Azelaic Acid and Tretinoin Cream: OK to Use Together?

You must have heard these two skincare actives: azelaic acid and tretinoin. But do you understand what these two activities are about? And what are their benefits for the skin? Some actives can be too harsh on the skin used alone, let alone used together in the same routine.Therefore, what can possibly happen to your skin if you use it together in your skincare routine? In my previous post, I talked about my experience with tretinoin and how it helped with my acne. Let’s learn more about azelaic acid and tretinoin cream, and the use in skincare.

What is Azelaic Acid and Tretinoin?

Azelaic acid is a naturally occurring chemical in the skin. According to research papers, Malassezia furfur, a type of fungus normally found on human skin, produces azelaic acid. Azelaic acid has an anti-inflammatory effect and it also is effective against acne by stopping the growth of acne-causing bacteria (P.acne). Other than being anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial, an added bonus is its effect on pigmentation. It helps to reduce hyperpigmentation and therefore can be used to treat melasma as well as to even out skin tone for acne prone skin. Azelaic acid is also exfoliating, it promotes faster skin cell turnover.

Tretinoin is another skincare active that is popular as acne treatment as well as anti-aging solution. It is basically Vitamin A that you can apply topically on the skin. Tretinoin promotes cell turnover, helps to unclog pores hence prevent acne, and also boosts collagen production. 

Mixing Azelaic Acid with Tretinoin

Seeing those benefits laid out above, you might think that it’s a good idea to mix azelaic acid and tretinoin together. Both azelaic acid and tretinoin help with acne in different ways. So you will think using both will enhance the benefits for acne even more, right?

You might be right. However, you should do this with precaution. Both azelaic acid and tretinoin cream will increase the cell turnover of the skin. Therefore, a side effect of using both together in the same routine might be dryness, flakey skin or irritated skin. Simply put, both azelaic acid and tretinoin cream when used together can cause over exfoliation that leads to skin irritation. However, for skin that is already well accustomed to these actives, you may not face this irritation anymore. But please be careful when you start incorporating these actives in your routine, start slowly.

How to Use Azelaic Acid and Tretinoin Cream in Skincare Routine?

I am currently trying to use both actives in my skincare routine and let me tell you what works for me. Rather than using azelaic acid and tretinoin cream in the same routine (for e.g. night routine), I split the use of each in the morning and at night. 

In the morning, I use my hydrating toner, then Vitamin C serum before putting on Azelaic Acid. After that I put on moisturizer and lastly, sunscreen. It is important to always put sunscreen (and ample amount of them) on your skin if you use exfoliants in your skincare routine. In my case, I use azelaic acid and tretinoin cream in my routine, so sunscreen SPF 50 is imperative. 

At night, I use the same hydrating toner, hydrating serum, followed by thicker night time moisturizer. And then I carefully slug under eye areas, creases near the nose and corners of my mouth using Vaseline. Then I put my tretinoin cream on my skin. 

azelaic acid and tretinoin cream

Should You Use Azelaic Acid and Tretinoin Cream Together?

In summary, azelaic acid and tretinoin can be used together in your skincare routine. If your skin is not too sensitive and can handle it, you can layer the two in the same routine. However, if you are worried of over exfoliation or overly dry skin, you can use azelaic acid in the morning routine and tretinoin at night. The result that I have from using both actives has been incredible. My skin is so soft and supple, and you can really see the glow. And people actually commented that my skin looks very nice and healthy.

tretinoin before and after_january 2023

Tretinoin Before and After: Own Experience

There are so many questions from everyone about tretinoin and the benefits it has on the skin. People widely associate tretinoin as vitamin A for the skin. There are so many names for this chemical, you might also have heard the name Retin-A. They are basically the same thing. Actually, Retin-A is a brand of a tretinoin that somehow got associated with the chemical substance itself. However, now you know that when someone refers to Retin-A, they are actually referring to tretinoin. 

Tretinoin effect on the skin

Why do people use tretinoin? People use this chemical because of the benefits that it gives to the skin. It helps to increase the rate of cell turnover on the skin, also it can help to improve the overall texture and chemistry of the skin, and regulate the oil glands. Other than these benefits, it can also stimulate the production of collagen, hence it helps with wrinkles. Many people got to know about this chemical substance because of the acne problem. And then they realise after that the benefits from tretinoin is not only clearing their acne, but also helping to keep their skin young. 

Personally, I started my journey on tretinoin because of my acne concerns. I wrote a lot about pimples and acne in this blog as well, due to my struggle with them.

Tretinoin ideal candidate

As mentioned earlier, if you have acne and you want to clear your skin, tretinoin is one of the best options out there for your skin. However, some people with more sensitive skin might get irritated by tretinoin. Don’t fret, there is an alternative to tretinoin that is as good as tretinoin but less irritating i.e. adapalene (popular brand for this is Differin).

Another group of people who are interested in tretinoin are those looking for anti-aging skincare products. There are many scientific and clinical proofs that tretinoin does help to reverse ageing or at least preserve your skin’s youthfulness. There are so many people out there who are living proof of tretinoin’s effectiveness as an anti-aging skincare product.

Skin improvements from tretinoin

I started using tretinoin because my dermatologist prescribed me one (I need to thank her!). Back in October 2021, I had maskne around my nose and mouth area. I used tretinoin for 4-5 months but I was not consistent, because my skin was peeling so badly back then. I did see a huge improvement in my skin texture and how clear and soft my skin has become though. However, starting March 2022, I made a point to do it consistently after seeing so many women in their senior years having very good skin thanks to tretinoin.

tretinoin before and after_oct 2021

This is my skin in October 2021. Many spots and clogged pores around the mask area especially. Texture of the skin was also not smooth.

A few months after, my acne became much more under control. I was still struggling with the dryness and flakey skin. But I just focused on moisturising my skin more. You can see that my skin is dry in the photo below and there are some flakey area. 

tretinoin before and after_march 2022

This is my skin in January 2023 (see photo below). I’ve been using tretinoin for more than 1 year at this point. With consistent fortnightly use of tretinoin, now my skin has tolerated it better and it does not flake as badly as before. And starting a few weeks ago, I just started to amp up the frequency of my tretinoin from every other night to every night. And if you see some redness there, I did have mini purging in the past few weeks due to the increased tretinoin frequency.

tretinoin before and after_january 2023
tretinoin before and after_january 2023_2

Am I satisfied with the result from tretinoin?

Yes, I am satisfied with my tretinoin before and after. It was a journey and I did not expect instant results. You need to be patient with tretinoin. The more you are impatient with it and put too much, it will backfire on you.

Tretinoin, based on a lot of scientific studies, can change the chemistry of your skin and I can see how my skin improves so far. The frequency of acne/pimple has reduced so much. I don’t get cystic acne anymore except 1 or 2 in the past year. My skin texture due to acne scar has improved as well. I can get glowing skin when I moisturise my skin well now that my texture has improved. This is something that I couldn’t achieve before. Overall, I feel more confident in my own skin and I only wear SPF (and not foundation) when I go out now. I am excited to see how my skin will further improve from here.

person blue eyes photography

Castor Oil for Under Eye Wrinkles

Castor oil is a natural skincare that our ancestors use to maintain youthful and beautiful skin. Previously we have covered the topic of castor oil for acne scars, and now we will talk about castor oil for under eye wrinkles (and other wrinkles!). Have you ever wondered whether castor oil works for under eye wrinkles? Read more about this!

castor oil for under eye wrinkles_under eye wrinkles

What caused under eye wrinkles?

Wrinkles happen when our skin lost its elasticity and also collagen level. As we age, our skin also tends to be drier. With the drier skin and lost elasticity, the skin sags and wrinkles more easily. 

Signs of aging are often obvious from eye wrinkles, be it under eye wrinkles or crow feet. The under eye area has thinner skin and when we age, the skin becomes thinner and has less collagen. This is when the under eye wrinkles start to appear. This process can happen faster if you smoke, never wear SPF around the eye, have a very expressive eye movement in your daily life and if you carry certain genetic traits. 

Castor oil for under eye wrinkles

Given that castor oil has hydrating and moisturizing properties, applying castor oil on the under eye area can hydrate and moisturize the under eye. This will help to slow down the appearance of under eye wrinkles. Castor oil also has ricinoleic acid that helps to stimulate elastin and collagen production. Hence, it can help to maintain youthful under eye area when applied consistently.

Be mindful that castor oil may irritate the eye for some people, and many sources advise to avoid letting castor oil getting into the eye. However, there are people who use castor oil on the eye area without irritation. 

If you have applied castor oil on small patch of your eye area and have no irritation, you can be more carefree in your application of castor oil. Some people apply castor oil on the eye lid and under eye area and massage the oil with eyes closed. This can help with the blood circulation around the eye area and help the skin to absorb the oil. The castor oil can help to hydrate and moisturize not only the under eye area but also the corners of the eyes where crow feet may appear. Doing this can concurrently promote the growth of your eye lashes (which is a bonus!).

castor oil for under eye wrinkles_application

Is castor oil good for under eye wrinkles?

From my research, castor oil is good to prevent under eye wrinkles. However, the extent to which it helps with existing under eye wrinkles might depend on how deep or extensive the wrinkles are. It can definitely help with fine lines under the eye. However if you have deep under eye wrinkles, castor oil might benefit you to a smaller extent. For deeper or more extensive wrinkles, you may need to check with your beautician for other treatment options (like botox). 

Prevention is always better than treatment. If you are in your 30s or entering your 30s, start preventing under eye wrinkles! Hydrate and moisturize your under eye area and also wear sunscreen around the eye. If normal sunscreen irritates your eyes, try gentler sunscreen for babies for your eye area. Also, adopt healthier, age-defying lifestyle that will help you to maintain your youthful look. Also, eat a lot of antioxidant food to fight the aging process.

I am inspired to write this post after I watched a Youtuber named  Jennifer Myers who has been using castor oil consistently for more than 6 years. She has beautiful, thick eyelashes besides wrinkle-free under eye area. Check her out here! 

Age Defying Lifestyle and Habits

Some people think that only when you are in your 30s or 40s you should start taking more care of your skin. This is to make sure it does not age faster that it should or even better, age slower than it should. The topic of anti-aging is one of the most popular ones when we talk about beauty. Youth is something that everyone years for once it is slipping away from us. In the previous article, I have covered the topic of lifestyle changes for acne. Ensuring healthy skin and fighting acne can also help to make you look better and youthful. But other than that, there are other age defying habits or products that can help you to stay youthful as well. Continue reading to find out more!

What’s in the market: Age defying cream and treatments

There are tons of age defying beauty products that you can use for this purpose. However, if you see the market, age-defying skincare products tend to be very expensive. I have been looking around for eye cream products, as under-eye circle is my big concern and I started to see some tiny eye wrinkles! I am in my mid 20s and frankly I am worried to see my first wrinkle. Eye cream products are very expensive in general and seeing the price of the products in department store shocked me.

Other than products, there are many age defying skincare treatments at clinics. Again, they are quite expensive. If you can afford one, try age defying skin rejuvenating laser treatments that are ubiquitous in clinics these days. These treatments can help to reduce your pore sizes, stimulate collagen production under the skin, making the skin firmer and younger-looking. If you want to get rid of some of your wrinkles or any facial line, you can do Botox to mitigate existing wrinkle or Baby Botox for prevention.

Age defying habits you can start at home

Being a student and not able to afford expensive skincare treatment or products, I opt for these simple solutions to take care my skin. This involves not only incorporating affordable age defying products but also age defying lifestyle changes.

Age defying hydration habit

age defying lifestyle_drink water

Body of an adult human consists of 60% water. There is no doubt that you need to hydrate your body sufficiently by drinking enough water everyday. Healthy water intake for adult men is around 3.7 litres per day and for adult women is 2.7 litres per day. Bring water with you everywhere, to school, to office, to the gym. Do not forget to drink no matter how busy you are. There are some people who hate drinking plain water. You can always add a squeeze of lemon into it, or put some mint, cucumber, or even fruits to make your water more tasteful, in a healthy way.

You might think that drinking tea or coffee is equal to drinking water (because tea and coffee contain water). However, they are not the same. Drink plain water has more age defying benefits than drinking tea or coffee in hydrating your body. 

Age defying cleansing habit

When washing your face, wash it first with warm water to open the pores. Use your favorite cleanser to cleanse your face. When rinsing, use cold water. Cold water will close the pores and keep the hydration of the skin intact. On the other hand, warm/hot water dehydrates the skin. This is because warm/hot water opens the pores and the hydration of the skin goes away. I notice that when I consistently shower with warm/hot water, I will need to really moisturize my skin with lotions. Otherwise it will start to itch due to dryness.
Use gentler cleanser that is not too harsh on the skin. Try to understand what is your skin type, and use the appropriate cleanser. If your skin is oily, you can use cleanser for oily skin, or cleanser with salicylic acid for extra exfoliation. For combination skin, you might want to err at the edge of caution and still use a hydrating cleanser. If your skin is dry, it goes without saying that you should use a hydrating cleanser. The purpose of age defying cleansing habit is to ensure your skin remains hydrated, supple and smooth.

Skincare using facial oils

age defying_facial oil

Facial oils have gained popularity recently as part of age defying skincare routine to maintain youthful skin. We should debunk the myth that all oils will clog the pores of the skin. It goes without saying that you need to be careful in choosing what oil to use. Some skin types may not react well with facial oil, perhaps the oil type is not suitable or the skin is very sensitive. Do enough try and error before using facial oil. 

Some popular facial oils are jojoba oil, olive oil, virgin coconut oil, and rosehip oil. Make sure the oil that you use is cold pressed and organic to get the most benefits from the facial oils. 

Wrinkles near the eye are one of the most visible signs of aging. Most of the popular eye cream products use avocado or virgin coconut oil as their main age defying ingredient. You can always use avocado oil or virgin coconut oil to put under your eye. They are both gentle to the skin and can firm the skin very well.

Moisturizers for supple, youthful skin

Moisturizing your skin is very important. No matter where you live, whether it is tropical and humid or whether it is dry and cold, always moisturize. If you live in a humid, tropical weather area, choose moisturizers with lighter and less greasy texture. You can always adjust the thickness of the moisturizer by layering it. For example, during the day keep it light because the weather may be too hot and humid. On the other hand, during the night put more moisturizer layers to keep the skin hydrated throughout the night.

Keep in mind if you use AC when you sleep, your skin tends to get dry easily. This is the same when you take flights, the AC in the plane cabin makes your skin dry. Put more moisturizer to save your skin from dehydration.

Sheet masks for extra moisture

age defying lifestyle_hydrating sheet mask

Other than age defying creams for moisturizing, you can also step up your hydration game by wearing facial sheet masks. On days where I feel my skin is super dry and flaking, putting a sheet mask for 30 mins to 45 mins really save my skin. These sheet masks usually contains potent hydrating serums that penetrate deep into the skin and hydrate the deeper layers of the skin.

Age defying skin protection habit

Sunshine can do wonders to the body and the skin but too much will damage it. Have you seen people who often do tanning under the sun without any protection? They may look fabulous in their 20s or 30s, sporting their sexy tan. However, once they reach their 40s or beyond, their skin ages prematurely and they may look older than their age.

Sun protection is one of the most important age defying habits but often overlooked. Protection is always better than prevention. It can be cheaper too. Do not regret not putting sufficient protection to your skin. Otherwise, in your later years, you may need to spend a big fortune for skin treatments to turn back the clock.

Put enough sunscreen for UV protection

“Not only when you are outdoor, you should also put sunscreen when you are indoor” – I got this advice from my dermatologist. The UV ray from the sun will also get into the house from the windows, the doors, etc. Moreover, use is sunscreen with high SPF. The lower the SPF, the more often you need to reapply the sunscreen in order to give you enough protection. If you live in a tropical country like myself, wear at least SPF 50 sunscreen for ample protection.

Wear sunglasses to avoid squinting

age defying_wearing sunglasses

Lastly, wear sunglasses as part of age defying routine for your eyes. If you often go outdoors during the day, you might squint your eyes under very bright sunlight. This will increase the chance of getting eye wrinkles, especially crow feet. Oversized sunglasses paired with big hat or even normal cap can be a cheap but effective age defying habit for you.

Skin Barrier Repair: How To & Products

I am a big believer in treating acne sustainably from within and through lifestyle changes. Previously I have covered lifestyle changes for acne, Japanese water therapy, and how exercise can help with acne. This time I will pivot a little bit and talk about products to apply to the skin. The focus will be on products for skin barrier repair. In this post, we will talk about how long to repair the skin barrier, how to repair your skin barrier and the best skin barrier repair products.

The need for skin barrier repair

How can the skin barrier get damaged in the first place? First, you might damage your skin barrier when you use the wrong skincare products. Products that are too harsh on the skin and damage the natural skin mantle can compromise the skin barrier. Second, you might handle your skin in the wrong way. For example, using water that is too hot on the skin or using facial scrub that is too rough. When the skin barrier is compromised, the skin might be dehydrated, sensitized, and more prone to infection.  

How to repair your skin barrier

You can repair your skin barrier by changing the way you handle your skin. Observe how you handle your skin every day. Starting from when you take a shower or wash your face to the products that you use for skincare. Do you use water that is too hot that it dehydrates your skin? Do you use a facial cleanser that is suitable for your skin type? For example, if your skin is dry, you should not use a cleanser meant for oily skin. Do you use a facial scrub that is too harsh on the skin? If your skin is already sensitized, do you continue using your facial scrub for exfoliation? And do you hydrate and moisturize your skin enough, especially given your living condition? For example, if you always stay in an air-conditioned room that can dehydrate the skin, you need to moisturize your skin enough. 

Building an understanding of what kind of skin you have is also important. If your skin tends to be sensitive, when you try acids or serums, try the lower concentration first before amping it up to the higher one. Skincare products that are too strong, especially acids or retinol, can damage your skin instead of improving its condition. 

skin barrier repair_healthy skin

How long to repair skin barrier

Once the skin barrier is damaged, the skin barrier repair process might take time. The skin needs to return to its original optimal condition in its own time. You may need to change the way you tend to your skin. Moreover, you will need to revisit the skincare products that you use, and really assess which one works for you, and which does not. Personally, it takes me a couple of years to get my skin to where I want to be after all my breakout episodes. I have been maintaining my healthy lifestyle and skincare to keep my skin at its optimum level. 

Skin barrier repair: steps to take

Revisit how you wash your face

Use lukewarm water to wash your face. In the morning, if you do not need to use a cleanser, you can opt for micellar water to gently take away your overnight skincare products on your skin. Milk cleanser can be an option too if your skin is easily dehydrated. Do not wash your face too often. This is because every time you wash your face, you are stripping away the natural oil on the skin.

Revisit how you dry your face

After washing your face, pat your skin dry. Do not rub your face too hard with the towel. If you are suffering from acne and worry about germs, you can pat your skin dry with a tissue. This way, you do not need to dry your face with the same towel every time.  

Avoid harsh chemicals

Try to treat your skin more gently. If you have acne, you might want to use all means to get rid of it quickly. Therefore you might use too much of anti-acne products, or overexfoliate your skin. Evaluate your skin reaction to these products. Sometimes these products are too harsh on the skin, especially those with higher concentration. Do not confuse actives concentration with product effectiveness. Products that are too high in actives concentration might damage your skin rather than benefit the skin. Pay attention to how your AHA, BHA or retinol affect your skin condition.

Another chemical that we should look out for is Sodium Laureth Sulfate (SLS). This is common in any skin cleansers. It is a surfactant that can help to loosen dirt from the skin surface, hence helping in the cleansing process. However, research has shown that it can penetrate the dermal layers and disrupts the natural oil and moisture layer. It can also disrupt the pH level of the skin, which can compromise skin health and immunity. Our skin pH is at 5.5 and SLS is more alkaline at ph 7. Skincare products at lower pH that is closer to our skin natural pH at 5.5 will work better with the skin.

skin barrier repair_applying skincare product

The best skin barrier repair products

Brands that work for different people may differ. However, in essence, gentle skincare products with the right concentration for your skin type, and with the right pH level will be good for your skin barrier. Also, hydration and moisturization of the skin are super important for your skin to function at its optimal level. If you want to add some antioxidants, they can boost resiliency and help your skin to fight free radicals as well. 

These are the best skin barrier repair products in my skincare routine, I will break it down based on morning vs evening routine.

Morning routine

  1. Cleanser – SebaMed Anti Bacterial Cleansing Foam
  2. Serum – Hada Labo Hyaluronic acid, followed by Mad Hippie Vitamin C
  3. SPF – L’oreal UV Perfect Super Aqua Essence SPF 50

The cleanser is good for sensitive, acne-prone skin. It keeps the natural skin pH level at around 5.5. I usually leave the cleanser for 2-3 minutes on my skin before rinsing it off. After cleansing, serums are next. Hyaluronic acid is a humectant (it hydrates the skin) and Vitamin C serum is to boost the function of the SPF. I wrote about how Vitamin C is well combined with SPF in the morning in my other post. For the SPF I use anything that is not greasy and this one does the job. Another favorite is the Biore UV Aqua Rich sunscreen line.


And after all these products I put on my makeup, usually very minimal only revolving around under-eye concealer, concealer (for spot concealing), and setting powder to make my skin not shiny.

Night routine


  1. Cleansing Wipe – Makeup Removing Towelettes by Dr. Morita
  2. Cleanser – SebaMed Anti Bacterial Cleansing Foam
  3. (On alternate days) AHA/BHA – Paula’s Choice 5% AHA or Paula’s Choice 2% BHA OR Paula’s Choice 1% Retinol
  4. Moisturizer – Kiehl’s Ultra Facial Cream 

Choosing the right cleanser is very important. Harsh surfactants like Sodium Lauryl/Laureth Sulfate (SLS) are alkaline and will disrupt the natural skin pH balance at ~5.5 (slightly acidic). Find a gentler cleanser that is closer to skin natural pH.

AHA and BHA have been the game changer in my skincare routine. AHA makes my skin smoother, softer, more glowing and hydrated. On the other hand, BHA helps to reduce the appearance of blackheads and make my pores smaller. Don’t use AHA/BHA with Retinol at the same time because the combination might be too strong for most people.

Find out what moisturizer works best for your skin. When I use retinol, I wait for around 20 minutes before I put on moisturizer. This is to allow the retinol to sink into the skin before you put another product on top.

How’s my skin barrier repair journey so far?

I am conscious that this skin barrier repair journey cannot be rushed and I would need to allow the skin to restore its optimal condition in its time. After changing my own skincare habits, I have not been breaking out and I am very thankful for that. I believe that a good cleansing habits, proper chemical exfoliation, and generous skin hydration really can do your skin wonders. 

Since I have dry skin, skin hydration is actually super important to give me the clear, supple skin that I have always dreamed of. Hydration does not only come from skincare, but also from water intake. Japanese water therapy works well for me, and at the same time, I make sure that I drink water throughout the day. 

Find out more about acne, skincare and skin health with me!