Can You Use Vitamin C and Glycolic Acid Together? Yes! (And You Should Be!) (2023)

Using Vitamin C and Glycolic Acid Together

Vitamin C and glycolic acid both help to brighten your skin tone and fade dark spots. In addition, Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant, protecting your skin from damaging UV rays while glycolic acid can smooth lines and wrinkles with regular use. Since these two powerhouse ingredients both have clinically proven results you may be wondering if you can use both or if you need to pick between them?

You can use both Vitamin C and glycolic acid together safely in the same skincare routine. In fact, I highly recommend you use both! Together they provide the powerful antioxidant support and gentle exfoliation that will keep your skin looking smooth, bright and even toned.

Depending on the type of Vitamin C you use, I most likely would not recommend using it at the same time as glycolic acid. It will usually be best to use one in the morning and one in the evening. Read on for more details and all you need to know to use both these ingredients together for smoother, glowing skin.

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Types of Vitamin C and How They Differ

You may have read about Vitamin C and how it’s one of the most recommended skin care ingredients to fight the signs of aging. That’s because Vitamin C is one of the strongest antioxidants we can use to protect our skin. Antioxidants protect our skin from harmful stressors like UV rays, cigarette smoke, and pollution in the air.

What you may not have known is that there are several types of Vitamin C used in skin care products. Each type has different advantages and disadvantages and no one type is necessarily best for your skin. It’s important to know which type of Vitamin C you are using because it is going to impact how you can use it together with glycolic acid.

Below, I’ll go over the most common types and cover the basics on each:

Ascorbic Acid

Ascorbic Acid is the “active” form of Vitamin C and is the one with the most clinical studies to back up its effectiveness. It’s the form that has been proven to increase collagen levels in the skin, which is very helpful in preventing and reducing the appearance of wrinkles. Ascorbic acid also helps brighten dark spots and has amazing antioxidant power.

So while it sounds great and is considered the top type of Vitamin C, there are two major downsides of ascorbic acid. First is that it is notoriously unstable when exposed to oxygen and/or formulated in water. This means that it quickly loses effectiveness depending on the product packaging. An airtight pump is ideal and is what is used on the 10% serum that I recommend. Ascorbic acid will turn yellow as it loses effectiveness so you can tell as it begins to degrade. Once it’s a dark yellow color it should no longer be used.

The second major drawback is that it can be irritating on skin. Several popular Vitamin C Serums have levels of 15% or 20% ascorbic acid. This can be irritating to the skin, in fact on my own skin I don’t use levels higher than 10% because it turns my skin red for several hours. The good news is that lower levels are still effective and you can find plenty of serums with these amounts.

✅ Check out my in-depth review of my favorite 10% Vitamin C serum here. It’s inexpensive and comes in a pump.

Sodium Ascorbyl Phosphate (SAP)

Sodium Ascorbyl Phosphate (SAP) is one of my favorite types of Vitamin C. I actually use this more often than Ascorbic acid. ( My favorite SAP serum is Mad Hippie which has tons of antioxidants in addition to Vitamin C) Why do I prefer SAP? First because it does not irritate my sensitive skin at all and secondly because it is very stable, so no concerns of buying an expensive serum and having it go bad in 6 weeks (which has happened to me with ascorbic acid).

Benefits of SAP in addition to it being stable and gentle, are that it’s a great antioxidant and it has been proven to help with acne. I also really feel like it gives my skin an amazing glow and reduces redness.

The drawback to SAP is that it has not been shown to increase collagen level in skin like ascorbic acid has. It’s considered a derivative of Vitamin C and is converted by our skin cells into ascorbic acid, thus some of its power is lost in the conversion process.

Can You Use Vitamin C and Glycolic Acid Together? Yes! (And You Should Be!) (1)

Ascorbyl Glucoside

Ascorbyl Glucoside is another derivative form of Vitamin C that is converted to ascorbic acid within our skin. It is considered particularly good at brightening the skin but like SAP, does not have the collagen boosting power that ascorbic acid has. It is considered stable so no need to worry about the serum or lotion going bad quickly.

Benefits of Glycolic Acid

Glycolic acid is one of the most popular types of Alpha Hydroxy Acids. It penetrates into the top layer of the skin and helps the dead skin cells slough off quicker than they would on their own. This helps the bright, new skin underneath to show.

Over time glycolic acid has been shown to stimulate collagen production in skin, reduce fine lines and wrinkles and fade dark spots. Check out this clinical study here for impressive results.

It’s truly an amazing skincare ingredient that is very versatile because you can find products with strengths of 5% up to 30%. Be very careful of using high levels of glycolic acid as it can burn the skin and leave you with scars and serious injuries.

Why Not Use Vitamin C and Glycolic Acid At The Same Time?

You can use any of the types of Vitamin C together with glycolic acid in the same skincare routine. However, depending on the form of Vitamin C, you can necessarily use it at the exact same time (or immediately right after one another).

The main issue you are going to have is if you are using the ascorbic acid form of Vitamin C. In order to penetrate the skin it must be formulated at the correct PH to be effectively. It’s the same with Glycolic Acid, neither product will work at the wrong PH.

For this reason if you are using Ascorbic Acid and Glycolic Acid I recommend using one in the morning and one in the evening. Due to ascorbic acid’s amazing antioxidant properties, I highly recommend using it in the morning underneath your sunscreen. This will allow it to protect your skin from the sun all day.

Then, you can use glycolic acid in the evenings to exfoliate your skin, which helps fade dark spots, brightens skin tone and can help reduce fine lines and wrinkles.

Can You Use Vitamin C and Glycolic Acid Together? Yes! (And You Should Be!) (2)

How to Use Vitamin C and Glycolic Acid Together in the same Skincare Routine

Both Vitamin C and Glycolic Acid work best when applied to bare skin. For this reason I would use both as the first step after cleansing in your skincare routine. In the morning, apply Vitamin C after cleansing. After you apply you can use any other skincare products (like additional antioxidants or moisturizer) prior to sunscreen. For me I normally just use a Vitamin C serum and then apply sunscreen directly over it as I don’t find I need an additional moisturizer in the morning.

I recommend applying Glycolic Acid to clean skin in the evening. Once my glycolic acid sinks in I apply a moisturizer over it. I do not use glycolic acid every night as I have sensitive skin and just don’t think it’s necessary. I use tretinoin and glycolic acid on alternate evenings (sometimes using lactic acid in place of glycolic).

Another thing to note is that if you have sensitive skin you may want to start with a more gentle acid than glycolic. I’m a huge fan of lactic acid, which has bigger molecules than glycolic so it doesn’t penetrate the skin as deeply.

✅ I have a whole article to help you decide which alpha hydroxy acid is the best choice for you.

Final Thoughts on Using Glycolic Acid and Vitamin C Together

I’m sure you can tell I’m a big fan of both of these ingredients. Vitamin C and Glycolic Acid have clinical studies showing they are effective, they are easily available in drugstores everywhere and they can be very inexpensive.

There’s really not much more you can ask for from a skincare ingredient. Along with a retinoid such as retinol or tretinoin, Vitamin C and Glycolic acid together can be the backbone of any anti-aging skincare routine. They are all you need to keep your skin looking and feeling great for years. (And sunscreen of course!)

Related Skincare Articles

Best Vitamin C Serums for Dark Spots

Can You Use Lactic Acid and Niacinamide Together?

Matcha Green Tea Benefits for Skin


Can You Use Vitamin C and Glycolic Acid Together? Yes! (And You Should Be!)? ›

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.

Why can't you mix vitamin C with glycolic acid? ›

AHAs and BHAs, such as glycolic, salicylic, and lactic acids should never be used with Vitamin C. Vitamin C is an acid, too, and is unstable, so the pH balance will be thrown off by layering these ingredients together and might as well be useless.

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 is better for skin vitamin C or glycolic acid? ›

The Verdict: Glycolic Acid Reigns Supreme

The evidences are stacked, and the skincare verdict is clear: while both Glycolic Acid and Vitamin C hold potential for skin brightening, Glycolic Acid takes the crown for its effectiveness.

What goes first glycolic acid or vitamin C? ›

Applying your glycolic acid product first to clear the skin, followed by your vitamin C product, means that both products can be as effective as possible. Their combined benefits can overhaul your skin, leaving it dewy, more even and radiant.

What should you not mix with vitamin C? ›

Here are all the ingredients you should NOT mix with Vitamin C.
  • Vitamin C + Benzoyl peroxide.
  • Vitamin C + Retinol.
  • Vitamin C + AHAs/BHAs.
  • Vitamin C + Niacinamide.
Jan 13, 2020

Will glycolic acid remove dark spots? ›

One of the top benefits of glycolic acid is its remarkable ability to fade dark spots, age spots, and melasma. Hyperpigmentation mainly impacts the top layer of skin. When glycolic acid is applied, it removes and exfoliates the darkest skin cells to reveal fresh, more even-toned skin underneath.

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.

Is glycolic acid good for aging skin? ›

Glycolic acid is a fantastic anti-aging agent that seems to do it all. It's very effective at exfoliating skin and reducing fine lines, preventing acne, fading dark spots, increasing skin thickness, and evening out skin tone and texture.

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 acid is good for skin tightening? ›

This ingredient is often listed as L-ascorbic acid. L-ascorbic acid is a form of vitamin C that is easily absorbed topically. Not only will vitamin C improve the tightness of your skin, but it will also brighten it and protect it from pollutants in the environment.

Does glycolic acid make skin look younger? ›

Anti-aging: Glycolic acid can reduce some of the processes that cause visible signs of skin aging. For example, it can reduce sun damage and increase collagen and hyaluronic acid in the skin. These substances give skin elasticity and structure.

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 serums can I use with glycolic acid? ›

The safest option is 10% ascorbic acid which starts working on the skin right away. Glycolic acid helps vitamin C to penetrate the deeper layers of the skin without having to work around the barriers of dead skin cells.

Should I moisturize before or 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. 7.

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.

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.

What to use after glycolic acid? ›

After applying glycolic acid, you'll want to apply a hydrating serum or gel. For some, glycolic acid can make their skin feel dry afterwards despite its hydrating effects. So any gel or hydrating moisturizer should help to seal in moisture after the fact.

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.

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 happens if you leave glycolic acid on too long? ›

(1) Because glycolic acid has no end point, allowing the acid to travel deeper than intended if left on the skin too long, it requires neutralization to end the peeling process. Due to its small molecular size, glycolic acid also has the ability to absorb quickly and can cause the skin to peel unevenly.

How long does it take for glycolic acid to clear dark spots? ›

"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."

Is glycolic acid better than vitamin C for hyperpigmentation? ›

Lightening dark spots: Just like AHAs, vitamin C has shown some remarkable potential in getting rid of dark patches also known as hyperpigmentation. Nonetheless, it is not as potent or as effective in brightening severely damaged skin like glycolic acid.

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

Can You Use Glycolic Acid Products With Retinol? Glycolic Acid and Retinol are two very powerful antiaging ingredients that shouldn't be used together in the same application as there is a high risk of irritation, dryness, itchiness, peeling, flaking and sensitivity to the sun.

Can I use glycolic acid vitamin C and hyaluronic acid together? ›

Hyaluronic Acid acts a humectant by pulling moisture into your skin, making it ideal to use with Glycolic Acid, which can be drying or irritating at times. You can opt to layer Hyaluronic Acid over Glycolic Acid or use Hyaluronic Acid in the morning and Glycolic Acid in the evening.

Will glycolic acid get rid of Crepey skin? ›

For non-facial skin, glycolic acid is the best skin care ingredient to fight crepey skin. That's because, thick body skin does not absorb ingredients such as retinoids and antioxidants as well as thinner facial skin does. Glycolic acid, however, is well proven to improve body skin texture.

Should I refrigerate glycolic acid? ›

The short answer is no. When you buy your skincare products, they come at room temperature. That indicates that you do not need to store them in the fridge as they are designed to last in a normal cool and dry room temperature.

Does glycolic acid get rid of deep wrinkles? ›

AHAs and glycolic acid cause exfoliation of your skin. They remove the layer of surface skin, which: Smooths wrinkles caused by sun damage, age, and genetics.

Why not to use glycolic acid? ›

Sensitive skin: Glycolic acid can cause skin irritation and make certain skin conditions worse. Use cautiously in people with sensitive skin.

Should I apply glycolic acid all over my face? ›

If you do not face any skin reaction or irritation and want quick results, you can use 10% glycolic acid products 5 days a week. You can leave it on your face overnight and let it absorb into your skin. Wash it out the next day with water.

Is glycolic acid better than retinol? ›

Overall, if you want to improve uneven texture, oiliness and clogged pores, we recommend turning to a glycolic acid treatment for help. If you want to prevent and address fine lines, wrinkles and sun damage, then retinol is your best choice!

What is the most powerful skin tightening? ›

Laser resurfacing This is the most effective procedure for tightening loose skin. Unlike the laser treatment described above, this procedure requires some downtime. You'll need to stay home for 5 to 7 days. Laser resurfacing also gives you the fastest results.

Which acid is best for wrinkles? ›

Lactic acid: "Gentle and effective, lactic acid will benefit those with sensitive skin. It exfoliates and softens lines and wrinkles in a much less irritating way than other acids."

Which is better for mature skin glycolic acid or hyaluronic acid? ›

Glycolic Acid or Hyaluronic Acid - Which Is Better For Anti-Aging. Glycolic Acid works as an exfoliant and serves to improve skin tone and texture. Hyaluronic Acid works as a great source of hydration for the skin and promote collagen while reserving moisture.

How long does it take for glycolic acid to brighten skin? ›

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.

Does glycolic increase collagen? ›

Glycolic acid adjusted to pH 4 stimulates collagen production and epidermal renewal without affecting levels of proinflammatory TNF‐alpha in human skin explants - PMC.

What is best paired 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.

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.

What happens if you don't neutralize glycolic acid? ›

A couple days after using non-neutralized glycolic acid, skin may peel or flake off as a result of the activation of the cell turnover process, which is ignited when the glycolic enters the pores.

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.

Can I use 4 serums at the same time? ›

Limit to Two Serums Per Routine

We recommend you use no more than two face serums per routine. Again, alternating skin care items is a strategy here. If you have many serums that you like, use one or two in your morning routine and two different serums in the evening.

Do you put glycolic acid or vitamin C 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.

Which is better vitamin C serum or glycolic acid? ›

The Verdict: Glycolic Acid Reigns Supreme

The evidences are stacked, and the skincare verdict is clear: while both Glycolic Acid and Vitamin C hold potential for skin brightening, Glycolic Acid takes the crown for its effectiveness.

Can I use the ordinary glycolic acid with the ordinary vitamin C? ›

Instead try applying vitamin C in your morning routine and then use a glycolic acid toner in the evening to rid the skin of any build-up of dirt and debris keeping your skin balanced, healthy and benefiting from the endless results you'll see when using glycolic acid and vitamin C.

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.

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

Hyaluronic Acid acts a humectant by pulling moisture into your skin, making it ideal to use with Glycolic Acid, which can be drying or irritating at times. You can opt to layer Hyaluronic Acid over Glycolic Acid or use Hyaluronic Acid in the morning and Glycolic Acid in the evening.

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.

Is glycolic acid better on wet or dry 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.

What moisturizer to use after glycolic acid? ›

What should I put on my face after glycolic acid? After applying glycolic acid, you'll want to apply a hydrating serum or gel. For some, glycolic acid can make their skin feel dry afterwards despite its hydrating effects. So any gel or hydrating moisturizer should help to seal in moisture after the fact.

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 layer glycolic acid? ›

When used in a simple “layered” routine you can see complexion results quickly.
  1. Step One – Cleanse with our Glycolic Acid Cleanser. ...
  2. Step Two – Apply our Glycolic Acid Toner. ...
  3. Step Three – Use and leave on our 10% Glycolic Acid Crème. ...
  4. Three quick steps before bed for a more radiant youthful-looking complexion in the AM.
Mar 20, 2023


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