Vitamin C Serum vs Retinol – The Ultimate Choice to an Ageless Skin

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Vitamin C serum vs retinol: here is a comparison of both ingredients to help you pick the right one according to your skin concerns. If achieving glowing ageless skin is the ultimate goal of your skincare routine, you must have heard about the benefits of retinol and vitamin C serum.

However, you’re not alone if you don’t know what they are or what the difference between the two is, or which one works best. They are both vibrant (and proven) skincare ingredients that you can add to your routine.

These two power-packed ingredients both offer several anti-aging benefits to the skin, however, they work differently on the skin. If you are wondering which one to use to achieve your desired result or if you can combine both ingredients in your routine, the answer is here. 

This article looks into each ingredient and what they do to give you your desired beauty boost. It also entails a guide on how to use both ingredients safely in your routine. 

What Is Vitamin C Serum and What Does It Do?

Vitamin C Serum is an excellent skincare product that helps to protect your skin from getting damaged by environmental aggressors such as UV rays, pollution, smoke, and so on. 

These environmental aggressors cause damage to the skin by breaking down the collagen in your skin. These damages include the formation of fine lines, wrinkles, and even dark spots. 

Vitamin C serum serves as an excellent protectant against the harmful effects of environmental aggressors. It helps to reduce the appearance of sunspots and discoloration on the skin. The serum also helps in retaining a smooth and healthy skin texture and tone.

It also helps with premature aging by reducing the appearance of existing wrinkles and other aging signs. Not stopping at that, it also protects your skin from the development of new wrinkles and other aging signs. 

Once you apply the serum to your skin, the skin absorbs it quickly and the ingredient starts working on the skin. This makes you achieve your desired result quickly. 

On the downside, Vitamin C is not as stable as other Vitamins. When it is stored for too long, it becomes less effective. 

Therefore, when you are looking to purchase a vitamin C serum, it is best to look for one that contains antioxidants such as Ferulic Acid. This will help in keeping your vitamin C serum stable for a longer period.

What Is Retinol and What Does It Do? 

Retinol is one of the synthetic vitamin A derivatives in skin care products used to treat acne and signs of aging. Retinol is known to be popular amongst dermatologists as it is a star ingredient that works to treat several skin concerns. 

It works amazingly as a skincare ingredient to protect the skin from environmental aggressors that causes damage such as premature aging of the skin. 

It is one of the most commonly found active ingredients in skincare products and it works especially to treat aging concerns such as the appearance of wrinkles, fine lines, and age spots on the skin.

When retinol is applied topically on the skin, it penetrates the skin and converts to retinoic acid. After which it begins to work on the skin to accelerate the skin cell turnover rate as well as boost the production of collagen and elastin in the skin cells.

Unlike vitamin C serum, “retinol also works effectively to treat other skin concerns such as acne,” says Dr. Jody Levine, a board-certified dermatologist.

It has exfoliating properties that shrink/tighten pores and also control the production of sebum (oil) in your glands. Additionally, it aids collagen production in the skin, restores and retains your skin’s elasticity, and clears out the formation of wrinkles and fine lines.

It does all this simply by encouraging the turnover of skin cells. This allows the skin to rid itself of dead skin cells and showcase new fresh skin cells on the surface of the skin. 

Overall, retinol helps to unclog your pores, aid collagen and elastin production, reduce the appearance of aging signs, smoothes the skin, and even out skin tone and texture.

Which Is Best for Wrinkles: Retinol or Vitamin C?

When it comes to which ingredient or product works best, the choice should depend on what you want for your skin. Vitamin C is a great ingredient to use on the skin, as it works effectively to reduce and improve pigmentation. 

However, retinol remains the best anti-aging ingredient. “Vitamin C is a very useful ingredient for the skin, nonetheless, it is not as effective as retinol when it comes to treating premature aging,” says Dr. Levine.

“Retinol is second to none as data has proven it to be effective in combating skin aging,” says Dr. Hadley King, a board-certified dermatologist.

Can You Use Vitamin C and Retinol Together in Your Skincare Routine?

Vitamin C and retinol are actively ruling the skincare world as they are effective anti-aging agents and rapidly transform your skin. Adding a small amount of both ingredients to your skincare routine will work wonders on your skin.

You can do this by using each of the routines separately in your routine. Use your vitamin c in the morning and use retinol at night. 

In contrast to retinol, “vitamin C keeps the skin safe from environmental damages by putting up a defense line against free radicals. Therefore, the best time to use your vitamin C is in the morning,” says Dr. Shari Marchbein

Since retinol does more skin repair, the best time to use it is when the body is resting and revitalizing itself after a tiring day. 

How to Use Retinol and Vitamin C Serum

A collaboration of vitamin C serum and retinol in your skincare routine will result in rapid improvement of your skin’s appearance as they are both active skincare ingredients. 

However, It is important to learn the proper way to incorporate these two ingredients into your routine. Incorrect usage can irritate your skin or even cause damage to your skin.

How to do it:

  • In preparation for the application of the products, cleanse your skin with a mild soap that works for your skin type.
  • Double cleanse your skin using your skin toner.
  • Now apply a drop of your vitamin C serum on your face. 
  • Massage it into your skin in a circular motion till your skin has absorbed it. 
  • Allow your skin to completely dry for about 30 minutes.
  • After 30 minutes, you can apply your retinol product to your skin. 
  • Massage it into your skin for quicker absorption. 
  • Let your skin absorb it totally before going on to apply a moisturizer to restore hydration to your skin. 
  • Don’t forget to use your sunscreen to protect your skin from sunspots and burns.

You can also separate the products into your morning and evening routine. This will help to reduce the risk of irritating your skin by using them together. Doing this will also allow each ingredient to have enough room to work on your skin. 

Below are two different ways to separately use retinol and vitamin C serum on your skin.

Use one in the morning and the other at night

Both of these ingredients thrive at different times of the day and they also work differently. Therefore, using them separately will help them work properly and effectively to help your skin.

Using vitamin C serum in your morning routine will help to brighten up your skin, as well as protect your skin from free radicals. Vitamin C and sunscreen work hand-in-hand to provide maximum protection for the skin. 

Retinol is a skincare ingredient that is sensitive to direct sunlight. This means that exposure to sunlight will destroy the potency of the ingredients. Not to mention that it makes your body extra sensitive to ultraviolet radiation –making your skin prone to sun damage. 

It is best to use retinol at night, this way, it will collaborate with the body to repair every damage that occurred during the day. 

Use either of the ingredients each night

This is another way to escape irritating your skin if you have sensitive skin. Interchanging the ingredients every night works perfectly for your sensitive skin if you don’t want to miss out on the benefits of using the two ingredients. 

Having sensitive skin equals the inability to tolerate using two active ingredients at once. You can do this by using retinol one night and using vitamin C the following night. This will help your skin retain its pH level balance between each usage of the ingredients. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Should you use vitamin C before or after retinol?

Use your vitamin C serum first before using retinol if you are using the two ingredients together in a routine. 

However, ensure that you allow your skin to completely absorb the vitamin C serum before applying retinol. Not only will the ingredients cancel each other out if they mix, but they can also irritate your skin.

Is it bad to use retinol and vitamin C together?

No, it isn’t. You can use retinol and vitamin C serum together on your skin. Incorporating the two ingredients in your routine stands to benefit your skin greatly.

However, you have to learn to properly layer the two ingredients correctly. This is the only way to enjoy the benefits of both ingredients without irritating or damaging your skin.

Can you use vitamin C without retinol?

Yes, you can. You don’t have to combine both ingredients in your skincare regime. You can use both ingredients separately if you do not buy the idea of using two active ingredients on your skin. 

Simply stick to the one that works best for your skin and let go of the other one. You still stand to enjoy anti-aging benefits from either one of the ingredients.

Should you use vitamin C or retinol?

You can use either one of the ingredients that work best for your skin to give you your desired result. 

However, if you do not want to miss out on any of the benefits of either ingredient, simply follow the instructions in this article to start using both ingredients in your skincare routine.


Retinol is the most recommended anti-aging ingredient by dermatologists to their clients. Vitamin C is also a buzzy trend in the skincare world as it works effectively to give the skin a wonderful beauty boost.

However, retinol does more than just help with premature aging, it also works to treat acne and other skin issues. The ingredient you decide to go with should depend on the skin issue you’d like to address. Overall, retinol had proven to be the most effective of the two ingredients.

If you would like to benefit from both of the ingredients in your skincare routine, you can incorporate both ingredients. Strictly follow the instructions in this article to guide your usage and your skin will thank you for it.

Thanks for reading.

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