Vitamin C vs. Retinol vs. Hyaluronic Acid?

From vitamins to moisture magnets, and the very best line eraser. Editor Trudi Brewer shares the skin-boosting nutrients every woman needs to know about.

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Vitamin C - the glow giver

Health experts love vitamin C and for a good reason. As a supplement, it strengthens the body's natural defenses against infection, boosting your immune system - and our skin loves it too. A powerful antioxidant it stimulates collagen production, it works to speed up the cell turnover to evens out the look of dull skin and fade sun spots. While potent, this is one skin care ingredient that does not like oxygen or light, beauty companies are favouring water-soluble vitamin C (magnesium ascorbyl phosphate), and fat-soluble vitamin C (known as ascorbyl palmitate), in skincare formulations, which lasts longer than pure vitamin C (known as L-ascorbic acid). Make sure you invest in serums and creams with airtight packaging, and use both day and night.

Top Tip

While vitamin C is a pretty potent skin healer on it's own, recent evidence has shown that using a combination of vitamins A, C and E enhances the effects of vitamin C in the skin, which is excellent news for your complexion.

Clinique Fresh Pressed Daily + Overnight Boosters with Vitamins C 10% A (retinol) 1x 8.5ml Vitamin C, $68, blend with your daily moisturiser to boost skin radiance. Livon Lypo-Spheric Vitamin C 30s, $55. Our go-to daily supplement for boosting vitamin C in the body and keeping winter ills and chills at bay.


Retinol - the wrinkle warrior

A gold-standard ingredient lauded by skin experts and dermatologists vitamin A as the most effective wrinkle-fighting, complexion-perfector money can buy. Retinol is a natural derivative of vitamin A and is also known as retinyl acetate, retinyl palmitate, retinoic acid, and tretinoin. Discovered back in 1975, it's still a top performer today in the war on wrinkles. Retinol-laced skincare helps build collagen, smooth fine lines, and most importantly improve the look of the skin's texture while helping to reduce the risk of breakouts and acne. The prescription version (retinoic acid, or Retin-A the brand name for tretinoin), is mainly prescribed as an acne treatment, in concentrate levels, while it's fast acting, and can cause the skin to become dry and irritated. While over-the-counter retinol skincare is available in lower concentrations and may take a little longer to work (eight to 10 weeks), there is less risk of irritation, redness, peeling, or dryness.

Top Tip

Ease into using retinol-based skincare. Start by first applying a pea-sized amount every other night. As your skin begins to tolerate retinol, increase the application to two nights a week. Don't use any scrubs and AHA peels while you're using retinol-based products; remember less is more and always use an SPF during the day.

PIXI Retinol Tonic, $30, here are two novel ways to introduce retinol into your routine, first switch out your regular toner and give skin a retinol boost post cleansing. While Shiseido Benefiance Pure Retinol Intensive Revitalizing Face Mask 4 pack, $98, is infused with skin-loving retinol, this sheet mask provides a boost of moisture while helping to improve the texture of the skin - ideal before a night out.

Hyaluronic Acid (HA): the moisture magnet

This tiny molecule loves water and it’s one ingredient that has a natural affinity with your skin. Why I hear you ask? Your body naturally makes HA, found in your joints, eyes, skin, and hair, one single gram of HA can hold up to six liters of water - which is why it’s a fantastic moisturiser. It holds the key to smooth, hydrated-looking skin and can be tolerated by all skin types, even the most sensitive. You can use it with other skincare ingredients such as retinol, and vitamin C, together this combination is a skincare powerhouse for anyone concerned about the look of ageing skin.

Top Tip

Recent research has shown that HA also holds antioxidant benefits for the skin. It acts as a shield to protect the skin’s barrier from free radical damage - that is daily assaults from the environment, which ultimately dry out and prematurely age your complexion.

Clinique Dramatically Different Hydrating Jelly, $69. This delicious gel melts into the skin to instantly hydrate. Clinicians Rejuvenate Capsules 60s, $50. A blend of natural New Zealand marine collagen and hyaluronic acid to helps strengthen the skin's barrier, and hydrates the skin from the inside out.