Drugs Q & A

Can You Use Vitamin C With Retinol?

Vitamin C (ascorbic acid) is an important vitamin that occurs naturally in foods such as citrus fruit, tomatoes, potatoes, and leafy vegetables. Vitamin C is important for bones and connective tissues, muscles, and blood vessels. Vitamin C also helps the body absorb iron, which is needed for red blood cell production. Vitamin C is used to treat and prevent vitamin C deficiency.

Vitamin C  plays an important role in maintaining skin health and can promote the differentiation of keratinocytes and decrease melanin synthesis, leading to antioxidant protection against UV-induced photodamage.

Retinol on the other hand, is a type of retinoid which is made from vitamin A. Retinol has multiple uses. It can be used to combat conditions like acne and can target areas of pigmentation. It can also reduce signs of aging and sun damage. Rather than removing dead skin cells as many other anti-aging and acne products do, the small molecules that make up retinol go deep beneath the epidermis (outer layer of skin) to your dermis.

Once in this middle layer of skin, retinol helps neutralize free radicals to boost the production of elastin and collagen. This creates a “plumping” effect that reduces the appearance of fine lines, wrinkles, and enlarged pores. At the same time, retinol has an exfoliating effect on the skin’s surface that can further improve texture and tone.

Retinol can also help treat severe acne, as well as related scarring. It helps keep your pores unclogged by creating comedolytic agents to help prevent the formation of comedones or blemishes. For severe acne, your dermatologist may prescribe an antibiotic in conjunction with your retinol treatment. Keep in mind that it may take up to six weeks to see improvements in your breakouts.

Can You Use Vitamin C With Retinol?

Yes, you can use vitamin C with retinol. According to drugs.com, no interactions exist between Retinol and Vitamin C. A combination of Retinol and Vitamin C supports collagen production to give a youthful skin with minimal fine lines, wrinkles, dark spots, and blemishes.

However, it is important to note that using vitamin C and vitamin A together is highly dependent on your skin’s tolerance to potent actives and the concentration of each in the formula you’re using. If you’re using a prescription retinoid, it is recommended that you do not use a high concentration of l-ascorbic acid in your daily routine, since it can be more irritating to the fresh skin cells.

What side effects can I expect from using vitamin C with retinol?

Side effects of using retinol may include:

  • Redness
  • Irritation
  • Burning
  • Itching
  • Dry skin
  • Flaking and peeling of the skin
  • Increased sensitivity to the sun
  • Skin cancer

Side effects of using retinol may vitamin C include:

  • Heartburn,
  • Upset stomach
  • Nausea,
  • Diarrhea
  • Stomach cramps

Vitamin C With Retinol Safety Information

When taken at appropriate doses, oral vitamin C supplements are generally considered safe. Although there are risks associated with the use of retinol, it is deemed safe to use and is not bad for you. Retinoid products are strongly recommended by doctors because it is highly researched and shows many benefits. However, some people may experience a negative reaction to retinol within the first couple weeks of usage due to the concentration being too high for their skin.

Retinization is a process that increases the side effects of retinol such as redness and irritation. It is important to slowly and gradually increase the amount of product used in order to allow the skin to get used to the product. It may take a few weeks of usage before the benefits are visible.


Dr. Oche Otorkpa PG Cert, MPH, PhD

Dr. Oche is a seasoned Public Health specialist who holds a post graduate certificate in Pharmacology and Therapeutics, an MPH, and a PhD both from Texila American University. He is a member of the International Society of Substance Use Professionals and a Fellow of the Royal Society for Public Health in the UK. He authored two books: "The Unseen Terrorist," published by AuthorHouse UK, and "The Night Before I Killed Addiction."
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