Q&A | Can You Use Vitamin C and Retinol at the Same Time?

Vitamin C and Retinol are both great for fighting wrinkles, fade spots, pigmentation and more! But have you ever tried mixing both of these in your routine expecting great results only to be disappointed? 

So can you actually use Vitamin C and Retinol at the same time? For example, a vitamin C Serum and followed by a Retinol moisturiser? Let’s see what our Beauty Memo gurus have to say!  

Amanda Says:
Now, this is a tricky question. According to Paula’s Choice, vitamin c requires a low PH to remain stable while retinol works in an acidic state; and skin’s ph is naturally acidic, so it would make sense to say that vitamin c + retinol should work well. Retinol proved to be not only effective when paired with Vitamin C but also worked to defend the skin against free radicals when applied under a sunscreen. So yes, in most cases – vitamin c helps retinol to work better! However many disagree with the above.
According to The Skincare Edit, when you mix retinol and vitamin c at the same time, the ph levels of the products may change. All water-based skincare products have been formulated to work at a certain PH; while skincare products without water is known as anhydrous solutions, which don’t have a ph. Retinol typically has a ph between 5.0-6.0 while L-ascorbic acid, the active form of Vitamin C, need to have a ph of 3.5 or lower to work effectively on the skin
Since retinol and vitamin c have a big gap in the ph level, using them at the same time will lower the retinol's ph and raise the vitamin c’s ph; which results in the retinol becoming less active and the vitamin c will have a reduced ability to penetrate the skin. Hence, both will be less effective if used together. So there are differing opinions on whether you can use retinol and vitamin c together.
Personally, if I were to choose, I would rather choose to use vitamin c in the morning, and use retinol at night. Instead of risking the probability of reduced effectiveness by mixing them both, using them at different times at the day is simply a better solution. Important to note that retinol should best be applied at night, away from UV light.
Noorain Zaini Says:
Vitamin C and Retinol (Vitamin A) are two key ingredients to have in our arsenal to reduce the appearance of fine lines, wrinkle and other sign of aging. Adding both retinol and vitamin C to your skincare routine is unfortunately not as simple as layering one ingredient over the other, or just mixing them together. In fact, doing either of those things could be a waste of your time and money.
If you're going to get the most out of these ingredients, you NEED to be aware of two factors: pH and solubility. pH Level: Vitamin C like L-ascorbic acid needs to be at pH 3.5 or lower in order to effectively penetrate your skin, while Retinol usually has a pH between 5.0-6.0 This pH gap will lead to: L-ascorbic acid having a reduced effectiveness and Retinol will become less active.
Solubility: L-ascorbic acid is water soluble, while Retinol is oil soluble. For example, if you add Vitamin C powder into oil-soluble Retinol, they will not mix. Because of this, you will not get the Vitamin C benefit as it not able to penetrate into your skin.
There are various ways to incorporate both ingredients in our routine like applying Vitamin C in morning routine while using Retinol at night. This step works nicely even for sensitive skin peeps as it also leaves you with less irritation. You can also combine them together in the same routine but you'll need to pick the right products for your skin.
For Vitamin C to work well with Retinol, you'll need to select the stable form of Vitamin C like Ascorbyl Glucoside, Ethyl Ascorbic Acid, Magnesium Ascorbyl Phosphate, Ascorbyl Palmitate, etc. These are the example of Vitamin C that are similar in pH to Retinol so they will not destabilize each other. You can use Vitamin C derivatives serum and Retinol cream with no problem and no waiting period between application.
Ae Cha Says:
Retinol and Vit C ingredients have their own benefits for your skin. Can you combine these two powerful ingredients at the same time? The answer is: it’s depends. We’ll need to consider the surroundings, skin texture, quantity, and concentration of the ingredients for this to work.
Vitamin C is known as essential ingredients that help to reduce complexion concerns like dullness, uneven skin tone, acne scars, and skin texture. It also protects the skin from free radicals from sources like pollution and helps to fade dark spots that resulted from the U.V. radiation.
Retinol is the king fighter of anti-aging skincare. It is known to get rid of dark spots, heal acne, reduce wrinkles, decrease discoloration, and lighten hyperpigmentation. Since the retinol is quite powerful, it is recommended to start with lower concentration to help the skin tolerance gradually. Now, these two ingredients are quite powerful to fight most skin problems.
It is not recommended to combine these two ingredients because both ingredients are powerful, and can cause irritation and sensitivity to your skin especially people who have sensitive skin. I would not suggest people mix these two because the skin is fragile and breaks easily. However, if you want to combine these two ingredients make sure that your skin is already used to them. Choosing good quality Vitamin C serum and retinol is also important. You might even need to apply sunscreen underneath to help stabilize retinol and allow it to work more effectively.
Beverly Says:
Both Retinol and vitamin C are powerful ingredients for your skin. Known to fight wrinkles, build collagen, fading dark spots, and even help with pigmentation. However, using them in your skincare routine can be challenging. Vitamin C and retinol works the best in different pH environments. Vitamin C products are lower pH - less than 3.5 to effectively penetrate your skin. On the other hand, Retinol works the best at a pH of 5.5-6.
Since retinol and vitamin C have a big pH difference, using them at the same time change the pH level in each products and they will become less effective!Did you know that using vitamin C with sunscreen products can help to fight skin damage caused by the sun and other environmental pollutants? Therefore, I would recommend using vitamin C serum in the morning and retinol cream at night. In doing so, we can ensure the full efficacy of both ingredients.
Raihanah Says:
For your information, both retinols and vitamin C are both potent ingredients that are mostly found in anti-aging products. Both of them are also regarded as actives which means you can experience purging when you first use them. It is a rule of thumb in the skincare world to not mix two or more potent products in one routine because it's obviously not as easy as mathematics where a combination of plus/positive (+) and (+) would result in a positive results too.
Since retinol has the ability to accelerate one's skin turnover rate which goes the same towards Vitamin C, mixing those together in one routine might give your skin an unexpected shock. Furthermore, both retinol and vitamin c works best under different pH environments, hence it is advisable to not mix them in one routine. But ymmv meter may differ across skincare users where experienced skincare experts did find a way to combine these two together in one routine - again it's up to individual's skin tolerant towards both ingredients.
If you still want to incorporate both in a routine, you can apply vitamin c first (in this case it might be a serum), give your skin some time to absorb it like 30 minutes or so then continue on with the retinol (in this case a moisturiser). Giving your skin a waiting period between those two products allows your skin to adjust its pH to normal and therefore letting the products work at their own intended pH range.
Lily Says:
Based on an article by Huffington Post, dermatologists actually don't recommend combining these two ingredients. This is because they work the best in different pH environments and thus shouldn't be combined. For example, Vitamin C works at a pH less than 3.5 whereas Retinol works at a pH of 5.5-6.
So in other words, using them both together is going to affect your skin and cause irritation. The effectiveness of the both ingredients will cancel each other out too. However, these 2 ingredients are great for your skin. So you can opt for using Vitamin C serum in the morning and retinol cream at night for the best result!

Here you have it, our Beauty Memo Gurus have spoken! To make sure you get the most out of these 2 powerful ingredients, it’s best to have some time in between applying each product. You may try to use Vitamin C products in the morning and then continue with Retinol products at night! Again, a gentle reminder to consider their expertise but also adjust it to your own personal experience and skin conditions.

Stay beautiful and stay tuned to the next Q&A session! Next Q&A topic hint: What comes after masking? 

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