In the mix: How to use glycolic acid and vitamin C together

February 14, 2024

Glowy skin is a hallmark of any skincare regimen. But time spent outdoors can dial up dark spots and dullness. Two of the best ingredients for taking on summer’s aftermath are glycolic acid (an alpha hydroxy acid exfoliant) and vitamin C. But, can you mix glycolic acid and vitamin C together? Before we answer that, let’s dive a little deeper into why your skin needs vitamin C.

What is vitamin C and what does it do for skin?

Vitamin C is a skincare powerhouse. It’s an antioxidant that helps defend against free radical damage from stressors like UV light and pollution. It’s also been shown to help minimize the look of frustrating hyperpigmentation. Overall, vitamin C can give skin a bright boost all year long. This skincare ingredient can be found in a variety of products, such as a vitamin C serum, cleanser and SPF moisturizer.

But, as Dr. Howard Murad—board-certified dermatologist, pharmacist and founder of Murad Skincare—points out, vitamin C has its fair share of kryptonite. “Most forms of vitamin C have a short shelf-life, lose potency or are hard for skin to absorb.” How can you get this ingredient into your routine and be sure you’re getting the potency needed for results? By choosing vitamin C that’s stabilized by gold.

Uniting gold molecules with vitamin C molecules protects and helps vitamin C remain stable until it is absorbed into the skin. The benefits: It has better bioavailability (how well the skin can use an ingredient), is more efficacious and has 55% higher antioxidant power than traditional vitamin C.

What is glycolic acid?

Of course, when comparing the two, it’s important to also ask: What is glycolic acid, and what are its benefits for the skin? This skincare ingredient is an alpha hydroxy acid (AHA) that helps exfoliate dull and dead skin cells, and one of the main benefits of a glycolic acid product is to exfoliate dry, aging and damaged skin.

A glycolic acid skincare product can be found in different forms, including a liquid exfoliant, toner and cleanser.

Can I combine vitamin C and glycolic acid?

So the big question remains: can you mix glycolic acid and vitamin C? Dr. Murad says YES! Dr. Murad has been combining glycolic acid and vitamin C since the early days of his Los Angeles-based dermatology practice. Why? Because glycolic acid supercharges vitamin C’s benefits by lifting away dulling surface cells. This clears the way for enhanced vitamin C delivery and accelerates cell renewal that’s essential to smooth and glowing skin.

How soon will I see results?

As with any skincare ingredients, results are one of the most anticipated parts. So naturally, when adding a product or ingredient to a skincare routine, you’ll wonder how long the results will take to show. You should expect to see brighter skin within just a week of combining these skincare ingredients (with best results after 4 weeks) if you follow Dr. Murad’s tips: “I recommend using it every morning and evening after you cleanse. Smooth a few pumps over your face, neck, and chest then follow with a moisturizer. And, always wear SPF during the day. Glycolic acid is exfoliating your skin, so it needs added protection against UV light.”

The views expressed in this article do not necessarily represent the views of Murad, and are for informational purposes only, even if the advice of physicians and medical practitioners are included. This article is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment, and should not be considered specific medical advice.  

About the Author

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Jacki Marzano is SoCal-based storyteller and head copywriter at Murad Skincare. She's shaped the voice of some of the most recognized beauty brands in the business, has a penchant for sharing homemade cookies, and believes SPF is the secret to getting carded well into your 40s.