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When To Use Vitamin C And Retinol

Vitamin C And Retinol Together

How To Use: Retinol Vitamin C Moisturizer

The argument for not using vitamin C and retinol together seems to be:

  • Ascorbic acid may be less effective if used at the pH where retinol is most effective.
  • Retinol may not activate properly if used with a low pH ingredient such as ascorbic acid.
  • However, your skins natural surface pH is around 5.0 6.0, although it can be as low as 4.7 on untreated skin , so the ascorbic acid form of vitamin C often has to adjust to a more alkaline environment anyway.

    While retinols optimum pH falls within the range of normal skin pH, the research that it may not function properly at a lower pH may be outdated .

    Research published in 2012 found that vitamin C actually stabilized retinol and enhanced its shelf-life. This study used retinyl palmitate a retinyl ester that has to convert to retinol before converting to retinoic acid.

    Furthermore, a clinical study found that the combination of vitamin c and retinol together worked better than either ingredient alone at reversing the signs of skin aging.

    Ascorbic Acid And Retinol

    Heres the kind you dont want to be using together. Using ascorbic acid and retinol together would be like organizing a holiday with the friend who loves snow, Christmas and bundling up in big cozy jumpers plus the friend who loves beaches, bikinis and sun sipped margaritas.

    Youll meet somewhere in the middle and no-one will be happy.

    Heres why

    Ascorbic acid and retinol have different pH levels they love.

    Pssst! pH is a measure of how acid or not something is. Lemon is acidy, water is neutral and spinach is non-acidy aka alkaline.

    Ascorbic acid loves low pH levels.

    Retinol loves higher pH levels.

    Both of these skincare ingredients work best when theyre in a habitat they love.

    Take ascorbic acid as an example. Ascorbic acid not only works better at a low pH level, its able to absorb into your skin better at a low pH level. This is very important because anti-ageing skincare needs to get into deeper layers of your skin.

    Double Pssst! If all of this is getting crazy techy for you come SkinCoach with me Ill make you a skincare routine which plays perfectly and is supercharged to help your skin look and feel better.

    Bottom line: Dont use vitamin C as ascorbic acid and retinol together.

    Summary Can You Use Vitamin C And Retinol Together

    Yes! You can use vitamin C and retinol together. In fact, they are an excellent combination if youre looking to reverse the signs of skin aging.

    Most criticisms of this wrinkle-busting due come from the belief that their different pH levels will reduce the effectiveness of either ingredient. However, this is not the case. The only reason you may want to avoid this combination is if you have particularly sensitive skin as the risk of skin irritation is high.

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    Can You Use Vitamin C With Retinol Or Derm

    According to Dr. Sheila Krishna, its totally fine to use vitamin C with over-the-counter retinol products or dermatologist-grade retinoidswhich, BTW, is the broader term for vitamin A derivatives, including retinol, tretinoin, and adapalene, just to name a few.Vitamin C and retinoids are thought to render each other ineffective because of their differing pHs, but thats not true. This study indicated that a combined retinol + vitamin C treatment is effective at treating photoaging.Though you can use vitamin C and retinoids together, we recommend getting them separately instead of as a combined product. You can then get the right concentration of each for your skin and adjust as necessary. Plus, the combo can aggravate some skin depending on the formula. But using them at different times of day can prevent that irritation.

    Dont Combine: Vitamin C + Retinol


    Vitamin C products work as antioxidants that can help fight skin damage caused by the sun and other environmental pollutants, Chang said. Vitamin C can also help lighten dark spots and build collagen to reduce the look of fine lines.

    Retinol and retinoids are vitamin A analogues that can lighten brown spots and improve fine lines over time, Chang said, noting that they can make skin more photosensitive.

    Vitamin C and retinol work optimally in different pH environments, and thus, should typically not be combined, Chang said, nothing that vitamin C products are formulated to be at a low pH of less than 3.5, while retinol works best at a pH of 5.5-6.

    In general, she said to avoid combining the two ingredients. She recommends using a vitamin C serum in the morning and retinol cream at night to ensure full efficacy of both ingredients.

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    Can I Use Niacinamide Vitamin C And Hyaluronic Acid Together

    Yes, you absolutely can use niacinamide, vitamin C and hyaluronic acid together in your skincare routine. In fact, this trio would provide your skin with both anti-aging and hydration benefits as hyaluronic acid is a powerful humectant that works by attracting water molecules to the skin.

    Luckily, many Korean skincare products contain hyaluronic acid as well as a range of other humectants since Korean skincare is all about keeping the skin hydrated and the skin barrier healthy.

    Can You Use Both Retinol And Vitamin C In Your Skin

    Image Source: Getty / Iryna Veklich

    When it comes to active ingredients that really improve your skin, there are few more effective than retinol and vitamin C. Unfortunately, these power players don’t tend to play that nicely together.

    Retinol, a vitamin A derivative, turbo charges skin-cell turnover to minimize the appearance of fine lines, pores, pigmentation, and more. It works hard and fast to reduce breakouts and knock years off your complexion. Vitamin C, on the other hand, is a potent antioxidant that protects and repairs skin cells whilst simultaneously tackling fine lines, brightening dark spots, and leaving skin glowing.

    Both sound good, right? Trouble is you that you can, in fact, have too much of a good thing, as overdoing it on retinol and vitamin C can lead to redness and sensitivity.

    Luckily, you don’t have to choose one over the other. You do, however, need to be strategic with your application. We called on skin-care experts to reveal exactly what each ingredient does, and how to incorporate both vitamin C and retinol into your routine for the best skin-smoothing, clearing, and brightening results without irritation.

    Read Also: How Does Vitamin C Help

    Factors To Consider Before Using Vitamin C Serum

    Before you apply a vitamin C serum, remember to follow the instructions given on the products label.

    Its vital to check the products expiry date. You also want to ensure the bottle is opaque and airtight, and that the products formulation is water-free. Why? No water means no bacteria, so no preservatives, hence a better product.

    If the product has a dark color or a different color, its likely oxidized. And though harmless, oxidized vitamin C no longer carries the same benefits.

    Also keep in mind that the best way to use vitamin C serum is to apply it once or twice a day. And a good skincare process starts with cleansing, followed by toning, applying vitamin C serum, and then moisturizing.

    Its safe to use it alongside other active ingredients except for niacinamide, which reduces vitamin C effects.

    How Do You Use Retinol Vitamin C And Hyaluronic Acid Together

    How To Use Retinol And Vitamin C Together

    All three of these ingredients are probably the most beneficial skincare ingredients available, its no wonder they are adored by beauty experts. As effective as they are for the skin, it is important you know how to use them together to ensure you are getting the best out of your skincare routine.

    Hyaluronic Acid: Your skin will love hyaluronic acid as much as you. This clever humectant ingredient is able to bind 1,000 times its weight in water which basically means its able to draw in any moisture from around the skin and locking it into place. As a result of this your skin will have continued hydration and remain moisturised throughout the entire day. If that wasnt enough, all skin types benefit from HA resulting in everyone reaping the moisturising rewards.

    Vitamin C: The benefits of using vitamin C in your daily routine are endless. From restoring glow to the complexion, combating fine lines and wrinkles, promote collagen and reducing signs of pigmentation. With a reputation for being unstable in formulations some feel a little hesitant to introduce this powerhouse to their routine, but with modern formulas and performing a patch test will ensure you can use vitamin C with the peace of mind you are doing some good for the skin.

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    What Are The Benefits Of Combining The Two

    Good news: Retinol and hyaluronic acid actually have a synergistic effect. They can be combined so that the benefits of retinol can be achieved more easily with concomitant use of hyaluronic acid, which helps to prevent retinol irritation, says Hartman.

    As for what that ultimately means when you look in the mirror: Overall texture should improve when using the two actives, as well as fine lines, says Linkner.

    Vitamin C And Retinol At Night 30 Minutes Apart

    If you must use retinol and L-ascorbic acid at the same time, separate them by 30 minutes. Apply your vitamin C first, since it has the lower pH of the two. Then, wait half an hour before you apply your retinol.

    Incorporating the waiting period allows your skin’s pH to return to normal, so each ingredient can work at its intended pH.

    Read Also: What Does Vitamin A And D Do

    What Are The Benefits Of Using Retinol

    Retinol is considered by many to be the crown jewel of anti-aging ingredients. Along with other retinoids , retinol is a derivative of Vitamin A, a fat-soluble vitamin found in household items like eggs, carrots and sweet potatoes.

    Youll see retinol available in both prescription-strength formulas as well as over-the-counter options. Of course, prescription retinoids will be more potent, but there are some seriously incredible anti-aging serums and night creams available at places like and Nordstrom that share all of the same benefits without requiring a trip to the derm.

    Over The Counter Retinoids:

    Vitamin C + Retinol Combo Pack  Azure Naturals

    There plenty of great many retinoid products that are over the counter i.e. you can buy them without a prescription wherever you prefer to buy your skincare products.

    Retinol is the most popular and effective of the over-the-counter retinoid options.

    OTC retinoids are typically found in lower Concentrations starting at .01%

    • Best OTC Retinoids:

    Unlike OTC products, prescription retinoids are ordered through a dermatologist, since theyre typically more potent.

    Prescription retinoids have a higher concentration of at least .5% 1%.

    • Best Prescription Retinoids:
    • Tretinoin
    • Renova

    These prescription retinoids are used for anti-aging properties, but more potent forms can be used to treat acne. It is also sometimes prescribed for psoriasis.

    If youre looking for a prescription retinoid, speak to your dermatologist who can advise on the best retinoid for you.

    Sarah Barthet is a travel, luxury and lifestyle blogger who gave up the world of high finance to follow her passions. She hopes to share her love of luxury travel, fashion, beauty and the odd piece of career advice to fellow successful women who like to enjoy the finer things in life, over on her blog Dukes Avenue.

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    How To Use Retinol Correctly

    Begin with a low percentage OTC retinol product. Going straight to higher percentages may cause irritation. Also: it is recommended to use retinol in the evening. Below is a suggested nighttime skincare routine that incorporates retinol.

  • Start by removing your makeup with an oil or gel-based cleanser.
  • Wash your face.
  • Apply a toner.
  • Next, squeeze a pea-sized amount of retinol onto the tip of your index finger.
  • Dot the retinol in nine spots: three on your forehead three across the center of your face/cheeks three between your jawline and chin.
  • Gently rub the product in. Use your retinol product 2-3x/week during the first week of usage, and gradually increase from there.
  • Next, apply your moisturizer.
  • If you have dry skin, you can seal in your skincare products by topping them off with a facial oil.
  • Those with very sensitive skin may consider applying a very thin layer of moisturizer before and after applying retinol to reduce irritation.

    Licensed aesthetician Amanda von dem Hagen suggests that the number of nights to use retinol can be guided by your age.

    You can start using retinol in your late 20s and throughout your 30s, and apply it three to four times a week.

    Users in their 40s can apply retinol every other night and those in their 50s, 60s and older can consider using retinol five to seven nights a week.

    Pregnant or nursing mothers should ask their obstetrician before beginning to use retinoids.

    What Effects Does Niacinamide Ascorbate Have On The Skin

    Currently, the research that has been conducted on the dermatological effects of niacinamide ascorbate suggests that it is safe to use and still works to brighten the skin. Research has also shown that this complex is easily reversed and separated.

    This is because niacinamide ascorbate forms most easily at a pH of 3.8. Although the surface of our skin is acidic, the pH becomes less and less acidic as you move to each deeper layer eventually reaching a neutral pH of 7. So, as niacinamide ascorbate penetrates the skin, the weak bond holding niacinamide and L-ascorbic acid together breaks and youre left with niacinamide and L-ascorbic acid again.

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    How To Add Vitamin C To Your Skincare Routine Alongside Retinol And Retinoids

    Vitamin C is a delicate active ingredient that can be susceptible to oxidizing, becoming inactive when exposed to different elements. Theres conflicting information on how to use vitamin C with topical vitamin A derivatives like retinol or dermatology-grade retinoids.

    The truth: You can use vitamin C with retinol and retinoids. Get them as separate products so you can tailor the concentration of each and use them at the right time of day. Although vitamin C can be used day or night, it is ideal for daytime use, while retinol and retinoids should be applied at night.

    What Factors Into Combining Vitamin C And Retinol

    How to Use the Vitaleyez Retinol Vitamin C Complex

    Unfortunately, there are wrong ways to combine vitamin C and retinol. If you arent aware of the best practices of using both ingredients, you may inadvertently make both less effective.

    You cant just layer them on top of each other like you can with many of the other skin care ingredients out there. When it comes to effectively combining them, it comes down to two different factors pH and solubility.


    pH is the first important factor to take into account. Much like the skin has a specific pH , water-based skin care products also exist on that same scale.

    When they are created, skin care companies design them to work optimally in a small pH range. Skin care products that arent water-based, which we call anhydrous, dont have a pH.

    Vitamin C, and more specifically L-ascorbic acid , requires a lower pH than the skin. To effectively penetrate the skin, products that include vitamin C need to be at a pH of 3.5 or lower.

    Retinol, on the other hand, works best at a pH closer to the skin. That pH is usually between 5.0 and 6.0 and tends to be the same across the board retinol, retinoids and retinol esters.

    Obviously, with a pH scale that only spans from 0 to 14, a gap of 2 is relatively significant. That means that using them too closely together can either raise the pH of the vitamin C or lower the pH of the retinol, making both of them less effective.


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    How Does Vitamin C Work

    Vitamin C, also known as L-ascorbic acid on a chemical level, is an antioxidant. This means its function is to neutralize free radicals, unstable molecules that damage not only our skin cells but all of our cells. Free radicals are known to cause cancer, diabetes, eye diseases, and various other life-threatening conditions. Unstable by nature, free radicals are missing an electron and all electrons need to be paired for them to function properly. This unpaired electron causes the unstable molecule to attack a stable molecule and steal an electron, rendering the stable molecule unstable. Thus, this electron-stealing behavior creates a chain reaction of unstable molecules taking the stable ones with them.

    Its important for us to neutralize these free radicals as quickly as possible, before they cause a mass chain reaction of damaging cells. Thats where antioxidants come into the picture. Vitamin C counteracts free radicals by providing them with their missing electron, which successfully neutralizes these damaging molecules.

    Vitamin C is the primary brightening ingredient in skincare. This means it has the ability to lighten hyperpigmentation, brighten skin dullness, reduce dark spots, and fill fine lines and wrinkles all of which contribute to a youthful and full appearance.

    How To Use Vitamin C Serum And Retinol

    While both Vitamin C serum and retinol can be incredibly effective skincare ingredients, youll want to be careful about using them at the same time, as it can cause irritation to the skin.

    Ideally, you should separate the application of Vitamin C and retinol, and use them at different times of day.

    Of course, some people can use the two in conjunction without experiencing sensitivityalthough its not traditionally advisable.

    If youre going to use them together, just be sure to wait 30 minutes in between application, so that the Vitamin C serum has time to properly be absorbed.

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    Can I Use Niacinamide Vitamin C And Aha Together

    Yes, you can use niacinamide, vitamin C and AHA together in your skincare routine, however the order in which you apply them is important as vitamin C and AHAs are both acids that require different pH to penetrate the skin. The strength of and how often you apply your AHA product also depends on how sensitive your skin is.

    It also takes a little while to build up a tolerance to products containing L-ascorbic acid and AHAs, so start introducing them slowly and work your way up to daily or every other day from there.

    The order in which you should apply these products is as follows:


    Note: You dont have to use all these steps in your skincare routine. Ive simply listed the order that they would go in if you were using all of them. Niacinamide is typically found in essences, serums, ampoules and moisturizers.


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