Can You Use Vitamin C and Retinol Together?
At Medik8, we are often asked about the best age-defying skincare ingredients to use for healthy, radiant skin. Vitamin A and vitamin C are two of the most powerful age-defying ingredients in skincare, but there is a lot of confusion around when and how to use them, and if you can use them together.
You might be surprised to hear that you can use retinol and other vitamin A derivatives with vitamin C in the same skincare routine. The combination of these two ingredients can help to improve the appearance of dark spots and uneven skin tone, as well as visibly improve common signs of ageing such as fine lines, wrinkles and loss of elasticity.
Keep on reading for everything you need to know about how to effectively incorporate vitamin A (retinol, retinoids) and vitamin C into your skincare routine.
What does retinol do for the skin?
Retinol, also known as ‘the classic vitamin A’ is a derivative of vitamin A that belongs to the retinoid family. Retinoids work by cleverly stimulating skin cell renewal and encouraging collagen production to enhance the skin’s tone, radiance and texture for a more youthful-looking complexion. Vitamin A travels through several stages known as the ‘vitamin A pathway’. When applied to the skin, retinol first converts to retinal, and then to retinoic acid. At this stage, the ingredients become ‘active’ and visible results begin to occur.
What does retinal do for the skin?
Retinal (short for retinaldehyde) is also a retinoid and form of vitamin A. We call it ‘the everyone vitamin’. It’s further along the vitamin A pathway than retinol, and just one conversion step away from becoming retinoic acid – which means it acts faster on the skin than retinol and boasts other added benefits.
There are many differences between retinal and retinol. Retinal is also the only retinoid with direct antibacterial properties, therefore, with continued use it helps to visibly diminish the bacteria responsible for breakouts, leaving the skin visibly clear and radiant. Retinal is also less irritating on the skin, meaning that you can have a more potent product without compromising on your skin’s comfort.
What does vitamin C do for the skin?
Praised for its effective radiance-boosting properties, vitamin C is a must-have in any daily skincare regime. Helping to visibly brighten the complexion, vitamin C helps to block the enzyme that causes dark spots for a brighter, more even-looking skin tone. It also helps to fight off ageing free radicals and support collagen production, softening the look of fine lines and wrinkles for smoother-looking skin.
So, can you use retinol and vitamin C together?
Yes, you can use both retinol and vitamin C in your skincare routine as they are powerful, age-defying ingredients - both of which are essential parts of our CSA Philosophy. The combination of using vitamin A and vitamin C together can help you achieve a visibly brighter, radiant and more youthful-looking complexion. Vitamin C is best used in the morning to help protect your skin from environmental aggressors, while vitamin A is best used in the evening to help visibly renew and restore your skin overnight. The only exception to this is r-Retinoate Day & Night Serum, which combines both vitamin C and retinyl retinoate (vitamin A) in a photostable formula, meaning that it doesn’t break down in sunlight.
Medik8’s CSA philosophy
Unlock the simple, clinically proven approach to youthful-looking, radiant skin with our CSA Philosophy (vitamin C plus sunscreen by day, and vitamin A by night). With these 3 fundamental formulas, we believe that you can achieve healthy, radiant and youthful-looking skin. At Medik8, we’re experts in vitamin A. Our cutting-edge range offers a variety of retinol and retinal formulas in expertly stabilised strengths to suit all skin types and needs. For new users of vitamin A, phase in application gradually. Use twice a week for the first 2 weeks, every other night for the next 2 weeks, then every night. You should always use sunscreen the following morning when using vitamin A, as it can increase your skin’s sensitivity to sunlight.
Benefits of combining vitamin c and retinol
Promotes brighter-looking skin
Vitamin C: Helps to block the enzyme that causes dark spots for a brighter, more even-looking complexion.
Vitamin A: Helps to promote skin cell turnover for smoother, brighter-looking skin.
Reduces the appearance of blemishes
Vitamin A: Helps to encourage skin cell turnover and therefore reduce the amount of sebum the skin produces.
Vitamin C: A powerful antioxidant, vitamin C has the ability to help neutralise free radicals which can oxidise sebum - the main cause of blocked pores.
Visibly firms and tightens the skin
Vitamin A: Supports the production of collagen for firmer-looking, plumper skin.
Vitamin C: Supports collagen production for a visibly firmer, younger-looking complexion.
Improves the look of skin texture
Vitamin A: Encourages skin cell turnover for visibly smoother, more even-looking skin.
Vitamin C: Boosts collagen production and reduces the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles for visibly smoother skin.
Reduces visible signs of ageing
Vitamin A: Helps reduce the appearance of fine lines, wrinkles and hyperpigmentation.
Vitamin C: Helps to reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles via fighting skin ageing free radicals, promoting brighter, smoother-looking skin.
Potential risks of using retinol and vitamin C
Vitamin A can have the potential to cause dryness and irritation when applied to skin that isn’t used to it. Therefore, we always recommend introducing vitamin A products gradually and slowly into your routine - increasing the strength over time. This helps to minimise the potential risk for irritation, as it allows your skin to naturally adapt to using vitamin A. In all our retinoid products, we use our Time Release Technology™ delivery system to gently release vitamin A into the skin, to avoid overwhelming it and to prolong the effects overnight.
Our advanced vitamin C range only features scientifically proven forms of vitamin C, which we expertly stabilise to ensure optimal potency and maximum results alongside minimal irritation. If you’re new to using vitamin C, begin with our C-Tetra Luxe serum, which is the perfect entry point for those looking for all-round skin health and supercharged radiance.
How to use retinol and vitamin C in your skincare routine
At Medik8, we believe that every good skincare regime should begin with our CSA Philosophy. If you start with CSA, you can build your skincare routine from there. Here’s how you can build a typical CSA morning and evening routine:
1. Cleanse: In the morning, a light cleanser will gently wash away any oils and dirt that have accumulated on your skin overnight - leaving it perfectly prepped for your morning skincare routine. We recommend a foam, gel or mousse cleanser to leave your skin feeling refreshed and revived.
2. Direct acid/toner: A light sweep of a direct acid or hydrating toner can help the other active ingredients in your routine to penetrate deeper into the skin.
3. Targeted serum: This could include your peptide or booster serum to target a specific skin concern. Depending on whether your target serum is water, oil or emulsion based, it might be layered before or after your vitamin C. At Medik8, we suggest applying water-based serums first, followed by oil-based serums and then emulsion-based serums.
4. Vitamin C: Vital to any morning skincare routine, vitamin C helps to protect your skin against environmental damage throughout the day. If using r-Retinoate Day & Night Serum, it would replace your usual vitamin C serum and be applied before your sunscreen. If your skin is particularly sensitive, we would recommend skipping the ‘direct acid/toner’ step as vitamin A already has skin renewing properties.
5. Moisturiser & sunscreen: Make sure to keep your skin protected against damaging UV rays and premature ageing with one of our advanced sunscreen formulas. Advanced Day Ultimate Protect combines both your moisturiser and sunscreen in one easy step.
1. Cleanse: If wearing eye makeup, begin with a gentle eye makeup remover such as Eyes & Lips Micellar Cleanse. If you wear heavier makeup, we recommend double cleansing to ensure that your skin is thoroughly cleansed. You can do this by using a heavier oil or cream cleanser, before using a lighter foam, gel or mousse cleanser.
2. Direct acid/toner: This helps to gently exfoliate the complexion, while helping other active ingredients in your regime penetrate better into the skin.
3. Targeted serum: This could include your peptide or booster serum to target a specific skin concern. Depending on whether your target serum is water, oil or emulsion based, it might be layered before or after your vitamin A. At Medik8, we suggest applying water-based serums first, followed by oil-based serums and then emulsion-based serums.
4. Vitamin A: The skin is at its most active at night, as this is when skin cell regeneration occurs. This makes it the perfect time to use a vitamin A serum, to help speed up cell renewal for visibly firmer, smoother and youthful-looking skin.
5. Moisturiser: Night time is the perfect time to use heavier, more nourishing moisturisers like our bestselling Advanced Night Restore - a deeply nourishing cream infused with a skin-firming multi-ceramide complex to support a smoother, fuller and youthful-looking complexion.
6. Bi-weekly at-home treatment: We have a range of masks and treatments that can be applied up to twice a week to give your skin some indulgence. For the perfect mid-week treat, Sleep Glycolic is an at-home peel that visibly transforms dull, uneven textured skin into a visibly smoother, brighter and decongested complexion.
If you want to build your own bespoke skincare regime, take our personalised Regime Builder.
Tips for using vitamin C and retinol
- Start slowly: As with any new skincare product or ingredient, we recommend introducing it into your routine slowly to help minimise the potential for irritation. If you’re new to vitamin A, gradually phase the product into your routine and begin by using it twice a week for the first 2 weeks, then every other night for the next two weeks, then every night. For those new to vitamin C, we suggest using C-Tetra Luxe which has been expertly optimised to be gentle yet effective on all skin types. You can also use Daily Radiance Vitamin C; a 2-in-1 vitamin C and moisturiser with added SPF 30 for all-day long environmental protection.
- Always wear sunscreen: Vitamin A can increase the skin’s sensitivity to the sun’s harmful UV rays, so it is important that you wear sunscreen everyday while using it to help protect your skin against premature ageing.
- Keep your skin moisturised: Vitamin A may cause your skin to become dry when you first begin using it. Therefore, we recommend that you follow with a nourishing moisturiser such as our bestselling Advanced Night Restore, which has been expertly optimised to be used after applying vitamin A products to leave your skin feeling deeply hydrated and nourished.
How to select retinol and vitamin C products
A powerful antioxidant, vitamin C is renowned for its age-defying properties, working to protect the skin against premature ageing, support collagen production and visibly brighten dark spots. Vitamin C is notoriously unstable and sensitive to oxidation (losing its potency). Therefore, when looking for a vitamin C product, it’s important to ensure that:
- They’re stabilised forms of vitamin C (e.g. tetrahexyldecyl ascorbate or ethylated ascorbic acid).
- Come in opaque or amber-coloured packaging that helps to protect the vitamin C’s stability.
- Has been tested on real people with proven results.
When it comes to selecting the best retinol and retinoids for your skin, there are a few key things to look out for to protect yourself from buying ineffective products. We recommend choosing vitamin A products that:
- Offer a choice of strengths so you can build up your tolerance.
- Have proven retinol stability to ensure effectiveness.
- Contain hydrating ingredients such as hyaluronic acid, glycerin or plant oils.
- Have been tested on real people with proven results.
- Come in opaque or amber-coloured packaging to help protect the formula stability.
Effectively incorporate a retinol and vitamin C routine with Medik8
At Medik8, we are continuously conducting independent research studies into the effectiveness of the retinal molecule and Crystal Retinal, and that’s where our breakthrough patented stabilisation system comes in.
At Medik8, we always recommend choosing retinal over retinol, as you can achieve visible youth-renewing results much quicker. Discover our wide range of vitamin C and vitamin A formulas to suit all skin types and concerns:
The serum that reinvented vitamin A skincare, Crystal Retinal has been formulated with our patented retinal stabilisation technology that ensures optimum potency for visible age-defying results, while remaining gentle on the most sensitive skins. Available in a choice of 5 strengths (0.01% - 0.2% retinaldehyde), this next-generation and groundbreaking vitamin A serum allows you to gradually work your way up for progressive visible results and no irritation.SHOP NOW
The CSA Kit Retinal Edition
The perfect introduction to Medik8’s CSA Philosophy (vitamin C plus sunscreen by day, and vitamin A at night), this 4-piece kit contains everything you need for healthy, youthful-looking skin all year long while visibly diminishing the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles for a rejuvenated complexion.SHOP NOW
r-Retinoate® Day & Night
This luxurious, multi-step serum combines both retinyl retinoate, a pioneering derivative of vitamin A that is photostable, along with tetrahexyldecyl ascorbate (vitamin C) into a sublime day and night serum that leaves skin visibly brighter, smoother and youthful-looking.SHOP NOW
Our bestselling vitamin C serum, C-Tetra Luxe is a stabilised vitamin C serum that has been expertly formulated to be gentle on sensitive skins - making it the perfect vitamin C serum for beginners. Lightweight and nourishing, it is clinically proven to improve skin radiance in just 7 days**SHOP NOW
Daily Radiance Vitamin C
Energise your skin each morning with this all-in-one moisturising vitamin C day cream and sunscreen. The perfect entry level for those new to vitamin C and wanting a hybrid formula, this antioxidant-rich moisturiser contains broad-spectrum SPF 30 to protect the skin from environmental damage for a visibly brighter, more youthful-looking complexion.SHOP NOW
Intelligent Retinol Smoothing Night Cream
Wake up to a visibly brighter, smoother-looking complexion with this 2-in-1 hydrating night cream. Featuring 0.2% retinol, it gently refines the look of skin texture for visibly smoother, hydrated and youthful-looking skin in the morning.SHOP NOW
Intelligent Retinol Serum
This lightweight yet moisturising squalane based serum features supercharged retinol activity while remaining gentle on the skin. Available in a series of 3 progressive strengths, over time, the complexion is left visibly youthful, bright and smooth with an improved look of firmness.SHOP NOW
To summarise, the combination of vitamin C and vitamin A in your skincare routine can help you achieve a visibly brighter, smoother and more youthful-looking complexion. For optimum youth-renewing results, we always recommend that you use retinal as part of our CSA Philosophy as it acts faster on the skin, so you can achieve more powerful visible results quicker.
In line with our CSA Philosophy, at Medik8, we recommend that you apply vitamin C in the morning and before sunscreen for the most effective visible results. In the evening, you can apply your vitamin A serum after cleansing and before moisturising. The only exception to this is r-Retinoate Day & Night Serum, which combines both vitamin C and retinyl retinoate (vitamin A) in a photostable formula that doesn’t break down in sunlight, meaning that it can be applied in both your morning and evening skincare routine.
In your daytime routine, we suggest avoiding using vitamin A as it becomes inactive when exposed to sunlight. However, the only exception to this is r-Retinoate Day & Night Serum which is photostable and doesn’t become inactive when exposed to sunlight.
Vitamin C helps to block the enzyme that causes hyperpigmentation and dark spots, therefore, resulting in a visibly brighter and more even skin tone. However, vitamin A also helps to visibly brighten and renew the complexion, by exfoliating and increasing cell turnover which helps reduce the appearance of hyperpigmentation. For optimum youth-renewing results, we recommend including both ingredients in your routine by following our CSA Philosophy. Simply use vitamin C plus sunscreen during the day, and vitamin A at night.
At Medik8, we have a range of vitamin A and vitamin C products that have been specifically formulated to be used on the delicate eye area. C-Tetra Eye is a powerful, yet gentle eye serum that can be applied in the morning to help smooth the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles around the eyes, for an awakened and rejuvenated appearance.
Crystal Retinal Ceramide Eye is our all-in-one solution to nighttime eye care. Inspired by the original groundbreaking Crystal Retinal face serum, this lightweight yet nourishing eye cream is available in 3 strengths for progressive visible results. Delivering all-night moisture to the eye area, the innovative formula works to visibly lift and de-puff the eye contours while improving the appearance of brightness, dark circles and crow’s feet by morning.
Intelligent Retinol Eye TR™ is a high-performance eye serum that works overnight to help improve skin texture, while minimising the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles around the eye area.
The perfect pairing to r-Retinoate Day & Night Serum, r-Retinoate Day & Night Eye Serum contains a derivative of vitamin A (retinyl retinoate) in an encapsulated formula that is photostable (doesn’t break down in sunlight) - meaning that it can be used in both your morning and nighttime routine for youth-renewing results.
*G. Siegenthaler et al., Retinol and retinal metabolism, Biochemical Journal, 1990, 268, pp 371-378
**Proven via independent clinical study on C-Tetra Luxe conducted over 4 weeks on 36 participants