Monday, September 24, 2012

Retinoids, Vitamin C and Glycolic Acid: How to Combine Anti-aging Products

Combining Different Antiaging Products

Tretinoin (retinoic acid) and Glycolic acid (AHA) are both powerful anti-aging skin care ingredients that make very noticeable improvements in the appearance of the skin by:
  • Lighten age spots
  • Smooth and exfoliate the skin giving it a more luminous character
  • Work to reverse wrinkles by building new collagen just underneath the surface of the skin.

The ultimate anti aging skin care product combination is to use both of these and throw in a strong professional level vitamin C product every 4th day. Each of these ingredients works to rejuvenate the skin by a different mechanism, and thus combination therapy yields more age reversal that using just one alone.

Unfortunately, all these highly effective anti-aging ingredients are irritating.  Only people with really tolerant skin can combine tretinoin and glycolic acid therapy.  People with sensitive skin  have to pick either tretinoin OR glycolic acid.  People who can’t tolerate using tretinoin with glycolic acid can sometimes tolerate using just one of these ingredient with a topical vitamin C product.  This is because the vitamin C is not exfoliating.  Vitamin C is, however, irritating to exfoliated skin so it is still a little tricky.

The reason that it’s tricky to combine these wonderful and effective anti aging ingredients is that the glycolic acid and the tretinoin are both very exfoliating.  Exfoliated skin has a more refined and luminous appearance, but also  absorbs things faster.  Because the glycolic acid and the vitamin C both have an acid pH, they can be irritating to exfoliated skin.  In addition, tretinoin causes a ‘break in’ rash when a person first starts using it.  The skin adjusts in about a month and the rash typically goes away, but skin with retinoid rash gets really irritated from the acid pH of the glycolic acid or the vitamin C products.


When people want to try to combine anti-aging home therapy, the best way is to start on the tretinoin at night for at least 2 months. When the skin has adjusted to the tretinoin, add professional level glycolic acid during the day.
When the combination is tolerated and can be applied every day, then throw in the vitamin c serum.

To help the skin tolerate this powerful anti aging treatment, it is better to add an antioxidant cream.
Antioxidant Creams


Of course, any exfoliating anti aging treatment means that a person MUST wear a 5% or more microsized zinc oxide sunscreen every day, all year, regardless of their planned activities.  Because exfoliated skin allows more damaging sun rays to enter the skin, it is better to wear hat and try to keep the face out of direct sunlight as much as possible.  This is important for skin cancer prevention, and it’s also critical for "anti-aging skin rejuvenation" to be effective.

The combo anti-aging skincare regimen is:

  1. Wash with a gentle cleanser 
  2. Hydrating Antioxidant cream
  3. Glycolic acid product or vitamin c serum
  4. Moisturizer if needed (eg. A Daily Moisturizing Face Cream)
  5. Sunscreen
Night time
  1. Wash with a gentle cleanser as above
  2. Hydrating Antioxidant Cream
  3. Daily Moisturizing Face Cream of choice if needed
  4. Wait 15 minutes then Tretinoin (begin every 3rd night and gradually work up to every night)

If a person cannot tolerate both tretinoin and glycolic home therapy, then they can combine tretinoin at night, Vitamin C Serum during the day and have occasional glycolic acid peels done carefully by a skin care professional.  

WARNING: The exfoliation achieved with tretinoin makes the peels tricky and the skin care professional needs to be experienced with this situation.  The risk is that the peel may be go too deep and injure the skin, potentially causing scarring.  


  1. Actually, serums & treatments should be applied to the skin after cleansing, not after moisturizer. The order products should be used are as follows:

    1) cleanser
    2) serums/treatments
    3) moisturizer
    4) sunblock

    In addition, if your sunblock contains your moisturizer, there is no need for the 3rd step.

    Lastly, there is no mention of the fact that chemical based sunblocks cause the skin to be more sensitive to the sun & should be avoided. Unfortunately, most sunblocks on the market now are chemical based. It's best to use blocks which contain titanium dioxide & zinc oxide. Whether or not they are micronized is of no importance in relation to their effectiveness. Some people prefer to avoid micronized ingredients. A block with an SPF of 50 or higher is essential to avoid aging the skin through sun exposure.

  2. Also, nobody should be buying ANY skincare cream that contains antioxidants in jar packaging. Air breaks down antioxidants which is why they should be in tubes NOT jars. You should remove these images of jar packaged creams with antioxidants.

  3. There some very remarkable points in your blog. I must escalate your excellent work. I find the blog post very thought-provoking and moreover very enlightening.
    I discovery glycerin makes the serum very adhesive. I currently use the recipe from magnificently green and her recipe only calls for 1 tsp. of glycerin and I can barely stand the adhesiveness from that
    topical vitamin c

  4. vitamin a retinol-Visit for best hand cream for dry hands & intensive hand cream- hand creams. Several purchase ready options of Anti-Aging Creams, Anti-Wrinkle Creams.

  5. vitamin a retinol-Buy Homemade Vitamin C Serum, Vitamin C Serum Recipe & Vitamin A Retinol at We are #1 source for Homemade Vitamin C Serum and Vitamin A Retinol

  6. I will share those products soon and after realizing its good results I decided to give a try to face wash too.

    glycolic face wash for sensitive skin

  7. The first part involves the serum. Meant to be applied twice daily, both morning and night, LED Facial NYC


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