If you want to know how to use salicylic acid and vitamin C together, you’re most likely struggling with excess oil, breakouts, and post-acne marks — been there, done that. Yep, mixing skincare ingredients is fun and rewarding if you know the how-to. But pairing the wrong elements can cancel each other, rendering them ineffective, or even lead to dryness, irritation, or a broken barrier. However, you’re here now, and we’re teaching you how to use salicylic acid and vitamin C in such a way that you enjoy their benefits to the fullest, yet you dodge possible unwanted outcomes. First, a brief reminder of what these skincare staples can do for your skin.
Salicylic acid is a member of the beta-hydroxy acids (BHAs) family derived from willow bark or lab-made. When applied to the skin, salicylic acid penetrates deep within the pores, thanks to its oil-soluble nature, where it dissolves junk and oil, unclogging pores and preventing breakouts. Also, salicylic acid works on the skin’s surface where it loosens dead cells buildup, smoothing and softening the complexion while diminishing dark patches. Salicylic acid is a go-to for combination, oily and breakout-prone skin types and a no-no for dry and mature skins.
Vitamin C is an antioxidant that protects the skin against environmental damage, offsetting premature wrinkles and dark spots. Besides, vitamin C is great at inducing collagen production when applied topically, making wrinkles less visible, firming skin, and increasing elasticity while helping skin retain more moisture. Another perk of vitamin C that makes us all crave it is its ability to interfere with melanin production, meaning it brightens hyperpigmentation and evens tone. With these being said, everyone and their mother should use vitamin C in their skincare regimen.
Can you use salicylic acid and vitamin C together?
Salicylic acid and vitamin C make a winning duo when paired in your skincare routine. Whatever you struggle with, from excess sebum, pimples, or uneven tone, using salicylic acid and vitamin C might reveal the best version of your skin. As a matter of fact, studies proved that vitamin C and salicylic acid work synergically to reduce melasma, delivering outstanding benefits when used together without side effects. However, because both ingredients work at an acidic pH, you should pair them with extra care to avoid dryness and possible irritation. But this is why you’re here.
How to use salicylic acid and vitamin C together
Due to the low pH of salicylic acid (2.0 to 3.0) and vitamin C (2.6 to 3.2), they should be combined with caution so that you don’t sensitize your skin. As such, there are a few ways to use salicylic acid and vitamin C together in your skincare regimen to take the best of both worlds.
Use them on alternative days
You should use salicylic acid and vitamin C on alternative days, especially if your skin is easily reactive, but also if you want to take it slow and observe how your skin reacts to this combo. This method is especially useful if you’re using salicylic acid and vitamin C in serums as they shoot more actives into the skin due to their small molecules. So, you should use your salicylic acid and vitamin C serums on different days, giving your skin the time to adjust and observe how it responds.
Apply salicylic acid and vitamin C at different times of the day
Another way to pair salicylic acid and vitamin C is by using them at different times of the day. You need antioxidant protection during the day, so layering vitamin C in the morning and leaving the salicylic acid product for the night is what you should do.
Pair salicylic acid and vitamin C in various products
You can safely use salicylic acid and vitamin C in diverse skincare products. For instance, you can apply a salicylic acid toner, followed by a vitamin C serum, or you can start off with a vitamin C-infused cleanser and then layer a salicylic acid serum. Another gentle way to use salicylic acid and vitamin C together is to smear on a salicylic acid serum, then follow with a vitamin C moisturizer, or start with a vitamin C-enriched serum and trap it with a salicylic acid moisturizer.
Use salicylic acid and vitamin C in the same product
Maybe the best way to pair salicylic acid and vitamin C is using skincare products that contain both. This way, you know for sure they won’t alter your skin pH, dry or irritate your skin as they are optimally formulated so that you can pair these two powerhouses in the same routine without worrying about irritation. However, as it’s the case with all skincare products, you want to do a test patch before going all-in. Here are our top picks for products that use salicylic acid and vitamin C in their formula:
- SkinCeuticals Silymarin CF – view on SkinCeuticals, $169
- Murad Invisiscar Resurfacing Treatment – view on Amazon
- Image Skincare Ageless Total Resurfacing Masque – view on Amazon
- La Roche-Posay Pure Vitamin C10 – view on Amazon
Knowing what ingredients can and cannot be used together comes with many benefits for your skin. Our skincare dictionary and ingredients cheat list are great places to keep an eye on all skincare ingredients and learn how you can mix them for dramatic results.