Can You Use Glycolic Acid with Retinol?

Can You Use Glycolic Acid with Retinol?

Skincare routines have always been a fascinating realm filled with an array of ingredients, each promising rejuvenation and radiance. Two standout ingredients that have garnered significant attention over the years are glycolic acid and retinol. While both are effective on their own, many wonder, can you use glycolic acid with retinol?

In this article, we’ll delve into the depths of both these wonder ingredients and discover whether they can be allies in your skincare regimen. After reading, you’ll stop wondering: can I use glycolic acid with retinol?

You may also wonder, can you use retinol while breastfeeding? We shared our guidance in this article:

Can You Use Retinol While Breastfeeding?

Understanding the Basics

Before jumping into the intricacies, let’s understand these power-packed ingredients individually.

Glycolic Acid: The AHA Star

Glycolic acid, a type of alpha hydroxy acid (AHA), is naturally found in sugar cane. It’s renowned for its exfoliating properties, helping to shed dead skin cells and revealing brighter, younger-looking skin beneath.


  • Cleansing and Exfoliation: It promotes the sloughing away of dead skin cells.
  • Improved Texture: By stimulating cell turnover, it smoothens the skin’s surface.
  • Boosted Collagen Production: Studies suggest it can promote collagen synthesis, which reduces signs of aging1.

Retinol: Vitamin A’s Skincare Form

Retinol is a derivative of vitamin A and is loved for its anti-aging and skin-renewing properties.


  • Wrinkle Reduction: Retinol increases collagen production and can diminish the appearance of fine lines2.
  • Pore Minimization: It helps unclog pores and reduces their appearance.
  • Texture and Tone: Retinol improves uneven skin tone and rough texture.

The Big Question: Can I Use Glycolic Acid with Retinol?

Pairing these two ingredients can either give you enhanced results or lead to over-irritation. Here’s what you need to know about the question, can you use glycolic acid with retinol?

The Potential Benefits

  • Amplified Results: Using both ingredients may yield better results in terms of skin renewal and anti-aging.
  • Accelerated Cell Turnover: While retinol stimulates skin cell turnover from below, glycolic acid exfoliates the surface.

The Cautions

  • Irritation: Both ingredients are potent exfoliators. Using them simultaneously can increase the risk of irritation, especially for sensitive skin3.
  • Photosensitivity: Both retinol and glycolic acid make the skin more susceptible to sun damage. Adequate sun protection is crucial.

How to Use Glycolic Acid and Retinol Together, Safely

If you’re intrigued by the potential benefits of this power duo, here are some guidelines to combine them without risking your skin’s health.

Gradual Product Introduction

Introduce one product at a time. For example, if you’re already using retinol, add glycolic acid gradually and observe how your skin reacts.

Alternate Nights

Instead of layering them, use glycolic acid and retinol on alternate nights. This minimizes potential irritation while still reaping the benefits of both.

Buffering Technique

Apply a moisturizer before using the acids. This acts as a barrier, reducing the immediate impact on the skin.

Always SPF

Ensure you’re consistent with your sun protection. Both ingredients increase photosensitivity, making SPF indispensable.


To answer the pressing question, “Can you use glycolic acid with retinol?” – Yes, you can, but with caution. Both ingredients, while immensely beneficial, can be potent and potentially irritating when combined. Always consult with your dermatologist before making any significant changes to your skincare routine.


  1. Smith, W. P. (1996). Epidermal and dermal effects of topical lactic acid. Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, 35(3), 388-391.
  2. Mukherjee, S., Date, A., Patravale, V., Korting, H. C., Roeder, A., & Weindl, G. (2006). Retinoids in the treatment of skin aging: an overview of clinical efficacy and safety. Clinical Interventions in Aging, 1(4), 327.
  3. Ebling, F. J. (1992). Aging of the skin. In Textbook of Dermatology (pp. 2307-2328). Blackwell Scientific Publications.


Disclaimer: This article is intended for informational purposes only and should not be construed as medical advice. Always consult with a qualified healthcare provider for medical advice and treatment.


Hopefully this article was helpful in your skincare journey.  Welcome to Divine Dermatology, PLLC, your beacon for skin care in St. Petersburg, Florida. Under the skilled guidance of Carol Sims-Robertson, MD, our office celebrates all skin types and ages, curating personalized treatments that enhance your natural beauty.

From teens battling acne to adults seeking anti-aging remedies, we offer innovative solutions that cater to every person’s unique needs. At Divine Dermatology, PLLC, we believe in using our expertise so beauty transcends age and skin type. Trust us to transform your skin, elevating your confidence, and revealing the most beautiful you. 

Click here to Schedule your Free Skin Evaluation Today or call us at (727) 528-0321. Embrace the Divine Dermatology difference – where your path to beauty begins.