Sign up to my newsletter

Beauty Myths No. 9 – You can’t use retinols with AHA’s/during the daytime





Let’s all take a cleansing breath shall we?

There you go. All better?

Let’s keep it brief and separate some major JK Rowling fiction from the facts.


  • Retinol/Vitamin A is a proven anti-ager. We’re all in agreement on this. The EU, the FDA, every brand, every dermatologist, every crazy blogger that uses GIFs of Kristen Wiig to make a point.
  • Retinol reverses the signs of ageing and encourages your skin to keep doing that whole cell-turnover thing that we so badly need as we age. It does this really, really, really well. REALLY well.
  • Retinols unclog and minimise the appearance of pores, boost collagen production, even out discolouration and smooth and soften the skin.  
  • Tretinoin/prescription strength retinoids are a different ballgame. You get these from a doctor, not a brand. They will come with very clear, medical instructions.
  • Brands would like you to think that over the counter is as strong, but they’re not. Hence the ‘Whoa there, this is really super strong – you need gloves and a mask to apply and for the love of GOD do not let your face out in sunshine!!!!’ OK I’m exaggerating, but you see where I’m going…


  • Retinol makes you sensitive to the sun. PLEASE HOLD CALLER. No it doesn’t. The ingredient itself can degrade in the sun in certain formulations, but it isn’t going to melt your face. Summer is a good time to start using retinols as humidity in the air can actually help your skin and stop it drying out.
  • Retinols and acids (AHA’s and BHA’s) both exfoliate and therefore are too strong for the skin when used together. STOP YOURSELF. They work on different levels of the skin.
    Acids take care of the top layers and get rid of all the old dusty skin, a bit like dusting your furniture. They exfoliate.
    Retinols work at a deeper layer – never the twain shall meet. The acid holds the door open for the retinols to pass by…Retinols are cell communicators. If you are flaking or peeling when using a vitamin a product – you may want to reconsider – it’s possibly too strong for you.
  • Retinol must be avoided in pregnancy. NOPE. This stems from the fact that roaccutane – oral Vitamin A used as an acne treatment – absolutely 100% cannot be used when you are pregnant or hoping to conceive. Anyone prescribed roaccutane will know this and will have been given the facts upon receiving their prescription.
    There is a HUGE difference in taking a pill and ingesting it and using a cream topically on the skin. NOW – I’m not suggesting that you go crazy and use all the retinols when you are pregnant – what I AM saying is that if you’ve been using anti-ageing creams containing retinols and just found out you are pregnant – please do not worry. (You would be surprised at the amount of times I have come across this with clients.)
    There is not one recorded case of retinol in skin care causing birth defects in a baby. None.
    Doctors are just being extra cautious. And brands don’t want to get sued. Simples. Follow the manufacturers advice, and be sensible. Don’t have a heart attack if you’ve been using a night cream that has retinyl palmitate in it and you are 16 weeks pregnant. Please.

Please, please do not worry about using retinols during the day or after you’ve acid toned. It will be OK. They are the Number One anti-ageing ingredient. Proven. Done. Sealed deal. Game over. Modern formulations and technology can protect the vitamin a content in the formula. Check packaging on your favourite products and ask the brand directly if in doubt. And always, always use an SPF if you use any products containing retinols/high strength vitamin a – at any time.

Embrace the retinols – I can do a cheat sheet if there’s a need – but they are your friend.