Retinol is just another name for vitamin A, an essential nutrient found in many foods. Both vitamins A and C are necessary to the body's health and proper functioning--deficiencies in either can lead to significant health problems. While both have numerous health benefits in the body, they tend to benefit the surface of your skin in different ways.
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Both retinol and vitamin C can be found in various forms. Both are present in many foods and can be easily consumed through your diet. But many skin creams, lotions and moisturizers also feature these nutrients, which can be beneficial to the skin when applied topically. The best use of these nutrients involves a healthy presence of each nutrient in your diet as well as topical use.
According to the Mayo Clinic, retinoids--defined as derivatives of vitamin A--are commonly used to treat skin problems, including acne. These can be found over-the-counter or in prescription-strength doses. It can be beneficial to the other both as a strong topical medication or when taken orally, but dosing needs to be controlled by a doctor to avoid the risk of toxicity. Additionally, pregnant women or those likely to become pregnant should not use highly-concentrated doses of vitamin A derivatives due to potential birth defects. According to World's Healthiest Foods, vitamin C can also be taken to help treat acne.
Other Retinol Benefits
According to the Mayo Clinic, vitamin A can be used to treat measles on the skin, particularly in children that may suffer from a vitamin A deficiency in some locations. Using retinol can help lower the length and intensity of measles, and diarrhea, pneumonia and death risks of measles have all been shown to be reduced by vitamin A. Vitamin A is also a strong antioxidant that can help cleanse toxins from the body.
Other Vitamin C Benefits
According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, vitamin C is crucial to the production of collagen, a valuable protein used all throughout the body, including the skin. Collagen helps the skin maintain its elasticity, appearing firm and tight on the skin. As we age, collagen production slows and the skin becomes less elastic, creating wrinkles and sagging skin, but vitamin C supplementation can help guard against that. The vitamin can also help expedite the healing of wounds and injuries.
While you may choose to supplement your skin with one more than the other, both retinol and vitamin C are necessary for healthy skin. While retinol's greatest benefit is guarding against conditions that may develop on the skin, vitamin C is vital to your skin's health, particularly as you age and collagen production begins to slow. For this reason, vitamin C is better for general health, but retinol is a better supplement for treating specific conditions.