Vitamin C and Retinol - Their Benefits and How to use Them

Vitamin C and Retinol - Their Benefits and How to use Them

Vitamin C and Retinol are a powerful combination when used at the right time and in the right concentrations for your skin. One of the benefits of Vitamin C is that it protects your skin from “photoaging,” premature aging due to sun damage. And Retinol is great for smoothing fine lines and wrinkles. But both of these skincare products are quite potent and should be used with care. Here you will learn what you need to know to properly understand and use these beneficial ingredients.

Benefits of Vitamin C and Retinol

Vitamin C

First and foremost, Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant. Antioxidants fight off and neutralize free radicals, unstable atoms that are missing an electron. Because of this missing electron, free radicals can pull electrons from the healthy cells of your skin, causing damage like the breakdown of collagen. Over time, these attacks also cause premature signs of aging, such as fine lines, wrinkles, dry patches and other damage.

Free radicals can be caused by a number of things, including pollution and cigarette smoke in your environment, as well as by ultraviolet (UV) rays, a major culprit. But Antioxidants, like Vitamin C can give the missing electron to these free radicals, and thus render them harmless. Since the body cannot synthesize Vitamin C, you must get it from the foods you eat and from your skincare products. Even so, it is the most abundant antioxidant in your skin.

The best way to get Vitamin C to your skin is topically, such as with a serum or cream. Not only will it help protect your skin from the harmful rays of the sun and stave off photoaging, premature aging caused by exposure to UV rays, but Vitamin C can also help to repair any damage that has already been done. However, it does not replace sunscreen and should always be paired with a sunscreen of at least SPF 30.

Applied topically, Vitamin C can reduce fine lines and wrinkles when used for at least 12 weeks. You’ll want a serum of at least 10 percent L-ascorbic acid, Vitamin C’s most potent form and up to 20 percent for best absorption. Make sure it’s in a dark bottle because Vitamin C in this form is sensitive to heat, light and air and will oxidize and lose its potency. Keep it in a cool, dark place.

Also, be sure to do a patch test on the skin of your inner arm before you use it on your face.

Collagen is a protein within your cells that is responsible for the plump and smooth look and feel of your facial skin, among its many other functions in the body. Vitamin C plays an essential role in collagen synthesis and inhibits the enzymes which cause collagen breakdown. This is of vital importance, since you start to lose collagen as you age, and it is constantly under attack by free radicals in the environment. This collagen production is one of the reasons Vitamin C is able to smooth out fine lines and wrinkles.

Vitamin C also helps even out skin tone and fades hyperpigmentation like age spots, dark spots and sun spots. It does this by disrupting the pathway of melanin production. Melanin is the substance in your skin that provides pigment. The more you have, the darker your skin. It’s also what allows you to tan your skin.

Another benefit of Vitamin C is that it helps reduce the inflammation and redness associated with acne lesions. It also helps other wounds to heal faster.


Retinol, and other retinoids, such as the prescription tretinoin, are derivatives of vitamin A. These retinoids have long been used to combat acne, as they increase the skin cell turnover rate, and unclog pores, clearing both blackheads and whiteheads.

But this increased cell turnover rate also smooths fine lines and wrinkles. Retinol also stimulates collagen production which helps to provide plump, fuller looking skin. In addition, it is believed to assist in elastin production, which, along with the increased collagen production, helps keep the skin firm and prevents sagging skin.

Like Vitamin C, Retinol also lightens the skin and reduces the look of dark spots, age spots and sunspots. It also smooths out the texture of the skin due to the cell turnover – replacing fresh new cells for the old, dead, dry cells.

Can I use Vitamin C in the Morning and Retinol at Night?

Yes. In fact this is actually the best way to use them. Since Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant, you’ll want to use its UV fighting power during the day. And it brightens your skin, so you have a healthy glow. Don’t forget the sunscreen – at least SPF 30.

Retinol is best used at night, since it can make your skin more sensitive to the sun. Even if you aren’t using Vitamin C in the morning, you should still use a sunscreen of at least SPF 30 the morning after using retinol.

As Vitamin C and Retinol are both potent skincare ingredients, it’s likely best that they be kept apart in this manner. This way, you get the benefits of both, without overly irritating your skin.

Skincare Routine with Vitamin C and Retinol

As Hailey Bieber Skin Care Routine, In the morning, begin by cleansing your skin and patting it dry. Then apply your Vitamin C serum. Allow it time to sink in, as you would a toner. Then apply moisturizer, and finally your SPF 30 sunscreen. You may want to start with a lower concentration of Vitamin C until your skin becomes accustomed to it, working your way up to 20 percent L-ascorbic acid, as tolerated. And, as with all new skincare products, you should do a patch test before beginning to use Vitamin C on your face.

In the evening, cleanse your face and pat it dry. Apply your retinol serum, allowing it time to dry. Then apply a good moisturizer. As with the Vitamin C, you may need to start slowly with your retinol, maybe once or twice a week and working up to daily applications as your skin gets used to it. Retinol can be a bit irritating and drying to the skin.

Can I use Retinol, Vitamin C and Hyaluronic Acid Together?

Yes. Hyaluronic acid is a humectant that is able to bind a large amount of water and hold it to the skin, thus hydrating it. It works well with both Vitamin C and Retinol and can be used twice a day.

Use hyaluronic acid serum after applying your Vitamin C serum in the morning, then follow with the rest of your skin care regimen, including your SPF 30.

With Retinol, it’s the same procedure. Apply Retinol to a clean, dry face, then hyaluronic acid, then moisturizer.

Vitamin C or Retinol First?

If you are going to use both serums at night, since you don’t want to use Retinol during the day, you’ll want to apply the Vitamin C first because it works at a lower pH level, about 3.5, while Retinol’s pH level is closer to your skin’s natural pH.

So to make the combination work, after you’ve applied your Vitamin C serum, wait at least 30 minutes for the pH level of your skin to rise before you apply your Retinol. This will ensure that you get the best potency from both serums.

Best Vitamin C and Retinol Serum

Vitamin C Serums

The best Vitamin C serum, far and away, is Beautystat’s Universal C Skin Refiner. Anyone who’s used a Vitamin C serum before knows how sensitive it is to light, heat and air, and that it oxidizes and turns brown, rendering it useless in 3 months or less.

Not so with Beautystat’s Universal C skin Refiner. This is the world’s first serum containing 20 percent stable and pure vitamin C that stays potent, never oxidizing or turning brown. No other serum can claim this.

Get Your Skin Refiner Today

Loreal Revitalift Derm Intensives Vitamin C Serum is a 10 percent pure Vitamin C serum. It comes in an airtight metal tube that helps keep the L-ascorbic acid more stable. Of course, every time you open the tube it lets in air which will begin to oxidize the Vitamin C.

Skinceuticals C E Ferulic is a blend of three antioxidants, 15 percent Vitamin C, 1 percent vitamin E and 0.5 percent ferulic acid, which fight free radical damage and thus early signs of aging. However, just like Loreal above, it contains less than 20 percent L-ascorbic acid, which is the percentage of L-ascorbic acid shown to be most effective.

Retinol Serums

ROC Retinol Correxion Night Serum Capsules help to preserve the potency and stability of the retinol since they are each designed for a single use. They have clinical studies to back their claims of effectiveness in reducing fine lines and wrinkles. But there is no information available on the concentration of retinol in the serum, and it contains an unnamed antioxidant.

The Ordinary Retinol 1% in Squalane is a great, affordable option. The squalane moisturizes your skin against the drying tendencies of retinol. It also contains jojoba oil. However, it is a strong formulation, one that you should work up to if you haven’t used retinol before. Also, the product information states that it is not useful for acne treatment.

SkinMedica Retinol 1.0 Complex contains squalene and niacinamide, and an antioxidant to improve the action of the retinol. It also comes in concentrations of 0.5 and 0.25. However, while the manufacturer states that this concentration is appropriate for all skin types, it is a strong formulation that those with sensitive skin may need to work up to.

Retinol + Vitamin C Neutrogena

Neutrogena has a few products that combine retinol with vitamin C. They have a lot of clinical studies behind their products, and have patented the formulation “Retinol SA,” where SA stands for “sustained action.” It boasts a more stable and long lasting retinol that won’t oxidize or lose its potency during the product’s shelf life.

Rapid Tone Repair Correcting Cream contains Vitamin C, Retinol SA and hyaluronic acid. It is meant to brighten skin tone, fade fine lines and wrinkles, and fade the look of dark spots.

Neutrogena® Rapid Tone Repair Retinol + Vitamin C Dark Spot Corrector is a formulation meant for the targeted treatment of dark spots and skin discolorations.

Rapid Tone Repair Retinol + Vitamin C Moisturizer is a moisturizer with SPF 30 sunscreen meant to be used daily. It also contains Neutragena’s patented Retinol SA, and is intended to help with cell turnover to diminish wrinkles, as well as fade age spots. It also claims to help prevent sun damage and brighten the skin.

Neutragena’s Rapid Tone Repair Night Moisturizer containing Retinol SA and Vitamin C has been discontinued.