How to Use Retinol and Vitamin C Together

Medically reviewed by Dr Jen Haley, Dermatologist on 19 April 2020

Ever feel overwhelmed by the dos and don’ts of the skincare world? Us too! There are so many skincare ‘gurus’ out there that it can feel hard to keep up, let alone figure out what you want to bring into your own skincare routine. Thankfully, we have science-based research to help us decide what to do instead. Making tricky decisions, like how to use Retinol and Vitamin C together, a lot easier to make.

Retinol and Vitamin C are two of the most popular ingredients you’ll find in the skincare world. They form an integral part of most people’s skincare regimens and there’s a good reason for that.

If you’re trying to reduce hyperpigmentation, treat acne scarring or are in pursuit of an even skin tone, Retinol and Vitamin C are about to become two of your best friends.

Can you use Retinol and Vitamin C together

Can you use Retinol and Vitamin C together?

Yes, you can use Retinol and Vitamin C together. Both ingredients are powerful in combating inflammation, lighten dark spots and work deep into your skin to tackle those pesky blotches you’ve been trying to get rid of for so long.

But, you need to be careful with how you use Retinol and Vitamin C together. Unlike most products, you can’t simply layer them on top of each other.

Retinol requires a pH of 5-6 for optimal effectiveness, whereas Vitamin C likes a lower pH of 0-3. Spot the difference? This means you’re going to want to leave a gap between your Retinol and Vitamin C treatments to ensure they’re effective.

When to use Retinol in routine?

Retinol is a form of Vitamin A known for its positive effects on collagen production and skin cell turnover.

Adept at preventing the breakdown of collagen, Retinol’s a common ingredient in many anti-ageing regimens. Whilst its ability to promote skin cell turnover means that Retinol is an effective treatment for acne, as it helps to keep blackheads and whiteheads to a minimum, reducing acne breakouts.

You’ll also notice that Retinol is in almost every hyperpigmentation routine set. This is because it speeds up the production of new skin cells, helping hyperpigmentation lift off andto fade while encouraging collagen production for a smoother skin tone (minimising any acne scarring).

How often to use Vitamin C serum?

Most skincare routines recommend using Vitamin C serum daily, since it’s so powerful at fading hyperpigmentation, smoothing skin tones and reducing wrinkles. Remember, you’re going to need to use your Vitamin C serum consistently if you want to see noticeable results.

Vitamin C serum is a common treatment for all types of hyperpigmentation. It works to reduce the production of melanin (the pigment that causes dark patches to appear on your skin) while also neutralising free radicals. What does that mean? In simple terms, it neutralises unstable molecules that can damage DNA and speed up ageing in your skin. Which earns Vitamin C a big tick from us!

But that’s not all. Vitamin C is also known for its anti-ageing properties, playing an essential role in the synthesis of collagen, helping to keep your skin looking plump and fresh.

How to use Retinol and Vitamin C together?

Since layering Retinol and Vitamin C together is a big NO, we recommend a number of different approaches to use these two powerful ingredients in your regimen.

The easiest way to use Retinol and Vitamin C together is to use one product in the morning and one at night. That way, your skin has ample time to recover its pH between treatments, meaning that your regimen is far more likely to be effective in treating whatever skincare woe you’re trying to target. We prefer to use Vitamin C in the morning as a potent antioxidant and defence against environmental insults.  And, we prefer usingRetinol in the evening for it’s amazing renewal properties and also because it is inactivated by sunlight.  Both of these products are the very first product that should be applied after cleansing.  They can be layered with other actives and moisturisers once they are fully absorbed.

If you’re nervous about reacting to new skincare products, then you might want to leave a longer period of time between each treatment. If that’s the case, try using Vitamin C on day one and Retinol on day two, and alternating between the two. That way, it should be easy enough to monitor your skin for any adverse reactions.

Alternatively, if you’re feeling pretty comfortable in your skincare regimen you can use Retinol in pmand Vitamin Cin am.

Using Vitamin C and Retinol together on a consistent basis can:

  • Brighten skin
  • Create a more even skin tone
  • Reduce hyperpigmentation
  • Minimise the appearance of wrinkles and fine lines
  • Help heal acne scarring

And remember, keep on using that sunscreen. Retinol can cause your skin to become more sensitive to sun exposure, so a good sunscreen is a must for your skincare regimen.

We’ve curated some of the best skincare products out there, so you can easily find science-backed products that actually work. Take a look at our favourite Vitamin C serums and Retinol options.


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