retinol and vitamin c effects on your skin

Retinol and vitamin c effects on your skin

Most people know of retinol and vitamin c and that they're good for aging, but do you really know HOW or WHY they're good for the skin?  Also when and how to use them is important too as they can cancel each other out when used together at the same time!  It's true!  Let's dig further...

What is retinol, and what is vitamin c?

Retinol is a vitamin from the vitamin A family.  For humans, it's found naturally from dietary sources obtained most directly from animal products. From plant sources it is an extra step in the body to be converted from vitamins like beta-carotene into retinol later after being absorped in the small intestine.

beta carotene

 Retinol is essential for vision, skin and immune health.   There are many different forms of retinol and retinoids, each with different benefits, but essentially they all convert to retinoic acid in the skin.  

Vitamin C is an essential nutrient for human health and a powerful antioxidant.  It can only be obtained from food sources or topically, and was the first vitamin to be artificially produced (in 1933).  Vitamin C internally helps with wound healing and protein functions in the skin.  

Types of retinols and vitamin c's

The most well known retinoids are either prescription formulas or over the counter ones.  The prescription formulas are generally straight tretinoin or adapalene also known as "Retin-a" or "Differin" and their generic versions.  Common over the counter sold forms are retinol, l-retinol, retinyl palmitate, retinaldehyde, and retinyl proprionate.  In general all retinoids do similare things.  They speed up cell turnover leaving less epidermal keratinocyte build up, and they stimulates collagen and elastin.   But with retinoids, stronger is not always better. Meta-a retinol benefits Prescription retinoids are very active and may come with side effects such as sensitivity, redness, peeling, flaking, and sun sensitivity. And don't ever get any facial waxing while on them as even the most gentle wax may tear the skin on them (many drs who prescribe retin-a forget to mention that to patients). The over the counter retinoids can be effective at clarifying and stimulating collagen, but take at least 1 -4 steps to convert into retinoic acid in the skin, some taking more "conversion" steps than others.  But depending on their percentage strength and type can also come with some side effects like the prescription levels too.

Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant which helps skin cells fight free radicals (protect from environmental elements that cause aging), protect celular breakdown from UV, and helps the skin heal wounds and build proteins including collagen correctly.  The most noted vitamin c with the strongest anti-aging results is L-ascorbic acid.  Theres dozens of studies showing it's proven benefits in the skin, but this vit. c is a very unstable molecule and oxidizes very easily.  This makes it possibly stimulating or even irritating and even drying to some skin types. Over 15% in a formula has even been shown to cause inflammation in the skin.  The formulation and packaging of an L-ascorbic acid serum is incredibly important.  It needs to be either in a powder activated form or in a completely airless bottle and have a good carrier medium that wont easily oxidize either.


Due to L-ascorbic acid's instabilities, newer more stable forms of Vit-c have been developed showing promising results at protecting the skin and stimulating collagen as well.  Some of the more common forms used are magnesium-ascorbyl-Phosphate, ascorbyl palmitate, sodium ascorbyl phosphate, and the newest form i know of tetrahexydyl phosphate.  These versions are all more stable in formula than l-ascorbic acid so will be better for sensitive or acneic skin types and will have some different benefits.  For example Magnesium Ascorbyl Phosphate has shown anti-inflammatory benefits in the pores to help with clarifying acne!  

So which ones should we use?

Obviously I have my own ideas and choices i have made for Meta Skincare.  Since I work with so much acne and aging I chose the versions with the most studies for the best results for BOTH acne and aging. 

So for vitamin C, in my Antiox-c serum, we use 20% magnesium ascorbyl phosphate with due to it's anti-inflammatory properties in the pores.

For retinol I use Retinyl Proprionate due to it's numerous studies on particularly helping with acne while still being effective at stimulating collagen than other over the counter retinols.  

 That doesn't mean they are the end all be all of forms.  It all comes down to skin type and the product formula.  Either way, they will both be helpful at protecting the skin and preserving it and i recommend nearly all clients use a vit c in the day and a retinol at night to maintain good skin and to prevent accelerated aging.

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