From reducing pigmentation to preventing more: How to know if your skin needs Vitamin A or Vitamin C.

The beauty industry loves to use the alphabet when naming products and ingredients. BB creams, CC creams, AHAs and BHAs, SLS and DHA... I could go on.  

Side note... here are seven ways to improve your skin while sleeping. Post continues below.

Video via Mamamia

You’ve probably heard of Vitamin A and Vitamin C, too, and may know that they’re both somehow good in our line of defence around pigmentation. But do you know what they actually do, how they are different and which one is right for your skin?

No? Don’t stress, I’m going to tell you. (Well, with the help of chatting to an actual qualified skin expert.) Read on... 

Is Vitamin A or Vitamin C better for dealing with pigmentation?

"That is a tough question to ask a dermatologist as I love both these topical active ingredients. They have unique beneficial properties but work well synergistically," Melbourne based dermatologist Dr Shyamalar Gunatheesan said. 

So we can use both in the same routine? Yay! Well then how are they different?

"Topical Vitamin C is a hydrophilic molecule whilst topical Vitamin A, or retinoids, are lipophilic. This difference will dictate how these actives are delivered into the skin in a stable, efficacious manner," Dr Gunatheesan said.  


"Vitamin C protects against photodamage, controls melanogenesis and stimulates collagen and elastin production. Vitamin A also stimulates the formation of collagen, refines skin texture and optimises cell turnover or regeneration."


Oh okay, cool. So Vitamin C can sorta stop more pigmentation from occurring while Vitamin A works to fade existing sun spots, melasma and age spots? 

"Yes. Vitamin C increases skin clarity and reduces hyperpigmentation by modifying the enzyme 'tyrosinase' involved in pigment production. Vitamin C is a potent anti-oxidant and has photo-protecting properties, preventing further hyperpigmentation.

"Vitamin A breaks up clumps of pigment that already exist in the skin and also optimises cell renewal, thereby lightening the hyperpigmentation over time."

Okay gimme. So how do we know which one to use?

"I would suggest fitting both these ingredients into our skincare routine," Dr Gunatheesan said. 

"Topical Vitamin C in conjunction with Vitamin E actually increases the effect of Vitamin C four fold. This is applied as a serum in the day. Always remember to layer over with a high SPF sunscreen. A slow release Vitamin A complex is best used at night, as a serum or cream." 

Awesome, thank you Dr Gunatheesan. 


Oh, and one thing to note. As with life, awesome things often come with downsides. 

The downside of Vitamin C products is they can oftentimes be tricky to layer under other products as they can 'pill' (roll up in small weird bits on your face). If that happens with your Vitamin C serum, try applying it to damp skin by way of a toner, face mist or even a splash of water. Vitamin C can also have a specific scent that some people don’t enjoy, though I don’t have an answer for that. Maybe try a peg. 


The downside of Vitamin A products can be that they are drying, so can cause skin tightness and/or flaking. For that reason it’s important to introduce them sloooowly – perhaps twice a week, at night, building up to every second night and so on and so forth. You only need a small amount too. I’m talking a pea size. 

No, that’s a grape. I SAID PEA. 

Now I know you’re going to ask me about specific products. So here’s a few Vitamin A and Vitamin C products that I think are ace.

Image: Supplied. 



Beaute Pacifique High Potency Vitamin-A Ester Creme, $154.

Ultraceauticals Ultra A Skin Perfecting Serum, $118.

Dr Lewinns Private Formula Vitamin A Rejuvenation Cream, $49.95.

Image: Supplied. 


Ole Henriksen Banana Bright Vitamin C Serum, $96.

La Roche-Posay Pure Vitamin C10 Serum, $69.95.

Paula’s Choice C15 Super Booster, $62.

Feature Image: Supplied.

Sign up for our weekly "You Beauty" newsletter, where our beauty gurus impart all their wisdom and share their go-to products.