Can You Use Lactic Acid & Retinol Together?

When done properly, using lactic acid and retinol together can brighten and smooth your complexion.”

  • Shani 

Are you tired of having dull, dry, or wrinkled skin? Two products can help give you that glowing radiance you’re looking for: lactic acid and retinol. 

These two products are quickly rising in skincare fame, and for a good reason – they are known to brighten skin and restore it to a more youthful appearance. If you want to rejuvenate your skin, read on for tips on using these products for the best results.

What Is Lactic Acid?

Lactic acid is a gentle alpha hydroxy acid (AHA) that provides natural exfoliation and deep hydration for your sensitive facial skin. It is derived from fermented milk, which is why sour milk (or buttermilk) baths were a normal part of ancient skincare routines. 

Lactic acid also plays a part in your skin’s natural self-care mechanisms, so lactic acid products fit right in with what your skin already does to keep you healthy!

Lactic acid supports your skin’s natural hydration, which is something that no other AHA does. It imbues deep hydration into dry skin, and it also helps your skin retain that hydration for longer periods of time. 

Because of its hydrating properties, lactic acid is gaining traction for its brightening and smoothing qualities.

What Is Retinol?

Retinol is a milder version of retinoid that helps smooth and exfoliate your skin to keep you looking young and radiant. It also helps stimulate your cell production to help you retain that youthful glow for longer. 

All forms of retinoids are essentially concentrated vitamin A, and retinol, in particular, is becoming an integral ingredient on the cutting edge of anti-aging skincare

Retinol is a powerful ingredient, so it’s important to use it properly. It’s not as gentle as lactic acid, so many skincare experts advise slowly tapering up to nightly use. You can find retinol in serums, daily cleansers, eye creams, and moisturizers. This power-packed ingredient is popular for a reason!

What Are the Benefits of Each?

So, what do lactic acid and retinol actually do? 

These revitalizing ingredients work in tandem to restore your skin to youthful splendor. Lactic acid does this by:

  • Removing dead skin cells
  • Thickening the top layer of skin
  • Evening skin tone

Removing dead skin cells helps promote new cell growth, which will ultimately lead to brighter skin. Also, lactic acid exfoliates the top layer of skin where fine lines and shallow wrinkles live. 

With that top layer gone, fine lines become less noticeable, wrinkles appear smoother, and even mild blemishes can fade in appearance with regular lactic acid treatments. Lactic acid can also target dark spots to help even out your skin tone – all so you can have that youthful, enviable skin!

How does retinol compliment lactic acid? 

Retinol promotes faster cell turnover, so these two ingredients pack quite the combined punch. Retinol also assists in your skin’s collagen production while also helping to preserve your already existing collagen. This leads to stronger, brighter skin. 

This revolutionary ingredient targets traditional signs of aging skin, which include wrinkles, fine lines, large pores, and uneven skin tone. Retinol can help clear blemishes by infiltrating your inflamed pores and neutralizing the bacteria that causes those blemishes. 

There’s nothing that interrupts a face of youthful skin like a blemish, so retinol is especially important for anyone who experiences frequent blemishes.

Can They Go Together?

The short answer is yes! Retinol and lactic acid are a match made in heaven. You may have read or heard that combining retinol and lactic acid is likely to irritate your skin. 

You may also have heard that you can only use these products on alternating evenings because of their potency. I am here to tell you that this is not always the case! At a certain percentage of retinol and lactic, you can use both ingredients together. 

Retinol and lactic acid are both powerful chemical exfoliants. In their purest, most concentrated forms, you should be careful when combining these two ingredients – using more than one exfoliant in each beauty routine is more likely to irritate your skin and cause redness. This is especially true for sensitive skin.

However, studies have shown that lactic acid and retinol can be combined for some truly transformative effects. One of the newest developments in skincare is time-released retinol. Formulas that release retinol slowly over time can combine lactic acid with that retinol for an incredibly powerful product that delivers stunning results. 

How Should I Combine Retinol With Lactic Acid?

Are you ready to combine these two powerhouse ingredients? Here are a few tips to achieve the skin of your dreams.

One: Find the Right Products

As I mentioned before, the key to combining retinol and lactic acid is finding a product that uses a time-release formula for its retinol. I recommend my Retinol Reform serum. 

This award-winning formula uses encapsulated retinol that releases slowly overnight, making this product a good fit even for sensitive skin. My Retinol Reform also includes lactic acid as its main brightening agent, which means you are essentially getting two products for the price of one.

If you’d rather start with just one of these superstar ingredients, try my Lactic Acid Serum

My formula uses 9% lactic acid to gently introduce your skin to AHAs. The serum also includes other soothing and hydrating ingredients such as hyaluronic acid and aloe vera to help minimize any irritation for sensitive skin.

Ultimately, you want what works best for your skin. You should always start with the most gentle formulas and work your way up to more concentrated lactic acid or retinol forms.

Two: Start Slow

You should never jump straight into daily use of a chemical product – especially if you’ve never used one before. To get the best results from your retinol and lactic acid products, start slow. 

Incorporate them into your nighttime routine between your cleanser and your moisturizer, and start with biweekly use. Once your skin adjusts, you can taper up to nightly use as your skin allows.

Three: Always Use Sunscreen

Both retinol and lactic acid can leave your skin more sensitive to sunlight than usual. To help keep your skin healthy and protected, you should use a sunscreen of at least SPF 30. This helps those products work their magic while minimizing any future fine lines or discoloration.

If you’re looking for a lightweight daily sunscreen, I recommend Supergoop’s Play Everyday Lotion. This hydrating sunscreen is not only SPF 50, but it also provides broad-spectrum coverage to keep your skin as healthy and young as possible. 

It is lightweight and water-resistant – so you can be protected for all of your favorite daytime activities!

Four: Give It Time

Skin takes time to adjust to new ingredients. 

While you may see some promising results within a week or two of using your retinol and lactic acid, it will likely take eight to 12 weeks to see any dramatic changes. 

If you don’t see improvements right away, that’s okay – just stick with it, and you’ll be surprised at just how young your skin can look!

Final Thoughts

Lactic acid and retinol are both powerful chemical ingredients that are revolutionizing anti-aging skincare. Together, they can brighten dull skin, hydrate dry skin, clear up blemishes, and smooth out fine lines and wrinkles. 

Although you should always be careful when combining two chemical ingredients, lactic acid and retinol can work together to revitalize aging skin.

With new time-release technology, retinol and lactic acid can finally work together in one product. As with any new product, you’ll see the best results if you start slow and give it time. You’ll also need to invest in a daily sunscreen to protect your skin. If you’re ready to revolutionize your skincare routine, check out my linked products and see just how young your skin can be!



Comparative effectiveness of alpha-hydroxy acids on skin properties | NCBI

Retinoid or Retinol? | American Academy of Dermatology

Retinoids, Topical | American Osteopathic College of Dermatology

The Tolerability and Efficacy of a Three-Product Anti-aging Treatment Regimen in Subjects With Moderate-to-Severe Photodamage | PubMed Central