Hyaluronic Acid vs Retinol vs Vitamin C: Understanding the Differences

a woman touching her glowing skin

There are two substances that are crucial for improving skin appearance: vitamins and moisture. For this reason, plenty of cosmetic serums, creams and beauty products will often contain either Vitamin C, Hyaluronic Acid or Retinol. As the key component in many skin rejuvenation therapies, these compounds are some of the most effective skin rejuvenation therapies the beauty industry can offer.

Hyaluronic Acid

Hyaluronic acid is a glycosaminoglycan (amino sugar) that bind up to 1000x its weight in water. It’s naturally present all around your body but the majority of your body’s hyaluronic acid is present in your skin.

It’s a humectant and an element of your skin’s natural moisturizing factors which means that it draws water into your skin and holds it there.

So, indeed though it has‘ acid in its name, it really nourishes and hydrates your skin rather than exfoliating it.

With hydrating your skin, hyaluronic acid also helps to:

  • Increase skin elasticity (a well-hydrated skin has more elasticity which means it returns to its shape when pulled)
  • Reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles almost instantly due to its hydrating effect (dehydrated skin makes fine lines and wrinkles appear much worse)
  • Cure wounds by reducing inflammation and bacteria growth

As you age, your body produces less hyaluronic acid which can reduce the volume of your dermis and your epidermal skin cells as well as reduce overall skin hydration. This can leave you with dry, cracked, and irritated skin that has less bounce and more visible fine lines and pores. You can use Hyaluronic acid serum which is very effective in reducing the fine lines and wrinkles and increases skin elasticity.


Retinol is a kind of vitamin A that converts to retinoic acid (in its active form) when it penetrates your skin. Retinol cream or retinol serums help treat a wide range of skin conditions and is one of the only skincare ingredients that’s clinically proven to alter your skin on a cellular level.

It’s an antioxidant that increases the rate at which your skin makes new skin cells and moves them to the surface of your skin in order to be shed. It also:

  • Boosts collagen production
  • Reduces inflammation
  • Retinol for acne helps prevent acne scarring
  • Helps unclog pores and treat acne and pimples
  • Retinol for skin reduces pigmentation by preventing melanin production as well as getting rid of existing pigmentation by increasing skin cell turnover
  • Enhance the appearance of fine lines.

Unfortunately, retinol is prominent for causing skin irritation – particularly when you first start using it. It can also damage your skin barrier if used improperly which can make the skin conditions worse and take a long time to heal and correct.

However, as it requires a few changes to reach its active form, it’s less irritating than other retinoids.

Vitamin C

Health and beauty experts love vitamin C and that too for a good reason. As a supplement, it strengthens the body's natural defences system against infection, boosting your immune system - and our skin loves this too. Being a powerful antioxidant it stimulates collagen production, it works to accelerate the cell turnover to even out the look of dull skin and fade dark spots. 

While potent, this is one skincare component that does not like oxygen or light, beauty companies are favouring water-soluble vitamin C, and fat-soluble vitamin C, in skincare formulations, which can last for longer than pure vitamin C (known as L-ascorbic acid). Make sure you purchase serums and creams with airtight packaging and use it both day and night.

While vitamin C is a pretty strong skin healer on its own, it is shown that using a combination of vitamins A, C and E increases the effects of vitamin C in the skin, which is excellent for your complexion.

Free radicals are the ones that cause harm to the skin. The free radicals can pause the collagen in your skin which might lead to the formation of fine lines, wrinkles, and dark spots. Vitamin C Serum helps your skin to get protected from these harmful effects.

Though not a sunblock, the vitamin C cream shall reduce the sunspots and also discolouration of the skin. The vitamin C serum helps in maintaining the skin texture. The already existing wrinkles shall be reduced and also protect your clear skin from new wrinkle formation.

The skin absorbs Vitamin C fast and starts functioning which means that the serum has much faster results. Many reasonable skincare products use different forms of Vitamin C that may cause skin damage as well.

Vitamin C is indeed not as firm as other Vitamins. Keeping it for a longer period shall not give the right results. It is always recommended to buy the Vitamin C serum, which has various other antioxidants present in it, like the Ferulic Acid that helps keep the Serum stable for a longer time.

Take Away

Retinol, Vitamin C and hyaluronic acid are extremely useful skin rejuvenation treatments and have an excellent interaction that can give better overall results when used in skincare. For best results, these should only be taken after consulting a dermatologist, with treatments ending immediately if any complications or side effects occur.