Can You Use Glycolic Acid With Vitamin C? - (2023)

Winter is a great time to give your skin an extra boost, and that’s where glowy skin comes in. On the other hand, time spent outside may exacerbate dark spots and dullness. Your skin is no stranger to fighting off the winter doldrums, but it needs a little help from time to time.

There are many ways you can provide your complexion what it needs; glycolic acid (alpha-hydroxy acids) and vitamin c both make for effective anti-aging treatments that really work. But can you use them together?

Before we dive into how these ingredients interact with one another, let’s take this opportunity to explore why our beautiful complexions need those potent actives. In this blog post, we’ll talk about how these two ingredients work together and explain how to create a safe skincare routine that includes both of them. Keep reading for our tips!

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What Is Glycolic Acid? And, What Does It Do to Your Skin?

Glycolic acid is a skincare component that combines the functions of an alpha hydroxy acid (AHA) and a humectant, and it’s frequently used for anti-aging, hyperpigmentation issues, dark spots, dryness, and acne scars.

Can You Use Glycolic Acid With Vitamin C? - (1)

It is derived from sugarcane and is found in many skincare products as a humectant. This means that it has the ability to draw moisture towards itself, which is perfect for dry skins who need extra hydration.

As an added bonus, this ingredient also prevents new fine lines or wrinkles when used correctly. It works on the stratum corneum to shed dead skin cells and reveal the fresher, brighter skin layers under it by interacting with the stratum corneum.

Additionally, this powerful antioxidant aids the penetration of other skincare products, making them more effective. Itchy, redness, and burning are common until your skin adjusts to glycolic acid. Always use sunscreen when applying this ingredient since it makes your skin more sensitive to UV radiation or free radical damage.

However, lactic acid is a wonderful replacement for glycolic acid if you have susceptible skin. Overall, glycolic acid has a lot of punch and should be used in your skincare regimen.

Benefits of Using Glycolic Acid:

  • Hydrates the dry skin
  • Smoothens and brighten the complexion
  • Reduces the appearance of wrinkles and fine lines
  • Increases collagen synthesis
  • Sheds dead skin cells from the skin’s surface
  • Fights acne
  • Fades dark spots, hyperpigmentation, uneven skin texture, tone

Glycolic acid is excellent for dry, dehydrated, and combination skin since it is both exfoliating and hydrating.

What Is Vitamin C and What Does It Do For Your Skin?

In the form of unmixed ascorbic acid (also known as l-ascorbic acid), Vitamin C is comparable to anti-aging hero retinol when it comes to what it can achieve for the skin. The holy grail of beauty routine, Vitamin C, is a legend in its own right.

Can You Use Glycolic Acid With Vitamin C? - (2)

This powerhouse nutrient has been shown to improve the appearance of dry, aging, or sun-damaged skin by reducing inflammation and helping produce collagen tissue which gives your face that youthful look you’ve always wanted.

Vitamin C can not only improve the appearance of your skin, but it may also help to prevent damage from UV rays and antioxidant-induced cell aging. This potent ingredient is found in many beauty products like face cleansers, oils, serums, moisturizers.

Benefits of Using Vitamin C:

  • Heal wounds
  • Even skin tone and brightens the complexion
  • Prevent premature aging
  • Stimulates collagen production
  • Reduce the appearance of dark spots
  • Fights free radicals
  • Alleviate the look of wrinkles and fine lines

The easiest approach to include vitamin C in your regimen is to discover a powerful yet mild solution.

Can You Use Vitamin C and Glycolic Acid Products Together?

Yes, you can combine vitamin C and glycolic acid in your skincare regimen. The benefits of combining vitamin C and glycolic acid are undeniable. This powerful duo can work beautifully in tandem, but there is one rule to follow: Don’t overdo it.

Also, your skin’s pH matters when you want to combine vitamin C with glycolic acid. At a pH of 3.5 or lower, the l ascorbic acid solution is at its most effective. Some glycolic acid exfoliants on the market have a higher pH level. Some even have a pH of 4.

Isn’t it the same? The fact is that both pure vitamin C and glycolic acid can function effectively in similar acidic pH ranges. Both of them prefer it low. However, if you go too low, your skin might get burned. That’s why no skincare product has a pH of 2.

You have nothing to be concerned about as long as the pH differences are minor. Vitamin C and glycolic acid will function at their peak.

Why Should You Be Using Vitamin C With Your Glycolic Acid Serum/Toner?

Glycolic acid products are an excellent way to unleash the beauty benefits of vitamin C. It’s an exfoliator, so it removes dead cells and dirt from the surface of our skin to make way for new, healthier ones.

In addition, they also speed up cell renewal, something essential if you want a smooth and glowing complexion. If you need to achieve the most out of your beauty products, don’t be afraid of adding these two potent ingredients, they offer various benefits in combination.

  • Revitalization: Regular use of glycolic acid and vitamin C can help smooth fine lines and wrinkles, tighten sagging skin, enhance elasticity, brighten the complexion, improve clarity and reduce discoloration caused by sun damage.
  • Exfoliation: Out with dullness! It’s time to reveal your brighter and smoother skin with the utilization of glycolic acid toner and vitamin C serum. This fantastic duo also helps to stimulate collagen production.

Tips on How to Combine Both Actives Into a Daily Skincare Routine That Works Well For Various Skin Types

You now know that combining these components in the same product is not a good idea, but you may still use them in the same routine. Here’s a quick rundown of how to combine glycolic acid and vitamin C:

There are, of course, serums containing glycolic acid. Still, the most efficient way to utilize this AHA in your routine is with a toner, which makes it easy to remove any remaining impurities or build-up of dead skin cells while avoiding irritation.

Option 1: Apply Them at Different Hours of the Day

The easiest approach to add vitamin C and alpha-hydroxy acids to your regimen is to use them at various times of the day. This is an excellent method for novices, and those who are sensitive to acids since AHAs, BHAs, and L-ascorbic acid are all acidic ingredients.

Option 2: Use Them on Different Mornings or Nights

Alternatively, try applying a vitamin C serum in the morning and an AHA in the afternoon or evening. For example, one day, you might use your L-ascorbic acid, and the following day, your favorite AHA.

One advantage to this method is that you’re slowly introducing the two active ingredients. It’s also vital if you have sensitive skin, as acid exfoliant can be harsh on a daily basis and could irritate your pores/skin if used every day without fail.

Option 3: Use Them Simultaneously

Apply your vitamin C serum and acid together to get the best results. In fact, using an acid right before applying a powerful antioxidant like Vitamin C can actually enhance its effects for you. AHA, which is often between pH 3.0 and 4.0, lowers the pH of the skin, making it more acidic.

However, applying an acid first can create optimal conditions for L-ascorbic acid to work its magic.

When Should You Start Using Vitamin C and Glycolic Acid In Your Regimen?

Vitamin C is a beautiful element to use during your 20s, and you should maintain its usage into adulthood. Aside from its ability to prevent skin damage, vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant that shields your skin from free radicals, which age it and cause looseness, wrinkles, and sunspots. It can also assist in the reversal of these symptoms.

Furthermore, one of the best times to add a glycolic acid step into your routine is when you are in your early 30s. Glycolic acid is a powerful alpha-hydroxy acid that can be used at any point to achieve flawless and more even skin tone.

Why Should You Always Wear Sunscreen When Using These Active Ingredients?

Glycolic acid and vitamin C are both excellent at preventing sun damage, but they can actually increase pigmentation caused by sun exposure. You should always wear sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher after using any chemical exfoliant in your skincare regimen to avoid becoming more prone to age spots.

One of the most imperative things to do for your skin is limit sun exposure. Chemical exfoliants can be used at night time, and then you should focus on hydrating, protective cosmetic formulations during the day when using these actives.

Precautions You Should Take When Using These Two Ingredients In Tandem

One must take various precautions while incorporating vitamin C and glycolic acid together in a skincare routine. Below are a few of them:

  • Make sure to apply a soothing moisturizer or cooling ingredients like rose water, aloe vera, and a hydrating, fragrance-free lotion after exfoliating your skin.
  • Always ensure that you have a generous application of sunscreen every time you step out in the day for protection from harmful UV rays.
  • You should also reapply sunscreen every 1 to 2 hours to protect your skin from the sun.
  • Apply nourishing skincare products on a regular basis for healthy, radiant results.
  • Be careful not to over-exfoliate your skin, which could lead to it being red and irritated. Exfoliation should only be done once or twice a week, depending on the aggressiveness of the process.

You can make sure that your skin is well cared for after a good exfoliation session by following these simple steps.

Are There Any Negative Effects of Utilizing These Two Ingredients At the Same Time?

In general, there are no adverse effects from using glycolic acid and vitamin C at the same time. However, if you’re not used to doing this kind of exfoliation, it might be wise to start with just one product for a week or two until you know how your skin will react.

Be careful not to over-exfoliate, as this can cause your skin to become red and inflamed.

To ensure that you are using the right concentration of vitamin C or glycolic acid, talk with a dermatologist about your best options for skincare products.

Why Is It So Important to Keep Your Skin Hydrated After Using Glycolic Acid or Vitamin C?

After exfoliating your skin with glycolic acid or vitamin C, it’s essential to keep it hydrated. This is because both of these ingredients have a high pH, they’re acidic, and this requires your skin to stay moisturized in order for it to work effectively.

List of the Best Glycolic Acid and Vitamin C Containing Products

Here’s our list of the best products with glycolic acid and vitamin C:

Best Vitamin C Picks:

1. Paula's Choice BOOST C15 Super Booster

  • Lightweight
  • Diminishes visible signs of aging
  • It gives brighter, smoother, and firmer-looking skin

2. CeraVe Skin Renewing Vitamin C Serum

  • Promotes even skin tone
  • It contains hyaluronic acid, ceramides, vitamin B5
  • Restore skin barrier

3. Naturism Vitamin C Complex Serum

  • It contains pure l ascorbic acid and sodium ascorbyl phosphate
  • Boosts collagen production
  • Vegan and cruelty-free

Best Glycolic Acid Picks:

1. Mario Badescu Glycolic Acid Toner

  • Mildly exfoliates and lessen dullness
  • Improves skin texture
  • Best suitable for dry and combination skin

2. The Ordinary Glycolic Acid 7% Toning Solution

  • Offers gentle exfoliation
  • Improves the appearance of skin texture
  • Provides radiant skin

3. Paula's Choice Daily Smoothing Treatment 5% AHA

  • Revitalize skin texture and tone
  • Reduce fine lines, wrinkles
  • Helps with dryness, dehydration, and dullness

Final Verdict

Vitamin C is more powerful at repairing the skin on a cellular level, while glycolic acid helps with exfoliation by breaking down dead cells. It is possible to use vitamin C and glycolic acid, but the key is not to overdo it.

You can also alternate between these two products for maximum benefits or try using them together in one skincare routine. Both are potent actives that target the signs of aging in easy-to-use over-the-counter formulations.

If we want to choose the best for all skin types, it’s:

  • Paula’s Choice BOOST C15 Super Booster
  • The Ordinary Glycolic Acid 7% Toning Solution


Can you use vitamin C and glycolic acid together? ›

Luckily, you can use glycolic acid and vitamin C together. That way, you can combine the fantastic, skin-transforming benefits of both in your skin care routine. If you're looking for a skin care duo to help you achieve the dewy, radiant, even skin of your dreams, look no further.

What is the best combination with glycolic acid? ›

To double down on anti-aging benefits, pair glycolic acid with either lactic acid or malic acid, both of which unblock pores so that exfoliation is more effective.

What does glycolic acid clash with? ›

Glycolic acid and salicylic acid are great ingredients used separately (or in pre-formulated blends) but mixing the two yourself could cause a major reaction and compromise your skin barrier. One word: ouch.

Do you put vitamin C or glycolic acid first? ›

Experts recommend that, for the best results, you use glycolic acid first in your skincare routine and then apply products that contain Vitamin C. This gives your skin a chance to balance out and for the application of both ingredients to work their magic.

Is glycolic acid better than vitamin C for hyperpigmentation? ›

A study published in the Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology presented a comparative analysis between a Glycolic Acid peel and a Vitamin C peel. The results tipped the scales in favor of Glycolic Acid, which showed a more significant reduction in hyperpigmentation.

What cancels out glycolic acid? ›

Vitamin C + Acids

Acidic ingredients like salicylic acid and glycolic acid balance the pH level of your skin. Combining these acids with vitamin C essentially cancels out one another's effectiveness because vitamin C works best at a lower pH level, creating an overly acidic environment on the skin.

Which 2 serums should not be mixed? ›

6 Skin-Care Ingredient Combinations That Don't Mix
  • Retinoid or Retinol and Alpha Hydroxy Acid. ...
  • Retinoid or Retinol and Benzoyl Peroxide. ...
  • Retinoid or Retinol and Vitamin C. ...
  • Retinoid or Retinol and Salicylic Acid. ...
  • Soap-Based Cleanser and Vitamin C. ...
  • Two Products With the Same Actives.
Jan 22, 2020

What serum can I use after glycolic acid? ›

Once you apply glycolic acid, you will notice that hyaluronic acid is better absorbed. But if you see any skin tightness along with mild sensitivity, try applying hyaluronic acid first.

Can I use vitamin C in the morning and glycolic acid at night? ›

Make sure to take things slow when you start combining glycolic acid and vitamin C in your skincare regimen—I recommend using these products in the evening and always finishing with moisturizer and SPF in the morning.

Should you put anything on after glycolic acid? ›

Always moisturize after use.

Glycolic acid exfoliates and hydrates the skin, but it can irritate or dry out sensitive skin. Always follow your glycolic acid application with an additional light moisturizer to reduce the effects of dryness and irritation on the skin.

Does vitamin C cancel out glycolic acid? ›

YES, you can use vitamin C and glycolic acid together in your skincare routine. In fact, these two dermatological ingredients can work beautifully in tandem — as long as you know what you're doing.

Should glycolic acid be applied to dry or wet skin? ›

Anytime you're applying an active ingredient (aka an ingredient that actively changes the skin) like retinol, glycolic acid, vitamin C, or hydrocortisone, you want to apply it to a dry complexion. That's because you want the ingredient to be able to fully sink in instead of just sliding around on top of wet skin.

How long does it take glycolic acid to get rid of hyperpigmentation? ›

Improves Hyperpigmentation

In fact, according to Science Direct, eight percent glycolic acid significantly improves skin brightness and fades discoloration after 22 weeks, and a five percent glycolic acid product smoothes out texture and evens discoloration.

How long does it take glycolic acid to fade hyperpigmentation? ›

"Glycolic acid is an alpha hydroxy acid (AHA) that has exfoliating and renewing properties to provide a more radiant complexion and to brighten hyperpigmentation," she says. "Generally, with daily use and depending on concentration, it takes about three months to see results."

How long does glycolic acid take to reduce pigmentation? ›

Glycolic acid

A multipurpose molecule, it works as an exfoliant, reduces pigmentation and builds up collagen in the skin. Though you will start noticing its effects within a few weeks, the real results kick in after 6-8 months of continuous usage.

How do you know when to stop glycolic acid? ›

Signs you're not tolerating glycolic ...
  1. Eye area looks crinkled, dry, puckered, or wrinkled making your eye area look older; this is a temporary side-effect. ...
  2. Red and blotchy, sensitive to other cosmetic products, or stings when you perspire.
  3. Shedding dead skin at the rate you consider undesirable.

Can I use glycolic acid everyday? ›

Is Glycolic Acid okay for everyday use? Depending on the concentration, yes, you can use Glycolic Acid every day. If you're new to chemical exfoliants, you should work up to using it every day slowly rather than overdoing it at the beginning.

Which serum Cannot be used together? ›

Don't Mix: Retinol with vitamin C, benzoyl peroxide, and AHA/BHA acids. AHA and BHA acids are exfoliating, which can dry out the skin and cause further irritation if your skincare routine already includes retinol.

What serums don t mix with vitamin C? ›

DO NOT mix vitamin C serums that contain L-ascorbic acid with niacinamide(AKA vitamin B3) or retinol (vitamin A). The pH levels of these elements don't interact well with those of vitamin C. The result, they end up canceling each other out and making both products ineffective.

How long after glycolic acid can I moisturize? ›

Generally speaking, the experts recommend that you not apply any other product or moisturizer to your face until 60 seconds have passed. The reason is that you want the glycolic acid to be fully absorbed into the skin and to dry before you put anything else on top of it.

What happens if I use glycolic acid in the morning? ›

As for whether you should apply glycolic acid morning or night, we recommend applying it as part of your evening skincare routine. Glycolic acid can cause “photosensitivity,” which means it makes your skin more sensitive to the sun's UV rays, upping your chances of a sunburn or skin damage.

What toner is best used with vitamin C serum? ›

Opt for a Brightening Toner

Build on your vitamin C serum-based skin brightening regimen with the mineral-rich Fermented Rice Water Toner. With similar benefits to the vitamin c serum, this sake-infused toner can help brighten, soften, and rehydrate your skin.

How do you know if glycolic acid is working? ›

Your skin may feel a bit rough after your first few treatments. This is normal and just means that the glycolic acid is working. Unless your skin is irritated, keep using your glycolic acid product. You should slowly start to see smoother, more healthy skin.

What is the best combination for vitamin C? ›

Vitamin C works best in combination with vitamin E, ferulic Acid, vitamin B, and hyaluronic acid. Designed to deliver a high concentration of actives, a vitamin C serum is a popular choice in skincare.

What does vitamin C react badly with? ›

Aluminum-containing antacids -- Vitamin C can increase the amount of aluminum your body absorbs, which could cause the side effects of these medications to be worse. Aluminum-containing antacids include Maalox and Gaviscon. Barbiturates -- Barbiturates may decrease the effects of vitamin C.

What contradicts vitamin C? ›

Vitamin C supplementation is contraindicated in blood disorders like thalassemia, G6PD deficiency, sickle cell disease, and hemochromatosis. Avoid taking supplements immediately before or following angioplasty. Diabetic patients should take vitamin C supplements with care as it raises blood sugar levels.

Can I use glycolic acid with vitamin C and retinol? ›

It's a common misconception that using glycolic acid and retinol together cancels out their benefits. If you want to use both products, you absolutely can. Just make sure to use them at alternating times of the day or days of the week. Using glycolic acid and retinol together can be great for treating acne.

What serum to use after glycolic acid? ›

Once you apply glycolic acid, you will notice that hyaluronic acid is better absorbed. But if you see any skin tightness along with mild sensitivity, try applying hyaluronic acid first.

Can I use glycolic acid with vitamin C and niacinamide? ›

Yes, you can use both glycolic acid and niacinamide in your regular skincare routine – in fact, there are products that include both of these multi-tasking ingredients in a single formulation.

What goes first glycolic acid or retinol? ›

It is recommended to apply vitamin c and glycolic acid in your morning skin care routine and then apply your retinol product at night. Only when you have been using both for a while can you use glycolic acid and retinol together.

How long to wait between glycolic acid and retinol? ›

Don't use glycolic acid and retinol at the same time in your routine. Start by introducing one of them and use it consistently for a week, then switch to the other for a week. You may want to take additional time if you know you have sensitive skin.

How often should I use glycolic acid? ›

How Often Should You Use Glycolic Acid? We recommend using a Glycolic Acid-infused product once or twice a week to start so your skin can build up a tolerance. You can then gradually increase the usage to nightly if you want the best results.

Can vitamin C serum be applied over glycolic acid toner? ›

We won't keep you in suspense: YES, you can use vitamin C and glycolic acid together in your skincare routine. In fact, these two dermatological ingredients can work beautifully in tandem — as long as you know what you're doing.

What are the disadvantages of glycolic acid on face? ›

Common side effects of GLYCOLIC ACID include dry skin, erythema (skin redness), burning sensation, itching, skin irritation, and skin rash. GLYCOLIC ACID can make the skin more sensitive in the sunlight, hence always use sunscreen and protective clothing before you step outdoors.

What happens if you use too much glycolic acid on face? ›

It is also useful in treatments for acne, hyperpigmentation, and the visible signs of aging. However, as with all chemical exfoliants, using glycolic acid too frequently, at too high a concentration, or incorrectly can result in skin irritation or damage.

How do you use glycolic acid for hyperpigmentation? ›

Takeaway. Glycolic acid is one of the best skincare ingredients you can use to get rid of dark spots. Whether they are caused by breakouts, hormones, or age, glycolic acid is a powerful skincare ingredient to use for an even, radiant skin tone. Add a glycolic acid peel to your skincare routine 2-4 nights a week.

How do you incorporate glycolic acid in your skin care routine? ›

There are three ways glycolic acid can be used in a skincare routine: as a face wash, as a toner, and as a mask. You should decide between using glycolic acid as a wash or as a toner every day, because they both have lower concentrations that are meant for daily use, then add a glycolic acid mask weekly.


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