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Post in Skincare Aware

Let's Talk Retinol

I have a few questions about retinol & I know Lylysa has discussed some of this before, but I can't seem to find the specific threads....


So retinol is a form of Vitamin A. Vitamin A is very fragile and gets deactivated by many things like sunlight, glycolic, Vitamin C...

So why do so many products have retinol mixed with Vitamin C &/or glycolic and are meant to be used am/pm. I get that it's encapsulated, so it releases over time, but won't it still interact with the other ingredients and sunlight?  


Specific products: anything PTR; the Retionl Fusion AM & the new toner

Also DDG A/B pads have retinol in the second step & I think some murad products have retinol & Vitamin C. 


So if I wash my face with an AHA/BHA cleanser, should I not use the PTR toner? 

What about moisturizers with glycol, should those not be used with a retinol toner or serum? 

I obviously don't want to over exfoliate my skin, but most products don't give specific percentages of these strong ingredients. I also don't want to apply something that isn't going to work because of another product. 


Thanks Smiley Wink 

Re: Let's Talk Retinol

I would definitely suggest keeping your retinol separate from vitamin C, glycolic, salicylic, benzoyl Peroxide, etc. Mixing does degrade the efficacy of all of the ingredients slightly, and it can over-stress your skin. 


I find if you're wanting to incorporate a retinol into your skincare routine, the best route is to get a Retin-A prescription from your dermatologist. Use the Retin-A at night with a basic moisturizer and hydrating serum, then incorporate vitamin c, salicylic or benzoyl peroxide in the morning. I would strongly suggest against using a glycolic or lactic treatment while using retinol; you're already using a product that pushes the cell turnover rate, and adding another one would likely push your skin past its limits. Plus, they make your skin more sensitive to the sun, so using them during the day would ultimately do you more harm than good. 


Hope that helps!

Re: Let's Talk Retinol

I've been to a dermatologist.... don't need Retin-A, OTC retinol is just fine for me, but thanks for the recommendation. It's Retin-A that  shouldn't be mixed with other products, but like the others stated below, retinol is fine to mix. I just need to make sure I don't over exfoliate. 

Re: Let's Talk Retinol

I've linked that thread a few times, so I make sure I'm familiar with it for when I go searching! Smiley Happy


It's good that you're attentive to your skin! Glad I could help!

Re: Let's Talk Retinol

Retin A is the actual brand name that covers tretinoin, and is one of many brands. Since it's only sold/distributed via prescription, it will definitely be the most potent. Of course degrees and percentages of it's potency can vary depending on what the prescribing professional recommends to treat whatever issue one is facing. Smiley Happy

Re: Let's Talk Retinol

Awesome @Titian06! Thanks for the info. 

Re: Let's Talk Retinol

@dannyc - I found this information at 


“One of the beauties of retinol is that it is an easier product to use in conjunction with other products,” says Dr. Raskin. “Retin A is problematic in that you can’t combine it with other products and it makes the skin extremely sun sensitive. Retinol is far more forgiving. You can combine it with vitamin C and glycolic acid and it doesn’t make the skin as sun sensitive. It offers many advantages in terms of ease of use and accessibility.”


Retin A is the most harsh, Retinol is milder, and Retinyl Palmitate is mildest.

Re: Let's Talk Retinol

Of course you found the thread! Not only are you the smartest skin care person I know you also have magic searching fingers! 

Thanks so much for you clear & detailed explanation. I can normally tell quickly if I'm overdoing it, my face gets red & angry and sensitive to everything. Basically I can use the toner or a serum with a moisturizer that has Vitamin C or glycolic in it as long as it's not the main ingredient. I see so many moisturizers that have glycolics listed towards the end of the ingredient lists and always wondered if they were safe to use over retinol. I like my chemical exfoliation, but I want to be smart & safe about it. Less is obviously more. 

Re: Let's Talk Retinol

Sorry I missed your question but @Titian06 gave you the best answer you could've gotten.

Re: Let's Talk Retinol

Bam! Found the thread for you!


Sun/light sensitive ingredients are in fact that, but that doesn't go to mean a quick blast of the sun's rays or even being exposed to light in your bathroom with make the potency null and void. Key things to keep in mind when shopping for retinol or vitamin C based products (if they aren't readily advertised as stabilized formulas) are dark or opaque bottles and even air tight packaging. In other words, airless pump tubes, dark blue or brown bottles (something other than clear), and even metal packaging (like Philosophy's Help Me tube) work well to house these active ingredients. Things like jars which you need to open and expose to oxygen frequently or clear jars and shorten life spans of products.


Products and brands that have a blend or combination of a form of vitamin A and forms of glycolic or alpha/beta hydroxy acids are more than often balanced and formulated to be safe on skin and not be counter intuitive. It's when you get too product happy and start layering on unnecessary items can things cancel each other out. Most formulas and blends that include multiple active ingredients tend to cater to a wide array of issues and concerns you wish to address anyway, there's not need to double or triple up on similar items.


Your skin should be fine with the PTR AHA/BHA cleanser and then aloe tonic, as that is a more gentle/basic toner and not so much a treatment. Not to mention since cleansers do get washed off skin, their active levels of effectiveness aren't as strong as say a serum that will keep on your skin, so you should be fine to say layer the Retinol Fusion over and then a moisturizer. The key is being receptive to your skin, obviously it's impossible to say an item will or will not irritate or work on skin 100% across the board for everyone, so be attentive and if you're leary, do a test spot, consult a professional, or skip it all together. It's better to play it safe than sorry if you're feeling things are too risky! Smiley Happy

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