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Retinol and hyaluronic acid are two popular skincare treatments people use for fine lines, wrinkles, and sensitive skin. Both are powerful agents that offer a range of benefits, so you may be wondering, “Can I use hyaluronic acid with retinol?” The short answer is yes, you can.
Here, we break down the benefits of these popular skincare ingredients and give you the scoop on how to use them together.
What is hyaluronic acid?
Hyaluronic acid is a natural substance that retains moisture in the skin. It’s naturally found in various areas of the human body, including the eyes and synovial fluid of the joints; however, it is most abundant in the skin, accounting for 50% of the body’s total hyaluronic acid (Papakonstantinou, 2012).
As we age, our skin loses its moisture, and that’s why many people turn to anti-aging skin care products like hyaluronic acid to help retain their skin’s moisture.
Benefits and side effects of hyaluronic acid
Hyaluronic acid can be a good option for people with dry skin types looking to add moisture to their skincare routine.
Topical hyaluronic acid, either as a serum or a cream, acts as a great moisturizer and has many benefits, including being generally well tolerated by most people with minimal irritation (Draelos, 2021).
Hyaluronic acid mainly has side effects when injected into the skin. A person may want an injection versus a topical application to receive more long-lasting skin benefits. When injected, there may be mild pain and bruising at the injection site. Sometimes swelling can occur following the injection. And you may experience redness or itching at the injection site. These side effects are typically mild and usually last no more than seven days (Walker, 2021).
What is retinol?
Retinol is a type of retinoid, a derivative of vitamin A.
When applied topically, retinoids penetrate below the epidermis (outer layer of skin) into the dermis (middle layer of skin), creating a plumping effect. They do this by boosting the production of elastin and collagen, two proteins that help keep the skin firm. Fine lines, wrinkles, and loss of skin elasticity all originate from the dermis (Sadgrove, 2021).
Can you use vitamin C and hyaluronic acid together?
Retinol is typically used to reduce the appearance of these fine lines, wrinkles, and enlarged pores. And according to a four-day patch test, retinol induces less skin irritation than retinoic acid, a prescription-strength medication (Kafi, 2007).
Benefits and side effects of retinol
When applied topically, retinoids have many benefits, including (Zasada, 2020; Szymański, 2020):
- Improving signs of aging like wrinkles and fine lines
- Exfoliating skin at the cellular level, resulting in brighter and smoother skin
- Regulating oily skin and minimizing breakouts
- Evening out complexion over time by fading dark spots, sun spots, and areas with hyperpigmentation
Like any new skincare product, you may have a few side effects if retinol is incorporated into a new skincare routine too quickly or too often. You may experience flaking, skin dryness, and even some breakouts when first starting to use retinol.
To minimize side effects, you’ll want to slowly add retinol into your skincare routine, trying it first one or two times per week and then increasing it from there depending on how your skin reacts.
Using retinol and azelaic acid together
Can you use hyaluronic acid and retinol together?
Yes, you can use hyaluronic acid and retinol together to achieve maximum skincare benefits and younger-looking skin.
With retinol working on exfoliating and smoothing out the skin and hyaluronic acid working on hydrating the skin by providing extra moisture, both work synergistically to create beautiful-looking skin with minimal side effects.
Benefits of using retinol with hyaluronic acid
When used together, hyaluronic acid can reduce some of the irritation that can occur from retinol. That’s because retinoids often cause skin dryness which can be irritating, especially early on. By adding hyaluronic acid, a moisturizer, you can alleviate some of those dry skin symptoms.
Potential side effects of mixing the two
Besides the typical side effects of using each product individually, there is no documented worsening of side effects when hyaluronic acid and retinol are combined.
How to use hyaluronic acid with retinol
When using hyaluronic acid and retinol together, follow these simple steps:
- Wash your face with warm water and a gentle skin cleanser. This will help remove any dirt or debris from your skin before applying the skincare products.
- Pat dry your skin with a cotton towel. Try to avoid rubbing, as this will irritate the skin and cause redness.
- Apply the retinol, making sure it gets absorbed into the skin.
- Apply hyaluronic acid moisturizer.
- Finally, if your moisturizer doesn’t have SPF, finish up your routine by applying sunscreen.
Tretinoin vs. retinol: which is better for your skin?
The bottom line
To recap, you can use hyaluronic acid and retinol products together. Just be sure to slowly incorporate both into your skincare routine and start off by doing a patch test to see how your skin reacts. By following the simple steps above, you’re one step closer to achieving glowing, youthful skin in just a few weeks.
If you have more questions about the active ingredients in your skincare products and how they react to one another, reach out to a dermatologist.
- Draelos, Z. D., Diaz, I., Namkoong, J., et al. (2021). Efficacy evaluation of a topical hyaluronic acid serum in facial photoaging. Dermatology and Therapy, 11(4): 1385–1394. doi:10.1007/s13555-021-00566-0. Retrieved from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/34176098/
- Kafi, R., Kwak, H. S. R., Schumacher, W., et al. (2007). Improvement of naturally aged skin with vitamin A (retinol). Archives of Dermatological Research, 143(5): 606-612. doi:10.1001/archderm.143.5.606. Retrieved from https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamadermatology/article-abstract/412795
- Papakonstantinou, E., Roth, M., & Karakiulakis, G. (2012). Hyaluronic acid: A key molecule in skin aging. DermatoEndocrinology, 4(3): 253-258. doi:10.4161/derm.21923. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3583886/
- Sadgrove, N. J., Oblong, J. E., & Simmonds, M. S. J. (2021). Inspired by vitamin A for anti-ageing: Searching for plant-derived functional retinoid analogues. Skin Health and Disease, 1(3): e36. doi:10.1002/ski2.36. Retrieved from https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1002/ski2.36
- Szymański, Ł., Skopek, R., Palusińska, M., et al. (2020). Retinoic acid and its derivatives in skin. Cells, 9(12): 2660. doi:10.3390/cells9122660. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7764495/
- Walker, K., Basehore, B. M., Goyal, A., et al. (2021). Hyaluronic acid. StatPearls. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK482440/
- Zasada, M., Budzisz, E., & Erkiert-Polguj, A. (2020). A clinical anti-ageing comparative study of 0.3 and 0.5% retinol serums: a clinically controlled trial. Skin Pharmacology and Physiology, 33(2): 102–116. doi:10.1159/000508168. Retrieved from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/32428912/
Dr. Chimene Richa is a board-certified Ophthalmologist and Senior Medical Writer/Reviewer at Ro.