Lactic acid vs retinol – two skincare ingredients that have gained popularity in recent years for their impressive anti-aging and skin-clearing benefits. As we age, our skin’s natural ability to shed dead skin cells and produce collagen decreases, leading to dull skin, fine lines, and wrinkles. That’s where lactic acid and retinol come in – they both help to improve skin texture, reduce the appearance of dry skin,  fine lines, and wrinkles, and promote a brighter, eliminate uneven skin tone.

Lactic Acid vs Retinol: What Are They and How Do They Work?

Lactic acid and retinol are two very different skincare ingredients with unique properties and benefits. Here’s a closer look at each ingredient:

A. Lactic Acid

Lactic acid is a type of alpha-hydroxy acid (AHA) that is derived from milk. It’s a water-soluble acid that works by exfoliating the outer layer of the skin, promoting cell turnover, and stimulating collagen production. Alpha hydroxy acids such as Lactic acid are gentle chemical exfoliant that is well-tolerated by most skin types, making them an excellent option for those with sensitive skin.

B. Retinol

Retinol is a form of vitamin A that is found in many skincare products. It works by increasing cell turnover, stimulating collagen production, and reducing the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. It is also known for keeping free radicals at bay. Retinol is also effective at treating acne and reducing oily skin and age spots, eliminating the appearance of dark spots and hyperpigmentation.

Both lactic acid and retinoic acid are excellent ingredients for promoting healthy, youthful-looking skin. However, they work in different ways, and it’s important to understand the benefits and potential side effects of each ingredient before incorporating them into your skincare routine.

Can You Use Lactic Acid and Retinol Together?

One of the most common questions regarding skincare is whether or not different active ingredients can be used together. When it comes to lactic acid and retinol, the answer is yes, you can use them together, but with caution.

Lactic acid and retinol are both potent ingredients that can provide amazing benefits for the skin. However, using them together can cause potential issues if not used correctly.

When combining lactic acid and retinol, it’s essential to start slow and use them on alternate nights. This will allow your skin to adjust to both ingredients without causing irritation. It’s also necessary to pay attention to the percentage of both ingredients in the product you’re using.

Furthermore, it’s crucial to pay attention to the order in which you apply the products. Start with the product with the lowest pH level first, usually lactic acid, and wait for it to dry before applying the product with a higher pH level, like retinol.

It’s worth noting that some people may experience sensitivity or adverse reactions when using both ingredients together. In this case, it’s best to discontinue use and speak with a skincare professional.

pH Levels and Potential Issues

Optimum pH Levels

Lactic acid and retinol have different optimum pH levels. Lactic acid has an optimum pH range of 3 to 4, while retinol has an optimum pH range of 5.5 to 6. If the pH level is too high or too low, the effectiveness of the product may be compromised.

When using both products together, it is recommended to use them at different times of the day, such as using lactic acid in the morning and retinol at night. This helps to avoid any potential pH level conflicts.

Potential Issues

Using lactic acid and retinol together can also cause some potential issues. One of the most common issues is skin irritation, especially for those with sensitive skin. If you experience any irritation, it is best to stop using both products and consult a dermatologist.

Another potential issue is that using both products together can increase the risk of sun damage. Both lactic acid and retinol can make the skin more sensitive to the sun, so it is important to wear sunscreen daily when using these products.

Which Is Better, Lactic Acid vs Retinol?

Both lactic acid and retinol are effective skincare ingredients that can improve the appearance of your skin. Lactic acid is a good option for gentle exfoliation and hydration, while retinol is a potent anti-aging ingredient that can reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles.

When it comes to choosing between the two, it ultimately depends on your skin concerns and needs. If you have sensitive skin or are new to using active ingredients, lactic acid may be a better option for you. However, if you are looking for a more intense anti-aging treatment, retinol may be the way to go.

It is also possible to use both lactic acid and retinol together in your skincare routine, but it’s important to introduce them slowly and monitor your skin’s reaction. Always follow product instructions and consult with a dermatologist if you have any concerns.

At the end of the day, the choice between lactic acid and retinol comes down to your individual skincare goals and preferences. Incorporating either of these ingredients into your skincare routine can help improve the overall health and appearance of your skin.

How To Use Lactic Acid and Retinol Together

When it comes to using lactic acid and retinol in your skin care routine, there are a few things to keep in mind. Here are some tips for using these ingredients for best results:

  • Start slowly: If you’re new to lactic acid or retinol, it’s important to start slowly and gradually build up your tolerance. Begin by using them once or twice a week and then slowly increase the frequency as your skin adjusts.
  • Alternate days: It’s generally recommended to use lactic acid and retinol on alternate days rather than using them together. This can help minimize the risk of irritation or other side effects.
  • Use the right amount: Using too much lactic acid or retinol can increase the risk of irritation, so it’s important to follow the instructions carefully and only use the recommended amount.
  • Be patient: It can take several weeks to see results from using lactic acid and retinol, so it’s important to be patient and consistent with your routine.

By following these tips, you can effectively incorporate lactic acid and retinol into your skincare routine and enjoy the benefits of both ingredients. 

However, if you experience any persistent irritation or other side effects, it’s important to discontinue use and consult a dermatologist.

Lactic Acid vs Retinol: Product Recommendations

When it comes to choosing a lactic acid or retinol product, it’s important to consider your skin type and individual needs. Here are some product recommendations for lactic acid and retinol:

Lactic Acid Products

Retinol Products

  • Olay Regenerist Retinol 24 Night Moisturizer: This drugstore retinol moisturizer contains a blend of retinol and vitamin B3 to reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, while also hydrating and brightening the skin.

Remember to always start with a lower concentration of active ingredients and gradually build up as your skin adjusts. It’s also important to patch-test new products before applying them all over your face.

Lactic Acid Vs Retinol FAQs

Here are some frequently asked questions about Lactic Acid and Retinol:

Which is better for wrinkles, Lactic Acid or Retinol?

Retinol is generally considered better for reducing wrinkles because it helps increase collagen production and accelerate cell turnover.

How often should I use lactic acid?

The frequency of use depends on your skin type and tolerance level. It’s best to start using these products once or twice a week and gradually increase the frequency over time.

Should I use lactic acid or retinol if I have sensitive skin?

Yes, for those with sensitive skin types, you can use Lactic Acid or Retinol. But it’s important to start with a low concentration and patch test first to avoid any adverse reactions.

Can I use Lactic Acid or Retinol if I have acne-prone skin?

Yes, both Lactic Acid and Retinol can be beneficial for acne-prone skin, as they help exfoliate and unclog pores. However, it’s important to start with a low concentration and patch test first to avoid any adverse reactions.

Can I use retinol at night and lactic acid in the morning?

Yes, it is generally safe to use retinol at night and lactic acid in the morning, as long as your skin can tolerate both ingredients. It is important to note that using both products together may increase the risk of skin irritation or sensitivity, so it’s essential to start slowly and patch test before using both products at the same time.

Should you use retinol or lactic acid first?

It’s generally recommended to use retinol first, followed by lactic acid, as retinol needs to penetrate deeper into the skin to be effective. Lactic acid, on the other hand, is a milder exfoliant that works on the surface of the skin. Using retinol first can help to remove any dead skin cells or debris, allowing lactic acid to penetrate more effectively. However, it’s always best to consult with a skincare professional to determine the best order for your specific skin concerns and needs.


Both lactic acid and retinol offer unique benefits for the skin. Lactic acid is a great option for exfoliating and hydrating the skin, while retinol is highly effective in reducing fine lines and wrinkles. 

It is possible to use both of these ingredients together in a skincare routine, but it is important to do so carefully and with consideration of the pH levels and potential interactions. 

The choice between lactic acid and retinol may come down to personal preference and skin concerns. We recommend consulting with a dermatologist or skincare professional to determine the best course of action for your individual skin needs.

Similar Posts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *