When it comes to springtime skin care, there are two active ingredients esthetician Emily Trampetti says are absolute non-negotiables—vitamin C and vitamin A (aka retinol). You can use the two separately, applying the former in the morning and the latter in the evening, or you can streamline things and find products that combine the two.
"I use a lot of products that have both vitamin A and vitamin C together synergistically in one product," says Trampetti, who is based in Chicago. "Both are extreme antioxidants which are going to really counteract the free radicals that are produced in your body due to sun damage and pollution."
- Emily Trampetti, a board-licensed master esthetician in Chicago
Although retinol is often thought of as a night-time-only ingredient (because UV exposure hinders its efficacy), many of these blends that combine vitamin C and retinol are formulated in a way that makes the retinol stable enough to continue to work despite being exposed to sunlight, explains Trampetti. This means you can use them morning and night, keeping the two powerhouse ingredients working 24 hours a day. (Although you should be wearing SPF 30+ every day anyways, make sure you're using it if you're going to wear retinol in the day, as it can make your skin more susceptible to sun damage.)
"We like to talk about vitamin A as the regulator in our skin," says Trampetti. "It really helps regulate all the cellular processes and balance out wherever we're irregular in our skin. So if we're producing too much oil, vitamin A comes in and says, 'Okay, let's balance this out so we're not producing so much.' And if we're producing too little oil it'll help stimulate production. Same thing with how fast or slow our skin cells turn over. And it is also doing an abundance of work along with vitamin C to help with our collagen and elastin synthesis."
The key to using these all-stars at the same time is to find them in one product so that they are formulated to work together. "If that's not the case, I don't necessarily recommend layering those things together on your own because we don't know how they're going to interact," says Trampetti. Because vitamin C and retinol are pretty strong on their own, you'll likely want to avoid the combo if you have sensitive skin. Even if you don't have sensitive skin, consider making sure your skin can handle vitamin C and retinol independently before diving into a combo product. If you think you can handle the blend, shop the eight serums and moisturizers that combine vitamin C and retinol below.
8 serums and moisturizers that combine vitamin C and retinol
This serum from StriVectin blends two forms of stabilized vitamin C and acerola cherry extract to brighten dull skin as retinol smooths rough texture and fine lines. The blend is amplified by the brand’s patented form of niacin that strengthen the skin barrier. Use it morning and night.
This serum a low-strength 0.03 percent retinol concentration with antioxidant-rich ingredients like vitamin C, grape seed extract, and cranberry seed extract to promote a balanced-looking complexion while defending against environmental stressors. Use it twice daily.
Mix this oil booster into your fave moisturizer or use a few drops on their own to flood your skin with vitamins A, C, F, and E, all blended in a gentle base of rosehip oil. The star ingredients, vitamins C and A, increase collagen production and hydration while boosting radiance.
Use this dark spot corrector morning and night to see results fast. It blends vitamin C and retinol to fade the look of dark spots and skin discoloration, so your skin looks even and brighter.
Designed to be part of your nighttime routine, this moisturizer combines resurfacing encapsulated retinol with antioxidant-rich Ficucell Vita, nourishing shea butter, elasticity-boosting vitamins E and C, and brightening ferulic acid.
This morning and evening face cream uses pro-retinol, hyaluronic acid, and vitamin C to reduce wrinkles, re-firm contours, brighten skin, smooth roughness, and deeply hydrate.
This serum combines collagen-generating 2 percent retinol ester (2%), plumping hyaluronic acid, and brightening vitamin C, elastin-boosting dill, and soothing licorice to target fine lines, wrinkles, blemishes, acne scars, rosacea, and hyperpigmentation.
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