Alpha Hydroxy Acids Or Retinol: Which Is Best?

Reducing the effects of aging on your skin requires a combination of ingredients including broad spectrum sunscreens, exfoliants, antioxidants, emollients, and cell communicating ingredients. Vitamin A derivatives such as tretinoin and retinol are widely recommended by skin care professionals for their ability to help reverse sun damage, reduce the appearance of wrinkles, boost collagen production and increase skin cell turnover. While many individuals cannot tolerate tretinoin because it is highly irritating to skin, retinol is an over the counter alternative that is effective and better tolerated.

Yet another skin beneficial ingredient are alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs), which work to exfoliate and stimulate collagen production. So, which is best for your skin – retinol or AHAs? In truth, both are beneficial and work in different ways. Today, I’ll describe the advantages of using both ingredients, including how to incorporate both into your skin care regimen.

What Do They Do?

Retinoids, including retinol, are vitamin A derivatives. Originally, they were used mainly to treat acne. Over time, many patients began reporting that retinoids also improved the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, smoothed skin tone, and cleared away blocked pores. Plus, when topically applied, retinol has antioxidant properties, which helps to fight free radical damage.

AHAs, including glycolic acid, mandelic acid, lactic acid and malic acid, are sugar derivatives. They’re used to exfoliate the skin, removing layers of dead cells. In doing so, AHAs encourage new cells to rise to the surface, giving the skin a fresher, healthier, more vibrant look. Also, through routine application, they can reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles.

It’s important to note that topical application of retinol and alpha hydroxy acids can make your skin more susceptible to damage from the sun’s UVA and UVB rays. So, you should use a well formulated sun protecting agent like Anthelios sunscreens whenever you’re treating your skin with either ingredient.

Your Daily Skin Care Regimen

Even though both retinol and AHAs have similar anti-aging effects on your skin, they work differently to deliver them. For example, retinol is not an exfoliant while AHAs are. On the other hand, retinol has antioxidant properties. Both ingredients can smooth skin tone and reduce wrinkles, but also provide unique benefits that the other lacks.

Ideally, your skin care regimen should include a retinol treatment each night after using a cleanser. An AHA should be applied during the day once or twice each week. And, if you can’t tolerate a retinol product, then consider using an AHA preparation in its place.

Following are 2 solutions that can improve the visible signs of premature aging:

MaMa Lotion – a 20% concentration of two AHAs, mandelic and malic acids, MaMa Lotion is an exfoliating serum ideal for treating acne, scars as well as hyperpigmentation, particularly in sensitive skin types.  

Green Cream – Sun damage from UVA and UVB rays can lead to wrinkles and other signs of aging. Green Cream is available in a range of concentrations to encourage exfoliation, stimulate growth of collagen fibers, and rebuild the skin’s underlying cellular structure.

Credentials Glycolic Serum 8% – This 8% blend of AHAs contains the added benefits of Vitamins A and E. Use under moisturizer or without if you have oilier skin.

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Sharmani said,

September 12, 2016 @ 11:19 am

For Minh,
Thanks for your question. Cruelty-free products have really come to the forefront with consumers within the last few years, some of which are certified by Leaping Bunny or endorsed by PETA. Others, which are also cruelty-free, have not gone through the formal certification process. If your priority is using products with the Leaping Bunny seal of approval, we suggest that you search their website, filter down the brands to those that manufacture Face Care and consider the options given. You may be more familiar with or partial to one or more particular ones. Start with those and check their websites for retinoid products. As for effectiveness, you may want to read our blog here about the different forms of retinoids and which ones may give you the best results. Remember, too, that the higher up on the list of ingredients, the higher the concentrations. Good luck!
Best, Sharmani

Dawn Weaver said,

November 11, 2016 @ 9:03 am

This was published in 2008. Is it still the latest on the best?

Sharmani said,

November 14, 2016 @ 11:04 am

For Dawn,
Thanks for your question. Alpha hydroxy acids and retinoids are still considered excellent choices for healthy-looking skin. Both remain highly recommended by skin care specialists and dermatologists.
Best, Sharmani

Teotimo said,

November 16, 2016 @ 6:45 pm

Therefore the alpha hydroxy acid are good for the health of our face .

hyra said,

January 20, 2017 @ 1:47 pm

Hey.I have problem of keratosis pilarasis so what will be more effective for me ? Alphahydroxy acid or salicylic acid or retinoids ? Please do suggest me something really really effective because I’m very much worried about this issue.

Sharmani said,

January 23, 2017 @ 11:32 am

For Hyra,
Keratosis pilaris can treated with a range of different ingredients to help exfoliate, like alpha hydroxy acids, urea or retinoids, depending on where on the body it is occurring. Read more about your options here in our blog post that deals specifically with this issue.
Best, Sharmani

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