun. So make sure you use a high-quality sunscreen Triple Defense Sunscreen Broad-Spectrum SPF 40 every day while using these products. Our Triple Defense Sunscreen provides potent broad-spectrum protection but feels positively weightless on the skin.

Have you tried glycolic acid or retinol? What were your results? Let me know in the comment section!



  • Tammie Adams on

    I used the retinol face oil and kept using it for about three weeks. It made my face so dry and wrinkles became more pronounced. I was exfoliating and using moisturizers as well. It just wasn’t for me. However, the retinol eye serum, and all the other products have been fabulous!

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