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How to Use Glycolic Acid and Vitamin C Together

Updated: Jan 20

Not knowing how to pair active ingredients when building a skincare routine can expose your skin to irritation. But only if you do not have the right knowledge on what actives work best together which is vital. Glycolic acid and vitamin C are two very popular skincare actives that help enhance the skin’s health in their own way. When used together, they can deliver outstanding results.

A Glycolic Acid toner placed in a wooden box along side 3 cotton pads.

However, this will be the case only if you master using these actives together properly. By the end of this article, you will know everything about using glycolic acid and vitamin C together like a pro.

Using Glycolic Acid and Vitamin C Together

These two actives can be used together in the same routine to tackle a range of issues among which, are skin texture, skin pigmentation, premature aging, and skin dehydration. Glycolic acid is an exfoliant that helps get rid of dead skin cells on the outermost layer of the skin. It equally helps hydrate, brighten, and improve skin texture. Vitamin C on the other hand is a very potent antioxidant that protects the skin from free radicals and UV damage. It is also known for its skin brightening properties which benefit people dealing with hyperpigmentation.

How to Combine Glycolic Acid and Vitamin C

Combining glycolic acid and vitamin C in your skincare routine can be a game-changer for achieving bright, clear, and youthful-looking skin. Even more exciting is the fact that these two actives can be used in the same routine.


Start by using your glycolic acid-based product preferably in the form of a cleanser or toner. Exfoliating first guarantees a clean slate for the rest of your products and increases the rate of absorption of the other products in your routine. Go in next with your vitamin C-based product, if possible on dry skin to prevent any risk of irritation.


However, for optimal results, you will be better off using vitamin C in your morning routine and glycolic acid at night. This is not because they are incompatible, but because they perform better when used at various times of the day.


Because of Vitamin C’s principal role as an antioxidant, it works best during the day to protect your skin from oxidative stress and premature aging. It also inhibits the formation of excess melanin when your skin is exposed to the sun. It provides an additional layer of protection to the skin in addition to wearing sunscreen.


Glycolic acid on the other side reveals a younger and more sensitive layer of skin when used. It is therefore best to use it at night to limit the risk of sensitivity to sun light which is a common side effect of AHAs.

Benefits of Mixing Glycolic Acid and Vitamin C

Exfoliation and Brightening:

Glycolic acid, a potent alpha-hydroxy acid, deeply exfoliates the skin, removing dead skin cells and revealing a brighter, more even complexion. When combined with vitamin C, which is known for melanin-inhibiting properties, the two work synergistically to enhance the skin's radiance and luminosity. The exfoliating action of glycolic acid allows vitamin C to penetrate deeper into the skin, maximizing its brightening effects.

Stimulation of Collagen Production:

Vitamin C is crucial for collagen synthesis, and its combination with glycolic acid can significantly boost the skin's collagen production. Glycolic acid helps to remove the barriers that can prevent vitamin C from reaching the deeper layers of the skin where it can stimulate collagen production. This increase in collagen leads to firmer, plumper skin, with a noticeable reduction in fine lines and wrinkles.

Improvement of Skin Texture and Tone:

Glycolic acid's exfoliating properties help to improve the texture and tone of the skin by reducing the appearance of pores, minimizing acne scars, and smoothing rough patches. Vitamin C, being an antioxidant, helps to fade hyperpigmentation, such as age spots, sun spots, and melasma. The combined effect of these two ingredients can lead to more uniform, smoother, and healthier-looking skin.

Enhanced Sun Damage Repair and Protection:

Vitamin C is well-known for its ability to protect the skin from UV damage by neutralizing free radicals. Glycolic acid can repair sun-damaged skin by accelerating cell turnover and removing the damaged outer layers of the skin. The combination of these two ingredients provides both preventative and reparative benefits against sun damage, helping to maintain a youthful and healthy complexion.

Acne Prevention and Treatment:

Glycolic acid is effective in treating acne due to its exfoliating properties that help to unclog pores and reduce the occurrence of breakouts. Although Vitamin C doesn’t directly treat acne, it can help deal with side effects relative to acne breakouts such as skin anti-inflammatory, dark spots, and uneven skin texture.

Potential Side Effects of Using Glycolic Acid and Vitamin C

While glycolic acid and vitamin C can provide numerous benefits for the skin, it’s also possible to experience side effects such as:

  • Redness

  • Irritation

  • Sensitivity to sun

  • Rashes or pimples

  • Stinging or burning sensation

How To Avoid Them

When using these ingredients. To minimize the risk of side effects, start by using lower concentrations of each ingredient and gradually increase the strength as your skin becomes accustomed to the products. It’s also important to do a patch test before using any new skincare product to ensure that it doesn’t cause an adverse reaction.

The Best Vitamin C Products to Buy

This high-potency serum combines 10% pure vitamin C with hydrating ingredients to brighten and firm the skin. The lightweight formula absorbs quickly, leaving the skin feeling smooth and revitalized. Regular use can help to reduce the appearance of fine lines, wrinkles, and dark spots, for a more youthful and radiant complexion.

This powerful serum combines vitamin C with vitamin E to provide a double dose of antioxidant protection. The lightweight formula absorbs quickly and works to brighten the skin, improve texture, and protect against environmental damage. The result is a smoother, more radiant complexion with a noticeable glow.

  • The Ordinary Vitamin C Suspension 23%:

This high-strength vitamin C formula offers a potent dose of 23% pure L-Ascorbic Acid to brighten and even out skin tone. The suspension formula ensures that the vitamin C remains stable and effective over time. The product may have a tingling sensation upon application, which is normal and indicates that the product is working.

The Best Glycolic Acid Products to Buy

This powerful toner combines 7% glycolic acid with other alpha hydroxy acids to exfoliate the skin and reduce the appearance of dark spots and fine lines. The formula also includes licorice root and lemon extracts to further brighten the skin. Regular use can reveal a smoother, more even complexion.

This gentle exfoliating toner combines glycolic acid with a blend of botanical extracts to remove dead skin cells and reveal a brighter, smoother complexion. The formula is designed to be gentle enough for daily use, while still providing effective exfoliation. Regular use can help to reduce the appearance of pores, fine lines, and uneven skin tone.

  • Naturium Glycolic Acid Resurfacing Gel 10%:

This powerful gel formula contains 10% glycolic acid to provide effective exfoliation and improve the texture and tone of the skin. The gel formula absorbs quickly and works to reduce the appearance of fine lines, wrinkles, and dark spots. The result is smoother, more youthful-looking skin with a radiant glow.

FAQs

Can Glycolic Acid Be Used with Vitamin C?

Yes, glycolic acid can be used with vitamin C in a skincare routine. However, it is important to use them correctly to avoid any potential negative interactions.

Does Glycolic Acid Come Before Vitamin C in a Routine?

Yes, when using glycolic acid and vitamin C together, it's recommended to apply the glycolic acid first, let it absorb fully, and then apply the vitamin C.

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