Can You Use AHA and Retinol Together?
They’re both powerhouse ingredients but can you use AHA and retinol together? While AHAs dissolve dead cells, retinol stimulates cellular turnover. Using AHA and retinol together in your skincare routine unlocks fresher, smoother skin. The question is, should you use AHA and retinol together?
Both ingredients can treat a number of skin concerns ranging from fine lines to clogged pores and hyperpigmentation. The fact that they’re both potent skincare ingredients means you will need to be careful when using retinol and AHA together. Here’s everything you should know.
What is AHA?
AHA (alpha hydroxy acid) is a chemical exfoliant that dissolves the glue between dead skin cells on the surface of the skin. It removes the buildup of dead skin cells to reveal fresh, smooth skin while helping to unclog pores. Glycolic acid and lactic acid are the most common types of AHAs.
They work to resurface the skin, fade discoloration, and even out skin texture. They can even help prevent breakouts by keeping the pores decongested. What’s more, they’re a gentle alternative to face scrubs which tend to be too abrasive on the skin. You’ll find AHAs in cleansers, toners, serums, and masks.
What is Retinol?
Retinol is a derivative of vitamin A that works by decreasing melanin and speeding up cellular turnover. These abilities make it a highly effective ingredient at targeting sunspots and discoloration. Alongside this, retinol increases collagen production in the deeper layers of skin, helping to fade fine lines and wrinkles.
While retinol is widely known for its anti-aging abilities, it’s extremely effective at treating acne induced hyperpigmentation. By reducing pigment production in the skin and increasing cell turnover, retinol promotes a more even skin tone and texture. It’s not technically an exfoliant but it does resurface the skin. You will find it in a range of skincare products including serums, creams, and toners.
Can You Use AHA and Retinol Together?
Combining AHA and retinol is generally not recommended, as these ingredients can be irritating when used together. Both AHAs and retinol are potent exfoliating agents that work to promote skin renewal, but they do so through different mechanisms.
AHAs are water-soluble acids that primarily exfoliate the surface of the skin, helping to remove dead skin cells and improve the skin’s texture. Retinol, on the other hand, is a fat-soluble compound that works to stimulate collagen production and enhance cell turnover in the deeper layers of the skin.
When using AHA and retinol together, it can increase the risk of irritation, redness, dryness, and sensitivity. These side effects may be more pronounced for individuals with sensitive or reactive skin. For that reason, it is best to introduce these ingredients into your routine separately and gradually to allow your skin to acclimate.
The only exception is if you’re using a product that contains both AHA and retinol. Skincare products containing AHA and retinol will be formulated to ensure stability, reducing the risk of irritation.
How to Use AHA and Retinol Together
The best way to use AHA and retinol together is by applying one product in the morning and another in the evening. For example, you could start with an AHA cleanser in the morning to remove the buildup of dead skin cells. Then, in the evening, a retinol serum or cream to speed cell turnover and boost collagen production. Retinol works best at night anyway as it can enhance sun sensitivity.
If you have dry or sensitive skin, dermatologists recommend applying AHA and retinol on alternate days. Or if you’re new to these active ingredients, allow your skin to adjust by using retinol just once a week and AHA just once a week—each on different days. This way, your skin has time to adjust to each one and you can monitor your skin’s reaction to them.
Can you use AHA and retinol together? You can use them both in your skincare regimen. However, to prevent redness and irritation, introduce them slowly into your routine and avoid using them at the same time.
Both AHAs and retinol can increase your skin’s sensitivity to the sun. Always use a broad-spectrum sunscreen with at least SPF 30 during the day to protect your skin from UV rays and minimize the risk of sun-induced irritation or damage.
Best AHA Products
Ahead, we’ve rounded up the best AHA skincare products you can use either alone or with retinol formulas to achieve clear, radiant skin.
Truly’s The 3-in-1 Routine
Scrub, polish, and patch your way to irresistibly smooth, blemish-free skin. It features two potent AHAs—glycolic acid and ascorbic acid—that gently resurface and restore, leaving skin fresh and glowing. Perfect for anyone dealing with dryness, dullness, or textural issues.
Truly’s Bodne Routine
Clear away body acne in just four steps with the bestselling Bodne Bundle. This routine is designed to buff away buildup, unclog pores, and target active breakouts to leave you clearer than ever before. Formulated with a blend of AHAs, BHAs, niacinamide, and nourishing plant oils.
Best Retinol Products
Here are some of our favorite retinol treatments to help you get youthful, glowing skin from head to toe.
Truly’s Super Star Routine
Get selfie-ready in 1, 2, 3 ... You get: a facial serum, mask, and pimple patches infused with retinol and vitamin C to clarify blemishes, smooth out wrinkles, and leave skin luminous.
Truly’s For Your Boobs Routine
Perk up your pair with this dreamy, blackberry-scented duo. Powered by retinol and acai berries, the Acai Your Boobies products boost collagen, restore elasticity, and encourage cell turnover for boobs that look and feel firmer, tighter, and visibly lifted.
Can You Mix AHA and Retinol?
AHA and retinol are both powerful active ingredients that can help improve skin tone and texture. Can you use AHA and retinol together? According to dermatologists, it’s best to avoid mixing these two ingredients and using them at the same time as they may cause irritation.
To get the most out of each of these ingredients, try using them on alternate days. Unless you have sensitive skin, you can also use products that contain both AHA and retinol as these are designed to be stable and safe for the skin.
Feature photo by SHVETS production, Pexels