Can You Use Hyaluronic Acid with Retinol?

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Hyaluronic acid and retinol are both phenomenal ingredients that have found their place in skincare routines, so it’s but natural to want to combine hyaluronic acid with retinol to maximize their beneficial effects on the skin.

We could say that both show an anti-aging effect but in two completely different ways. Hyaluronic acid acts as a humectant by binding water molecules and thus softens fine lines. On the other hand, retinol accelerates cell turnover and stimulates cell regeneration, which alleviates the signs of aging (both photoaging and chronological aging!).

However, you have probably heard that retinol should not be combined with some acids. Therefore, one of the most common skincare concerns is whether you could use hyaluronic acid with retinol. If so, should you apply hyaluronic acid before or after retinol? We are here to answer these questions.

The Basics on Hyaluronic Acid vs Retinol

Before we determine whether we should use hyaluronic acid before or after retinol, let’s take a closer look at the benefits each of these ingredients offer. When it comes to skincare, should there be a choice between hyaluronic acid vs retinol?

Hyaluronic Acid vs Retinol: Hyaluronic Acid Benefits

Hyaluronic acid is a common skincare ingredient that is naturally found in our bodies. It can be found in various places in the body, including the skin, and shows a phenomenal ability to bind water. One of the interesting facts about hyaluronic acid is that it can bind a mass of water that is 1000 times greater than the mass of the acid. Wow! Because it acts as a humectant, it is used in skincare products such as serums and moisturizers and has a significant role in skin hydration.

When your skin barrier is broken, TEWL occurs, which further leads to skin dehydration and the appearance of symptoms such as redness, irritation, acne, and flaky skin. And this is where hyaluronic acid comes into play! By binding water molecules to itself, it can contribute to skin hydration, combined with emollients and occlusions that will lock the water in the skin.

A study conducted in 2014 showed that the use of various products based on nano-hyaluronic acid for 8 weeks can significantly accelerate skin hydration, reduce the appearance of wrinkles and positively affect the firmness and elasticity of the skin, thus showing an anti-aging effect.

Hyaluronic Acid vs Retinol: Retinol Benefits

If we talk about ingredients that show an anti-aging effect, we must not forget to mention retinol. Retinol (vitamin A) and derivatives of this vitamin used in skincare have the ability to be converted into retinoic acid – an active substance that that shows some amazing benefits for the skin. Retinoids were primarily used to treat acne and no other benefits were known until other effects started to show. Some of them were the disappearance of blemishes and reduced wrinkle visibility, and the skin was looking much smoother.

It was only then that dermatologists came up with the idea that the superpower of retinoids does not end with the treatment of acne, but continues indefinitely. Retinoic acid reduces the visibility of fine lines and wrinkles by stimulating collagen synthesis and shows an anti-aging effect in both photoaged and chronologically aged skin. In line with this, you may also want to read our review on the Drunk Elephant Retinol Cream.

Can You Use Hyaluronic Acid with Retinol?

Considering that both hyaluronic acid and retinol show an anti-aging effect, the logical question is: Can I use them together to achieve even better results? Or do I have to choose between hyaluronic acid vs retinol? Let’s discuss this further.

You’ve probably heard somewhere along the way that it’s not the best idea to use retinol along with acids. And that is true. As Dr. Rachel Nazarian says: “Applying retinol and AHA / BHA in one evening is a recipe for irritated, dry skin.” But keep in mind that this does not apply to hyaluronic acid. If we want to be technical, hyaluronic acid is not really an acid, but a glucosaminoglycan, and it does not show the same properties as alpha and beta hydroxy acids. So you don’t have to worry about unwanted reactions for hyaluronic acid with retinol.

According to The Healthy, hyaluronic acid with retinol is a great combination, because hyaluronan can alleviate the side effects of retinol, such as dry skin, redness, and burning. Although retinol promotes skin cell regeneration and stimulates collagen synthesis, which leads to great-looking skin, its side effects are sometimes an obstacle for patients. That is why hyaluronic acid (which is a generally safe ingredient with hardly any reported hyaluronic acid side effects) — through its humectant properties can be one of the ingredients that will contribute to the recovery of the damaged skin barrier, bind water, and make the skin plumped and radiant. 

Hyaluronic Acid Before or After Retinol?

If you’re wondering whether you should apply hyaluronic acid before or after retinol, you are not alone in this dilemma. This is a great question. There are several ways to organize your skincare around these ingredients, and it shouldn’t really boil down to hyaluronic acid vs retinol. 

For example, if you use a cream with retinoids in the evening (and you should always use this ingredient in the evening), then you can apply a serum of hyaluronic acid in the morning, before the SPF. This way, you will optimally hydrate your skin in the morning, while retinol will show its magical properties during the night. And you will get the best from both worlds.

If you use retinol in the form of serum at night, then it is a good idea to wait a few minutes for the skin to fully absorb the product, and then you can apply a hyaluronic acid-based moisturizer. It all depends on your routine and the products you choose.

Some Brands We Love: Hyaluronic Acid with Retinol Suggestions

Now that you know whether you should use hyaluronic acid before or after retinol, we’ve rounded up some of our favorite brands of hyaluronic acid with retinol suggestions as well.

1. The Ordinary Hyaluronic Acid 2% + B5

For only $14.99, The Ordinary incorporates B5 in its formula for added nourishing and soothing benefits. The Ordinary also has Granactive Retinoid 2% in Squalane, should you prefer hyaluronic acid with retinol from the same brand. 

2. Glossier Super Bounce Serum

It’s no wonder why Glossier’s hyaluronic acid formulation is considered Amazon’s Choice —  with 3 molecular weights of hyaluronic acid, it can pull moisture deep into the skin (and keep it there). It’s a sure way to a dewier complexion in an instant, with vitamin B5 also in its formulation.

3. Peter Thomas Roth Water Drench Hyaluronic Cloud Serum

With an intense 75% hyaluronic acid complex, this serum from Peter Thomas Roth helps keep skin hydrated. It even provides an invisible silk veil of hydration with sodium PCA and silk proteins.

4. Murad Resurgence Retinol Youth Renewal Serum

This retinol serum from Murad has a potent yet gentle formula — it quickly and visibly minimizes lines and deep wrinkles, firms, and evens skin tone. Its Retinol Tri-Active Technology makes it a fast-acting retinoid that’s great for all skin types, even sensitive ones. If you want to pair it with the brand’s hyaluronic acid product, try Murad’s Hydro-Dynamic Ultimate Moisture, and you won’t have to choose between hyaluronic acid vs retinol.

5. Olay Regenerist Retinol24 Night Serum With Retinol & Vitamin B3

Another potent retinol serum that won’t break the bank, Olay Retinol24 Night Serum comes packed with vitamin B3 (Niacinamide). This formulation further allows this hyaluronic acid with retinol to smooth fine lines and wrinkles, reduce dark spots, and improve the brightness and texture of the skin.

The Hyaluronic Acid Retinol Question

Hyaluronic acid and retinol are two very powerful skincare ingredients. Both show an anti-aging effect in different ways and alleviate the visibility of fine lines and wrinkles. 

Hyaluronic acid accelerates skin hydration and provides a plumping effect, while retinol stimulates collagen synthesis and accelerates skin cell regeneration. If you’ve been wondering whether you’ll have to choose between the hyaluronic acid vs retinol benefits, fret not. There are ways to use hyaluronic acid with retinol and reap its benefits.

Depending on the type of retinol product you are using, you can even apply hyaluronic acid with retinol in the same routine. It all boils down to knowing how these ingredients work in order to determine whether to apply hyaluronic acid before or after retinol.

Ultimately, the hyaluronic acid retinol question can be answered: you can freely combine these two ingredients in your skincare routine and achieve great results. You can even apply a hyaluronic acid-based moisturizer a few minutes after your retinol serum for your nighttime skincare routine. If you are using a retinol cream, however, the hyaluronic acid product will have to wait for the morning. 

By being smart about your use of hyaluronic acid with retinol, you’ll achieve that well-hydrated, healthy-looking, and glowing skin you’ve always dreamed of.

You can also read our article on using retinol serum: How to Use Retinol Serum