Hyaluronic Acid vs Retinol: Find Out the Best Formula Here

Knowing the right skincare ingredients to use on your skin is the key to solving your skin concerns. The same goes for a combination of two or more skincare products. This is why this article contains a detailed comparison of hyaluronic acid vs retinol.  

Using skincare ingredients that do not complement your skin concerns will only do more harm than good. Both powerhouse ingredients are capable of solving skin concerns like acne and aging signs. However, they differ in nature and functions. 

Keep reading to get a comparison of hyaluronic acid vs retinol and the best one to use for certain skin problems. 

SEE: What Is Retinol Serum Good For – Is It Worth the Hype?

Is Hyaluronic Acid the Same as Retinol?

No, it isn’t. Hyaluronic acid is not the same as retinol. They are two different skincare formulas that can help to address skin concerns like acne, dark circle, wrinkles, and so on. you have to know each ingredient to have a good comparison of hyaluronic acid vs retinol.

So what is retinol?

Retinol belongs in the family of retinoids, which are synthetic vitamin A derivatives. This ingredient is popular amongst dermatologists and skincare experts because of its ability to dramatically improve the skin’s appearance.

This formula is touted to be effective in fading off aging signs and dark spots. It is available in forms such as serum, cream, lotion, and oils. The topical application of retinol can help collagen synthesis and cell turnover. 

The formula works effectively as an antioxidant to protect and repair your skin from environmental damage. It contains exfoliating properties that can help to shed off dead skin cells. The exfoliating effect results in the unclogging and tightening of pores. 

Retinol helps to reduce the production of oil in the skin. Likewise, the ingredient increases the cell turnover rate in the skin. It does this along with boosting collagen and elastin production, to improve the skin’s firmness and eliminate aging signs. 

However, retinol is known to be drying on the skin. If you do not moisturize your skin properly after using retinol, it will cause dryness and skin irritation. Using retinol is ideal for you if you have oily and acne-prone skin. You should thread with caution if you have dry skin. 

SEE: What Does Retinol Do? Here’s Why You Need It to Defy Age

How about hyaluronic acid?

Hyaluronic acid is a humectant that helps to keep the skin moisturized. This hydrating formula can hold about 1000 times its weight in water. It works by drawing water to the skin from the environment or the body. 

As it pulls water into the skin, it helps to retain the moisture on the outer layer of the skin as well. This gives off the moisturizing and plum skin effect you need for a natural glow. 

You can find this powerful ingredient in several forms like toner, serum, moisturizer, creams, and dermal fillers. 

Using topical hyaluronic acid products on your skin will help to protect, soothe and plump up your skin to improve its overall appearance. Dry and sensitive skin types will benefit the most from this ingredient due to its soothing and hydrating effects. 

What Are the Differences Between Hyaluronic Acid and Retinol?

The two powerful ingredients have different natural functions on the skin. While retinol is a vitamin A derivative, hyaluronic acid is a skincare acid. Hyaluronic acid can help to hydrate and prevent skin dryness, while retinol is capable of drying out the skin.

Below is a comparison of retinol vs hyaluronic acid in their nature and functions.

Difference 1: Their nature

Most skin types can use hyaluronic acid with no risk of side effects. While retinol is very sensitive for most skin types because of its strength, and potency. Also, retinol penetrates deep into the skin because of its fat-soluble nature, while the skincare acid sits on the surface of your skin. 

Retinols can be found in oils and other similar forms while hyaluronic acid can only be found in water-based products. 

Difference 2: Functions

While both ingredients can help to maintain and improve the appearance and texture of the skin, they work differently. 

Retinol works by penetrating deeply into the skin to revitalize and repair the damage. Once it gets in the skin, the ingredient converts into retinoic acid. 

The retinoic acid then works to stimulate the production of more collagen and elastin in the skin. Additionally, it encourages the production of new skin cells. 

As for hyaluronic acid, moisturizing the skin is the main function, which is why every dry skin should use it. It contains humectant properties that can help to restore the moisture level of the skin. 

Adequate moisture in the skin will help to treat and prevent dryness and other skin concerns it causes. The hydrating formula restores the skin’s pH level balanced and protects the skin against environmental damage. 

Another difference is the effect the two ingredients have on the skin. While hyaluronic acid hydrates the skin, retinol dries it. 

Should You Use Hyaluronic Acid or Retinol for Anti-aging?

You should use retinol for anti-aging as it is proven to work effectively for eliminating aging signs. One experiment confirms that topical application of retinol among elderly people will help to improve the appearance of aging signs. 

Retinol contains communicates with the body to produce more protein fibers to help repair the skin’s appearance and texture. 

The cause of aging signs is usually the loss or breakdown of collagen in the skin. That can happen naturally as you age or as a result of exposure to the sun and other environmental irritants. The skin becomes saggy once it loses its elasticity. 

An increase in the production of collagen will help to restore the skin’s firmness. 

On the other hand, hyaluronic acid may help to prevent the development of aging signs. Dryness is another cause of lines and wrinkles on the skin. Since hyaluronic acid help to moisturize and prevent skin dryness, it may help to prevent aging signs. 

Retinol remains the holy grail anti-aging skincare ingredient. Therefore, when you are looking to treat aging signs, choose retinol instead of hyaluronic acid. 

Should You Use Hyaluronic Acid or Retinol for Acne?

Use retinol for acne instead of hyaluronic acid. Research reveals that topical retinoids like retinol work effectively to treat and prevent acne formation on the skin. 

Retinol helps to unclog the pores and prevent the production of excess oil in the skin. This leaves no room for acne to develop on the face.

Retinol is more of an acne treatment compared to hyaluronic acid. Hyaluronic acid is good as a complementary addition to acne treatment. It will help to maintain a good moisture level and that can help to prevent the production of excess sebum in the skin. 

SEE: Retinol on Acne- Proper Usage and Precautions

Should You Use Hyaluronic Acid or Retinol for Acne Scars?

Retinol is a more effective formula for acne spots. Therefore, you should use it instead of hyaluronic acid. Retinol encourages collagen production, which is a good way to fill up acne scars. 

Another way retinol works for acne scars is skin reproduction. The production of new skin cells on the skin will aid the removal of old skin cells. This will help to smooth the scars on the skin along with the spots. 

Should You Use Hyaluronic Acid or Retinol for Dark Spots?

Choose retinol over hyaluronic acid when you want to treat dark spots. Retinol effectively helps to lighten dark spots by stopping the enzyme that produces melanin from producing too much.

It helps to generate new skin cells to replace damaged ones. The more skin cells regeneration that happens, the lesser the visibility of dark spots becomes on your skin. 

Can Hyaluronic Acid and Retinol Be Used Together?

You do not need to pick one over the other when it comes to using hyaluronic acid and retinol in your skincare routine. You can use both ingredients in the same routine to dramatically glow up your skin.

Using hyaluronic acid with retinol will prevent the drying effects of retinol. It will also help to lessen the severity of other side effects that comes with using retinol. Combining retinol and hyaluronic acid is highly recommended for you if you have dry skin.

How Should You Layer Hyaluronic Acid and Retinol?

It is important to learn how to layer the two ingredients in your routine. This will help you achieve the optimal benefits of combining them.

Step 1 – Wash your face

Always start your routine by cleansing your face thoroughly with a gentle cleanser. It will help to remove dirt and all the product buildup on your face so they don’t clog your pores. It will also help your skin absorb your skincare products better.

Use a cleanser that works for your skin type and warm water. 

Step 2 – Dry your skin and apply toner

Pat your skin dry to remove water from your face. Avoid rubbing your skin as that can lead to irritation. After drying your skin, apply a toner that contains beneficial properties for your skin type. 

Step 3 – Apply your retinol product

Ensure that your skin is completely dry before trying this process. Applying the ingredient to wet skin increases the risk of irritation and other side effects. 

Once your skin is dry, apply the product on your skin using your fingertips to gently massage it in. Focus more on the problem areas of your skin as you apply them. Allow your skin to absorb the retinol product properly before moving to the next step.

Step 4 – Apply your hyaluronic acid

Apply your hyaluronic acid once your skin has absorbed the retinol completely. If you decide to use it as a serum, apply it immediately after retinol serum. If you are using a hyaluronic acid moisturizer instead, use it towards the end of your skincare routine. 

Frequently Asked Questions 

Should you use hyaluronic acid or retinol first?

Use retinol first. Hyaluronic acid should also come after retinol, as this is the best way to layer them without ruining their effectiveness. 

However, if you have sensitive skin, you can use the sandwich method of application. Apply hyaluronic acid first, then retinol, and hyaluronic acid again. This will help to prevent unwanted side effects. 

Should you use hyaluronic acid or retinol at night?

You can use either or both hyaluronic acid and retinol at night. The best time to use retinol is at night, as it helps the body repair itself as you sleep.

You can choose to use your hyaluronic acid in the morning or at night with your retinol product.

Should you use hyaluronic acid or retinol for dark circles?

Use both hyaluronic acid and retinol to reduce the visibility of dark circles under your eyes. 

Retinol will help to replace old skin cells with new ones while hyaluronic acid will help to plump up your skin. 


You should be able to determine the right one to use for addressing your skin concerns after reading the comparison of hyaluronic acid vs retinol. However, you can use both retinol and hyaluronic acid in your skincare routine to enjoy optimal benefits. 

The result of using both ingredients on your skin is radiant, glowing skin. Both ingredients will work to redeem your skin tone and texture, giving your skin a healthy shine.

Thanks for reading. 

Visit Africana Fashion to read more guides to help you pick the right skincare ingredient for you.