Why You Need Vitamin C and Retinol in Your Anti-Aging Routine
To reduce the appearance of fine lines, wrinkles and other signs of aging, vitamin C and retinol are two key ingredients to have in your anti-aging arsenal. From brightening your complexion and reducing hyperpigmentation to increasing the rate of cell turnover, using both ingredients in your skin-care routine will have your skin looking plumped, radiant and youthful. To find out the benefits of each ingredient and how to safely incorporate both into your lineup, keep reading.
The Benefits of Vitamin C
L-ascorbic acid — also known as pure vitamin C — is a powerful antioxidant that is considered one of the best ingredients for targeting signs of aging 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 can break down your skin’s collagen and cause visible signs of aging to form. This can include wrinkles, fine lines, dark spots, dry patches and more. 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 the gold-standard of anti-aging skin care. A derivative of vitamin A, retinol naturally occurs in the skin and is proven to improve the look of dark spots and pigmentation, fine lines and wrinkles, skin texture, tone and even blemishes. However, these naturally occurring stores deplete over time. “By replenishing the skin with vitamin A, lines can be minimized, as it helps build collagen and elastin,” says Dr. Dendy Engelman, board-certified dermatologist and Skincare.com expert. Because retinol is quite powerful, most experts recommend starting with a lower concentration of the ingredient and minimal frequency of use to help build up your skin’s tolerance to it. 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 to incorporate them into your skin-care routine. First, you’ll need to select a great vitamin C serum. Dermatologists 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 come in a dark bottle, as vitamin C can become less effective with exposure to light. One of our current drugstore favorites is the La Roche-Posay Pure Vitamin C Serum. It’s formulated with 10% pure vitamin C, as well as salicylic acid and neurosensine. Skin is visibly illuminated, brighter, more even and firmer as if lifted. To use, all you have to do is place three to four drops of the serum into the palms of your hands and apply it onto a clean, dry face.
When it comes to selecting a retinol, you have a few options. 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 and that your dermatologist recommends. 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.
Vitamin C is typically applied in the morning along with sunscreen, when its benefits against harmful UV rays and free radicals can be most 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 said, don’t be afraid to use retinol during the daytime, underneath your vitamin C serum, so long as you apply (and reapply) a broad-spectrum sunscreen, like the Vichy LiftActive Peptide C Sunscreen. “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.” 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.
However, because retinol and vitamin C are both potent, we recommend combining the two only when your skin is used to them. If you have sensitive skin or experience irritation after application, stagger use of the ingredients.
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.