What not to mix with vitamin C
Whether you’re new to vitamin C or have been reaping the rewards of its skin benefits for some time, there’s no denying this nutrient is a powerhouse when it comes to fostering bright, even, youthful-looking skin.
But like all powerful substances, it’s crucial to know which other ingredients vitamin C plays nice with—and which can aggravate your complexion, leaving you with the opposite of what you’re going for (i.e., red, raw, irritated skin).
If you’re wondering how to recruit vitamin C into your skincare regimen, you’re in luck. Here, we detail what not to use with vitamin c serums and skincare products as well as the four skincare ingredients that may help it work even more of its magic.
Importance of using vitamin C in your skincare routine
As the list of beneficial skincare ingredients continues to grow, skincare enthusiasts (or just people who want to look and feel their best) must decide which ingredients to prioritize in their routine.
So: does vitamin C deserve that coveted spot on your skincare regimen’s honor roll? The short answer is yes—and for good reason.
There are a number of antioxidants found in human skin, but vitamin C is at the top of the list. That said, our bodies can’t synthesize and deliver most of the vitamin C we ingest to our skin—which means it’s essential to use topical products that can enrich our skin with the vitamin C it needs to thrive.
By providing your skin with adequate levels of vitamin C, you may be able to unlock a host of juicy skin benefits, including:
Antioxidative properties (to help prevent premature skin aging)
Brightening properties (leaving you with a luminous, more even complexion)
Protection from UV radiation (which keeps your skin feeling more elastic and looking radiant)
This skincare ingredient can be found in different products in the form of vitamin C serum, moisturizer, and eye cream. While it is a highly effective skin care product, it's important to understand how to use vitamin C serum, because if you're not using it right, you may not be enjoying all of its benefits.
What to avoid mixing with vitamin C
Like peanut butter and pickle juice, some things are better enjoyed separately. That's especially important when it comes to an active ingredient in skin care.
Here’s what to keep separate from your vitamin C:
Retinol, a form of vitamin A, is known to be one of the most powerful ingredients in modern skincare. It’s commonly used topically to:
Combat skin conditions like acne and psoriasis
Reduce fine lines and wrinkles
Foster a smoother skin texture
Improve production of collagen
Boost skin’s hydration levels
Bolster skin’s barrier function
Given retinol’s impressive potency, it’s no surprise this ingredient has been known to cause some skin irritation—particularly in the early stages of using it. If retinol is a staple in your skincare routine, it’s best let it do its work solo and keep other potent ingredients like vitamin C out of its way to prevent excessive irritation.
That said, including both retinol and vitamin C in your skincare regimen can be done! Just be sure to save retinol for the evening hours (retinol may cause redness and peeling when exposed to UV light) and apply your vitamin C product in the morning. Using vitamin C and sunscreen together in your morning routine can make them more effective anyways.
Niacinamide and vitamin C are both powerhouse antioxidants, able to contend with premature skin aging and hyperpigmentation.
But if your skin is ultra-sensitive, it might not be able to bear the brunt of such potent ingredients—and you may need to pick one in order to protect yourself against flare-ups.
AHAs (alpha-hydroxy acids) and BHAs (beta-hydroxy acids) are two classes of chemicals used to gently aid the skin’s natural exfoliation process. There are several chemicals in both categories you might recognize from strolling (or scrolling) down the skincare aisles:
Both AHAs and BHAs can be excellent skin allies, helping to encourage clearer, brighter-looking skin. But for some individuals, particularly those with sensitive skin, AHAs and BHAs can cause:
Because AHAs and BHAs may already leave sensitive skin prone to these side effects, it’s best to keep ultra-powerful ingredients such as vitamin C far out of the way when using them.
What to combine with vitamin C
Now that we’ve covered what ingredients not to couple with your vitamin C skincare products, what about the ingredients that turbocharge all the juicy skincare benefits it has to offer?
As it turns out, there are some skincare ingredients that play nice with vitamin C—and when they join forces in your skincare routine, you may even see better results than if they’d been flying solo. Let’s take a look at four ingredients ready to team up with your favorite vitamin C skincare product in any skincare routine order you feel suitable.
If protecting your skin against UV damage is a skincare priority for you (as it should be), then there’s no better skin ally to pair vitamin C with than vitamin E. Not only do vitamin E and C together help to reduce damage from UV radiation, but both vitamins play a significant role in curbing the damage caused by oxidative stress.
Oxidative stress is one of the primary causes of premature skin aging. Here’s how oxidative stress can occur:
During every biological process our bodies undergo—from sweating at a workout class to vegging out beneath the sun—causes our cells to produce waste. A portion of this waste is known as free radicals, or unstable molecules which can cause our bodies to become imbalanced.
In order to deal with that waste and maintain a state of cellular balance, our bodies produce antioxidants to manage the cellular waste we produce.
However, sometimes the amount of cellular waste we produce outweighs the level of antioxidants our bodies make to “take out the trash.” When this happens, our body enters a state of oxidative stress.
Oxidative stress is not inherently bad, but when left unchecked it can cause undue stress on our bodies. And in a constant state of stress (and cellular imbalance), the effects can show up as prematurely aged, sallow, or dull-looking skin.
So, how do vitamins E and C protect our skin from the ravages of oxidative stress?
Both substances are known to be free radical scavengers. In other words, they team up to hunt down these unstable molecules in order to bring our cells back into balance, which may help you to achieve even brighter, more youthful-looking skin.
Ferulic acid is a type of phenolic compound—a naturally-occurring, bioactive substance commonly found in many plants. Like vitamin C and vitamin E, ferulic acid is known to be a free radical scavenger, making it a top-biller if your skincare regimen is geared towards combating oxidative stress.
Ferulic acid has been proven to tout properties such as:
But what’s responsible for making ferulic acid gel so well with vitamin C?
In essence, ferulic acid has a stabilizing effect on L-ascorbic acid—one of the most common forms of vitamin C, but also one of the most unstable. When applied topically together, ferulic acid promotes L-ascorbic acid’s penetration into the skin, enabling it to deliver benefits better than it can alone.
In one study, individuals who used a topical solution combining ferulic acid, vitamin C, and vitamin E saw a significant reduction in skin discoloration, resulting in a brighter, more even skin tone.
Vitamin B and vitamin C paired together may do wonders to promote wound healing in the skin. This is due to each substance’s ability to promote what’s known as fibroblast migration—a critical process involved in healing injuries to the skin.
If you’ve ever struggled with acne, or have visible scarring blemishing your skin’s surface, combining vitamin C with the following vitamin B derivatives may help to repair your skin from the inside out:
Vitamins B3, B5, B6, and B10
Hyaluronic acid, also known as HA, is one of your skincare regimen’s top allies for keeping your skin feeling hydrated. It’s primarily found in serum form and can be applied topically to:
Visibly reducing fine lines and wrinkles
Encouraging your skin to retain more moisture
Stimulating skin’s production of collagen and elastin
Encouraging skin repair and wound healing
Reducing skin inflammation and scarring
Hyaluronic acid is a dream for promoting healthy-looking skin across the age spectrum—but don’t be surprised if you see even juicier effects of hyaluronic acid when paired with brightening, anti-aging vitamin C!
While the dynamic duo may serve up even juicier skin benefits together than they would solo, it’s important to apply them properly when using them together.
Recruit vitamin C the right way with The Pill Club
If vitamin C is the new darling of your skincare regimen, we get it—it’s a powerful ingredient that can boost your skin health for that long-term healthy glow. While it plays well with sunscreen and moisturizer, make sure you take a closer look at your favorite products to prevent any skincare clashes. Saying no to retinol, niacinamide, and AHAs/BHAs while using vitamin C can help your skin feel its best from the inside out.
Need a little help creating that perfectly balanced skincare routine for a healthy complexion? Start with The Pill Club. Our healthcare team can help you craft a made-for-you regimen for your skin wellness goals. Start today at The Pill Club!
National Library of Medicine. Effect of a topical antioxidant serum containing vitamin C, vitamin E, and ferulic acid after Q-switched 1064-nm Nd:YAG laser for treatment of environment-induced skin pigmentation. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/32052907/
National Library of Medicine. Hyaluronic acid, a promising skin rejuvenating biomedicine: A review of recent updates and pre-clinical and clinical investigations on cosmetic and nutricosmetic effects. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30287361/
National Library of Medicine. A Mixture of Topical Forms of Polydeoxyribonucleotide, Vitamin C, and Niacinamide Attenuated Skin Pigmentation and Increased Skin Elasticity by Modulating Nuclear Factor Erythroid 2-like 2. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/35209068/
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