Glycolic acid vs retinol

Glycolic acid vs retinol: what to choose?

Both glycolic acid and retinol are ingredients that have both proven to be highly effective in cosmetics.

If used correctly, they are both able to reduce wrinkles, age spots, blood conditions and other skin problems.

What to choose and what is the difference between them?

To answer this question, let’s first look at what each of these substances are.


Glycolic acid


is alpha-hydroxylic acid (AHA). It belongs to fruit acids and is found in green grapes and sugar cane.


glycolic acid and retinol


In addition to plant origin, synthetic glycolic acid is also used in cosmetology.

In concentration of up to 10% is included in the means of home care: lotions, tonics, face creams. In higher concentration is used in professional peels.


Glycolic acid acne products


Applied to the skin, glycolic acid destroys the upper dead cells of the epidermis and triggers the process of exfoliation thereby updating it.

Unlike other AHA acids, glycolic acid has a small molecular mass and low acidity. This gives it a high penetrating ability and the ability to quickly trigger a response. Thanks to this, the skin is renewed in just a few days. Getting into the skin, acid molecules force it to hastily get rid of old cells and get new.

As a result:

  • The skin relief is aligned;
  • the traces of the post-acne and the scars are smoothed;
  • Pores narrow;
  • The skin becomes lighter;
  • There is a radiance.


How to get rid of peeling skin on face fast
Glycolic acid peels skin on face fast


Your cosmetologist can help you how to get rid of peeling skin on face fast using glycolic acid. And also glycolic acid acne products are very helpful for oily and problem skin.

The particularly bright effect is observed in age and oily skin, which for various reasons differ excessive density of the layer, and therefore, slow mechanism of cellular renewal. It has to be stimulated artificially, and glycolic acid copes with it perfectly.




Retinol is part of the retinoid group, belongs to the derivatives of vitamin A. It is one of the few anti-aging components with proven effectiveness. And rightly called vitamin beauty.


retinol or glycolic acid
Retinol capsules


It also helps to clean pores, disappear pigment spots, thicken skin tissue, better blood cell nutrition – all of which makes the complexion look better and gives a rested look.


Funds with retinol:

  • They stimulate the formation of collagen and elastin. This reduces the number and depth of wrinkles, increases the elasticity and elasticity of the skin;
  • Help to align the skin tone, eliminate pigmentation;
  • Improve the condition of the problem skin;
  • The most shown to people after 30 years at the appearance of the first signs of aging.


retinol or glycolic acid
Cosmetics with retinol


Both retinol and glycolic acid perform such functions:

  • Care for oily and problematic skin;
  • acne and post-acne treatment;
  • Caring for mature and age-related skin;
  • Alignment of the tone and relief of the skin;
  • skin renewal and pigmentation lightening.


What to choose: retinol or glycolic acid?


Glycolic acid may be more suitable for signs of premature aging caused by external factors or lifestyle: photoaging (from excessive exposure to sunlight), alcohol consumption, smoking, poor nutrition, and so on.

Retinol is preferable to eliminate the inevitable age changes, in which the skin thins over the years, becomes more fragile and less elastic. These changes are caused by the loss of collagen and elastin, and retinol just stimulates their production. You can read more about retinol facial skincare here.

But each of us has an individual picture and can be present different factors of aging, so your best counselor is a beautician or dermatologist.


Is it possible to combine retinol and glycolic acid?


There is an opinion that retinol with acids can not be combined. Why? Let’s get a look.

  1. Retinol exfoliates and can cause redness, dryness and irritation. Add acid – another exfoliant – too much strain on the skin.  This is a myth because retinol is not an exfoliate.
  1. Acids “deactivate” retinol.

This view is based on the assumption that acids in external applications reduce the pH of the skin. And with pH below 5.5, a certain enzyme that turns retinol in the skin into tretinoin (an active form of vitamin A) ceases to work.

It’s also a myth.

Because retinol is converted into tretinoin in many ways and different enzymes are involved in this process.  Also, the skin’s natural healthy pH is acidic, from 4.7 to 5.7, and multiple studies confirm that retinol applied externally penetrates and works with acid pH. Cosmetic retinol is a solid substance that does not contain water and dissolves in oil-based. You can install pH only in a water solution. No water, no pH.


Therefore, the answer to the question: ” Can you use glycolic acid and retinol together?” is

“Yes. Retinol and glycolic acid can be combined. But with great care.”

To do this without harming the skin,

follow the rules:

  1. Start with low concentrations;
  2. Add new tools gradually;
  3. Be sure to use SPF 30, and if you are prone to pigmentation – from 50 during the entire course of the use of retinol and glycolic acid;
  4. Take a course in the autumn and winter;
  5. Carefully monitor the skin’s reaction. Retinol can cause dryness, redness, and irritation. If you notice even the slightest negative reaction – take a break;
  6. If there is already any side effect from retinol, then you can not use acid. This will exacerbate the irritation. You can try it later when the skin adapts;
  7. If you use high-concentration retinoids prescribed by a dermatologist, consult your doctor in advance.


Glycolic acid vs retinol
Glycolic acid and retinol

3 Schemes combining cosmetics with glycolic acid and retinol:

  1. Use cosmetics with acids in the morning, and cream with retinol – in the evening.
  2. Mask, light peeling, or lotion with acids in the evening before the remedy with retinol.
  3. Alternating – one day apply acids, the other – retinol.

Cases where the use of glycolic acid and/or retinol should be suspended:

  • Individual intolerance, allergies.
  • Redness, irritation.
  • Excessive dryness, peeling.
  • Period of solar activity (spring-summer) due to the risk of provoking hyperpigmentation;
  • In severe cuperosis, as well as skin damage, glycolic acid is not contraindicated;
  • In pregnancy, it is necessary to use with caution drugs with retinol and do not recommend products with a high content of glycolic acid (more than 10%).


If you follow the rules and precautions, then from the sharing of glycolic acid and retinol you will get such additional benefits:

  • Glycolic acid “opens the door” to retinol.  Due to the fact that the acid exfoliates layers of dead cells from the surface of the skin, retinol is easier to get inside.
  • The combination of acids and retinol enhances the action of each of them: Acids help retinol to lighten pigmentation, as well as amplifion the anti-age effect of both.

I wish you to make your skincare with glycolic acid and retinol carefully and take good results!


2 thoughts on “Glycolic acid vs retinol: what to choose?

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