Nowadays, it appears there’s a healthy skin treatment out there for just about everything. Searching for a lotion that will keep your skin looking supple and vibrant-looking?
Have a go at something with glycolic acid. Hoping to blur dim spots and lighten up the skin? You need a vitamin C serum. But what about mixing these ingredients? Can You Use Glycolic Acid and Vitamin C Together?
Glycolic acid and vitamin C are safe to use together; however, you get more benefit from using them separately. Glycolic acid has a neutral pH of 5. Vitamin C has a low pH of 3. If you combine them, the pH gets altered which lowers their effectiveness.
There’s much more to the benefits of vitamin C and glycolic acid – what each does to your skin, and how they are when combined. It’s important to learn about the benefit of each so that you can get the most out of each.
Read on to learn more about can you use glycolic acid and vitamin C together!
Also, for an excellent product with Vitamin C and glycolic acid, take a look at our top pick, the No B.S. Vitamin C Serum and Retinol Cream Duo:
Can You Use Glycolic Acid and Vitamin C Together?
The reason it’s best to keep the two ingredients: vitamin c and glycolic acid separate, is due to their different pH levels.
What is pH?
pH is the degree of acidity of something. The range of acidity goes from 0 to 14. Basically, it tells how acidic or basic an item is. You may have noticed a growth in popularity of Korean skincare products that balance pH including soaps, creams, and toners that are at the ideal pH of 5.
There is a purpose behind this growth in popularity of these types of products. The lower the level of pH, the more soothing and gentle it will be for your skin. This gentle, balanced pH cleanser cleans the skin without removing its important oils.
So why is it important to know about pH? It is essential if you are going to mixing with other products including ones with vitamin C.
Mixing vs Separating Glycolic Acid and Vitamin C
Moisturizers, creams, and toners containing vitamin C have a low pH, about 3, on the pH scale. This low level of pH is beneficial for certain reasons. But if you are mixing vitamin C with glycolic or salicylic acid, this will alter the pH levels and reduce the benefits of both ingredients.
So you can use both at the same time, however, to get the maximum benefits of vitamin C, keep them separate. Use vitamin C on its own to get it’s low pH benefits as fast as possible. And use acidic ingredients like glycolic or salicylic acid by itself to maximize the benefits of its neutral pH 5 level.
That being said, you can certainly find products that have both vitamin C and glycolic acid together. These products will include on the label: vitamin c with glycolic acid, or glycolic toner and vitamin c, glycolic acid and ascorbic acid, or similar combinations.
It is safe to use when combined so don’t worry about getting harmed by it. From a science perspective, vitamin C (l-ascorbic acid) can be mixed with hydroxy acids, such as glycolic acid and both will deliver some benefits.
For example, InstaNaturals Glycolic Acid and Vitamin C Serum combine both ingredients.
However, despite the fact that products combining the two ingredients exist, I personally use each separately. I recommend you also keep your vitamin C and hydroxy acids by themselves in their own treatment.
It is best to use vitamin C antioxidant products in the morning and glycolic acid (or other hydroxy acids) in the evening because hydroxy acids have a photosensitizing potential. What this means is that they make the skin more sensitive to the sun’s harmful rays. So keep the acids to the evening.
Recommendations from Three Dermatologists
I’m here to make sense of this confusion. I asked three dermatologists about combining ingredients like vitamin C and glycolic acid (and similar hydroxy acids) and probed for their tips and recommendations.
Of the three specialists I asked, every one of them stressed the importance of using sunscreen, vitamin C and retinol for a fundamental healthy skin schedule. (Keep in mind: Before starting a new treatment, you can and ought to counsel a dermatologist to learn what is best for your specific skin.)
“Alpha hydroxy acids (like glycolic acid), beta hydroxy acids (like salicylic acid), retinol, and vitamin C are perhaps the top ingredients promoted by dermatologists for treating many skin issues.” Dr. Y. Claire Chang of Union Square Laser Dermatology said.
“Vitamin C and hydroxy acid could certainly be used together, as they both work in acidic environments,” Dr. Chang stated, including that “both are made in acidic solutions and so the combination could be mildly irritating for the skin.”
Dr. Chang also advised applying both separately suggesting that you would get more benefit with them separately than together due to their varying pH levels that can alter or dilute the pH of each.
Dr. Melda Isaac at MI Skin Dermatology Center in Washington, D.C, noted that a vitamin C and glycolic acid mixture could be most beneficial for those more oily skin.
Similarly, as she recommends for vitamin C and benzoyl peroxide, she also recommends pausing for a couple of minutes in between applying vitamin C and glycolic acid.
Dr. Samer Jaber at Washington Square Dermatology said: “What I recommend to all my patients is to apply vitamin C in the morning followed by a sunscreen…and apply hydroxy acids and/or a retinol cream in the evening.”
In case you’re uncertain if this combo will be beneficial for your skin, go ask a skincare specialist.
Benefits of Vitamin C
Vitamin C is a god of the skin care world. Dermatologists and skin care specialists promote its benefits for anti-aging and much more. It is a powerful antioxidant that should definitely be a part of your everyday skin care regimen, regardless of the type of skin you have or skin issues you may have.
Vitamin C for Anti-Aging and Brighter Skin
There are numerous forms of vitamin C, and a large number of them are very beneficial for your skin. They all have strong antioxidant benefits that slow down the aging of your skin, as well as prevent signs of aging in the first place.
When you build vitamin C treatments into your everyday skin care regimen, you’ll experience a number of benefits. Vitamin C helps smooth out your skin tone, protects it from the free radicals in the environment, greatly increases hydration, and keeps it looking more youthful as you age.
Ascorbic Acid is the Most Common Form of Vitamin C
Ascorbic acid — otherwise called L-ascorbic acid — has been a part of the most skin-related research of any other form of vitamin C. Therefore, it is the form of vitamin C that is added to products and formulations the most.
If you use products containing ascorbic acid, you’ll have more youthful-looking, toned skin while blemishes and scarring appear to vanish over time.
Ascorbic acid likewise enables the skin’s surface to safeguard itself from environmental stressors such as pollution, dust and more. This diminishes the impacts of your skin from coming into contact with these harmful elements.
Ascorbic acid is even more powerful when blended with different antioxidants or essential oils such as tea tree oil. That approach is used by many companies to maximize the effectiveness of the ascorbic acid on your skin.
See the below video to learn more about the benefits of vitamin C on your skin:
The Higher the Concentration of Vitamin C the Better
Where possible, aim to use products that have high concentrations of vitamin C, like several of our favorite serums in our recommended serums post.
And if possible, use this on many parts of your body as, from my experience, the higher the concentration the better. It invigorates the skin, makes it firmer, helps clear all the little defects or imperfections.
You don’t need a high concentration to reap the benefits, however. Research has demonstrated that vitamin C amounts as low as 0.6% are enough to give your skin-beneficial antioxidants it needs to improve signs of aging.
There are lower amounts in many creams, lotions, and toners that work well with many other ingredients such as niacinamide and retinol.
So include vitamin C in your diet AND topically on your skin to get the full benefits of it. It will serve you well in and out for life.
I have heard stories from many others, found relief from itching after taking a multivitamin that ensured the body gets enough vitamin C and other nutrients. There have also been vitamin C studies that link a lack of vitamin C, among other nutrients, to itching and other skin issues.
To learn more about the benefit of vitamin C in your diet, check out our post: What Vitamins Will Help With Dry Skin?
Recommended Vitamin C Serum
If your skin is irritated and inflamed, or you want to slow down signs of aging such as wrinkles and fine lines, you should try the No B.S. Vitamin C Serum and Retinol Cream Duo.
It has vitamin C, vitamin E, and also Hyaluronic Acid making it great for dry skin.
Vitamin C and vitamin E are great ingredients for anti-aging as they lighten the appearance of dark spots, eye bags, and overall puffiness of the face. It has a high concentration of vitamin C at 20% so it is good value compared to other vitamin C creams.
Benefits of Glycolic Acid
Alpha Hydroxy Acids (known as AHA’s, including glycolic, lactic, and citrus among a couple) have grown in popularity recently. The most popular of them all is glycolic acid.
Glycolic acid is a natural substance that offers numerous advantages to the skin, from reviving its youthfulness and keeping it well-hydrated. In its primary state, glycolic acid is a powder comprised of transparent, odorless crystals.
You’ll discover Glycolic Acid in numerous chemical peel products because it is a highly effective exfoliation treatment. The glycolic acid is also gentle for overly-sensitive skin.
Glycolic acid can be a part of your everyday skincare treatment, without irritating it. This is especially prevalent with glycolic acid for facial cleansers, soaps, and toners, giving your rejuvenating benefits over time of consistent use.
Glycolic acid comes from plants including sugar cane, sugar beets, and pineapple. It is a great alternative to the many chemical-laden products on the shelf. You won’t risk exposing yourself to a chemical that can irritate your skin.
Glycolic Acid is amazing for exfoliation, expelling the layer of dead skin cells from the top of your skin, and leaving a more fresh, youthful appearance.
Glycolic acid products are great for healing acne scars, uneven skin tone, and signs of maturing including wrinkles and fine lines. In the event that you experience the ill effects of dull, pigmented or maturing skin, I recommend using a skin peel about once a week that contains glycolic acid.
Studies demonstrate that glycolic acid products help with stimulating the growth of collagen, which helps to plump up the skin. (source) Collagen is a fundamental basic protein, helping the skin tissue stay firm and oppose wrinkling.
Even at low concentrations, glycolic acid is an important ingredient to keep in mind when shopping for anti-aging lotions, peels, moisturizers, face masks and more.
It is a key treatment for many skin problems that appear on the face such as acne, psoriasis, eczema and much more. I recommend you include glycolic acid in your skincare routine to start seeing the benefits it can bring.
See the below video to learn more about glycolic acid and its benefits:
Recommended Glycolic Acid Serum
If you have uneven skin texture, that’s because you’re not exfoliating properly, or maybe not at all.
To smooth out the even texture and get rid of dead skin and rough patches, you can use an exfoliating serum such as TLC Framboos Glycolic Night Serum by Drunk Elephant.
The price is on the higher side for this serum but you get what you pay for and a little goes a long way. You can spot-treat with a small dot-sized amount on any rough parts of your face or areas with blemishes and other issues.
The key with the Drunk Elephant Glycolic Serum is to be patient, it does take time as I have experienced with my own personal tests. In about a month of consistent daily use each night, you will see how effective it is at removing acne scars, uneven skin, wrinkles, and fine lines.
It is a powerful serum with 12% AHA/BHA so start slow, maybe every other day, and increase to every day only if your skin can tolerate it. Also, ensure to wear sunscreen the next day.
See the below video for skincare ingredients, other than vitamin C and glycolic acid, that you should and should not mix:
Conclusion – Can You Use Glycolic Acid and Vitamin C Together?
So, can you use glycolic acid and vitamin C together?
Glycolic acid and vitamin C are safe to use together but you will get more benefit from using them on their own. The reason is that their ph value gets altered when they are combined and this reduces the benefit of each.
Use vitamin C on its own to get the full benefits of its low pH. And use acidic ingredients like glycolic or salicylic acid by itself to the full benefits of its neutral pH 5 level.
Can you use vitamin C and niacinamide together? It’s certainly acceptable to use vitamin C and niacinamide together. Niacin flush is a possible side effect of taking high doses.
To avoid this side effect, you can rotate every other day your treatment of niacinamide and vitamin C, instead of taking them together each time.
Can you use vitamin C with AHA? For minimal potential risk of skin inflammation, it is recommended to alternate the use of AHA (alpha hydroxy acid) and vitamin C at different times or on different days.
For example, apply vitamin C in the first part of the day and AHA at the end of the day. AHA’s make the skin more sensitive to the sun so have it in the evening.
Is Glycolic Acid an AHA or BHA? Glycolic acid is an AHA (alpha hydroxy acid). AHA is a water-soluble acid that removes dead skin cells from the skin. BHA (Beta hydroxy acid) is an oil-soluble acid that goes deep into the pores and normalizes the lining, therefore, preventing acne.