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How to Use Alpha Hydroxy & Retin-A

author image Caryn Anderson
Caryn Anderson combines extensive behind-the-scenes writing experience with her passion for all things food, fashion, garden and travel. Bitten by the travel bug at the age of 15 after a trip to Europe, Anderson fostered her love of style and fashion while living in New York City and earning her degree at New York University.
How to Use Alpha Hydroxy & Retin-A
Layering alpha hydroxy and Retin-A maximizes the anti-aging benefits. Photo Credit Pixland/Pixland/Getty Images

Retin-A and alpha hydroxy acids, such as glycolic acid, work to boost your skin's natural collagen formation while increasing its elastic fibers to improve your skin tone and minimize wrinkles. Because they perform different functions, using the two together improves your skin more effectively than using either product on its own. For example, Retin-A irritates skin while alpha hydroxy acid is an anti-inflammatory that balances the effects of Retin-A. While you can use them together, layering your beauty products requires careful timing to make sure you maximize the results.

Step 1

Wash your face. Starting with clean skin is an important part of any skin care regimen. Use your favorite cleanser or opt for one that contains glycolic acid. If you are just starting to use these products or if you have sensitive skin, start by using a gentle, mild cleanser instead of one with alpha hydroxy.

Step 2

Apply the product that contains alpha hydroxy acids. Common examples include lactic acid or glycolic acid, which exfoliate the skin and stimulate cell regeneration. Don't be alarmed if you feel a slight tingling after applying the alpha hydroxy acids; this is a normal side effect.

Step 3

Wait for approximately 30 minutes to allow the alpha hydroxy to become absorbed by your skin. If you slather the Retin-A on too soon, you’ll minimize the effectiveness of both products.

Step 4

Apply Retin-A, which is generically known as tretinoin cream. Unlike alpha hydroxy acids, Retin-A doesn't exfoliate your skin, which is one of the reasons that they can work together. Instead, this vitamin A derivative works deeply within your skin to improve the production of skin cells.

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