Retinol and Vitamin C: can they be used together?

They’re 2 ingredients you’ll often see on the skincare shelves: Retinol and Vitamin C. But can we use them together to achieve the benefits of each? In this blog, we’ll take a look at each ingredient to help you to understand the do’s and don’ts of their combination.

First let’s take a look at each ingredient:

Retinol

What is it:
A topical product containing a derivative of Vitamin A

How does it work:
Retinol increases collagen production and improves the cell turnover rate.

Benefits:
  • Prevents wrinkles and smoothes out existing lines
  • Brightens dull skin by exfoliating cells and creating a smoother surface
  • Targets breakouts by regulating oily skin and unclogging pores
  • Evens the complexion, fading dark spots, scars and hyperpigmentation
To read more about Retinol, read our blog.

Vitamin C

What is it:
Vitamin C is a potent antioxidant found in a wide variety of fruit and vegetables

How do it work:
Vitamin C protects the cells from damaging free radicals and aids the skin’s natural regeneration process.

Benefits:
  • It’s hydrating and helps your skin to better retain moisture
  • It fades pigmentation and dark circles, as well as smoothing the surface of the skin to provide a glow
  • It soothes inflammatory skin conditions, minimising redness and evening the skin tone
  • Boosts collagen production to reduce fine lines and wrinkles, as well as preventing the skin from sagging

Can Retinol and Vitamin C be used together?

The fact of the matter is, when used in conjunction Vitamin A (retinol) and Vitamin C work well together to regenerate and protect your skin. However, it’s the application of the products that can cause potential problems.

There’s much confusion about whether the two can be combined and when in your routine they should be used for maximum impact.

Combining Retinol and Vitamin C

First, let’s discuss whether the ingredients can be combined - for example, using both ingredients at the same time in the same application.

Previously it was thought that the difference in their pH levels and solubility caused them to minimise eachother’s effectiveness.

Retinol has a pH of between 5-6 which was when it was thought to be most effective, while Vitamin C requires a pH of 3.5 or lower to be able to effectively penetrate the skin.

It was thought that when the two ingredients were used together, it could cause the pH levels to change, bringing Retinol’s levels down and pushing Vitamin C’s up, resulting in the retinol becoming less active and reducing the VC’s ability to get into the skin.

However, more recent studies have shown that this is not necessarily the case. Experts now say that when combining retinol with a vitamin C, it could help to stabilize it.

Studies have also shown that when using a pre-combined cosmetic formulation of vitamin C and retinol a stable and effective solution has been found. This means that they work effectively together to help you achieve your skin goals.

However, it has not yet been proven whether combining the ingredients is more effective to completing 2 separate treatments in a concurrent timeline.

Using Retinol and Vitamin C as part of the same routine

Now let’s talk about using them concurrently - for example, one after the other in your skincare routine.

Similarly to the above, while we are technically able to use Vitamin C and Retinol one after the other, we should first consider how sensitive our skin is.

As both of these ingredients are powerful and often contain acids, they can cause the skin to become irritated when your skin is overloaded with them.

We recommend:

If you are keen to explore the combination, and capitalise on the full benefits of these powerful ingredients, we’d recommend building a day to night skincare routine. Use Vitamin C in the morning to protect your skin for the day ahead, before using Retinol as part of your evening skincare routine for nightly repair. Spreading out your usage allows the skin to react and rebalance in between each treatment, empowering it to work more effectively.

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