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If you’ve been upping your skin care game and itching to take your routine to the next level, you might be exploring various activated ingredients and specialty products—like the idea of using glycolic acid and vitamin C together.
You’ve probably read online about the results people experience using these two ingredients. But, if they still seem a bit unfamiliar, you might be wondering, “Are they really good for my skin?” Or perhaps, “How can I incorporate both of them into my routine without overwhelming my skin?” Don’t worry; we’ve got you covered! Let’s dig into the nitty-gritty of these popular ingredients, including if it’s safe to use glycolic acid and vitamin C together (and exploring other alternatives), and more.
In the pursuit of radiant and healthy skin, it’s crucial to grasp the potential skin care ingredients have. Two popular ones in the skin care world—vitamin C and glycolic acid—have garnered significant attention. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll delve into why vitamin C and glycolic acid are a popular duo (and dispelling this myth), as well as cover other ways to use similar activated ingredients—breaking down the steps to achieving that youthful, radiant skin that’s waiting to be revealed
A Popular Duo in Skin Care: Vitamin C and Glycolic Acid
When it comes to skin care, the quest for a radiant complexion often leads us down a rabbit hole of countless products and complex routines. But when you begin to understand the purpose and effects of different ingredients, skin care becomes a lot easier to approach.
With these two key ingredients—vitamin C and glycolic acid—emerging as popular topics in the world of skin care, we want to uncover why they are such a common combination. In short, glycolic acid is a chemical exfoliant (under the category of alpha hydroxy acids – AHAs) that breaks down deep impurities. This greater exfoliation resurfaces the skin, making it slightly sensitive the following morning. This is where the skin can really benefit from something like vitamin C, which is antioxidant-rich offering protection and many other anti-aging benefits.
But, just because vitamin C is often paired with glycolic acid doesn’t necessarily mean these two are the best pairing. We at Annmarie Skin Care prefer to pair vitamin C with gentler AHAs, which we’ll discuss more of below.
What Is Glycolic Acid and How Does It Work?
Glycolic acid is a type of alpha hydroxy acid (AHA) derived from certain fruits, beets and sugarcane. It works by breaking down the glue that holds impurities together, which allows the skin to exfoliate dirt and flakes, revealing brighter and smoother skin.
However, while glycolic acid can be an effective exfoliant temporarily, it is important to note that this AHA can actually accelerate skin aging in the long haul by causing the skin to become thin and fragile. Overuse of this product can also lead to excessive dryness, irritation and disruption of the skin’s natural barrier, which can then even lead to an overproduction of oil.
But that shouldn’t stop you from using acids altogether. There are safer alternatives. Consider using lactic acid instead, which is considered a hydrating and the most non-irritating AHA. Even better, look for one derived from a high-quality honey source such as the Resurfacing Facial Exfoliant.
What Is Vitamin C and How Does It Work?
Vitamin C, also known as ascorbic acid, is a powerful antioxidant that plays a vital role in maintaining healthy-looking skin. Vitamin C can be derived from natural sources such as kakadu plums, oranges or other citrus fruits. There are plenty of benefits that vitamin C can bring to your skin and it works by enhancing the skin’s natural defenses and protecting the skin from daily environmental stressors.
Vitamin C is oftentimes considered the holy grail in many cases due to its versatility for helping with brightening, firming and evening the look of skin tone.
When looking at different types of vitamin C in skin care, it is important to look for products that are formulated with stable forms of vitamin C, and in the right pH range for optimal effectiveness. One of the issues with the most common form of vitamin C (l-ascorbic acid) is that it is easily oxidized—making it less effective. This vitamin C form also requires a lower pH to remain stable, which can pose a problem for those with sensitive skin.
For these reasons, we at Annmarie Skin Care love stable, oil-soluble vitamin C derivative, tetrahexyldecyl ascorbate (THDA). It’s gentle, yet incredibly effective, and suitable for all skin types—making it the perfect choice for anyone looking to use more vitamin C in their beauty ritual.
Benefits of Using Glycolic Acid With Vitamin C
AHAs (glycolic or lactic acid) deeply exfoliate the skin to look polished, smooth and clear. Vitamin C protects skin from environmental stressors and brightens your complexion. When used together in beauty care (in separate sessions), AHAs and vitamin C work synergistically to provide a wide range of benefits for all skin types, especially for mature skin types.
Together, their properties could help improve the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles for a firmer, bouncier look and brighten the skin for a more even-toned glow. Incorporating these two types of ingredients can be an effective way to nourish and revitalize your skin, unveiling a radiant glow that’s been waiting to shine.
Instead of vitamin C and glycolic acid, try vitamin C and lactic acid (a gentler AHA). These two ingredients complement each other, enhancing the overall efficacy of your skin care routine.
- Vitamin C’s Antioxidant Shield: Vitamin C’s antioxidant properties pair perfectly with the alpha hydroxy acid’s exfoliating prowess. Together, they protect and rejuvenate your skin.
- Alpha Hydroxy Acid’s Exfoliating Prowess: Lactic acid clears the path for Vitamin C to penetrate deeper into the skin, amplifying its brightening effects.
- Working in Harmony: The combination of these ingredients ensures a multi-layered approach to skin care, addressing various concerns simultaneously.
Can Glycolic Acid Be Used With Vitamin C?
Now that you have some background on the two ingredients, you may be wondering, “can you layer glycolic acid and vitamin C together?” and “how do you use glycolic acid and vitamin C together?” As we covered above, we prefer to use lactic acid as our primary AHA rather than glycolic acid. But the general rule applies to all AHAs, whether you are using glycolic acid or lactic acid. Using an acid with vitamin C together in a single session is usually too harsh for the skin. Remember, AHAs and vitamin C are both considered activated ingredients and there is such a thing as overdoing it on the skin.
Rather than using these ingredients together, incorporate them into your routine in separate sessions and in lower concentrations or in gentler forms to work with the skin instead of against it.
But, which goes first, vitamin C or glycolic acid? Typically, you’ll want to apply your acid of choice in the evening, as AHAs deeply exfoliate the skin. An evening application allows some time for the skin to rest and reduces exposure time to the sun. The next morning, you can apply your vitamin C product in your AM routine, but don’t forget the sunscreen! If possible, try to limit sun exposure 1-2 days after an AHA session.
The Science Behind the Synergy
Understanding the science behind vitamin C and alpha hydroxy acid synergy is essential to appreciate their full potential.
- Enhanced Absorption: AHAs help in improving the absorption of vitamin C, deeply exfoliating the skin to allow for the vitamin C to penetrate deeper into the skin for maximum benefits.
- Amplified Brightening Effects: The duo amplifies the brightening effects of vitamin C, making your skin look more radiant and youthful.
- Targeting Multiple Skin Layers: These ingredients work together to target different skin layers, addressing both surface and underlying concerns.
How To Use Glycolic Acid and Vitamin C Together
You can use your glycolic acid (or other AHA product) in your evening routine and your vitamin C product the following morning. Unless you are working on a specific plan with your esthetician or healthcare professional that states otherwise, you don’t need to use your AHA every day—every other day or a few times a week is a good amount. Depending on which vitamin C product you’re using and how your skin responds, you may be able to use vitamin C daily. If you’re unsure, start with less (less concentration, less frequent use, fewer activated ingredients incorporated at a time) and always patch test.
See this sample routine below of how you could use your AHA (glycolic or lactic acid) and vitamin C together.
- Step 1: Cleanse
- Step 2: Exfoliate with AHA product (like our Resurfacing Facial Exfoliant)
- Step 3: Tone
- Step 4: Apply a gentle, hydrating serum
- Step 1: Cleanse
- Step 2: Tone
- Step 3: Apply vitamin C serum
- Step 4: Moisturize with a facial oil
- Step 5: Apply sunscreen
Alternative Morning Routine:
- Step 1: Cleanse
- Step 2: Tone
- Step 3: Apply a gentle, hydrating serum
- Step 4: Add 1-3 drops of THDA-rich Brighten Concentrated Boosting Elixir to facial oil for a vitamin C-boosted moisturizer
- Step 5: Apply sunscreen
Frequently Asked Questions
What Not To Mix With Glycolic Acid?
It’s best to avoid mixing glycolic acid with other exfoliating agents, such as salicylic acid or retinol or retinol alternative, as this can cause irritation or dryness. Additionally, avoid using glycolic acid with products that have a higher pH, such as niacinamide and bar soaps, as this can neutralize the acid and reduce its effectiveness. Ideally, use lactic acid instead of glycolic acid as your primary AHA for the same exfoliation effects without irritation.
Can You Use Vitamin C With Other Acids?
It is generally safe to use vitamin C with other acids, such as lactic acid, as long as they are used in separate sessions and in the appropriate concentrations. As both are acidic, using them together in one session could irritate your skin. However, it is always recommended to consult with a skin care professional or a dermatologist for personalized advice.
How Long Does It Take To See Results From Glycolic Acid?
It is important to note that results may vary depending on individual skin type and condition. Some may see visible improvements within a week, while others may take several weeks or even months to see results. Consistency and patience is key when using an AHA (whether that be glycolic acid or safer, non-irritating lactic acid).
What Should I Do If I Experience Irritation?
If irritation occurs, reduce the frequency of use until your skin adjusts. And consider using lower concentrations of both ingredients or create more space between days when alternating their usage. Always patch test before full application to better understand how your skin responds.
Are There Any Skin Types That Should Avoid This Combination?
Those with sensitive skin should exercise caution and start with lower concentrations. Or individuals with certain skin conditions may need to consult a holistic dermatologist or health care practitioner before using this combination.
Unlocking Radiant Skin With Vitamin C and Glycolic Acid
This comprehensive guide will equip you with the knowledge and strategies to harness the combined potential of vitamin C and glycolic acid (or a gentler AHA substitute) for your skin care regimen. Dive into the world of radiant skin with confidence, armed with the insights and best practices presented in this article.If you’re looking for other combinations with actives, check out this article on combining vitamin C with niacinamide for anti-aging benefits.