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Can you use Benzoyl peroxide with Retinol? Let’s find out

Benzoyl Peroxide and Retinol both have one important thing in common i.e., They are both acne killers! & that’s why we love them, but does that mean you can use both ingredients one after the other & treat your acne at double speed? Sadly No, Benzoyl peroxide can oxidize & degrade most of the forms of Retinoids except just one i.e., Adapalene. It is the only form of Retinoid that stays stable in the presence of Benzoyl peroxide.

Hence, don’t mix Benzoyl Peroxide and Retinol together unless you wish to get severely irritated & dessert-like dry skin. Don’t do that.

What is Benzoyl Peroxide & its benefits?

  • Benzoyl Peroxide is a globally recommended topical antiseptic that kills & reduces the acne-causing bacteria on the skin & treats inflammatory acne, known as Cuti bacterium acne.
  • It has comedolytic properties which means it helps break down clogged up pores & exfoliates dead skin cells.
  • It takes care of any inflammation & redness of the skin because of its superb anti-inflammatory properties.
  • It is used to treat not only acne but black/white heads too
  • Treats mild to moderate acne

A comparison picture of a girl showing difference with consistent usage of Benzoyl peroxide


Consistent usage of Benzoyl Peroxide

What are the side effects of Benzoyl Peroxide?

  • Dryness, peeling, and redness are the most common & reported side effects
  • If Benzoyl peroxide touches any fabrics or even your hair, it can bleach them

Any tips before starting to use Benzoyl Peroxide in your skincare routine? (Don’t miss these)

  • Start off with 5% of the concentration, and gradually increase to 10%. Let the skin take it slowly.
  • Avoid contact with eyes, nose, mouth
  • Benzoyl Peroxide increases the photosensitivity of the skin, hence don’t forget to load up on sunscreen in the daylight.
  • You can pair it with Hyaluronic acid, Squalene, or shea butter to balance the dryness
  • If you’re pregnant/Nursing. Don’t use Benzoyl peroxide
  • You can use PanOxyl- BPO as a product suggestion
  • BPO doesn’t gel up with most ingredients, especially mixing with another topical acne medication can severely irritate the skin.
  • If you wish to avoid any bleaching of the fabric, use Benzoyl Peroxide in wash forms. Face washes will be equally effective as other forms & are the safest form to avoid any chances of irritation or bleaching.

How to use Benzoyl Peroxide?

  1. Use your normal cleanser first
  2. Then use Benzoyl peroxide face wash, away from your eyes, nose, lips
  3. Massage it carefully & in circular motions for 2-3 mins
  4. Wash it thoroughly
  5. Pat dry
  6. Apply moisturizer

What is Retinol?

Retinol is an oil-soluble derivative of Vitamin A that just doesn’t work on the surface but goes deep into the layers of the skin & exfoliates from within by eliminating dead skin cells & bacterial growth which ultimately leads to the regeneration of fresh young cells & clean pores which helps tremendously in acne control.

Diagram of Retinol family tree


Retinol Family tree- Retinol is one of the 7 children of Retinoid

What are the benefits of Retinol?

  • Boosts Collagen & Elastin production by speeding skin cell turnover.
  • Treat acne, acne scars & uneven skin tone. 
  • Works wonders for fine lines, aging & wrinkles & hyperpigmentation.
  • In short, it slows down aging & acne!!

Picture of a Hyperpigmentation stages of a girl with consistent usage of Retinol


Hyperpigmentation stages with consistent usage of Retinol

What are the side effects of Retinol?

  • It increases the photosensitivity of the skin
  • Newbies & sensitive skin types generally tend to develop skin irritation/burns/flakiness/redness at the beginning of the retinol journey

Picture of an Over-peeled skin of a girl with incorrect usage of Retinol


Over-peeled skin with incorrect usage of Retinol

Important tips while incorporating Retinol in a skincare routine.

  • Apply just a pea-sized amount
  • Don’t use Retinol on damp skin
  • Don’t mix Retinol with any other ingredient except Hyaluronic acid, Azelaic acid & Niacinamide
  • Do not use it very close to your eyes, mouth, nose
  • Avoid using any other potential irritants like acids or chemical exfoliants when you’re just starting off on Retinol. This can minimize your excess flaking.
  • Don’t use Retinol when you are pregnant/Nursing
  • You can start using Retinol in your early 20s with proper precautions
  • Start with a concentration of .025% – 0.1%, 2-3 times a week. Can go up to 1% gradually when your skin feels ready.
  • Apply Sunblock to avoid photosensitivity
  • Use the Sandwich method of ‘moisturizer-retinol moisturizer’, which Means a layer of moisturizer then Retinol then moisturizer again. This will prevent any possibilities of irritation.

Does Retinol Packaging matter?

Retinol packaging is literally everything, Air Exposure means Retinol death.

There are 4 types of packaging in the market.

  • Tubes (Best)
  • Pump bottles (Better)
  • Serum bottles (Okay)
  • Jars (NAH)

Tubes are undoubtedly the best & the safest form to use Retinol. Beware of the Jars form, they don’t make sense.

Picture of a tube, best packaging matter to store retinol

How to store Retinol to maintain its shelf life?

Retinol is not a very stable ingredient in nature & perhaps they like staying in cool, dark places. Quite away from Sunlight, to extend & maintain its shelf life. Hence your bathroom cabinets work just fine.

How to use Retinol?

  1. Use only at nighttime
  2. Wash your face with a non-comedogenic cleanser
  3. Pat it dry
  4. Apply a few drops or a pea-sized amount of Retinol
  5. Maintain a distance from your eyes, mouth, lips
  6. Massage it evenly on the face
  7. Lock it a nice moisturizer

How to cure Retinol and Benzoyl Peroxide burns or irritation?

  • Take cold showers or ice your face (wrapped in a thin cloth). Avoid hot showers at any cost.
  • Go fragrance-free in cleansers & moisturizers
  • Use Thermal spring water to calm the skin (Try from La Roche Posay)
  • Give a lot of moisture to the skin. Apply moisturizers loaded with Ceramides, Oats & Hyaluronic acid.
  • Seal the skin with a light layer of Vaseline. It locks in all the goodies & lets the skin heal faster.
  • Stop using any other exfoliants, acids, AHAs, BHAs, peroxides, and salicylic acid until you are completely healed.
  • Glycerin & Aloe vera, both are great soothing & calming agents for the skin.
  • Product suggestion- Try Avene- Cicalfate + restorative protective cream
  • Apply sunblock before stepping outside.

Happy & healed skin of a girl in the picture


Happy & healed skin

The Conclusion

The conclusion is, NO you cannot use Benzoyl peroxide and Retinol together in your skincare routine at the same time. They are both strong acne medications who hate to get combined. However, if you still want to incorporate them in your skin routine, use Benzoyl Peroxide in the morning & Retinol at nighttime.

Related Articles

If you loved reading this article, you will probably also enjoy reading:

  1. Can you use Vitamin C with Retinol?
  2. Can you use Glycolic Acid with Retinol?
  3. Should you apply Retinol before or After Moisturizer?
  4. Can you use Azelaic Acid and Retinol Together
  5. Can you use Retinol And Hyaluronic Acid Together?
  6. Can you use Niacinamide with Retinol?
  7. Can you use Salicylic Acid and Retinol Together?

Hope I could clear some of your doubts, Love~ Beauty Stroll

By Aayushi S
By Aayushi S
Aayushi is a New York based freelance writer and a content strategist. She is a computer science graduate, a health and skincare fanatic and is also the founder of “Beauty Stroll “. She aims to make science-backed skincare easy to understand for her readers.

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