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Using Retinol & Vitamin C Together

Using Retinol & Vitamin C Together

If you’ve been part of the esmi family for a while, you’ll know we have a deep love for both retinol and vitamin C - and if you’re new here, welcome, you’ll hear us talk about them a lot. They are both key parts of our skincare routines, thanks to some pretty incredible benefits. Having said that, to see those killer results and use them safely, there are just a few things to keep in mind. Luckily, when it comes to vitamin C and retinol, we’ve got all the answers.

Before we dive into the retinol and vitamin C duo, let’s make sure we’re all over what they do individually.

What is retinol & what does it do?

Retinol is derived from vitamin A and has a pretty significant fan base thanks to its ability to speed up cell turnover and boost collagen production. That means brighter skin, fewer fine lines and a glow that you previously thought was reserved for Instagram filters. Retinol is perfect for anyone battling acne, as it lightly exfoliates and decongests the skin, and is pretty much a lifesaver for tackling premature ageing. Can you see why we’re obsessed yet?

To get the best results from your retinol, start with a low strength and use a pea sized amount every second night. You may notice your skin go through some slight adjustments when you first start using retinol, but your skin will get used to it and thank you later.

What is vitamin C & what does it do?

Another favourite here at esmi HQ, there are heaps of reasons to love vitamin C. It is a prime antioxidant, which means it fights off free radicals, the tricky rogue electrons that damage our skin and break down collagen. Yeah, not a fan. As if that wasn’t enough, vitamin C is a key part of collagen production, making sure our skin stays plump and inhibiting melanin to keep those dark spots away. And for the cherry on top, vitamin C may help to protect you against UV rays. Now, before you run out the door without your sunscreen, stop right there! Vitamin C is NOT a substitute for sunscreen, it just gives it a helping hand to protect your skin. Just like Blake Lively and Ryan Reynolds, they’re amazing apart, but even stronger together.

All in all, vitamin C is basically a youth serum and a staple on our skincare shelf. Who doesn’t want to look younger for longer?!

Using retinol & vitamin C safely

As you might have gathered, retinol and vitamin C tackle some pretty similar skin concerns. So, if premature ageing and pigmentation are things that you’re struggling with, you might be thinking, “surely I can combat these issues at twice the speed by using both”, right? Hold your horses. Your question should be, “can I use retinol and vitamin C together?”

Well, the answer is yes. These two superstar ingredients can be used in the same skincare routine, but should not be layered on top of each other. As Retinol and Vitamin C are both quite active ingredients layering them over one another can often overstimulate the skin which can lead to irritation and a sensitised barrier, which is more susceptible to UV and free radical damage - less is more in some cases!

Another reason not to layer your retinol and vitamin C, is it may diminish their effectiveness. Bear with us while we get a little technical. The active forms of retinol and vitamin C have very different pH levels. Using them at the same time will lower retinol’s pH and raise vitamin C’s, making the retinol less active and the vitamin C less able to penetrate the skin. All in all, you won’t see the amazing results you’re after.

So now that you know what not to do, let’s talk using vitamin C and retinol safely and effectively. The bottom line is to make sure you’re using your vitamin C and retinol products at different times of the day.

Save your vitamin C products for the morning to get that brightening glow. Need some ideas in the vitamin C department? We’ve got you covered. The Pomegranate Brightening Serum is rich in Kakadu plum, which has one of the world’s highest levels of vitamin C. It also contains Ethyl Ascorbic Acid a very potent and stable form of Vitamin C to help minimise the appearance of pigmentation and promote that glow! It is ideal for most skin types, helping improve the look of pigmentation, sun damage, dull skin, and enhancing the skin's luminosity and clarity. The Sunrise Skin Energising Acai Duo is another way to give your skin that sweet, sweet vitamin C. This Skin Treat brightens dull and dehydrated complexions prone to age spots and hyperpigmentation, all the while stimulating collagen to firm and tone.

Retinol should be saved for every second night. It speeds up skin cell turnover which brightens the skin and fights ageing, but also makes your skin photosensitive, hence why we save this little beauty for when the sun goes down. Our Encapsulated Retinol range delivers the active ingredients deeper into the skin for less sensitivity. Always start with Level 1 and once you finish your first bottle, if your skin is coping well, you can move up the ranks.

As always, make sure you’re using your Skin Shield Natural Sunscreen every morning to keep your skin protected, especially as it may be a bit more sensitive to UV light.


To sum things up, you can definitely use retinol and vitamin C in your skincare routine. After all, who could turn down all of those brightening and anti-ageing benefits? Just make sure you’re saving vitamin C for your morning glow up, and retinol for your skin rejuvenation overnight. Have any other questions? Chat to our esmi skin service consultants, 7 days a week!



Don’t forget Skin Shield Natural Sunscreen!