Alternating tretinoin cream (Retin A, Renova, retinol etc) with a glycolic cream at night?

Dear Dr Irwin, I know you are a big fan of tretinoin cream (vitamin A), and I have found it a fabulous product too. I\'ve noticed that your personal routine involves alternating vitamin A cream one night and 20% glycolic acid cream the next. In your opinion, is this routine preferable to vit A every night (and no glycolic)? I am interested in your thoughts as to what can be gained by this strategy. Thanks for your time. C

This is more for those interested in advanced skincare which you clearly are – glad you asked!  I actually don’t do this all the time.   For me, the very hydrating, emollient 20% hydroxy (glycolic in this case)  in the Vivite Night Renewal  acts to exfoliate on alternate nights and I think I get better penetration of the Renova as a result.   But 3 points to consider:

  • The higher strength glycolic is irritating for some including me (sometimes)  in combination with Renova –  so watch carefully.  If after a week or two of doing this, your skin seems dull – back off and only use the glycolic once or twice a week.
  • In any high sun situation, you don’t want to thin the outer, dead layer (the stratum corneum) too much, so stop the glycolic and the Renova about 1 week before a sunny vacation, for example.
  • I spend a LOT of time outdoors (swimming, biking, running etc.) in the summer here but not much in the winter ( the rain again…) sooooo, I stop the Vivite Night Renewal in the summer – using it maybe once a week.  I increase my Phloretin CF (antioxidant) and use double or triple sunscreening depending on what I’m doing.
  • In the summer, I stop the Renova and instead use the slightly weaker SkinMedica Retinol .25% for the summer 2-3 times a week.

Hope this makes sense and helps!  Dr. I


Dr. Brandith Irwin, MD

Ask me your skincare question!

Hi, I’m Dr. Irwin. I believe that consumers deserve a medically trained and unbiased skin care advocate.

  • All our content is written and researched by myself.
  • My medical office in Seattle has treated thousands of patients for 15+ years.
  • This site is not affiliated or financially tied to any product, treatment or device.
Ask Me Something
SkinTour Skincare
One of the best investments in your skin is your daily skincare. Why? Because you can prevent many problems with blotchy skin color, lack of glow, texture, some types of acne, and fine lines with good skincare products. You can also correct some of these problems with effective skincare products. Great skincare is often more expensive because quality ingredients are expensive. Some companies spend on research/development which benefits all of us and adds to the cost. Are they worth it? In general - yes! I have handpicked some of what I consider to be the best skin care products, and offer them for sale on SkinTour's shop. This is based on my team and I's testing and research at our clinic. Many of the products are in my own regimen. What could be better than using skin care products a dermatologist uses?!