Power Couple: Why Vitamin C and Retinol Are the Ultimate Anti-Aging Duo
When it comes to using vitamin C and retinol in your anti-aging routine, two is most certainly better than one. We share the benefits of combining these two popular ingredients in your routine, and why they’re the ultimate anti-aging power duo, ahead.
The Benefits of Vitamin C
L-Ascorbic acid — also known as vitamin C — is one of the most important antioxidants you can use on your skin, so much so that it has been considered the gold standard anti-aging ingredient by industry experts. Much of that has to do with its role in neutralizing free radicals. Triggered by various environmental factors — read: pollution, smoke, UV rays — free radicals are your skin’s enemy, as they can break down your skin’s collagen and cause more visible signs of aging. This can include wrinkles, fine lines, dark spots, dry patches and more. When you apply vitamin C onto your skin, you can help neutralize free radicals and minimize the damage they cause on the skin’s surface. In fact, vitamin C is the only antioxidant proven to stimulate the synthesis of collagen and minimize fine lines and wrinkles, according to the Cleveland Clinic.
The Benefits of Retinol
Retinol is beloved in skin-care for many reasons, most of which can be chalked up to the wide range of benefits it can provide to a complexion. A derivative of vitamin A, retinol naturally occurs in the skin and is proven to help improve the look of dark spots and pigmentation, fine lines and wrinkles, skin texture, tone and even blemishes. “By replenishing the skin with vitamin A, lines can be minimized, as it helps build collagen and elastin,” says board-certified dermatologist, and Skincare.com consultant, Dr. Dendy Engelman. Since retinol is quite powerful, most experts recommend starting with a lower concentration of the ingredient and slowly working your way up to help build your skin’s tolerance. Start by using retinol once or twice a week, and gradually increase the frequency as needed to every other day, or every night as tolerated.
How to Use Vitamin C and Retinol in Your Routine
Now that we know the benefits of each individual ingredient, let’s talk about how they can improve the look of your skin when they join forces.
The first step is choosing the right product and it’s not a decision to be made in haste. Derms suggest opting for a high-quality serum with stabilized concentrations of vitamin C that is backed by good data and research. The serum should also be stored in a dark bottle, as vitamin C can be deemed less effective with exposure to light. One of our current drugstore favorites is Vichy’s LiftActiv Vitamin C Serum. It’s formulated with 15% pure vitamin C, as well as vitamin E, pine polyphenols and hyaluronic acid, and can help the skin fight against visible signs of aging. Another bonus? You don’t have to wait too long to see results. In as little as ten days, skin is visibly illuminated, brighter, more even and firmer as if lifted. The wallet-friendly price point also can’t be beat. To use, all you have to do is place four to five drops of the serum into the palms of your hands and apply it onto a clean, dry face. Before heading outdoors, you should always coat your skin in broad-spectrum SPF 15 or higher, but before doing so, up the anti-aging ante by reaching for your retinol product first.
Vitamin C is typically applied during the day with sunscreen, where its benefits against harmful UV rays and free radicals can be effective. Retinol, on the other hand, is an ingredient that is traditionally reserved for evening use, as it can occasionally cause skin sensitivity to sunlight. That alone should make you wonder how these two ingredients could ever pair well together, but the truth is that applying vitamin C and retinol together — during the day — is perfectly okay, so long as you apply (and reapply) a broad-spectrum sunscreen over them. “Vitamin C tends to be finicky,” says Dr. Engelman. “The good news is, retinol works in an acidic environment, so cocktailing these two ingredients together does make sense,” she says. “Vitamin C helps neutralize free radicals, a process that helps protect retinol from oxidation — thereby increasing its anti-aging benefits.” There you have it. Combining vitamin C and retinol underneath your sunscreen doesn’t only work well, it helps stabilize retinol and allow it to work more effectively against your aging skin concerns.
Choosing a retinol product should also be a decision you give some thought to, as there are many different types you could choose. Prescription retinoids — like retinoic acid or tretinoin — are stronger, while over-the-counter drugstore retinoids — like retinol or retinyl palmitate—are usually more mild. Both, however, are effective, so choose one that suits your needs. If you’re looking for a convenient pick, reach for the SkinCeuticals Retinol 0.3. The formula is concentrated with pure retinol that is focused on reducing the signs of aging while fighting potential breakouts.
Editor’s note: As mentioned, vitamin C and retinol should always be used in tandem with a broad-spectrum SPF 15 or higher during daytime hours. Check out our guide to the best sunscreens to choose your favorite.