Can You Mix Benzoyl Peroxide And Retinol?

In the world of skincare, retinol is considered the gold standard for antioxidant formulas. It's always on the list of the top acids to invest in for combating large facial pores and photoaging. A gentler form of retinoids derived from vitamin A, retinol has been decisively proven to increase skin cell turnover, reduce oil production, and unclog pores. Accordingly, retinol can be used to treat acne, balance pigmentation, diminish acne scars, and lessen fine lines, per a study in the Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology. If blackheads, whiteheads, or cysts are your problem, retinol is your solution.

Another powerhouse ingredient that is also effective against whiteheads and cystic acne is benzoyl peroxide. A combination of benzoic acid and oxygen, benzoyl peroxide goes to work by penetrating the pores and destroying the acne-causing bacteria (via Las Vegas Dermatology). Benzoyl peroxide can slough off dead skin cells, remove excess sebum, and unclog pores. Since retinol is all about stimulating surface cell turnover while benzoyl peroxide targets the bacteria, should we use them together to maximize the efficacy of our skincare regimen? Let's hear what experts have to say.

The combination of retinol and benzoyl peroxide is acceptable

If retinol is a major player, benzoyl peroxide is also in a league of its own. Throwing V.I.Ps into the same room requires deft handling. The same goes for any skincare overachiever's beauty treatment. Speaking with Glamour, Dr. Karen Hammerman of Schweiger Dermatology Group stresses that the mixture of retinoid and benzoyl peroxide is a "mainstay of acne therapy" even though it can be drying and irritating to the skin. However, a certain concentration of benzoyl peroxide could switch off the retinoid molecule. Therefore, it's better to use benzoyl peroxide in the daytime and retinol in the evening. 

Backing up this statement, research published in The American Academy of Dermatology suggests that a daily regimen with 2.5% benzoyl peroxide in the morning and stabilized retinol in the evening can improve acne and boost your complexion. Several studies demonstrate that, compared to a 10% solution, 2.5% benzoyl peroxide can clear out acne just as effectively and cause less irritation, per Encapsulated retinol, which allows for gradual release over time, is worth a try, as it reduces the risks of skin inflammation.

If you have sensitive skin, over-the-counter retinol might benefit you. But if your skin is more resilient, you might want to try out a retinoid, usually by prescription only. Acne problems look different for everyone. If you're battling acne, you might want to consult your therapist regarding how much retinol or retinoid you need and how you can use the ingredient with benzoyl peroxide. Now that you know retinol and benzoyl peroxide don't necessarily cancel out each other in the same skincare routine, let's find out which product you shouldn't mix with either of these two. 

Don't mix retinol or benzoyl peroxide with these ingredients

If you're eyeing retinol for your skincare regimen, consider hitting pause on any formula that contains chemical exfoliants such as AHAs and BHAs. Using retinol in tandem with an abundance of active ingredients will lead to redness and inflammation, cautions dermatologist Dr. Uchenna Okereke (via Cosmopolitan). You should only introduce topical actives back into your life and use them on alternate days once your skin has gotten used to retinol. Retinol is not a good mix with Vitamin C either, as the combo can trigger skin irritation. Instead, apply retinol at night and vitamin C during the day right under sunscreen.

Like retinol, benzoyl peroxide shouldn't be used simultaneously with AHAs and BHAs, as well as vitamin C, says Dr. Sivanie Sewell to Refinery29. These combinations might over-exfoliate your skin and trigger irritation, resulting in peeling, stinging, and flaking. If you still want to incorporate an exfoliant, try an AHA cleanser during the day and a low dose of benzoyl peroxide in the evening.

Bottom line? Several dermatologists and studies suggest that you can mix benzoyl peroxide and retinol, the former during the day and the latter at night. When in doubt, use them on alternate days, starting off with a lower-strength dose. Besides, you should consider speaking with a dermatologist before experimenting with retinol or benzoyl peroxide — or both — for acne. The most important step is to get an accurate diagnosis of your skin problem so you won't mistake any red bumps for acne. Using retinol on the wrong condition might aggravate the irritation.