The Dynamic Duo: Vitamin C and Retin-A

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If I could only offer 2 options at my Atlanta medical spa to help patients keep their skin looking youthful and healthy, I’d choose Vitamin C and Retin-A without hesitation. These 2 antioxidants provide potent and effective anti-aging benefits that are virtually unmatched by other skin care product ingredients. Keep in mind that over the counter products do not have active ingredients, so for optimal results, we advise that patients make sure their Retin-A and Vitamin C products are prescription strength and purchased at a physician’s office, not online.

What is it about vitamin C and Retin-A that makes them such powerful anti-aging tools? Below, I’ll explain the benefits of each and why it’s important to consult with a skincare expert before purchasing products for your personal skincare regimen.

Vitamin C

There is probably no single ingredient that’s as versatile and effective in promoting youthful skin. It stimulates the production of collagen — one of the building blocks of smooth, tight skin — and, because it’s an antioxidant, also protects existing collagen from free radicals that can break skin down. It also helps block an enzyme that can cause melasma and other skin discoloration conditions. We follow our signature Reverse-the-Clock Rejuvenator facial with a vitamin C mask as a skin tightening treatment.

I recommend using serums rich in vitamin C (look for ascorbic acid), which means you should check labels when buying skincare products to ensure there’s a high concentration of vitamin C. Lower concentrations can benefit your skin, but concentrations of 15% or more are especially effective for problem areas. The range of vitamin C derivatives available are beneficial, but aren’t supported by the vast clinical research that makes ascorbic acid such a rock star.


If your skin care involves nothing but using vitamin C in the morning followed by nightly applications of Retin-A, you’ll have glowing, more youthful skin. (Sunscreen, of course, should also be applied daily.) Most of our patients have heard of retinol, but may not know that Retin-A is a prescription-only product and the strongest, most potent version of vitamin A.

Studies conducted years ago showed that Retin-A can help decrease fine lines, minimize sun spots, and improve the overall texture and tone of the skin when used consistently as part of a skincare regimen. Retinol can be purchased over-the-counter, and some patients with more sensitive skin prefer to use a retinol serum or cream if Retin-A irritates their skin.

Retinol works more slowly than Retin-A because the body needs to convert retinol into retinoic acid (Retin-A). I encourage patients who want to buy non-prescription retinol products to first consult with a skincare specialist, because there are so many retinol products and it can be confusing to know which would work best for specific skin types and conditions.

Fortunately, when you come to the medical spa at Buckhead Facial Plastic Surgery, there are plenty of skincare options in addition to vitamin C and Retin-A, including the HydraFacial™ and other skincare products.

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