Sometime last week, I read a sponsored Ad on Face Book, selling a product with 30% Vitamin C and Retinol (unspecified strength) combined in a serum. I was appalled that so many readers who do not understand the chemistry of these two ingredients, will be scrambling to buy it. I wrote the facts as fast as I could in the comment box before this company discovered what I was doing and many unknown strangers from different States thanked me for the information. The following is what I wrote:
Vitamin C is a very effective anti-oxidant which not only stimulates collagen in your skin (in fact, it is integral to its synthesis) but also protects you from ultra violet radiation and, hence, best used during the day. However, since Vitamin C or its most authentic and potent format called L-Ascorbic Acid is water soluble, it not only has a problem penetrating the skin which is composed of lipids or oily layer on the surface but it can target only the watery (water soluble) inner parts of the cell. The outer walls of the cell are lipid (oil) soluble. So you can see the challenge for L-Ascorbic Acid (Vitamin C) to fulfill it’s functions. This is the reason that many manufacturers add Vitamin E (Alpha Tocopherol) which is oil soluble, to balance the water/oil composition and allow the product to penetrate into the skin and do its job.
Retinol, on the other hand, is a derivative of Vitamin A which is an external hormone and has receptor sites within the body. It is a cell regulator. So for example, if the skin’s oil cells are creating too much oil, it will regulate it to diminish oil production so an acned/oily skin will benefit from its interference. Another example is if the collagen producing cells are not making enough collagen, it will send chemical messages to it to enhance collagen synthesis and thus, reduces lines and wrinkles. However, there is a catch. Vitamin A is an anti-oxidant so long as it is not subject to sun exposure. When exposed to the sun, it turns from being an anti-oxidant to a pro-oxidant as it makes your skin extremely photo (sun) sensitive. This is the perfect storm in a bottle for AGING…not anti-aging. Why? You just combined this potential pro-oxidant Vitamin A to an anti-oxidant Vitamin C and are asking people to use it morning and night. You can get lines, wrinkles, hyperpigmentation and vascular (red) lesions as a result, not to mention skin cancer.
This advertised product and I am sure there are many like this one floating around are a disgrace to our Skin Industry. We are supposed to be the forerunners of knowledge and expertise for those who depend on us for their youth and beauty needs and what is being sold under the guise of an anti-aging product is in fact, sabotaging everything that you are doing for your skin. Please note that Vitamin C and E are best used during the day and Vitamin A based products including Retinol and Retonoic Acid/Tretinoin (generic names for brand name Retin A) are best used at night. Also, if you are using any Vitamin A based products, please ensure that you are using a Sunblock with an SPF 30.