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What can you use Retinol with?

How-to optimise your Retinol routine like an absolute pro

What can you use Retinol with?

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Retinol is no ordinary skincare ingredient. Proven to be the most effective over-the-counter anti-aging ingredient, it also works on acne and acne-prone skin, improving hyperpigmentation, breakouts, unclogging pores and leaving skin looking smoother and clearer. It even boosts elasticity.

Yet there's a fear factor around Retinol - especially when it comes to knowing what else you can combine it with in your skincare routine, with both current fans and the Retinol-curious asking:

What can you use Retinol with – and what should you avoid?

We asked Dr. Andrew C Markey MD FRCP (BEAUTY PIE's consultant dermatologist and aesthetic medicine expert) to run us through the dos and don’ts of combining Retinol with other ingredients.

The Do's

Whether you’re wondering which Retinol product to start with, or are looking to ramp up your Retinol regime with a smart skincare sidekick (or two) – slow release encapsulated Retinol is high performance, fuss-free and designed to be layered. "Scrubs, masks, and treatments and active capsules and other fun items can be layered in later – if you move from a low maintenance Super Retinol routine to say, medium or high." – Marcia Kilgore, BEAUTY PIE Founder. 

So, is it safe to use Retinol with Niacinamide?

"Yes – in fact, many dermatologists recommend buffering sensitive skin with (anti-inflammatory) Niacinamide before applying Retinol,” says Dr. Andrew Markey

Beauty Pie Triple Hyaluronic Acid group shot

Is Hyaluronic acid safe to use with Retinol?

"Absolutely. Hyaluronic acid is a moisturizing must-have – and the perfect 'plus one' for any active skincare ingredient, including Retinol. In fact, it’s one of skincare’s most effective power couples (see also: Vitamin C)."

Beauty Pie Super Retinol and Vitamin C ingredient combination

Is Vitamin C safe to use with Retinol?

"Yes! Studies show that combining Vitamin C with Vitamin A (Retinol) may help stabilize Retinol," says Dr. Andrew Markey. Alternate their use (Vitamin C in the morning and then Retinol in the evening) or up the efficiency and opt for Super Retinol (+ Vitamin C) Night Renewal Moisturizer which contains a powerful Vitamin C ester.

And - absolutely crucial - always add SPF, daily!

The Dont's

Retinol with Glycolic Acid or Salicylic Acid.

Dermatologists remain divided as to what extent Acids and Retinols can be combined in the same skincare routine. While both AHA (Alpha-Hydroxy Acids i.e. Glycolic Acid) & BHA (Beta-Hydroxy Acids i.e. Salicylic Acid) are safe to combine with over-the-counter strength Retinol, general consensus is to err on the side of caution and avoid mixing – particularly if you have reactive, sensitive skin.


"As ingredients – both Retinoids and Acids are irritants, and as such overuse can make irritation more problematic," says Dr. Andrew Markey. “However, Retinoids used in the right way, with the right strength and the right routine can safely be used with Acids. There is even good evidence that combining them works well.”

Prioritise your Retinoids – think of them as the ‘master active’ – and get that routine right first. Then – if necessary – think about adding in Acids. Most dermatologists would recommend Retinol usage for PM, and AHAs, BHAs or antioxidants for AM. And always use sunscreen.

- Dr. Andrew Markey.

Beauty Pie Super Retinol and SPF

If in doubt...

Experts recommend you only combine Retinol and Acids in the same routine if advised to do so by a dermatologist, otherwise:

  • Pick ONE for your regular skincare routine, and ONE for a weekly (or even monthly) skincare treatment.

  • Swap out any acid-containing products to avoid reactions on Retinol days.

  • Avoid Retinol if you’re on prescription Keratolytics (prescription skin resurfacers) or Benzoyl Peroxides.

  • Opt for a slow-release encapsulated Retinol to minimize irritation.


**Do not use Retinols if you are pregnant, breastfeeding or are already using a prescription Keratolytic from your dermatologist. Speak to a dermatologist if you are worried about any side effects of using Retinol.**

Reviewed by Consultant Dermatologist Dr Andrew C Markey MD FRCP.

Gilly Ferguson Avatar
Words by

Gilly Ferguson

2 years ago

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© 2023 Beauty Pie. All rights reserved.From The New York Times. © 2020 The New York Times Company. All rights reserved. Used under license.

© 2023 Beauty Pie. All rights reserved.From The New York Times. © 2020 The New York Times Company. All rights reserved. Used under license.