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Is It Safe To Mix Salicylic Acid and Vitamin C?

woman using salicylic acid

Do you want clear and brighter-looking skin? Look no further than our hero ingredients of the day, Salicylic Acid and Vitamin C.

Since many skincare ingredients can’t be mixed, we understand why you might be cautious about mixing these two ingredients. However, we think you’d be (pleasantly) surprised at the results! 

What Is Salicylic Acid?

You may have heard of Glycolic Acid and Lactic Acid, but what is Salicylic Acid? Most acids that are used in skincare are Alpha Hydroxy Acids or AHAs for short. However, Salicylic Acid is a Beta Hydroxy Acid, or BHA.

These two types of acids are chemically different, but more importantly, they have different effects on your skin. AHAs exfoliate and brighten the appearance of your complexion but can sometimes irritate sensitive skin.

BHAs like Salicylic Acid also exfoliate, but they tend to focus their skincare powers on clearing out pores instead of brightening the appearance of skin. BHAs are also gentler than AHAs, so they’re often better for sensitive skin.

AHAs and BHAs come from all sorts of natural sources, and Salicylic Acid is no different. This skincare ingredient is actually derived from Willow Bark.

Salicylic Acid is a common ingredient in over-the-counter (OTC) skincare products such as cleansers, lotions, creams and serums. These products typically contain .05% to 5% Salicylic Acid. Dermatologists may prescribe higher concentrations of Salicylic Acid for persistent skincare issues. 

What Are the Benefits of Salicylic Acid?

Salicylic Acid is basically a one-stop-shop for all things clear skin. This skincare ingredient does the job of three with the added bonus of being gentle for sensitive skin.

Salicylic Acid chemically exfoliates your skin by gently breaking up and removing dead skin cells. If dead skin cells are left to build up, they can interfere with your skin’s ability to stay moisturized and absorb products. They can also plug up hair follicles and cause blemishes.

Speaking of blemishes, Salicylic Acid can also help clear up the appearance of breakouts. Pimples are often caused by pores and hair follicles that are clogged with sebum, dirt, dead skin cells and even bacteria. Whiteheads and blackheads especially have visible plugs of this gunk.

Salicylic Acid penetrates your pores and helps to break up and remove any plugs and gunk. In fact, Salicylic Acid cleans out your pores deeper than any other BHA or AHA.

This acid can also help prevent future breakouts by targeting sebum production. Most blemishes are caused by overactive sebaceous glands, which produce excessive amounts of sebum. Salicylic Acid helps slow that sebum production so that there’s less oil to clog up your pores.

You can get all these benefits and more with our Clear & Even Tone Clarifying Glycolic Pads. These pads combine Salicylic Acid, Glycolic Acid, and Lactic Acid to help mattify oily skin and reduce the appearance of blemishes and blemish-related scars. 

Are There Any Side Effects of Salicylic Acid?

Although Salicylic Acid is gentle, we still recommend taking extra care with your skin while using it. Because this ingredient exfoliates your skin, your skin may be more susceptible to UV radiation.

If you have sensitive skin, we recommend looking out for any itchiness, dryness or redness. These are common signs of irritation and may mean that you need to slow down with this ingredient.

If you have any questions or concerns, we recommend reaching out to your dermatologist. They know your skin and can provide personalized medical advice and give you tips on how to use Salicylic Acid in a way that won’t irritate your skin. 

What Is Vitamin C?

Although you may know this vitamin as a part of your morning OJ, Vitamin C is a vital nutrient that is found in many other fruits and vegetables as well. Vitamin C is so important that experts recommend getting at least 75 to 90 mg of dietary Vitamin C per day.

Your body doesn’t naturally make Vitamin C, and it also flushes any unused Vitamin C at the end of the day. This is why you should replenish your supply daily.

Although you can get Vitamin C from food, not all of your dietary Vitamin C makes it into your skin. The only way to ensure that your skin has the Vitamin C it needs is to apply skincare products that contain Vitamin C.

In skincare, you may see Vitamin C listed as L-Ascorbic Acid. You’ll also often see L-Ascorbic Acid listed alongside Tocopheryl Acetate. This is just the scientific name for Vitamin E.

These two ingredients are often included together because Vitamin C can be unstable on its own. L-Ascorbic Acid can react to sunlight and oxygen if not paired with a stabilizing ingredient like Vitamin E. These two are BFFs.

Our absolute favorite Vitamin C serum is our Super C Brightening Serum. This serum is formulated with 20% L-Ascorbic Acid to help you get the most out of your Vitamin C and also includes Kojic Acid, Salicylic Acid and Hyaluronic Acid to help clarify and hydrate skin. 

What Are the Benefits of Vitamin C?

Vitamin C helps your skin retain moisture. Over the course of the day, your skin loses water in a process called transepidermal water loss.

It also helps keep your skin hydrated, which can help your skin look more youthful. Dry skin is much more susceptible to visible signs of premature aging like fine lines and wrinkles, so it’s always best to make sure your skin is adequately moisturized.

Vitamin C may also help reduce the appearance of dark spots, age spots and freckles that are typically caused by sun damage or irritation. And helps target those spots and break down excess melanin, which results in even-toned radiance.

There are some well-intended rumors floating around that Vitamin C can cause sun sensitivity. However, Vitamin C can actually strengthen your skin’s natural defense against sun damage!

Regular application of Vitamin C can support healthy skin cells, keeping your skin feeling firm and looking bright. Vitamin C also contains powerful antioxidants, which round up and neutralize free radicals that would love nothing more than to damage your skin. 

Are There Side Effects of Vitamin C?

Vitamin C is relatively safe to use on your skin, but it can irritate sensitive skin. In this case, you may experience signs of irritation such as tingling, itching or redness. If that happens, just lessen your use and contact your dermatologist in order to develop a personalized plan to help you integrate this ingredient into your skincare routine. 

Is it Safe To Mix Salicylic Acid and Vitamin C?

The short answer is, yes — you can combine these two hero ingredients. In fact, these two ingredients can enhance each other and help your skin look brighter and clearer.

As with all concentrated skincare ingredients, it’s important to combine Salicylic Acid and Vitamin C the right way to get the best results. That’s why we want to share our best tips on how to combine them successfully. 

Start Slow

We recommend slowly integrating these products into your skincare routine in order to give your skin time to adjust to these new ingredients. If you start with daily use, your skin can get a little unhappy.

We recommend starting off by using these ingredients every other day and slowly working your way up to daily use. If your skin starts to show signs of irritation, try cutting down to bi-weekly use and working your way up from there.

We know it’s hard to wait, but patience is critical for a proper mix. 

Alternate Use

Another way to take it slow is to use these ingredients at different times of the day. Because it helps your skin fight visible sun damage, Vitamin C works best when applied in the morning. We recommend applying it before sunscreen and letting the product fully absorb before moving to the next step of your morning skincare routine.

On the other hand, Salicylic Acid works best when applied at night. You can apply it in the morning, but because it’s an exfoliant, Salicylic Acid can make your skin a bit more sensitive to sun rays. Applying it in the evening also helps make sure the Salicylic Acid has time to work without being exposed to too many environmental stressors.

If you really want to start slow, you can even alternate these ingredients on different days. It all depends on your skin’s sensitivity and whether or not you notice irritation. 

Wear Sunscreen

We mentioned before that Salicylic Acid could increase sensitivity to UV rays. Although Vitamin C can help support your skin’s natural defense against visible photodamage, we still recommend wearing sunscreen with at least SPF 30. It’s better to be safe, especially since sun damage can undo all the benefits of these ingredients.

We recommend our Complexion Protection Moisturizer With SPF 30. This sunscreen is also a moisturizer and contains a hybrid of chemical and mineral ingredients so that your skin stays protected. 

In Conclusion

Salicylic Acid helps exfoliate and clear the appearance of blemish-prone skin, while Vitamin C helps brighten and protect the skin. With all of these benefits, it’s only natural to want to combine the two ingredients.

While these ingredients can work together to provide better benefits, we recommend starting off slow. These ingredients are both pretty powerful, which means your skin may need time to adjust to both of them.

By: Ivey Rogers Aesthetician Educator & Community
Engagement Manager