Can You Use Retin-A With Other Exfoliants

Episode #118 / Nov 3, 2009
Exfoliants are an important part of any skin care regimen, whether it's for acne or general facial rejuvenation. However, there are many different types of exfoliators, and some work well (and not so well) with others. Dr. Schultz explains whether or not you can use Retin-A with other exfoliating products.
Vivien on November 24, 2009 at 7:51pm

Hi Dr. Schultz,
what if I used an AHA as a cleanser and apply retin-A afterward all over my face?

Neal Schultz, M.D. on December 10, 2009 at 6:50pm

@Vivien: Even though there is very little contact time on your skin of the AHA in the cleanser, I would not apply Retin-A right afterwards as any residual AHA from the cleanser might inactivate the Retin-A. If you like your RetinA, I suggest using a cleanser without AHA. (For full disclosure, that link is to the cleansers in my professional skin care line that I've developed while practicing dermatology for the past 30 years.)

HINASABIR on January 2, 2010 at 10:49pm

what about ascorbic acid and it different forms ,their are lot of products using rentinol and ascorbic acid together in their products

Neal Schultz, M.D. on January 15, 2010 at 6:42pm

@Hinasabir: Retinol is more stable (but much weaker) than Retin-A and is probably not as apt to be degraded in the presence of an acid (ascorbic acid) as the Retin-A would. In addition, ascorbic acid is a much weaker acid than the acids used for exfoliation like glycolic acid and salicylic acid.

Erin Adams on January 23, 2010 at 7:53am

What about using Retin a right after you use a cleanser with an acid in it?

Diane on January 24, 2010 at 8:29am

If I were to use Retin-A in the morning, would I use it before or after my sunscreen, and if before, how long must I wait after using the Retin-a to apply the suncreen. Love the website and thank you so mcuh.

tom daley on January 29, 2010 at 1:25am

what about retinoal products are they good for acne if in a gel without alcohol at 1 % one company is claiming it will do what retin a can without the side effect they say theres is 1% retinol 10 vitamin c 5% green tea 2 oz 20 not a bad price

Neal Schultz, M.D. on February 23, 2010 at 7:02pm

@Erin: Since you wash your cleanser off with water, and water neutralizes acid, applying Retin A afterwards is ok.

Neal Schultz, M.D. on February 23, 2010 at 7:05pm

@Diane: Sunscreen is applied before the Retin-A to ensure optimal sun protection. Thank you for your kind words about DermTV!

Neal Schultz, M.D. on February 23, 2010 at 7:19pm

@Tom: Less than 10% of Retinol is converted into Retin A and there's no assurance that this formulation will be adequately absorbed. That being said, it's harmless to try, but if it's not working, you may need to use a preparation of Retin A that has been tested and demonstrated to be effective.

Paromita Kar on March 16, 2010 at 2:47pm

Hello, I currently use a benzoyl peroxide face was followed by salicylic acid toner in the morning (followed by sunscreen). At night, I use the same BP facewash and on some nights, skip the SA toner and use some rx retin A instead. Is this too much? I have oily/combination skin with occasional black- and whiteheads and little pimples and am 30 y.o.
Thanks for your response!!

Neal Schultz, M.D. on March 17, 2010 at 5:51pm

@Paromita Kar: It's not too much if it doesn't cause irritation. If there's ever a question, it's always best to use it on a small area first, as described in How to Avoid Problems with New Skincare Products.

Helen on March 27, 2010 at 11:03am

Hello, Dr. Schultz.
Will applying a retinol treatment on top of a serum containing glycolic or another type of acid cancel each other out? Or is it ok to use that combination?

Neal Schultz, M.D. on June 1, 2010 at 1:29am

@Helen: It shouldn't make a difference because glycolic will not adversely affect retinol.