Power Combos: The Science Behind Retinol Blends

Many cosmetic brands don’t offer retinol on its own. Brands like Paula’s Choice, Kate Somerville, and Allies of Skin combine it with other active ingredients. Here’s what happens when retinol is paired with peptides, vitamin C, niacinamide, or acids:

Retinol + Vitamin C

This combination works on skin texture, making it smoother and firmer, and provides a noticeable brightening and evening effect. If you have post-acne marks, they will significantly lighten.

The effect depends on the final formula: the form of retinol and the type of vitamin C used. For instance, L-ascorbic acid requires an acidic environment with a low pH (3-3.5), providing additional exfoliating effects. In contrast, Ascorbyl Tetraisopalmitate does not need such a low pH (5-5.5) and does not exfoliate as much.

Examples: Kate Somerville +Retinol Vitamin C Moisturizer, Sesderma Retises 0.25%.

Retinol + Peptides

A classic anti-aging combination aimed at smoothing wrinkles, often found in eye area products. Such products are best found in cosmeceutical lines, which I like to call ‘mom’s retinol’.

Examples: ZO Skin Health Intense Eye Crème, Allies Of Skin Retinal & Peptides Repair Night.

Retinol + AHA/BHA

Retinol and glycolic acid sound scary? Don’t worry: in this case, the acid is neutralized to act as a very gentle exfoliant, giving quick results. When combined with exfoliating components, retinol helps reduce skin hyperpigmentation and achieve a smoother, more even texture.

Examples: Alpha-H Beauty Sleep Power Peel, Peter Thomas Roth Retinol Fusion PM Night Serum.

Retinol + Niacinamide

A logical and most common combination in mid-range products. Those with oily skin will quickly notice seboregulating effects and reduced inflammatory activity. However, if your skin is prone to dryness, this combination might cause some flakiness.

Examples: Paula’s Choice Clinical 1% Retinol Treatment, The Ordinary Retinol 1% in Squalane.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.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