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Better Together: Glycolic Acid + Retinoids

A game-changing combo: Glycolic Acid + Retinaldehyde. Here's why we absolutely love this duo.

Barefaced Glow Peel Pads and RetinAL Skin Therapy

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Barefaced RetinAL Skin Therapy Retinoid
Barefaced RetinAL Skin Therapy: Stronger than retinol but much better tolerated.
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The Benefits of Using Both Glycolic Acid + Retinoids

Two ingredients that can individually have big impacts on your skin? Glycolic acid and a retinoid. So let’s cover the benefits of each skincare ingredient and then why we think they’re best when used in conjunction.


All About Glycolic Acid

Glycolic acid is part of the Alpha Hydroxy Acid family of natural ingredients. It is derived from sugar cane and is essentially a fruit acid.

It’s able to gently slough or exfoliate the skin’s outermost layer of dead cells, which is a primary culprit for fine lines and uneven skin tones. When the dead skin cells are removed by gentle exfoliation and properly moisturizing, newer, fresher skin is revealed.

Glycolic acid also hydrates the skin in two ways:

1) It takes water molecules from the environment and draws them into the skin.
2) By pulling water molecules from the lower levels of the skin to the dryer, upper layers.


This specific AHA is valuable at treating almost every skin concern across the board!

Infographic on acids to use based on skin concern

Using Glycolic Acid

The products in the Barefaced lineup that contain glycolic acid are Toning Pads, Toning Pads II, and Glow Peel Pads.

Toning Pads and Toning Pads II have a lower percentage of glycolic acid (10%), but should still be introduced gradually. Using them once a day (in the morning) on alternating days. Once you experience little to no irritation, you can increase by one day per week until you achieve 5-7 days of usage. Then increase to twice daily as tolerated.

Glow Peel Pads consist of 15% glycolic acid, and therefore, should be used 1-3x per week, and skipping your retinoid on those nights is also recommended to minimize irritation.

Barefaced models using Toning Pads II and Glow Peel Pads

All About Retinaldehyde

Retinoids are Vitamin A derivatives that increase cellular turnover which causes our skin to regenerate more quickly, thus making your skin look more youthful, vibrant, and refreshed.

The type of retinoid we use in RetinAL Skin Therapy is retinaldehyde, the middle derivative between retinol and prescription-strength Retin-A. Retinaldehyde is an estimated 20x stronger than retinol but much better tolerated. Learn more about why we chose retinaldehyde here

Using Retinoids

    • Only use them at night and start with no more than 3 nights a week.
    • To prevent sensitivity, avoid using Toning Pads and Vitamin C serum in the same routine if you're still getting adjusted to your retinoid.
    • Apple a small, pea-sized amount of the retinoid, after serums and eye cream.
    • If you have very sensitive skin, mix with a moisturizer. Using a moisturizer, like Hydrating Lotion, following your retinoid application can speed up the adjustment period most people go through when starting to use retinoids.
    • Your goal is to use it at least 5 nights a week, but start with 3 nights. Don’t add an additional night of use until your skin feels completely back to normal with the consistent 3 nights a week of usage.
    • Your skin will flake, feel dry and have some sensitivity. That is normal! Don’t stop using it or you will go through that every time you restart using retinoids.
    • When using retinoids, apply sunscreen daily as retinoids make your skin more sensitive to the sun.

Why use retinoids only at night?

UVA and UVB rays breakdown the ingredients in retinoids, making them unstable and less effective. Even the visible light from some incandescent and fluorescent light bulbs can affect potency! This is why we say right before bed (~30 minutes) is the best time to apply.

Pro-tip: retinoids should be packaged in an opaque container and store in a dark place to protect it from light. A bathroom cabinet or drawer is the ideal place! No fridge required.


Why They're Better Together

Why are these two best in conjunction? Because the glycolic acid prepares the skin for optimal retinoid penetration.

Glycolic acid is the smallest molecule of the AHA family, allowing it to penetrate the skin more effectively than other members of the AHA family. This allows the glycolic acid to gently (chemically) exfoliate, which in turn removes dead skin cells, dirt and debris from the skin's outermost layer, leaving the skin clean and unobstructed.

This allows the retinaldehyde to penetrate deeper into the skin to promote overall collagen production and cellular turnover. The two together work to target sun damage, uneven texture, hyperpigmentation, fine lines, wrinkles and acne.

Yes, Toning Pads (or Toning Pads II) can be used in the exact same routine as retinaldehyde, but to minimize your chances of sensitized skin, we recommend using GPP and RST separately, but together. Both should be in your routine, just getting used on different nights.

A sample way to introduce these products would be following this schedule:

Night 1 - exfoliate (AHA/GPP)

Night 2 - retinoid (RST)

Night 3 - retinoid

Night 4 - rest (only if needed to heal sensitized reactions!)

Night 5 - start over with exfoliate

Don’t forget, like everything in your skincare journey, consistency with this combo is crucial!


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