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Can I Mix Propolis and Retinol? What Skincare Experts Say

by Yu-Jun Park 07 Jun 2024

Hey beauty enthusiasts, get ready to dive deep into the rabbit hole of K-Beauty.

We're talking mixing, layering, and getting the most out of our favorite ingredients, propolis and retinol!

Can you mix propolis with retinol?

Ah, the age-old mystery. Can golden propolis and shimmering retinol mix?

Well, you've dialed in the right frequency because the answer's coming in loud and clear - absolutely! Propolis and retinol make a great pairing.

First, let's pitch camp at the why.

So you have propolis and retinol sitting on your bathroom shelf, twinkling in the ambient light and you wonder, can these two dance together?

Before we can get the tango going, however, it's key to understand that your skin has a rhythm, a kind of symphony. During the day, it's all about defense, staving off those environmental stressors. Come night, your skin goes into repair mode. 

Now, our great friend propolis, the unsung hero of the hive, is aces at fending off those daily attacks. It's a natural antioxidant flinging its little shields up to protect you from harmful free radicals. 

Retinol, on the other hand, is your nighttime wonder, kicking into high gear when your skin is busy healing and rejuvenating. This vitamin A derivative encourages skin cell turnover, and softer, smoother skin emerges like a butterfly from a cocoon.

Individually, they're fabulous. But together? They're like superheroes uniting forces. 

To get the most bang for your buck, apply propolis during the day, and let it act as your skin's protective guard. Then, let retinol work its restorative magic by applying it at night. 

While both retinol and propolis are packed with benefits, together they're a one-two punch in the fight against aging skin - and who wouldn't sign up for that? 

Now, you might be wondering about possible reactions, like our favorite rogue: irritation.

A valid concern, and indeed, retinol does come with a small caveat. It can cause dryness or sensitivity in some people, especially the first-time users.

That's where propolis steps up. Its anti-inflammatory properties help to soothe the skin and reduce any potential irritation caused by retinol. Like a true friend, right?

But let's pause for a key takeaway: gradual integration is your friend here. Even superheroes need to test the waters. Introduce these power players slowly, and see how your skin responds.

Patience is your savvy move!

And remember, everyone's skin is special and unique, just like you!

Therefore, while on this experimental journey, pay heed to your skin's needs, watch out for any signs of sensitivity, and don't hesitate to consult a dermatologist for tailored advice. 

So, ladies and gents, next time you see your propolis and retinol serums sitting side by side, tell them to get ready. There's a fabulous skin care dance about to commence!

What can and cannot be used with retinol? (besides propolis)

Well, grab your lab glasses and let's crack the cosmetic code on retinol, my science-loving friends!

Retinol is like the lioness of the skincare savannah – incredibly powerful and admired, yet needs careful handling.

This vitamin A derivative is a gold-standard ingredient for combating the signs of aging, treating acne, and bringing radiance.

However, mixing it up with just any ingredient on the skincare shelf should be approached with a careful curiosity.

Let's start by cherry-picking a few ingredients that work harmoniously with retinol.

Hyaluronic Acid, like retinol, is another skincare superstar. It's the Mozart of moisturizers, gripping onto water molecules in order to keep skin supple.

Hyaluronic Acid and retinol can put a neat little tango, balancing each other out and minimizing the side effects of retinol.

Then we've got ceramides. Think of them as your skin's personal bricklayer, patching up your skin barrier when it's got a few cracks.

Ceramides and retinol are like the perfect platonic friends—always supporting each other and never clashing. The ceramides soothe and moisturize the skin, mitigating any dryness or irritation that can arise from the use of retinol.

However, navigating the waters of the skincare world isn't always smooth sailing. Retinol has certain rivals that can rain on your radiant skin parade. Cue the clash of the skincare titans!

Vitamin C, another glorious ingredient loved for its brightening and antioxidant properties, can reportedly squabble with retinol.

It's not because they dislike each other, but more about how they function. Both vitamins cheer for team skin, but they play at different skin pH levels.

When they're used together, the efficacy of both might be compromised.

Alpha and Beta Hydroxy Acids (AHAs and BHAs) are another pair to avoid mixing with retinol.

These chemical exfoliants tend to be a bit possessive and want to hog the full attention of your skin cells. Adding retinol to this mix may overload your skin.

Plus, no one likes a third wheel, right?


Lastly, retinol, like marzipan and sub-zero temperatures, should never meet benzoyl peroxide – they're simply not compatible.

A balancing act is needed here, as using both simultaneously can render retinol ineffective and make benzoyl peroxide more of a bull in a china shop than a helpful spot treatment.

So, there you have it folks. Skincare may seem like a mad scientist's dream with all those ingredients and formula concoctions, but it’s all about understanding how to involve everyone in the flow of the beauty ballet.

Should you use propolis before or after retinol?

It’s a match made in skincare heaven! Let's commence our journey into the realm of science, where we decode the mystery of mixing propolis and retinol.

Hold tight, because this skincare synergy can get a bit sciencey!

Why opt for retinol after propolis? The answer is simple: layering. 

Retinol works best when it's in direct contact with skin. The molecular structure allows it to penetrate deep into your skin, improving cell turnover and boosting collagen production.

Thus, it's usually best to apply retinol first to ensure it has that 'red carpet' entrance into your skin's layers.

But here's the twist. Let's introduce propolis into the story.

The buzz around propolis credits it for its ultra-hydrating abilities. This sticky bee-product works as a moisturizer, safeguarding the skin's subtle balance of water and oils.

It offers a protective barrier that seals in all the goodness, making it an excellent final layer.

The aim of the game is to let each ingredient do its job effectively. You wouldn't want propolis to barricade the tunnel that leads retinol to its work destination, would you? 

In simpler terms, propolis could play goalkeeper preventing retinol from scoring its collagen-boosting goal if applied first.

Hence the recommendation is to make retinol your first player in the skincare routine game. 

Now, time to consider sensitivity. Retinol can sometimes cause dryness or irritation in those unfamiliar with its potency.

It’s like a skincare bootcamp drill sergeant – a little bit demanding, but it means well and produces impressive results if your skin can handle the regimen. 

Propolis, on the other hand, plays the gentle skincare counselor. Its skin-soothing attributes can offer a safety net for any retinol-induced irritation.

Therefore, using propolis after retinol could give your skin the aftercare it needs, much like cooling down after a vigorous exercise session. 

In terms of timing, the general rule of thumb with skincare layering is to allow each layer to absorb into the skin before applying the next one.

Apply your retinol, perhaps catch up on a chapter of your favorite book, then follow up with the propolis.

However, listen to your skin's feedback! It’s your personal journey! If your skin feels over-taxed, you may want to alternate days of using propolis and retinol rather than layering them together.

So, to round up this round of skincare chess: follow the lead of the retinol knight, then let the propolis bishop do the aftercare.

It’s not about who goes first or last, it’s about the strategy.

What can you not mix with propolis?

By now, we've established that propolis is a queen among skincare ingredients. Yet, even queens decree certain subjects off limits!

In the realm of skincare, the unwelcome courtiers hail from the land of peeling acids. Yes, the likes of glycolic acid and salicylic acid should keep a respectful distance from our noble propolis.

Why so, you ask? 

Here's the skinny. Peeling acids serve to exfoliate, whereas propolis commands a soothing and healing presence.

When combined, these two opposing forces can wreak havoc on your skin. That's like asking night and day to rule at the same time, anarchy! Skincare anarchy, leading to over-exfoliation and a risk of skin irritation.

Propolis and Retinol: A Game Plan

1. Patch testing is your best friend

Rule number one in the Skincare Bible: Always conduct a patch test. This step is crucial, especially when combining potent ingredients like propolis and retinol.

2. Tuesday and Thursday: propolis + retinol day

Start off easy. Introduce propolis and retinol into your skincare routine a few times a week. Stick to a fixed schedule.

3. Listen to your skin

Gradually ramp up the frequency as your skin grows comfortable with this dynamic duo.

4. Counteract with Moisturizer

Retinol can give your skin a bit of a dry run. Retaliate by following up with a moisturizer that restores hydration.

5. SPF is your sunshine shield

The golden rule of skincare, never venture out into the day without your shield of SPF, especially after a propolis and retinol night.


"Does this routine work for all skin types?"

Potentially, yes. But those with hyper-sensitive skin might want to tread cautiously and patch test diligently. 

"Should I be wary of any side effects?"

Retinol can usher in some dryness and irritation. Keep a keen ear to your skin's whispers. If it complains of discomfort, take a step back on usage. 

"Can I follow this routine daily?"

Daily might be a tall order. Better to start slow, think once or twice a week. Then, let your skin guide the pace.

A farewell note

Well, skincare aficionados, our deep dive into the propolis-retinol pairing comes to a close.

You're now armed with the knowledge of this mighty duo and the do’s and don'ts of their usage. 

Venture forth and experiment with wisdom. Remember, skincare is not one-size-fits-all. You're as unique as your skin, so tailor these tips to suit your particular needs.

As we part, continue to glow and grow in your skincare journey. Remember, in the vast world of K-Beauty, there's always another enigmatic ingredient or an exciting combo waiting to be unveiled.

Until next time!

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