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Retinol & Hyaluronic Acid for Skin – What is better for your skin?

Retinol and Hyaluronic Acid are one of the most searched & popular ingredients in the skin care industry & why wouldn’t they be?

Know everything about them here in the easiest way possible & become a pro of your skin.

Hyaluronic Acid

It’s a Blessing for Dry skin types. Hyaluronic Acid is a humectant that basically pulls moisture onto the surface from within the layers giving a plumping effect to the skin. It hydrates the skin keeping the lipid barrier strong which simply means, no loss of moisture from the skin(epidermis) resulting in healthy & youthful & glowing skin.

& Guys always know how to use your product to perfection so you can take full advantage of your hard-earned money.

How to use Hyaluronic acid serum perfectly in a skincare routine

  1. Always layer Hyaluronic acid with a nice moisturizer & seal the skin, if you don’t & if the air around you is dry, Hyaluronic acid will make the skin drier by pulling all the moisture from deep layers of your skin & leaving the skin uncomfortably sort of tight. So don’t forget the moisturizer!
  2. When using HA with other ingredients or acids, always use hyaluronic acid as the last serum before the moisturizer followed by sunscreen.
  3. Apply Hyaluronic Acid on clean damp skin, it absorbs amazingly well on damp skin.

A girl applying hyaluronic acid

Hyaluronic acid serum – A transparent gel-like substance
Which other ingredients is Hyaluronic acid compatible with?
It is perfectly safe to use Hyaluronic acid with every ingredient. Vitamin C, Niacinamide, Retinol, Azelaic acid, all AHAs and BHAs.


Here comes the Star ingredient!! In the beauty industry, there is no substance more googled, loved, praised & misunderstood than retinol. ha-ha. 

Retinol in very simple words slows down your aging & treats your stubborn acne YES! Stick till the end to master the ingredient & your skin.

Hyperpigmentation stages of a girl cured by Retinol with consistent usage

Hyperpigmentation stages- cured by consistent usage of Retinol

First go a little scientific, just the basics I promise.

So, Retinol is a derivative of Vitamin A (God for skin) that get converted by skin enzymes into retinoic acid. Now, Retinol is frequently confused with retinoid (also a derivative of vitamin A) but retinol has a lower percentage of retinoic acid (that’s why Mild/Less potent) than retinoid hence it is easily available over the counter, while retinoid needs a prescription.

Because their percentage of retinoic acid is lower, Retinol also works slowly, yet quite effective in

  • Boosting Collagen production by speeding skin cell turnover which means even skin tone, and younger and firm skin texture.
  • Treating acne & acne lesions.
  • Retinol is an anti-aging ingredient that reduces the appearance of fine lines, wrinkles, and sagging skin & helps with hyperpigmentation.

What more could you ask for from a single ingredient, right?

But nothing this good comes without a catch, using Retinol comes with a strict set of rules one needs to follow while applying it otherwise it can backfire!

This is how you should incorporate Retinol into your skincare routine

A girl in a picture with over peeled skin due to exceeding the quantity of Retinol usage

Over-peeled skin by exceeding the quantity of Retinol

  • Always wear good sunscreen when you’re out during the day. Using retinol makes your skin highly photosensitive which means the skin is very sensitive to UV rays.
  • Use Retinol only at Night.
  • Do not mix Retinol with any other ingredient except the ones I have mentioned below.
  • Do not use it very close to your eyes, mouth, or nose.
  • For sensitive skin types & beginners, always start with the lowest concentration, like .25% & gradually increase the percentage to 1%.
  • Never exceed the quantity of more than a pea size. Too much does more harm than good.
  • Never forget to use it on the neck as well.
  • Don’t forget to layer it with a good moisturizer followed by sunscreen.
  • Start with using it twice a week & then gradually increase it to every other night.
  • Try and avoid other acids or chemical exfoliants in your skincare routine when you’re beginning your retinol journey. This can minimize your excess flaking or chances of over-exfoliation.

How to handle any Retinol side effects or allergic reactions?

  1. Take cold showers or ice your face (wrapped in a thin cloth). Avoid hot showers at any cost.
  2. Avoid using cleansers or moisturizers with fragrances.
  3. Use Thermal spring water to calm the skin (Try from La Roche Posay)
  4. Don’t use any exfoliating fancy gadgets to wash your face, simply hands.
  5. Give a lot of moisture & hydration to your annoying dry skin for it to feel better. Apply moisturizers loaded with Ceramides (Helps in skin barrier), Hyaluronic acid & Niacinamide.
  6. Now, seal the skin with a light layer of Vaseline (‘Cereve healing solution’). It locks in all the goodies we’ve given & let the skin heal faster.
  7. Stop using any other exfoliants, acids, AHAs, BHAs, peroxides, salicylic acid, or chemical peels until you are completely healed.
  8. Cica Balms, Shea butter, Glycerin & Aloe vera, are great soothing & calming ingredients for dry skin.
  9. Product suggestion- Try Avene- Cicalfate + restorative protective cream
  10. Apply sunblock before stepping outside. Remember your skin is already in a vulnerable state. UV rays at this point can make it worse.
  11. All the reactions are temporary, so don’t freak out, your skin will be back to its original state & if you continue on your retinoid journey correctly, your skin will be back to a much healthier state.

Who should not use Retinol?

  1. If you’re trying for pregnancy, are pregnant, or breastfeeding. DO NOT use retinol. Instead, in pregnancy use, the ingredients that are recommended here. 
  2. People with Rosacea & Eczema unfortunately shouldn’t use retinol. It can make your dry skin worse.

Extra tips

In order to experience the deepest level of skin penetration, you might want to use it after you exfoliate, so your skin is maximum receptive to it. (Only for experienced people)

One extra tip, people with Ivory skin should start with the Retinol journey by mid 20s as they tend to develop aging signs sooner compared to dark skin tones.

How much time Retinol serum takes to work on the skin?

It may take up to 4-12 weeks to produce noticeable results so be patient & enjoy the retinol journey!

Which other ingredients is Retinol compatible with?

  1. Niacinamide
  2. Hyaluronic acid
  3. Azelaic Acid

Now, Let’s see how this magic ingredient works on our skin. FYI: This is the most interesting & satisfying part according to me.

How does Retinol work on your skin?

  1. When we start to age, our cells don’t regenerate as quickly as they did when we were young.
  2. Retinol directly affects gene expression, regulating all our age-related issues by eliminating dead cells & allowing fresh, young skin cells to come up to the surface.
  3. It goes deep into the layers of the skin & exfoliates it from within. It also clears up acne because it cleans up the pores & eliminates bacterial growth. Pretty interesting right?

Stages of how Retinol works on your skin

Retinol Stages

Shopping for Retinol

Now that you have already come so far, you probably have a decent idea of the term ’retinol ‘. So, let’s go shopping together.


Retinol packaging is literally everything, which surprisingly most people don’t know of & I really want you to be a pro when choosing or using your product.

Air Exposure means retinol death. We don’t want that pls!

There are 4 types of packaging in the market.

  1. Tubes (Best)
  2. Pump bottles (Better)
  3. Serum bottles (Okay)
  4. Jars (NAH)

Tubes are undoubtedly the best & the safest form to use Retinol. If you can’t find those, you can go for Pump bottle packaging but beware of the Jars with those big lids. They literally don’t make sense.

Picture of a tube form of Retinol


Retinol is not a very stable ingredient in nature & perhaps they like staying in cool, dark places. Quite away from Sunlight, (almost like a vampire LOL) to extend & maintain its shelf life.

Formula concentration

Retinol is my dear friends no joke, it’s something which you can do serious harm or serious good, depending on how you use it. So once again a reminder, GO SLOW! With concentration & usage both. I have seen a few companies claim a whopping concentration of 2% retinol. Run ha-ha

What if Retinol doesn’t suit your skin at all & you still want to use it for the obvious incredible benefits? I mean that’s kind of a sad situation, right? Well, not really.

Retinol Alternative

  1. We have a cool new kid on the block whose properties are almost all same as retinol but without any side effects. It is derived from plants, Hell yes! It’s vegan & natural. It’s called ‘Bakuchiol’. It’s popularly known as plant retinol.
  2. Very gently it takes care of all aging symptoms like fine lines & wrinkles. It helps with the skin’s firmness and minimizes the pores without any irritation, flakiness, dryness or redness unlike in some cases with retinol.
  3. So, it’s a win-win product for people who either can’t tolerate retinol, are pregnant or are beginners.

Now, let’s get personal & know about their extended family also. (It will help you a lot with all Retinoid confusion).

Retinol Family Tree!!

Retinoid is the head of the family with its 7 children (with recommended percentage).

Retinol Family tree diagram for easy understanding

For your easiest understanding, I have made this Retinoid Family tree in the simplest way

  1. Retinol (the most popular child)-0.1% – 1.0%
  2. Retinyl palmitate (it’s almost pointless so don’t even bother)- 1%
  3. Retinal (not easy to find in products because of serious stability issues but an alternative to retinol if you’re looking for something with more efficacy)-0.1%-1.0%
  4. Retinoic Acid or Retin-A (Gold standard retinoid, very commonly given as Tretinoin by doctors for treating mature skin issues. 20 times more powerful than Retinol. Only available by prescription)-0.01-0.1%
  5. Adapalene (Can get over the Counter. Solid effective in treating acne)-0.1%
  6. Tazarotene (Used for Hyperpigmentation & acne scars. Only available by prescription)-0.1%
  7. Isotretinoin (Oral retinoid you can say. It’s used to treat severe cystic acne).

Diagram of the Retinol family divided into 3 categories

3 classes of Retinoid types for your easy understanding – Cosmetic, Over-the-counter, Prescription

Hyaluronic Acid and Retinol together

Can you apply them together at the same time?

Absolutely YES! Hyaluronic acid and Retinol are surprisingly very compatible together. The ultimate duo I’ll say!! When used together.

  • Retinol tends to dry out the skin where our moisture bomb – Hyaluronic Acid can totally take care of the drying effects, ultimately making & giving your skin all the necessary goodies.
  • As we discussed earlier, Retinol might sometimes irritate or redden your skin, using Hyaluronic Acid can calm all the mild irritation or redness.

The happy skin of a girl always ends with a nice moisturizer after Retinol and Hyaluronic acid usage

Happy and younger-looking skin always ends with moisturizer

How to use both Retinol and Hyaluronic acid together in a skincare routine for best results

  1. Wash your face with a fragrance-free gentle cleanser.
  2. Pat, it dry completely with a facial tissue or a clean towel.
  3. Use a pea-sized amount of retinol cream or serum. Massage it evenly on your face and neck taking care of the eyes & mouth areas. As a tip, you can also use some Vaseline on those corner areas for extra protection.
  4. Put a few drops of Hyaluronic acid after that. Massage it nicely.
  5. Layer it with a non-comedogenic moisturizer.
  6. The final step, never forget to put sunscreen on your last step. Tada!


Retinol and Hyaluronic acid 
If you are looking for something to treat your acne & aging symptoms, go for Retinol. If you are looking for something which can calm your skin & make it dewy & plump go for Hyaluronic Acid. If you want all of that together, just combine them & your skin is all set.

A few related Articles

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

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

After reading the whole damn thing, you’ll not make mistakes I made. Congratulate yourself!! Love~ Beauty Strol

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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