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Can You Use Glycolic Acid And Vitamin C Together? - Skincare Experts Explain

Updated: Sep 20, 2023

As a busy medical professional who leads an active lifestyle, I rely on a few essential creams in my daily skincare toolkit. I always make it a point to include vitamin C and glycolic acid in my regime, and recommend them to patients who consult me at my clinical practice.

Some people may be wary of combining two acids, but with a little guidance and knowledge, most people can make use of this glycolic acid-vitamin C super combination to harness the amazing benefits they have to offer.

First of all, let us look at why it is a great idea to use glycolic acid in combination with vitamin C.

Benefits of Using Glycolic Acid and Vitamin C Together

Benefits of Using Glycolic Acid and Vitamin C Together

Anti-aging Powerhouse

Both vitamin C and glycolic acid have anti-aging properties individually. Together, the results are even more remarkable.

First off, glycolic acid has keratolytic properties. This means glycolic acid brings about a shedding of dead skin cells from the skin’s surface; the result is that this exfoliation reduces fine lines and wrinkles.

Glycolic acid’s ability to bring about exfoliation paves the way for the action of vitamin C, a potent anti-ager.

Vitamin C is an important anti-oxidant which can prevent free radical-induced damage to skin and promote skin repair. Free radical damage comes from sun exposure, pollution, environmental toxins and even late nights. This damage causes the signs of premature aging like fine lines, wrinkles, sagging and even skin cancer. Vitamin C, a potent free radical scavenger, mops up these harmful substances. In my practice, the patients get their daily low-cost fuss-free vitamin C dose here. Vitamin C is combined with lactic acid (similar to glycolic acid) in this anti-aging product.

Glycolic acid and vitamin C combine to slow aging. Glycolic acid brings about exfoliation to reduce fine lines and wrinkles, while promoting penetration of vitamin C for antioxidant anti-aging effects.

Anti-pigmentation Combo

Glycolic acid’s ability to exfoliate dead skin cells from the skin surface helps fade hyperpigmentation caused by sun exposure, blue light from screens and pollution. It helps reduce hyperpigmentation including acne marks, freckles, sun spots and age spots. My patients who are bothered by pigmentation often have drier skin, so I include this 8% AHA with a smooth cream base as part of their daily regimen.

On the other hand, vitamin C is a natural skin brightener that evens out complexion and lightens hyperpigmentation. Vitamin C reduces melanin levels (skin pigment) by inhibiting or reducing the action of tyrosinase thereby cutting off the supply of a key precursor your skin uses to make melanin. More vitamin C means less tyrosine, which means less melanin, with the result that dark spots lighten.

As you can see, glycolic acid and vitamin C go superbly well together to reduce hyperpigmentation.

Anti-Acne Team

Taken alone, glycolic acid has an anti-acne effect in being keratolytic and reducing follicular plugging. Sebum and dead skin cells combine to clog pores (follicular plugging) causing whiteheads and blackheads which when inflamed, become pimples. Glycolic acid reduces and prevents clogged pores. Glycolic acid can be used either topically as part of a daily home application regime, or as a professional in-clinic treatment. When combined with other more potent agents in an acne treatment programme, glycolic acid is a key enabler that helps improve acne in combination with topical antibiotics and adapalene to treat acne. Patients who come to me with acne would normally receive an 8% glycolic acid solution to start them off, or, if they have sensitive skin, a PHA lotion (polyhydroxy acid).

Pigmented marks left behind by acne are reduced using both the exfoliating property of glycolic acid, and as we have already seen, using vitamin C which lightens hyperpigmentation including acne scars by reducing skin pigment.

In my practice, an in-clinic treatment called Deep Cleanse Repair, is a popular superficial chemical peel using glycolic acid as one of the treatment options; it gives excellent outcomes in controlling acne and treating post-acne marks/scars.

This is why the glycolic acid-vitamin C is an excellent combination to strategically target acne and post-acne pigmentation.

Skin Glow and Hydration Synergy

Glycolic acid is a humectant, meaning it has the ability to draw moisture to itself. When applied and absorbed into the skin, glycolic acid draws moisture to your newly exfoliated skin. This leads to a healthy glow that is characteristic of young skin.

Add on vitamin C which brightens complexion, evens out skin colour, and adds to the healthy radiance. This vitamin C effect is probably a result of the combination of faded hyperpigmentation, its ability to reduce redness, and to boost collagen.

Say goodbye to dry, dull skin, and welcome to a youthful glow!

Smart ideas for combining Glycolic Acid and Vitamin C

So now we know that glycolic acid and vitamin C work well together to give impressive results for anti-aging, anti-pigmentation, combatting acne, skin glow and hydration.

Practically-speaking, is combining them simple?

Individually, each item has the potential to cause redness and irritation, depending on the strength and formulation of the glycolic acid and vitamin C you happen to have. Whether or not you have sensitive skin, it is advisable to consult a medical professional whether you are using them individually or in combination, especially for glycolic acid. You will find that if you do not have problems with sensitivity, combining these creams or ingredients should not be difficult.

Here are some expert tips for optimizing comfort based on my experience with treating patients in my medical practice, especially for those with sensitive skin:

  • Ensure that each one is suitable for you.

  • If in doubt, use them separately, at different times of the day especially for a start. For instance, use vitamin C as part of the morning regime, and glycolic acid for the night regime.

  • Introduce them to your regime one at a time, leaving an interval of a few days or weeks.


Cleverly combine the use of glycolic acid and vitamin C in your skin regime to get not just the best of both worlds, but take advantage of the synergy they create. Glycolic acid exfoliates to reduce pigmentation, pimples and fine lines. In addition, exfoliation provides excellent skin preparation for optimal vitamin C penetration and maximum benefit from this antioxidant. Combined, glycolic acid and vitamin C do wonders for hydration, glow and superb skin health.

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