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Do I need to exfoliate if I use retinol?

Hi all, I've heard conflicting responses in the past to my question when I asked some SA's in Sephora. Do I need to exfoliate my skin (I'm referring to chemical BHAs, AHAs) if I am using a retinol (not prescription, but a good .25-1.5%)? Some people say you can while others say it isn't necessary and can actually undo the effects of retinol. Wondering which is true and if I need to add chemical exfoliation back into my routine. Thanks!

RE: Do I need to exfoliate if I use retinol?

I would do both! Chemicals help remove the dead skin but actually using a light exfoliater is how you are going to get that dead skin and gunk off your face! Just make sure you only use an exfoliater as much as your skin can handle! For me it’s about twice a week with daily retinal use.

RE: Do I need to exfoliate if I use retinol?

You can use both but I wouldn’t use them at the same time. For example, use your retinol one night and the second night use the aha product. I use retina A and glycolic on alternating nights. Assuming your skin is used to the effects of the retinol meaning no more flaking, redness etc then you should be fine to incorporate a glycolic. I’d start with a mild one. I highly recommend a good spf. And to apply it whenever you go out. And to reapply through the day as needed. I’ve had incredible results with both ingredients.

Re: RE: Do I need to exfoliate if I use retinol?

Yes SPF is always key. I haven't gotten past the flaking stage so I think I will have to wait a bit longer but when I am ready I will be incorporating a gentle acid. 🙂 thank you!

Re: Do I need to exfoliate if I use retinol?

@earlgrey222 The claim that using AHA/BHA’s undo the effects of Retinol is entirely false. Retinol penetrates and treats deeper into the skin as opposed to AHA/BHA’s that treat the surface. When used together, it can really treat hyperpigmentation. 


If you're like me and your skin can handle it without getting any it. Especially if dark spots are an issue. I combine either Lotion P50 or Knockout during the day before Retinol and Vitamin C about 2-3 times a week. This works for me and my skin. I’ve seen nothing but amazing results. 

RE: Do I need to exfoliate if I use retinol?

Hi @earlgrey222 I don’t see anything wrong with using both. I just would not use them in one routine, but that is just me with my dry, sensitive skin. Maybe, you can rotate the products. Just an idea. Good luck!
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