vitamin c and glycolic acid

Can You Use Glycolic Acid and Vitamin C Together?

Visible signs of aging such as wrinkles, fine lines, dullness, uneven skin tone, hyperpigmentation, and loss of elasticity, vitamin c, and glycolic acid are two over-the-counter actives that you can use to help prevent fine lines, reduce wrinkles, dullness, uneven skin tone, hyperpigmentation, and loss of elasticity.

So, given that vitamin c and glycolic acid are both very effective anti-aging agents, is it possible to combine the two? It is dependent on the pH of the products and the type of skin you have.

Vitamin C and Glycolic Acid

Can I use glycolic acid with vitamin c?

While vitamin c and glycolic acid may be used together technically, you may have better results by utilizing them separately. This reasoning is based on the chemical makeup of the two active ingredients. Glycolic acid normally has a pH between 3.0 and 4.0. The optimal pH value for vitamin C is 3.5 or under. For comparison, normal skin has a pH between 5.0 and 5.5, which means that these actives decrease the pH of your skin in order to perform their exfoliating function.

The fact that the pH ranges of vitamin c vs glycolic acid are so similar is a good thing. This implies that they may both be absorbed by the skin and be efficient even when applied at the same time.

The reason you should avoid using pure vitamin c and glycolic acid simultaneously has to do with tolerance and how your skin reacts. Because glycolic acid is the lowest of all alpha-hydroxy acids, it has the ability to penetrate deeper into the skin, causing redness and irritation immediately after application.

Vitamin C is also acidic, and depending on the concentration, it may cause discomfort, stinging, burning, and redness on the skin. As a result, combining the two is a formula for irritation and inflammation. If your skin is not sensitive and is capable of withstanding severe exfoliating acids and low acidic products, you may be able to combine vitamin C and glycolic acid, but why not be careful and apply them at various times of the day?

Can I mix vitamin c and glycolic acid?

For example, you may be tempted to mix top-selling glycolic products such as Pixi Glow Tonic with a vitamin C serum or an exfoliating liquid such as Pixi’s Vitamin-C Tonic, but since Pixi Glow Tonic contains 5 percent Vitamin C and glycolic acid Tonic includes pure ascorbic acid, it is recommended to apply them at separate times of the day or alternate them on various days.

Using Vitamin C Derivatives and Glycolic Acid At The Same Time

vitamin c derivatives and glycolic acid
Vitamin C Derivatives and Glycolic Acid (Image Source: Pinterest)

What about using vitamin C derivatives in combination with glycolic acid?

Fortunately, there are various vitamin C derivatives to select from, all of which are formulated to give most of the same benefits as ascorbic acid while being more stable and less irritating. When determining whether or not these vitamin C derivatives could be used in combination with glycolic acid, the discussion returns to pH. Glycolic acid absorbs better with a pH of 3.0 as compared to the more high 7.0 pH.

What is the pH of vitamin C derivatives?

The market currently offers a variety of vitamin C derivatives with pH values that are higher than those of pure vitamin C and tend to range between 4.0 and 7.0.

A glycolic acid product with a pH between 3.0 and 4.0 (for best efficiency) and a vitamin C derivative that has a pH greater than 4.0 may decrease the effectiveness of both products. So, if this is the case, you might want to try using the glycolic acid product first and wait 30 minutes for it to absorb before applying a vitamin C derivative, or you might want to consider using both at separate times of the day.

Consider using vitamin C in the morning skincare regimen, if you are using pure vitamin C or even a vitamin C derivative, to give antioxidant protection when the skin is exposed to the sun and other environmental stressors each day. Using pure vitamin C products throughout the day has another advantage in that ascorbic acid can enhance the sun-protective properties of sunscreen, which is another benefit.

Maintain your use of glycolic acid for the evening, when you can follow it up with calming and hydrating actives such as hyaluronic acid and niacinamide, as well as rich moisturizers that help to restore your skin over the night.

Benefits of Vitamin C

benefits of vitamin c
Benefits of Vitamin C (Image Source: Pinterest)

Vitamin c (also known as l-ascorbic acid) ranks up there with anti-aging superstar retinol Vitamin C. Three major anti-aging advantages of vitamin C are found in the skin:

Vitamin C is an extremely powerful antioxidant that protects the skin from UV rays as well as cell-damaging free radicals.

  • Vitamin C has been shown to increase collagen production. In addition to helping the skin maintain its firmness and smoothness, collagen also helps to prevent wrinkles, fine lines, and loss of elasticity. 
  • Pure vitamin C has been demonstrated to reduce the appearance of wrinkles, roughness, and uneven skin tone in those who have had their skin photodamaged.
  • Vitamin C is a skin brightener that can help to reduce hyperpigmentation, age spots, dark spots, sun spots, and uneven skin tone. It acts by preventing the enzyme tyrosinase, which is responsible for the production of melanin (the pigment in the skin).

There are certain drawbacks to using pure vitamin C, even with all of its fantastic benefits. Pure vitamin C is unstable, and it will oxidize when exposed to air, heat, or light. 

According to the concentration of ascorbic acid used, it may potentially be irritating to the skin. Some people, particularly those with sensitive skin, may be unable to tolerate pure vitamin C because of the redness, stinging, and irritations. Ascorbic acid concentrations of 15 percent or less should be avoided.

Vitamin C Products

Paula’s Choice BOOST C15 Super Booster

paula’s choice boost c15 super booster
Paula’s Choice BOOST C15 Super Booster (Image Source: Pinterest)

Paula’s Choice BOOST C15 Super Booster is made with an efficient 15 percent concentration of pure ascorbic acid with a pH of 3.0 in a lightweight, nearly water-like texture. It also includes vitamin E and ferulic acid, which help to improve stability and efficacy. It can be readily combined with other serums or moisturizers, or it can also be used alone.

CeraVe Skin Renewing Vitamin C Serum

cerave skin renewing vitamin c serum
CeraVe Skin Renewing Vitamin C Serum (Image Source: Pinterest)

At an affordable price, the CeraVe Skin Renewing Vitamin C Serum is the best vitamin C serum that includes 10% pure vitamin C, three important ceramides, moisturizer hyaluronic acid, and calming vitamin B5.

Naturium Vitamin C Complex Serum

naturium vitamin c complex serum
Naturium Vitamin C Complex Serum (Image Source: Pinterest)

Naturium Vitamin C Complex Serum includes pure vitamin C in the form of l-ascorbic acid, as well as vitamin C derivatives (sodium ascorbyl phosphate) and a bioactive fruit combo to brighten the skin and give antioxidant protection.

Benefits of Glycolic Acid

benefits of glycolic acid
Benefits of Glycolic Acid (Image Source: Pinterest)
  • Glycolic acid is an alpha hydroxy acid that exfoliates dead skin cells on the skin’s surface to reveal a brighter, more refreshed complexion with increased clarity.
  • It is an all-star anti-ager since it helps to reduce wrinkles, fine lines, and dullness.
  • Glycolic acid is an effective treatment for dark spots, hyperpigmentation, and uneven skin tone and texture.
  • Glycolic acid promotes the production of collagen over time, which helps to enhance the firmness and elasticity of the skin.
  • Glycolic acid can also strengthen the skin, giving the appearance of plumper, more young complexion.

Depending on the dose, glycolic acid is one of few great skincare products that will provide noticeable results. The end effect is a brighter complexion that is smoother and more radiant in tone and texture, as well as a more youthful appearance.

Glycolic acid is an excellent option for oily, congested, and acne-prone skin since it helps to reduce acne scars and remove pore-clogging dead skin cells.

Sugar cane is the source of glycolic acid, which has the smallest molecular size of all the alpha-hydroxy acids (AHAs). For this, glycolic acid can penetrate deeper into the top surface layers of the skin than other AHAs such as lactic or mandelic acids.

Because glycolic acid may penetrate deeper into the skin than other AHAs, it may produce irritation, stinging, burning, and redness, based on skin type, glycolic acid pH, and glycolic acid concentrations.

Regardless of the quantity of glycolic acid, you apply to the skin, glycolic acid makes the skin more allergic to the sun. When using glycolic acid or other AHAs, be certain to use a broad-spectrum sunblock with an SPF of at least 30. You should also wear sunscreen for a week after.

Glycolic Acid and Sensitive Skin

sensitive skin
Sensitive Skin (Image Source: Pinterest)

If you have sensitive skin, you may want to consider forgoing the glycolic acid altogether and instead choosing a gentler acid with a bigger molecular size, like lactic acid or mandelic acid. You can also check for products that include fruit acids, such as malic acid and citric acid, which are softer on the skin. While these acids provide mild exfoliation, they will resurface the skin and help to enhance the texture and tone of the skin if used frequently.

Glycolic Acid Products

The Ordinary Glycolic Acid 7% Toning Solution

the ordinary glycolic acid 7% toning solution
The Ordinary Glycolic Acid 7% Toning Solution (Image Source: Pinterest)

The pH of the Ordinary Glycolic Acid 7 percent Toning Solution is between 3.5 and 3.7.

Can I use vitamin C after glycolic acid?

This is at a low enough concentration that it should not interact with an ascorbic acid product, but it may irritate the skin and redness if used in conjunction with ascorbic acid, so using ascorbic acid in the day and this glycolic acid toner in the night would be your best chance.

Mario Badescu Glycolic Acid Toner

mario badescu glycolic acid toner
Mario Badescu Glycolic Acid Toner (Image Source: Pinterest)

In this toner, glycolic acid is combined with Aloe barbadensis leaf juice and Citrus grandis fruit extract to minimize the appearance of fine lines, wrinkles, and uneven skin tone. This glycolic acid toner contains 5 percent glycolic acid, which is significantly gentler than the 7 percent glycolic acid concentration found in The Ordinary.

When to use glycolic acid toner?

You can use glycolic acid at night for great results.

Paula’s Choice Skin Perfecting 8% AHA Gel Exfoliant

paula’s choice skin perfecting 8% aha gel exfoliant
Paula’s Choice Skin Perfecting 8% AHA Gel Exfoliant (Image Source: Pinterest)

Paula’s Choice Skin Perfecting 8 Percent AHA Gel Exfoliant is a leave-on exfoliant that includes 8 percent glycolic acid and is developed at a pH of 3.5–3.9 to smooth fine lines and wrinkles while improving skin firmness. It contains calming chamomile, aloe vera, and green tea extracts. Sodium hyaluronate and panthenol (pro-vitamin B5) moisturize the skin, while sodium PCA pulls moisture into the skin.

Combining vitamin c and glycolic acid in the same skincare routine requires some thought of the pH of the products, the formula, and the skin type. Both of these active ingredients are good for treating the signs of aging in simple-to-use over-the-counter formulations.

The best option will usually be to use vitamin c and glycolic acid at separate times of the day, with vitamin C in the day and glycolic acid in the night. Or, utilize them on different days.

If you want to know Can You Use Niacinamide With Vitamin C? then check our post.