How Do I Use a Retinoid and AHAs/BHAs Together?

3440611_thumbnailRecently, it has been found that using retinoids and an AHA (like glycolic acid) or BHA (like salicyclic acid) diminishes the effectiveness of both ingredients.  So how can a patient still benefit from the potent anti-aging effects of each ingredient?  To find the answer, I consulted with the site of Dr. Leslie Baumann, M.D., a practicing dermatologist and the co-founder and chief of the Cosmetic Dermatology department at the University of Miami School of Medicine.According to Dr. Baumann:

“Your question about order is a great one. Retinoids should not be mixed with BHA (i.e., salicylic acid) or AHA (i.e,. glycolic acid) because the BHA and AHA can inactivate the retinoid. Always use retinoids at night because the sun can also make the retinoid less effective.

Dr. Baumann then proposes a skin care regime in which AHA/BHA products are used exclusively in the morning under a broad-spectrum UVA/UVB sunscreen, while retinoids are used exclusively at night.

Of course, as would be expected from Dr. Baumann, this makes perfect sense.

Daytime AHA/BHA Products

Please note that AHA/BHA do make your skin more sensitive to the sun, and hence more susceptible to UV damage.With that said, always use AHA/BHA under a broad-spectrum UVA/UVB sunscreen with SPF of at least 15 (I prefer 50+ myself), reapply frequently, and practice sun avoidance between 10 AM and 4 PM.

Some AHA or BHA products I like include MD Formulations Daily Peel Pads (with 10% of the AHA glycolic acid, $35.00,; DermaDoctor Ain’t Misbehavin’ AHA/BHA Acne Cleanser ($35.00,; and Paula’s Choice Exfoliating 2% BHA Lotion ($18.95, Paula’s

For more on AHA, please click here; for more on BHA, please click here.

Nighttime Retinol Products

Some nighttime retinol products to try include Neutrogena Healthy Skin Night Cream (with approximately 0.025% retinol, if I had to take an educated guess; $13.99,; Afirm 2x (with 0.3% retinol, $35.00,; Green Cream Level 6 (with 0.6% retinol, $43.00, and Skinceuticals Retinol 1.0 (with 1.0% retinol, $52.00,

Please note that the higher the concentration of retinol, the higher the risk of skin irritation.With that said, start with a small application every 2-3 nights, gently working up to nightly tolerance.And, of course, it is always best consult with your dermatologist before starting use of retinol or any other new skin care ingredient.

For more on the benefits of retinoids, please click here (Dr. Baumann’s blog).

Via Future Derm


  1. Great post, something I often get asked at work. Love both my Vitamin A and my AHA products. Swing by our blog, we post on similar topics 🙂


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