Retinol, a derivative of vitamin A, is a highly efficacious skincare ingredient used across a range of products. Known for its ability to help minimise signs of ageing, accelerate skin cell renewal, stimulate collagen synthesis and encourage skin firnmess, retinol can be beneficial for all skin types.
Whilst retinol is effective on its own, it also pairs well with many other ingredients. Knowing which skincare ingredients to combine and avoid mixing with retinol is essential to achieving the most out of your routine.
This guide covers how retinol works, which ingredients to pair vs avoid and how to apply retinol in a skincare routine to promote healthy-looking, radiant skin.
How Retinol works?
Retinol assists the cellular turnover in skin – the biological process of shedding dead skin cells and regenerating healthy new ones. It also helps stimulate collagen production, manages breakouts, tightens skin and evens out pigmentation.
Retinol is a type of retinoid – but what’s the difference? Retinol and retinoids deliver similar benefits, but the rate at which you’ll see improvements will differ. Retinol is used in over-the-counter products due to its lower concentration of retinoic acid. It’s less intense, less sensitising and works gradually. In contrast, retinoids are fast-acting forms of retinoic acid – the most potent form of vitamin A.
Retinol and other skincare ingredients
Retinol is often combined with other ingredients like niacinamide and hyaluronic acid to hydrate and brighten the skin. Before pairing these ingredients with retinol, it is helpful to understand how they compare.
Retinol vs Niacinamide
Niacinamide is another vitamin derivative – and is also known as vitamin B3. As a water-soluble vitamin it helps lock in moisture to minimise the impact of environmental stressors on the skin.
With such supportive benefits, can you use niacinamide with retinol? The answer is yes – vitamin B3 helps support the skin’s barrier, which helps it to be more receptive to retinol’s anti-ageing benefits. Niacinamide can stimulate the natural production of fatty acids, which reinforces retinol’s ability to help improve the skin’s surface. Both ingredients help offset the effects from environmental stressors.
Our Retinol B3 Serum is an anti-ageing serum containing both niacinamide and pure retinol. Using this retinol serum can help benefit the appearance of fine lines, wrinkles, dark spots and uneven skin tone.
Retinol vs Hyaluronic Acid
Both ingredients support the skin barrier and visibly minimise signs of ageing – so what’s the difference between hyaluronic acid and retinol? Hyaluronic acid is a naturally occurring substance that helps keep your skin hydrated. The supportive effects of hyaluronic acid can help to make dryness or peeling associated with retinol easier to manage.
Our Hyalu B5 Serum is formulated with two pure hyaluronic acids and vitamin B5. It supports the skin’s barrier, helps to reduce the appearance of wrinkles and increases skin volume. Apply the serum to cleansed skin in the morning and/or evening after retinol, focussing on the face and neck. Apply a moisturiser after the serum.
Which ingredients shouldn’t be used with Retinol?
When using retinol, the outer layer of the skin sheds and newer skin underneath is revealed. It’s best to avoid combining retinol with other strong ingredients as the results can cause skin discomfort or sensitivity.
Retinol vs Vitamin C
As an antioxidant, vitamin C neutralises free radicals that can break down the collagen in your skin and cause visible signs of ageing. Vitamin C helps to reduce discolouration, refine skin’s texture, and visibly reduce fine lines. Since vitamin C helps protect skin from harmful UV rays, it’s best to apply it in the morning.
Retinol can increase your skin’s sensitivity to the sun, so it’s recommended to apply at night. If you’d like to use both ingredients, apply them separately at morning or night. Our Pure Vitamin C Serum is an anti-ageing serum formulated with vitamin C and salicylic acid. It helps target wrinkles, loss of radiance and uneven skin texture.
Retinol vs Glycolic Acid
Glycolic acid breaks the bonds between dead skin cells, making skin smoother and more even whilst reducing dryness. This AHA (alpha-hydroxy acid) helps visibly reduce debris like excess oil and bacteria, whereas retinol stimulates cell regeneration and collagen production. It’s best to use glycolic acid and retinol in separate skincare routines or on alternating evenings, as combining the two may lead to a reaction.
Our Effaclar Salicylic Acid Serum is formulated with glycolic acid to help exfoliate, refine and unclog pores, to visibly reduce breakouts, and minimise the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles.
How to apply Retinol in a skincare routine?
How you apply retinol can certainly affect its results. Because retinol can cause skin to dry out, it’s best to start slowly with products that have a low concentration and use alongside nourishing moisturisers. See how your skin responds to the product before moving to higher concentrations. After cleansing at night, wait until your skin is completely dry.
Take a pea-size amount of retinol and apply with your fingertips in upward and outward motions. Remember to apply sunscreen the morning after, as retinol makes skin more sensitive to UV radiation.
Discover the benefits of Serum Routines: For Different Skin Needs next.