Retinol and Vitamin C Combination: The Ultimate Power Couple

Retinol and Vitamin C Combination: The Ultimate Power Couple


Khadija B.
November 3, 2021

In the world of skincare, there are some ingredients that reign supreme, so you might assume that you can use them together for even better results.

Retinol and vitamin C are two such products that have virtually the same effect, so it makes sense that you can combine them in your skincare routine, right?

Can you use retinol and vitamin C together?

Retinol and vitamin C have many of the same benefits when it comes to skincare, including brightening and smoothing the complexion.

However, it’s best to apply them separately to get the best results and ensure that they’re completely absorbed into your skin.

If you’re developing a skincare routine, having a power couple like retinol and vitamin C can be a gamechanger, but only if you do it right.

With our help, you’ll learn about the purpose and benefit of these powerful ingredients, how to apply them together for the best results, and tips for making the most out of both.

What is Retinol?

What is Retinol?

Retinol is a form of vitamin A that’s commonly found in skincare products that aim to rejuvenate the skin and refresh the complexion.

This component aids in cellular turnover and it assists you in shedding old or dead skin cells and then regenerating new ones, which does huge things for your skin tone.

As our skin cells go through a lot each day, including exposure to UV rays and having makeup applied to them for 8+ hours, they aren’t always in the best shape.

Applying a product with retinol on it helps to shed the old and bring in the new, by speeding up the body’s natural cellular turnover process.

Retinol’s Benefits in Skin Care

One look at the skincare market and you’re bound to see a lot of products containing retinol.

The reason for its success is the benefits it offers and how effectively it transforms the skin, with the following benefits possible with regular use:

  • Brightening your complexion after exfoliating away dead skin cells and generating new ones.
  • Adding a boost of collagen to the skin in the face can make you appear more youthful.
  • Acts as an anti-aging solution that reduces fine lines and wrinkles, minimize sun spots and hyperpigmentation.
  • Balancing the levels of your facial skin to reduce oiliness, which leads to fewer breakouts and good protection against acne.

What is Vitamin C?

What is Vitamin C?

Vitamin C is an antioxidant, also known as L-ascorbic acid, and when applied directly to the skin it plays a major role in protecting it and improving its appearance.

The biggest job that vitamin C has in skincare is to neutralize free radicals, and as an antioxidant, it does this effectively.

Free radicals are unstable molecules that we are exposed to every day, and their harm ranges from damaging the skin to causing cancer, so we need antioxidants to fight them.

Rather than ingesting vitamin C through fruits and vegetables, applying it directly to your skin with your chosen product will harvest the best results.

Vitamin C’s Benefits in Skin Care

Vitamin C isn’t just good to eat, but it also does wonders for the skin when it’s applied directly to it.

Here are a few of its main benefits that will make you change up your skincare routine immediately:

  • Brightens your skin tone and complexion by fading pigmentation and smoothing out the surface.
  • Impedes melanin production that can cause sun spots, age spots, and hyperpigmentation on the skin.
  • Treats inflammation and redness for a softer and smoother appearance.
  • Adds a much-needed boost of hydration to the skin and prevents water loss, so your skin stays supple.

How Retinol and Vitamin C Work Together

How Retinol and Vitamin C Work Together

As two products that have many of the same benefits, it makes sense that people want to combine retinol and vitamin C to get even more of them.

These ingredients are renowned for reducing the size and severity of wrinkles, plumping up the face by building collagen, and smoothing out your skin tone by reducing pigmentation, age spots, and sunspots.

However, using the two at the same time isn’t recommended, with the biggest reason being the fact that retinol is oil soluble and vitamin C’s primary component, L-ascorbic acid, is water-soluble.

Applying them together means the vitamin C won’t be able to penetrate into the skin because of the fight between oil and water and will be useless once it’s on your face.

Secondly, the pH levels of these ingredients are different, and each of them requires a certain pH level to be effective.

Retinol’s pH is between 5.0 and 6.0, whereas L-ascorbic acid is 3.5 or less, so if your skin doesn’t match this level, the products won’t work.

With such a major discrepancy in their pH levels, you’ll be messing with each of them if you apply them together, and they won’t be successful at doing their job.

Merging retinoids and vitamin C requires some monitoring, even if you’re using them apart as recommended.

Because they’re so effective on their own, putting the two together can be too much for some skin types, leading to over-exfoliation which means your skin will be exposed and sensitive, so there are plenty of reasons to separate them.

Tips for Combining Them

Tips for Combining Them

To implement a dermatologist-grade skincare routine at home, you need to know some of their secrets.

Here are a few tips for combining vitamin C and retinol as part of yours so that you get the maximum effect.

Have a day and night routine

One helpful approach for using retinol and vitamin C together is applying one during your morning routine and another at night.

Vitamin C is better for the morning as it brightens your skin and will improve your complexion, while retinol works best at night while you sleep.

Wait 30 minutes in between

When combining both vitamin C and retinol in the same part of your skincare routine, you need to leave at least 30 minutes in between applying them.

Apply the vitamin C first as it has a lower pH level, and then you can use the retinol once it’s been absorbed and the levels have returned to normal.

Skip a day

If your skin is sensitive or you’ve already noted some side effects from using vitamin C and retinol, come up with a new timetable.

Try applying a vitamin C product one night and then the retinol the next night. This break could be all that your skin needs to receive them well.

Give it time

Dermatologists have stated that it can take up to three months to see the effectiveness of a skincare product, so this wait-and-see approach needs to be applied here as well.

Start with either vitamin C or retinol and then add the other in after a few months of regular use, so you’ll know once and for all which one is responsible for what.

A Powerful Duo For Your Skin

There’s no denying the advantages of vitamin C and retinol or their first-class status in the world of skincare ingredients.

Although effective, it can take some tinkering if you want to use them both in your daily routine for the best results, so be prepared to put in the effort to be rewarded.

Related Questions

The world of skincare is always evolving, and new formulas and ingredients are being introduced to us each day.

If you feel overwhelmed looking at the contents of skincare packaging, we can help, with some commonly asked questions about popular ingredients and what they do.

Is Vitamin A the Same as Retinol?

Retinol is a type of retinoid which is a component of Vitamin A, so it’s essentially a part of it, and the terms are sometimes used interchangeably.

If skincare products advertise that they have retinol, retinoids, vitamin A, Retin-A, or anything similar sounding, most of the time they come from the same substance.

What Does Glycerin Do For the Skin?

What Does Glycerin Do For the Skin?

Skincare products with glycerin in them are usually formulated for moisturization, like a daily facial moisturizer.

As the substance acts as a humectant that draws moisture from the nearest source, it offers benefits like relieving dryness, making skin softer, and refreshing your complexion.

What Is an AHA in Skin Care?

AHA stands for alpha hydroxy acid and it’s a water-soluble type of acid that can be applied to the skin for gentle exfoliation.

As the acids sit on the skin surface, they peel away dead skin cells and the top layers so that new cells can be regenerated, and the result is a softer and more even skin tone.


Khadija B.