Physical Health, Wellness / Self-Care

Is it bad to use both Vitamin C and Retinol in my routine?

It’s complicated.

words by: Natasha Marsh
Apr 1, 2022

With new skincare launches popping up almost daily, it can be tempting to simply purchase everything and lather it on your face, with little thought about whether the products you’ve chosen will actually work well together. The reality is, no matter how great a product is when used by itself, it sadly doesn’t guarantee it will mesh well with others. AKA, it might not be a team player.


In fact, if you incorporate the wrong product into your skincare routine, it could potentially cause loads of issues. Which brings us to two popular skincare ingredients: retinol and Vitamin C. Can they be used in tandem in any skincare routine, even though they essentially work to cure the same concerns, wrinkles and dark spots?


Below, we break down the basics of the ingredients, as well as if and how they can be used together.


What is Vitamin C?

Vitamin C is an active ingredient that is great at reducing dullness, uneven skin tone, texture, acne marks and everything else to do with the visual elements of your complexion. As an antioxidant, Vitamin C is an essential part of skin health, as it helps to build collagen—the main protein involved in skin elasticity and firmness.


Vitamin C will help increase photo damage (dark spots), and helps heal wounds by protecting the skin from fee radicals like pollution and dirt. By using Vitamin C consistently, you will see brighter skin and minimized dark spots.


What is retinol?

Next, there’s retinol. Also an active, this powerhouse ingredient can heal cystic acne, get rid of dark spots, soften wrinkles, and lighten hyperpigmentation. Retinoids are Vitamin A derivatives that bind to retinoic acid receptors that transfer gene expressions (read: increase skin cell turnover and unclog pores). Retinol can also increase collagen production and decrease discoloration.


What are the benefits of Vitamin C and retinol?

Vitamin C brightens skin and boosts collagen production. It can also help lighten dark spots and hyperpigmentation by protecting skin from free radicals that could potentially attack the skin cells.


Retinol will regenerate the skin cells, which keeps them active and helps to avoid cell death. Meaning, you will get rid of unwanted texture, and have a brighter appearance to your skin. Retinol should be used at night and followed by sun cream in the morning, since the skin will be more susceptible to sun damage.


Can I use them together?

Vitamin C and retinol are active ingredients that work the most effectively to improve the skin. However, the two don’t necessarily play nicely together.


Sadly, too much of a good thing is a possibility. You can overdo it if you use both retinol and Vitamin C—yielding to skin irritation and sensitivity. So instead of layering the products, alter between them by using Vitamin C in the morning (with SPF) and retinol at night before bedtime.


Will there be side effects if I use them together?

Although both ingredients are considered as actives, retinol is oil-soluble and Vitamin C is water-soluble. And, as you know from science class or everyday life, oil and water don’t mix well together. Meaning, don’t layer retinol and Vitamin C together, as both can be too harsh and potentially painful.


If you would like to use both of them in your skincare routine, try using Vitamin C in the morning after cleansing and a retinol at night. Once you pass the age of 25, the collagen production in your body will start to slow, and the side effects will be visible as soon as your early 30s. With retinol and Vitamin C, you are sure to improve your skin before it happens, or in a corrective way.


Just remember, retinol is one of the strongest and most powerful actives, so be sure to introduce it gently into your routine. If you are just starting out, use it 2-3 times a week for the first 4-6 weeks, and more often (3-4 times) after 8 weeks.


Keep in mind, you might experience peeling, redness, and dryness when you first start. This is totally normal for the first 2-3  months when you start retinol. This will gradually stop and improve skin.


Here’s a guide to retinoids and yes, you can use retinol in the spring.