Of all the powerhouse ingredients in skincare, retinol and vitamin C are two of the most talked about. Adding both retinol and vitamin C into your beauty routine is a smart choice for any skin type and any age. These potent ingredients do wonders for the skin, but can you use them together?

Yes, you can, but in order to get the most benefits from these active ingredients, there is a right way to use them. Do you use vitamin C or retinol first? How long should you wait between applying them, and what are the risks of using both ingredients together?

We’re here to answer your most pressing questions before you revamp your skincare routine to include vitamin C and retinol.

What Is Retinol?

Retinol is a topical vitamin A derivative that supports and improves skin texture. Retinoids are strong skincare products, yet they’re suitable for all skin types: sensitive, oily, acne-prone, combination, dry, aging, and normal skin.

Retinol encourages healthy turnover of skin cells , making them an effective part of treatment for skin concerns like blemishes, signs of aging, dark spots, and oil control.

How Does Retinol Work for Your Skin?

The benefits of retinol are extensive, which is why you likely hear of it as a wonder ingredient. Retinol lives up to the hype as a potent, long-term skincare product — but you do need to give your skin time to acclimate. Retinol sometimes makes skin temporarily worse before it gets much better. Some people may experience purging, depending on their skin concerns.

Retinol increases skin cell turnover, bringing imperfections from deep under the skin to the surface. Increased breakouts and pigmentation concerns can be a side effect during the first few weeks, but the results are truly worth the wait. Retinol minimizes the appearance of pores, brightens the surface, and makes skin look more supple.

Also, retinol may help ease breakouts by exfoliating the skin, soothing irritation, and keeping pores clear. “With less build-up and debris blocking the pores, there is a lower risk of blemish formation,” notes Melinda Hany, Registered Nurse.

What Is Vitamin C in Skincare?

Vitamin C is a gentle ingredient that’s generally suitable for all skin types, including sensitive skin. It’s a potent antioxidant that improves the appearance of the epidermis. Topical vitamin C aids in improving texture, uneven skin tone, breakouts, the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, and aging effects.

Vitamin C for skincare is commonly found in serums, moisturizers, sunscreens, and cleansers for brightening and protective side effects.

What Are the Skincare Benefits of Vitamin C?

The skincare benefits of vitamin C are extensive — it helps support healthy collagen production, resulting in firmer-looking skin, and absorbs deeply to help reduce the look of dark marks and hyperpigmentation.

It’s also a powerful antioxidant, which means it supports your skin during exposure to free radicals and environmental stressors, including UV rays. Vitamin C is often found in the SPF in sunscreen because of its photoprotection and antioxidant properties.

Can You Use Retinol and Vitamin C Together?

Vitamin A and vitamin C are both active ingredients, which must be used carefully to not overwhelm the skin. This raises the question: Can two powerful ingredients be used together?

In the case of retinol and vitamin C, the answer is yes.

Because they offer similar benefits and enhance each other, they create a synergistic effect that produces greater results from fewer products.

If you're starting fresh, we recommend acclimating to each strong ingredient over time. Not only does your skin need time to get used to each individually, but it also needs to acclimate to using them together. Start with less frequent use and increase your application each week to reduce dryness, purging, and increased sensitivity

What Are the Benefits of Combining Retinol and Vitamin C?

Using retinol and vitamin C as part of your skincare routine can completely transform the appearance of your skin. They make a great duo because of the way they work in combination to enhance your complexion. Both ingredients have similar roles in improving your skin while also complementing each other.

Using vitamin A and vitamin C products together thoroughly benefits the appearance of the skin surface. The two skincare ingredients support brighter, firmer, and smoother skin health by targeting signs of fine lines, discoloration, dullness, and skin aging.

They’re an ideal ingredient combo for all skin types, but are especially effective for addressing the look of uneven, mature, or dull skin.

How Can You Incorporate Retinol and Vitamin C Into Your Routine?

Using vitamin C and retinol together comes with a guidebook to ensure you don’t damage your skin. It’s best to use vitamin C in the morning and retinol at night. This gives sensitive skin time to fully absorb each individual active ingredient and prevents vitamin A from breaking down in the sun. “Vitamin C may also be able to help support the effectiveness of sunscreen, keeping your skin even more safe from ultraviolet radiation,” Hany adds.

You can also use a product that combines both ingredients or follow vitamin C at night with a retinoid. What might combining vitamin C and retinol into your routine look like? Give these ideas a try.

Reach for Treatment Serums

When combining vitamin C and retinol products, start with a vitamin C facial serum for deep absorption into the skin.

You can’t go wrong with a moisturizing vitamin C serum like the M-61 ProSmooth Retinol Serum . This serum can be used morning and night to achieve a younger, smoother complexion.

To maximize skin protection against free radicals and photo-damage, the Skinceuticals CE Ferulic antioxidant treatment is an all-over face serum that targets existing damage while strengthening the skin to prevent future photoaging.

Combine both ingredients into one skincare step with the Dr. Barbara Sturm The Good C Vitamin C Serum , which contains a potent formulation of 0.7% retinol and vitamin C, along with other plant-derived antioxidants.

Revamp Your Moisturizers

After your serum completely dries, follow with moisturizing creams containing retinoids. The RéVive Perfectif Night Even Skin Tone Cream targets the appearance of aging and dark marks while moisturizing your skin.

Similarly, the Clark’s Botanicals Retinol Rescue Overnight Cream is an overnight retinol moisturizer that supports more youthful-looking skin while you sleep. Vitamin A serums can be drying, making hydrating retinol lotion a smart option.

Only Use Retinol at Night

Make sure you only use vitamin A in your nighttime routine. Retinoids aren’t safe to use in the sun due to the thinning effect they have on skin cells, heightening the risk of damage from sun exposure. Apply retinol before bed to avoid UV ray damage.

The Bottom Line

Add retinol and vitamin C into your skincare regimen if you want to experience powerful benefits in the appearance of your skin’s brightness, texture, and tone. It’s time to unlock the potency of skincare that includes strong active ingredients, no matter your age or skin situation.


A Clinician’s Guide to Topical Retinoids | National Library of Medicine

Photodecomposition and Phototoxicity of Natural Retinoids | National Library of Medicine

Vitamin C in Dermatology | Indian Dermatology Online Journal

Why Topical Retinoids Are Mainstay of Therapy for Acne | Dermatology and Therapy