Why You Shouldn't Mix Multiple Types Of Retinoids Together

There are many reasons behind the growing popularity of retinoids in today's skincare circles. Retinoids, like Retin-A or tretinoin, are the more potent version of the widely used skincare ingredient, retinol. "Retinols contain a lower concentration of the active retinoic acid ingredient. Prescription retinoids have a much higher concentration of the active ingredient," Dr. Melissa Kanchanapoomi Levin tells Byrdie

While retinols are classified as a type of retinoid, they aren't quite as powerful or fast-acting. Wondering what makes prescription-strength retinoids so special? For starters, retinoids have the capability to treat fine lines, acne, and textural issues simultaneously. In fact, skincare practitioners have been documenting the incredible results achieved with retinoid usage as early as 1984.

Obviously, the increased attention placed on these powerhouse ingredients has led to their inclusion in a growing number of skincare lines. Countless products, from eye creams to cleansers, sport vitamin-A derivatives in their formulations. You may think this is a good thing – the more, the better, right? Retinols and retinoids are considered some of the most dynamic actives around, so it's easy to see why so many brands rely on them as their star ingredient. However, there are some skincare practitioners who are sounding the alarm about the potential risks of mixed retinol or retinoid usage. So what happens if you mix different retinols or retinoid-based products together?

Not all retinoids are the same

Despite their booming popularity, not many people realize that retinols and retinoids come in different forms. For example, did you know that these active ingredients are often listed in skincare products under various names? Retinaldehyde, tretinoin, adapalene, and tazarotene are just a few of the other monikers given to vitamin-A-derived components. That said, you might not even be aware you're mixing different retinoid products simultaneously. But is that really such a bad thing for your skin?

According to some experts, yes. Because retinols are so widely used in skincare formulations these days, it's easy to overdo things, especially if you already use a prescription-strength retinoid in your routine. "The more retinol you put on, the poorer the [skin] barrier function becomes. This is why a lot of people feel that their skin is very sensitive and experience peeling, flaking, and irritation," cosmetic doctor Mervyn Patterson tells Business Insider. Dermatologists caution skincare fans to introduce retinoids or retinols gradually and to take a break if they notice any sudden sensitivity. Symptoms like redness, burning, or dryness can indicate a damaged skin barrier due to a retinoid or retinol overuse. "You want to treat your retinols as if they are caviar — less is more," Dr. Shereene Idriss tells Brides.

The risks of mixing multiple active ingredients

You're already aware of the risks associated with excessive retinoid usage, but what about other active ingredients in your skincare routine? Just as you might suspect, retinoids can act unpredictably when used in conjunction with other actives. Common cosmetic ingredients like benzoyl peroxide and exfoliating acids don't play very well with retinol, no matter how tough you think your skin is.

Of course, there are ways to preserve your skin barrier and use a steady rotation of actives in your routine. "If your routine contains AHA/BHA in addition to retinol, wait to use your retinol about an hour after AHA/BHA application," Dr. Scott Paviol tells Today. Furthermore, there are some ingredients that actually enhance the effects of retinoids. Peptide creams, for example, can be applied after your retinoid-based products to increase skin hydration and firmness. If you're wary of combining other products containing retinoids going forward, simply consult with your dermatologist or aesthetician for more guidance. After all, this is just some of what you need to know before using retinol