Finding products for your beauty routine can be confusing. With brands peddling the latest and greatest in skincare featuring trendy ingredients, the process can get downright overwhelming. All of this may leave you wondering, "what do I really need in my skincare routine, anyway?"
If you're trying to wade through all of the choices and want to avoid buying out the beauty counter, look no further than vitamin C and retinol.
These beauty industry favorites are considered top-of-the-line skin care treatments. Both dermatologists and beauty experts agree that vitamin C and retinol are essential to a healthy skin care regimen. Clinically proven to replenish skin, reduce signs of aging, and improve the overall look and feel of your skin, vitamin C and retinol are two products you don't want to go without.
Want to know more? Read on to learn more about the benefits of vitamin C and retinol, and how to incorporate them into your regular beauty routine.
Benefits of Vitamin C and Retinol
Let's be honest; no miracle product can turn back the hands of time. But some ingredients can help your skin look and feel its best. Vitamin C and retinol are two powerful ingredients that contribute to younger, healthier-looking skin. Their effectiveness has been widely studied and proven, making them a favorite amongst beauty experts.
These ingredients effectively work on all skin types. They are recommended to treat many issues that are problematic for our melanin-rich skin, including hyperpigmentation, uneven skin tone, and dark spots.
You can find vitamin C or retinol featured in a wide range of skincare products—everything from face creams to serums. And whether you're on a tight budget or want to splurge, there are options to fit your price point.
Before we jump into the details of each ingredient, let's take a look at their benefits:
Vitamin C is a high potency antioxidant that protects skin from damaging free radicals (pollution, ultraviolet light, poor lifestyle habits such as smoking, sleeping, and eating patterns). It plays an essential role in collagen production, which we need to help maintain the skin's elasticity, strength, and hydration levels.
Other vitamin C benefits include:
- Reduces fine lines and wrinkles
- Evens skin tone
- Brightens skin
- Reduces hyperpigmentation
- Boosts sunscreen performance
Retinol, a derivative of vitamin A, is an anti-aging powerhouse. Because retinol works on the skin's deep layers, it increases cell turnover – the rate at which dead skin cells are shed and replaced. Consequently, it helps thicken skin and boosts collagen and elastin production, which deplete as we get older.
Retinol's other benefits include:
- Softens wrinkles and fine lines
- Evens skin tone
- Improves skin texture
- Fades discoloration
- Minimizes large pores
- Encourages firmer skin
- Acne treatment
What You Need to Know About Vitamin C
Vitamin C is most commonly listed in skincare products as L-ascorbic acid. This form of vitamin C is the most potent and purest - and also the most unstable. Because it is sensitive to light, air, and heat, it can break down when overly exposed to these elements.
However, more stable derivatives are available that you may see used in your skincare products. They include ascorbyl palmitate, ascorbyl glucoside, magnesium ascorbyl phosphate. While they are more resilient, these derivatives are also less potent.
What to look for in a vitamin C treatment
Vitamin C in any concentration is helpful as the benefits are cumulative. So while moderate concentrations of 10-15% are highly effective, even lower concentrations are beneficial. But be aware, while considered safe for all skin types, high doses of vitamin C (20% or more) may cause skin irritation for some people.
Vitamin C is potent on its own, but even more powerful when combined with vitamin E, another highly-regarded antioxidant. Look for products that include both ingredients to get the maximum benefits.
Serums and creams packaged in a pump or an opaque container are best to protect your vitamin C serum or cream. Ensure you keep your product away from direct light and store it in a cool, dark place.
How to use vitamin C
Use vitamin C in the morning.
After your regular cleansing routine, apply the vitamin C treatment directly to your skin. Follow up with a moisturizer and sunscreen.
Vitamin C plays nicely with other products, so you can easily layer or combine it with other products you may already be using in your routine.
Looking for a place to start? Here is a list of a few vitamin-C treatments from Black-owned skincare brands to try:
- Hyper Clear Brightening Clearing Vitamin C Serum
- Epi.logic Daily Dose Vitamin C + Multivitamin Defense Serum
- Buttah Vitamin C Serum
- Beauty Stat Universal C Skin Refiner
What You Need to Know About Retinol
Retinol is another ingredient that works for all skin types. It's available in multiple formats, such as lotions, serums, and creams. Choose a retinol product with a consistency that best suits your skin type. Here's a tip—serums tend to work best for all skin types. But if you have dry skin, you may want to opt for a cream, and for medium or combination skin, a lotion may be more suitable.
Though part of the same family as prescription-grade retinoids, retinol is not as potent, so seeing results will take longer. However, the lower concentration of retinol in over-the-counter products is often better tolerated than a retinoid you would receive from a doctor.
Like vitamin C, retinol also has many less potent derivatives that are used in skincare products. Some of the names you may encounter include retinyl palmitate, retinaldehyde, retinyl retinoate, and retinyl propionate.
Retinol can cause irritation and sensitivity to the skin. It may take three to six weeks for your skin to adjust to retinol treatment. In that time, you may experience side effects that include acne flare-ups, itching, burning, dry or scaly skin. These side-effects may seem counter-productive, but it's only a temporary reaction to the rapid purging of dead skin cells. As you build up a tolerance, the symptoms will diminish.
What to look for in a retinol treatment
Because of the side-effects that may occur during the adjustment period, it's best to start with low-dose retinol (0.025 – 0.5%) and use it once or twice a week. Once your skin can better tolerate the retinol, you can gradually increase to an everyday application.
If you experience side effects like redness, dryness, or extreme sensitivity, reduce usage until your skin becomes more tolerant.
How to use retinol
It's recommended that retinol be used at night.
Until your skin adjusts to treatment, it's best to keep your nighttime routine simple. Don't mix or layer retinol with other active ingredients. However, you can alternate days with other active ingredients if you need to.
It helps to use a moisturizer to protect the skin, seal in moisture, and reduce side effects. Apply the moisturizer first and wait 20-30 mins before you apply retinol. Look for moisturizers that contain humectants like hyaluronic acid and glycerin and emollients like ceramides, shea butter, or coconut oil.
Have patience when using a retinol. It may take up to four weeks to begin to see any changes and up to 6 months of regular use before you see the full benefits. Don’t forget to always use sunscreen during the day, as your skin will be more sensitive to UV light.
Want to try retinol? Here are a few recommendations to get you started.
- Epi.logic Retinol + AHA Overnight Facial
- Shani Darden Skin Care Retinol Reform
- Vichy LiftActiv Retinol HA Anti-Wrinkle Concentrate Serum
- RoC Retinol Correxion Deep Wrinkle Retinol Night Cream
If you're looking for holy grail skincare products that you can trust to deliver on their promises, vitamin C and retinol are the way to go. These beloved ingredients are the foundation of a more youthful, healthy, and glowing complexion. Add them to your beauty arsenal today.