Stores & Services
Find a Sephora

Happening at Sephora

View all


From makeovers to personalized skincare consultations

Free Classes

Get inspired, play with products & learn new skills

Showing results for 
Search instead for 
Did you mean: 
Post in Acne-Prone Skin

All About Retinol

Starting a retinol routine can be scary. Personally, I never really knew what type of acne I had, but recently for the first time in my life I went to a dermatologist and this is what I was told. I was told I have a mixture of bacterial and hormonal acne. My acne consists of whiteheads, pustules, papules, cysts, and nodules. Before going to see a dermatologist, I would try doing my own research on acne and buy any product that I thought would work, which I should not have done. After seeing a dermatologist, I was prescribed a retinol more specifically a retinol with clindamycin and tretinoin. As I have been on my retinol journey I have seen that there are a lot of things that doctors do not tell us, like ingredients to avoid, products to use with retinol and the overall rules of retinol so I wanted to share the things that I have learned.


Rules when using retinol


1. Only use retinol at night

Retinol makes your skin much more sensitive to UV rays and sunlight. Sunlight and UV rays also decrease the efficacy of the product. 

2. Wear SPF during the day

Because retinol makes your skin more sensitive to UV rays and sunlight you are more prone to burning. Apply sunscreen with SPF 30 or higher daily.

3. Use very little

When using retinol you should only be using a pea-sized amount.

4. Store your retinol in a dark space and keep it away from sunlight.

5. Don’t over-exfoliate while using a retinol

Because retinol makes your skin more sensitive, you want to make sure you don't over-exfoliate or irritate your complexion.

6. Look at the ingredients in your other skincare products being used

There are specific things that you should not mix retinol with. If you are going to use retinol but you use products that contain ingredients that should not be mixed with retinol then you should find an alternative to replace those products that do not have anything in them that should not be mixed with retinol.

7. Always make sure your skin is completely dry before putting on a retinol


Things that should not/are recommended not to be mixed and/or used at the same time as retinol


Alpha Hydroxy Acid (AHA) 

- The most common AHAs in cosmetic products are glycolic acid and lactic acid. Among others are some formulas of citric acid, hydroxycaprylic acid, and hydroxycapric acid.

- It is generally advised to not use AHA and retinol at the same time because AHA acids are exfoliating which can dry out the skin, and because retinol already is very drying to the skin using them together can just cause further irritation.

- Using an AHA exfoliant and retinol together can be an effective way to fade hyperpigmentation, but only if layered properly. The proper way to use them together is to apply your AHA products, wait 30 minutes, and then apply your retinol products. Another way to use them at the same time is to alternate days, so Monday is retinol, Tuesday is AHA, Wednesday is retinol and Thursday is AHA...  (Even if you are using the products together properly you may still experience dryness or irritation)


Beta Hydroxy Acid (BHA)

- The most common BHA used in cosmetics is salicylic acid and on the rare occasion citric acid (citric acid is more commonly referred to as an AHA) 

- On cosmetic ingredients lists BHA ingredients may be listed as salicylic acid, salicylate, sodium salicylate, willow extract, beta hydroxybutanoic acid, tropic acid, and trethocanic acid. 

- BHA acids are the same as AHA acids when it comes to mixing with retinol. BHA is exfoliating and can dry out the skin and because retinol is already very drying, mixing them can cause irritation.

- BHA acids are also similar to AHA acids when it comes to ways to properly use them with retinol. After applying your BHA product wait 30 minutes and then apply your retinol.


Benzoyl Peroxide

- Benzoyl peroxide products also come in different strengths—from 2.5 percent to 10 percent—but know this: a higher concentration doesn't necessarily mean better results.

- Benzoyl Peroxide and retinol should never be used at the same time because it can actually deactivate your retinol especially if you are using it with tretinoin.

- If you were to use Benzoyl Peroxide with retinol or tretinoin, you should be using Benzoyl Peroxide in the form of a face wash and then applying your retinol/tretinoin after you have completely dried your face. 


Vitamin C

- Vitamin C can benefit the skin in a bunch of ways, like improving tone and texture, lightening dark spots, promoting collagen production, and brightening dull skin.

- Never layer Vitamin C and Retinol. If you were to use them together many people suggest using vitamin C in the morning and Retinol at night to avoid irritation.

- If you were to use them both at night just make sure you let the one dry before layering on the other. If you are to use them both at night just be prepared for the irritation.


Ingredients you should think about using with a retinol


Peptides (use a pea-sized amount of retinol first then top with peptide cream)

- Helps with the irritation from retinol

- Helps hydrate and improve skin firmness


Hyaluronic Acid (apply a thin layer of hyaluronic acid moisturizer or serum first, followed by a pea-sized amount of retinol)

- Helps with unwanted dryness



There are many more ingredients that are beneficial, to learn about them check out this link - Here's an expert guide to the do’s and don’ts of layering active ingredients


If you are thinking of using BHA or an AHA and Retinol together I would recommend checking out these links

Why This is the Best Time to Use Retinol and BHA

How to use AHAs, BHAs and Retinol in your daily skincare routine

What to Know Before Combining AHA and Retinol in Your Skin Care Routine (this link also has a sectio...

The Dos and Don'ts of Mixing Skincare Ingredients


If you are thinking of using Benzoyl Peroxide and Retinol together I would recommend checking out this link

The Dos and Don'ts of Mixing Skincare Ingredients


If you are thinking of using Vitamin C and Retinol together I would recommend checking out this link

Can You Use Retinol and Vitamin C Together? Pros Weigh In

The Dos and Don'ts of Mixing Skincare Ingredients


Hope this helps the people out there that are wishing to start a retinol routine or just have questions.


Re: All About Retinol

You are amazing!  I’ve been using Tretinoin for about 9 months now and it’s calmed my acne down a lot, but I still get breakouts.  This information has been helpful. 

Re: All About Retinol

Sounds like you've enjoyed doing some research, @EmilyManaba .

Re: All About Retinol

doing this research made me feel like what i would think a dermatologist feels like on a sugar rush

3 Replies
Conversation Stats
  • 3 replies
  • 6 Hearts Given
  • 3 Contributors