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Glycolic Acid and Vitamin C: How to Use + Top Products

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How to use glycolic acid and vitamin C, by beauty blogger What The Fab

Glycolic acid and vitamin C are two powerful skincare remedies that combat signs of aging, rough skin texture, and dull, uneven skin tone.

It can be overwhelming to know how to start incorporating glycolic acid and vitamin C products into your skincare routine, which is why I’m here to help!

Shop my fav glycolic acid and vitamin C products below!

I’ve seen huge improvements in the appearance and health of my skin since after introducing glycolic acid and vitamin C, so I want to share the love and give you all the details on why these are so important to use, how they work, and my top product picks.

Glycolic Acid and Vitamin C: How to Use and Top Products

Glycolic Acid

Let’s start with glycolic acid, a derivative of sugar cane that falls in the family of alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs).

Compared to other AHA compounds like citric or lactic acid, glycolic acid has the lowest molecular weight meaning it can easily penetrate the skin for ultimate effectiveness.

There are tons of benefits to using glycolic acid on your face, including the fact it’s a natural exfoliant that removes dead skin cells to leave your skin looking and feeling smooth and refreshed.

Another perk of using glycolic acid in your skincare routine is it helps reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles by stimulating the production of collagen. 

Glycolic acid is best for most skin types except dry or sensitive skin since it can irritate those skin types.

The best way to start using glycolic acid is to find a high-quality product, like a cleanser or toner, that you can slowly introduce to your skincare regimen so your skin has time to adjust.

It’s also always recommended to use SPF when trying glycolic acid since it can make your skin more sensitive to sunlight (though you should be using SPF daily, anyways!).

Vitamin C

Now that you have a better understanding of what glycolic acid is and how it works wonders on the skin, we can dive into vitamin C.

Of course, we all know vitamin C is important to stay healthy and strong so we can avoid getting sick, but how does this translate to skincare?

Vitamin C is an antioxidant that protects skin from harmful free radicals (also known as toxins) and UV damage and improves the appearance of wrinkles. 

Skincare products containing vitamin C also target dark spots and regulate your skin’s oil production which helps skin appear more even and youthful.

All skin types can benefit from a healthy dose of vitamin C, and it’s best to apply vitamin C products in the morning after cleansing and before moisturizing the face.

If you’re feeling ready to add glycolic acid and vitamin C to your skincare regimen, I’ve found eight incredible products that are the perfect place to start—keep reading for my recs!

Can I use glycolic acid and vitamin C together?

For ultimate skin nourishment and anti-aging effects, you can incorporate both glycolic acid and vitamin C into your skincare routine—as long as you do it the right way!

You always want to use glycolic acid first since it works as an exfoliant and will create a clean canvas to layer other skincare products on top.

After cleansing or toning with glycolic acid you can then go in with your vitamin C serum or treatment.

Since you started by prepping your skin with glycolic acid, the vitamin C product will be able to deeply penetrate your pores for maximum effectiveness. 

Make sure to take things slow when you start combining glycolic acid and vitamin C in your skincare regimen—I recommend using these products in the evening and always finishing with moisturizer and SPF in the morning. 

If you notice any irritation such as dryness, redness, or a stinging or burning sensation, stop use immediately.

Best Glycolic Acid Products

How to use glycolic acid and vitamin C, by beauty blogger What The Fab
Image via Ulta

The Ordinary Glycolic Acid 7% Toning Solution

The first glycolic acid product I recommend is The Ordinary’s Glycolic Acid 7% Toning Solution.

The Ordinary is my go-to for affordable, quality skincare and the Glycolic Acid Solution is one of my favs. 

This exfoliating toner contains natural ingredients like Tasmian Pepperberry that target the surface of your skin to improve uneven and rough texture. 

The Ordinary suggests using this Toning Solution at night after cleansing your face so it can work its magic all night long—just make sure to top it off with moisturizer and SPF if applying in the morning!

How to use glycolic acid and vitamin C, by beauty blogger What The Fab
Image via Dermstore

SkinCeuticals Glycolic 10 Renew Overnight

Another powerful skincare product that contains glycolic acid is the SkinCeuticals Glycolic 10 Renew Overnight cream.

This nighttime cream contains 10% glycolic acid that is super effective at exfoliating the skin and promoting the production of new skin cells.

You’ll notice your skin has a brighter and more glowy appearance after just a few weeks of using this Renew Overnight cream daily.  

This SkinCeuticals glycolic acid cream is perfect for oily, acne-prone, and dry skin types, and can work well on sensitive skin as long as you introduce it slowly over time.

How to use glycolic acid and vitamin C, by beauty blogger What The Fab
Image via Sephora

Paula’s Choice Skin Perfecting 8% AHA Gel Exfoliant

Rounding out my picks for the best glycolic acid products to try is Paula’s Choice Skin Perfecting 8% AHA Gel Exfoliant

This Gel Exfoliant can be used day or night to remove dead skin cells, leaving your face clean and smooth. 

I love this product’s gel formula because it feels light and refreshing, and my skin always feels incredibly soft after application.

If you decide to try this Paula’s Choice glycolic acid exfoliant in the mornings, make sure to follow it with a sunscreen that’s at least SPF 30.

Best Vitamin C Products

How to use glycolic acid and vitamin C, by beauty blogger What The Fab
Image via Ulta

COSRX The Vitamin C 23 Serum

The Vitamin C 23 Serum is an effective anti-aging product from the skincare brand COSRX, one of my absolute favorite Korean skincare brands.

This serum contains 23% pure vitamin C, a potent key ingredient that provides essential antioxidants to keep your skin firm, bright, and healthy.

The Vitamin C 23 Serum is also formulated with super vitamin E and hyaluronic acid to stimulate collagen production and hydrate skin. 

Massage this serum into your face and neck immediately after cleansing to nourish your skin from the inside out. 

After I used this serum for a month, my facialist asked me if I had gotten micro-needling done—that’s how much it helped my hyperpigmentation!

Image via Sephora

Tatcha Violet-C Brightening Serum

Tatcha is another one of my fav skincare brands, so of course I had to highlight the Violet-C Brightening Serum.

The Violet-C Brightening Serum is packed with powerful ingredients like Japanese beautyberry and Angelica root that reduce the appearance of dark spots and discoloration.

20% vitamin C and 10% AHAs are the star of this Brightening Serum formula and are super effective at targeting signs of aging by exfoliating, hydrating, and firming skin.

Image via Naturium

Naturium Vitamin C Complex Serum

If you’ve been searching for a skincare product that can transform your skin in just a few weeks, Naturium’s Vitamin C Complex Serum is about to become your new holy grail.

This Vitamin C Serum combines ingredients like ascorbic acid and Kakadu plum to provide skin with key nutrients needed to maintain a healthy and youthful appearance.

One of the best parts of this Naturium serum is it’s gentle enough for sensitive skin types, but still insanely effective.

Trust me, you’re going to be amazed once you see how amazing your skin looks after about four weeks of daily use.

Image via Dermstore

SkinCeuticals C E Ferulic

The SkinCeuticals C E Ferulic is the perfect vitamin C serum if your main skincare concerns are fine lines, wrinkles, and other signs of aging.

Made with 15% pure vitamin C as well as vitamin E and ferulic acid, this SkinCeuticals serum smoothes wrinkles, tightens and plumps sagging skin, and brightens uneven skin tone—I’m impressed!

The amazing thing about this C E Ferulic serum is it actually maintains its effectiveness for up to 72 hours once absorbed into the skin, so you’ll continue reaping the benefits without even knowing it.

Image via Ulta

Drunk Elephant C-Firma Fresh Day Serum

My last recommendation for glycolic acid and vitamin C products is the Drunk Elephant C-Firma Fresh Day Serum.

This daytime vitamin C serum is formulated with chemical and natural ingredients like ferulic acid, vitamin E, and pumpkin ferment extract that make your skin glowy af.

I love that this product not only exfoliates and brightens the skin but also goes beneath the surface to nourish and hydrate from within.

Don’t forget to top the Fresh Day Serum off with sunscreen!

Glycolic acid and vitamin C are serious game-changers when it comes to healthy, radiant skin, and I hope this how-to guide with product recommendations helps on your skincare journey!

Drop me a comment below or on Insta (@wtfab) if you try any of these products out so I can see what’s in your skincare regimen.

Find more beauty recs and inspo here.

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6 Best Korean Skincare Products

Retinol vs Hyaluronic Acid: What’s the Difference?

Top 7 Korean Vitamin C Serums for All Skin Types


What is glycolic acid?

Glycolic acid is an alpha hydroxy acid with anti-aging effects.

Why is vitamin C important for skincare?

Vitamin C helps hydrate skin, protect from free radical damage, and improve the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles.

Can I use vitamin C and glycolic acid together?

Yes, but be careful combining glycolic acid and vitamin C in case irritation occurs—if your skin begins to sting, burn, or appears dry or red, stop use immediately.

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