Differin and Vitamin C: The Ultimate How-To Guide

Can Differin Be Used With Vitamin C?

Combining ingredients for the perfect skin can feel like a complicated math equation. There is always debate about whether retinol or retinoids like Differin can be used with beneficial serums like vitamin C. It can get complicated, but you can use them together.

You do need to think a few steps ahead before mixing topical retinoid with vitamin C every day. Differin and vitamin C are most viable at different pH levels, which means it’s best to wait a short period of time after applying one before you apply the other. 

Vitamin C and Differin are both acids, but vitamin C is much more acidic than Differin (a pH level of 2.6 to 3.2 versus a pH level of 5).

Putting them on at the same time raises the vitamin C pH and lowers the Differin pH, negating the effectiveness of either.

Some studies have proposed the idea that this might not be the case, though. This is where it can get confusing.

Vitamin C is oil soluble, whereas retinoids like Differin are water-soluble. We all know what happens when combining water and oil – they don’t play nicely.

So, you have to be strategic when using both of these ingredients in your skincare routine. It can be done, just keep the following in mind.

What Vitamin C Does for Skin

Vitamin C is one of the most popular serums on the market for good reason. Vitamin C is also known as ascorbic acid and has a huge range of benefits.

Most plants and animals can synthesize vitamin C from glucose, but humans lack the enzyme to do that.

This is why we eat citrus, papayas, strawberries, and broccoli. Just as we feed our body the vitamins we are lacking, we need to feed our skin as well.

The vitamin C we eat has a hard time getting to the surface of our skin.

Vitamin C in skincare is typically known as an antioxidant that boosts the production of collagen.

Collagen helps to keep your skin smooth, soft, and firm, and antioxidants help the skin repair itself and combat free radicals.

You’ll often see it paired with ferulic acid to stabilize shelf life or with vitamin E to boost free-radical-fighting powers.

SkinCeuticals cult serum C E Ferulic is one example and one of our favourites Mad Hippie Vitamin C serum both contain a blend of vitamin C with added ferulic and vitamin E.

You may want to use this serum if you’re looking to remedy mild hyperpigmentation, brighten your complexion, prevent fine lines and wrinkles, or reduce redness.

Vitamin C is a great option for fighting sun damage in conjunction with a quality sunscreen. It can even moisturize skin and reduce the appearance of under-eye circles.

Vitamin C’s anti-inflammatory abilities are extra important if you are also looking to add Differin into the mix for acne or irritated skin.

It soothes rosacea and acne while also promoting healing and preventing further hyperpigmentation of the affected area.

Make sure you patch test any serum before slathering it all over your face.

What Differin Does for Skin

Now let’s talk about the little powerhouse that is Differin. Differin is a gel typically prescribed as a topical acne medication. It is now possible to buy prescription-strength Differin over the counter, as well. Differin is a retinoid, which is a bit different from retinol. 

Essentially, retinol is a type of retinoid in a weaker form. The Differin retinoid, also known as adapalene.

This is higher strength and, therefore, more effective in difficult cases of acne or even fine lines. Adapalene, like all retinoids, is used to regulate turnover in skin cells. 

Skin cell turnover is important because it purges the dead skin cells, oil, and bacteria that clog hair follicles and create acne in the first place.

Extreme cases of acne are often due to overactive skin cell reproduction and turnover without sloughing off the dead skin, causing the lesions.

Differin quickly penetrates follicles, and the medicine remains deep within the pores for twenty-four hours to prevent the creation of acne.

It does this by balancing the skin cell turnover, but its long-lasting effectiveness within the pores creates several added benefits.

Since the Differin is active for about a day (and you should be applying it once every day), it can prevent breakouts instead of just treating current problems.

Its anti-inflammatory properties are useful for healing breakouts, and keeping the skin balanced daily means there will be less gunk on your skin to clog pores.

Conveniently, the exfoliation that Differin causes has a bonus effect of combatting signs of aging. Exfoliation is just as good for fine lines, hyperpigmentation, and dull skin as it is for breakouts.

Differin stimulates collagen production deep within the dermis, which keeps our skin looking smooth, plump, and youthful for longer.

Differin is the only prescription-strength retinoid available over the counter and comes in at a wallet-friendly price.

Keep in mind that this is a retinoid, and retinoids tend to irritate the skin at first. Differin can cause dryness, irritation, and stinging also known as purging.

Use caution if you already deal with dry skin. These side effects usually subside after about two to four weeks, which is also when you will start seeing the full effects of the adapalene. 

Why are Differin and Vitamin C a Good Combination for Acne-prone Skin?

Differin and vitamin C are excellent solutions for anyone struggling with acne or acne-prone skin. Retinoids regulate skin cell turnover. This helps to eliminate and prevent dead skin cells that clog pores along with oil and bacteria.

Differin can also treat a sliding scale of acne extremes. It’s often prescribed for you to deal with severe breakouts to help get your skin under control and begin the healing process.

It can also be a great addition to your routine if you only get mild breakouts every once in a while. Adapalene, the active ingredient in Differin, is one of the most gentle versions of retinoid on the market.

Even after your skin cell turnover is put in check, Differin continues to work on improving your skin. Bacteria, oil, and dead skin cells can reside deep within our pores and stay there for a long time. Differin’s formulation is made to penetrate deeply and last for twenty-four hours, dismantling the possible clogs.

This is where vitamin C comes in. While Differin is penetrating deep within the pores to fight clogging, vitamin C can sit on top and protect skin from outside threats. It combats signs of sun damage by protecting the skin from free radical damage.

While vitamin C is protecting, it is also healing by using antioxidants to help the skin repair itself. Its anti-inflammatory properties help with redness and acne while also reducing hyperpigmentation.

Vitamin C stimulates collagen production, just like Differin, and keeps the skin feeling and looking plump and youthful.

As you can see, this is a great combination of ingredients to keep in your skincare arsenal. Protect yourself from damaging outside elements with vitamin C, maintain inner balance, and calm the skin from within with Differin. 

They then work together to eliminate hyperpigmentation, fine lines, and acne on the surface. Differin’s tendency to dry out skin is balanced by the moisturizing properties of oil-soluble vitamin C. They seem like a perfect dream team, but what’s the best way to put them together?

What is the Best Way to Combine Differin With Vitamin C?

There are a few different ways to combine Differin and vitamin C, depending on you and your skin’s preferences as well as your daily skincare routine.

Make sure to check the ingredients of any other skincare products to make sure they all play nice together, as well.

Keep in mind that it’s best to introduce one product to your skin at a time so that you can make sure it gets along with everything else.

If you add too many products at once, you won’t be able to tell what is working for you and what is causing more problems than before. 

Once you have your Differin and your chosen brand and formulation of vitamin C, there are a few things you can do. If you want to be cautious and ease your face into the process, we recommend using vitamin C and retinol on alternating nights. 

One of the most common ways to incorporate both is by using vitamin C in the morning and Differin at night.

Vitamin C works really well with sunscreen to protect your skin. However, retinoids can make your skin more photosensitive and prone to sunburn – using them at night instead is the perfect solution.

The third way to go for it is using vitamin C and retinol every night, thirty minutes apart. Vitamin C needs to dry completely so that the skin can fully absorb it, giving yourself time to soak in all the benefits.

Then add your retinol. This also allows both to operate at their optimum pH without interfering with the other.

Can Using Vitamin C and Differin Make Skin Worse?

Using vitamin C and Differin will not make your skin worse, but you may have to suffer through a bit of an adjustment period.

Sometimes when skin is exposed to a stronger product than typical or a new ingredient, it likes to do something called “purging.”

Purging happens when your skin reacts to an ingredient that causes cell turnover. This is a result of exfoliating the skin, and it brings congestion up to the surface.

There isn’t much that you can do to prevent this process besides introducing products to your skin slowly to get it used to the new ingredients.

Though it may seem like your skin is freaking out and you are doing something wrong, this is a natural process that will help you in the long run. Instead of waiting for your acne to surface, the vitamin C and Differin are kicking it out all at once.

You can tell a purging process from a breakout by the duration of the actual pimples. Pimples and acne that occur from the skin purging tend to heal much faster than typical acne.

Purging means that what you are doing is working. Trust the process.

The Bottom Line Of Differin and Vitamin C

If you’re unhappy with the appearance of your skin, it might be time to try out a combination of Differin and vitamin C in your daily skincare routine. This combo can combat signs of aging like fine lines and dull skin while also effectively reducing acne. 

Vitamin C and retinol have always been staples in skincare. With this adapalene formulation of retinoid, it’s possible to work with them together to get the skin you’ve always wanted.

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