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Makeup & Skincare/Vit C, AHA & Retinol


Hi Tara,
I'd like to know whether vitamin C serum, AHA and retinol can be combined in a skin care routine?
I have only just started the combo, and I'm taking it slow to ensure I don't over-exfoliate. I'm using AHA 15% twice a week (night) and retinol (medium over-the-counter potency) twice a week, with a 'free' day in between each application. I had started using vitamin C serum 10% each the morning, but have cut back since starting the other two. I just want to make sure I build up tolerance slowly. I may increase the frequency of application when I think my skin can take it. Does this regime sound reasonable? Might you have other suggestions?

Hello, Gisella. To be perfectly honest, although I've heard a lot about Retinol (a professional strength Vitamin A) previously, I'm not too experienced with using it. This treatment has never really appealed to me. However, I am familiar with Vitamin C and AHAs.

When it comes to the Retinol, I have heard that it is very strong (especially when combined with AHAs), and while it does help some people, it is too harsh for many others.
Because some forms of Vitamin C, AHAs and Retinol all cause exfoliation, to use all three together would in my opinion, be over kill. This can make your skin extremely irritated and cause worse skin problems.

Depending on what skin care result you are trying to accomplish by using these treatments, I would recommend what you are now doing concerning the Vitamin C and AHAs. You are doing well in only exfoliating with AHAs nightly, twice weekly, with a rest day in between the two days. That's excellent!

That way Gisella, you cut down on skin irritation, and at the same time, getting the exfoliation that is so important for your skin. Using the Vitamin C once per morning is great too and I agree with that. Also, I think that if you are getting the results you want, no need to increase the frequency of application with the AHAs or Vitamin C.

But, the one thing you may want to consider, is that instead of incorporating the Retinol here, I suggest you incorporate a full, broad spectrum SPF 20-30 sun block. You would use the sunblock after application of your Vitamin C in the mornings.

Using a sunblock protects your skin from harmful UVA and UVB rays. UVA rays cause premature skin aging and worse yet, skin cancer, and UVB rays cause sun burn. When using AHAs, your skin is more prone to sun damage because of the chemical exfoliating properties of AHAs.

But because you use the AHAs at night, this will help cut down on that sun sensitivity during the day. Vitamin C on the other hand, you do use in the A.M. Depending on the type of Vitamin C you're using, that too, can cause sun sensitivity (increased risk of skin aging and skin cancer) during the day.

For example Gisella, if you're using L-Ascorbic Acid variety of Vitamin C, this type is more unstable in efficacy, irritating, and does cause some level of exfoliation just like the AHAs and even Retinol for that matter.

So, not using an effective sun block with all this exfoliation, you would be using these treatments in vain, because the sun would begin quickly damaging your skin which can result in dark spots, fine lines and wrinkles, mottled skin, rough skin texture and skin sag or loss of firmness. Sounds terrible doesn't it? I know!

Look for sun blocks containing the active, natural sun blocking ingredient, zinc oxide. Zinc oxide can not only effectively protect your skin from sun damaging UVA and UVB rays, is is also soothing to the skin, and has anti inflammatory properties.

You may need this soothing zinc oxide to calm any possible irritation your skin may experience from the use of the AHAs and/or Vitamin C. Oh, when it comes to Vitamin C, I recommend Sodium Ascorbyl Phosphate or Magnesium Ascorbyl Phosphate.

These varieties of Vitamin C are extremely effective at reducing dark spots, rough skin texture, fine lines and wrinkles, restoring firmness, and free radical protection without the irritation, and are more stable in their composition. Hope this helps...

Gisella, blessings to you in your effort to stay beautiful!


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Tara Logan-Hearn


I will, according to my knowledge and experience, answer questions that involve providing information, tips, and advice in an effort to help one improve the following common ethnic and black skin care concerns:

Although make-up is not my specialty, I'm happy to help with advice on caring for the skin while wearing makeup. I affirm that I can not answer questions to which attention by a doctor is necessary.


I've written for Bella Online, Beauty and Sugar, Self Growth and Oily Skin Blog. I've written the e-book entitled, "Achieving Flawless Skin of Color - 2 Easy Steps to Clear, Even-toned Skin From the Inside Out", which is now published.


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