What To Mix (and not) With Vitamin C Serum: A Complete Guide

bottles of vitamin c serum with orange

With so many skin care products to choose from, knowing what to mix with vitamin C serum (and what to avoid) can be confusing.

That’s why this guide walks you through how to incorporate vitamin C and other ingredients into your skin care routine (so that you get max results while protecting your skin!).

Let’s get right to it!

Note: this post contains affiliate links and I earn a commission (at no additional cost to you) if you use them to make a purchase.

INGREDIENTHOW TO USE
Hyaluronic acidlayer or use in an all-in-one formula.
Other antioxidantslayer or use in an all-in-one formula.
Moisturizerapply moisturizer after serum.
Rosehip oil (and other carrier oils)apply oil after serum.
Sunscreenapply sunscreen as last step in your routine.
Aloe veraapply aloe gel first, followed by vitamin C serum.
Alpha and Beta Hydroxy acidsavoid layering; use at separate times of the day; buy a formula made with both.
Benzoyl peroxideavoid layering; use at separate times of the day.
Niacinamidelayer or buy a formula made with both.
Retinolavoid layering; use at separate times of the day or alternate days; buy a formula made with both.
This table lists the ingredients that can and cannot be used with vitamin C.

WHAT TO MIX VITAMIN C SERUM WITH

vitamin c serum surrounded by orange slices

1. Hyaluronic Acid

Hyaluronic acid (HA) and vitamin C are a good combination because hyaluronic acid’s anti-inflammatory and humectant (i.e. water attracting) properties can help offset the dryness that sometimes occurs with vitamin C. 

In addition, vitamin C provides antioxidant and collagen-boosting properties, while hyaluronic acid helps to temporarily plump the skin and give it a smoother appearance.

How to use hyaluronic acid and vitamin C together

The easiest way to get the benefits of hyaluronic acid and vitamin C is to use a product that is formulated with both.

However, if you’re using separate products, then start by checking their consistencies. Apply the thinner or water-based product first, followed by the heavier product.

For example:

  • If you’re using a hyaluronic acid serum and vitamin C moisturizer, the hyaluronic serum should be applied first. 
  • On the other hand, if you’re using a vitamin C serum and a hyaluronic moisturizer, then the vitamin C serum should be applied first.

2. Other Antioxidants (such as vitamin E and ferulic acid)

Vitamin C has been shown to work quite well with vitamin E and ferulic acid, which are both antioxidants.

There are two main benefits to pairing vitamin C with these ingredients (source).

  • Vitamin E and ferulic acid help to stabilize vitamin C so that it doesn’t degrade as quickly as it normally would.
  • Ferulic acid has been shown to double the photoprotective properties of vitamin C and E (when both vitamins are used together).

How to use vitamin C with antioxidants like vitamin E and ferulic acid

There are more and more products on the market that combine vitamin C with one or both of these ingredients, such as:

3. Moisturizer

Whether your moisturizer of choice is a lotion, cream or oil (technically more of a sealant than a moisturizer), it’s a good match for vitamin C serums.

All skin types can benefit from this combination, but particularly those with dry or sensitive skin. Since serums usually have a thinner consistency and also contain active ingredients that can be irritating, a moisturizer helps to bring balance to the skin.

How to combine vitamin C serum with moisturizer

Apply the serum first, followed by the moisturizer.

4. Rosehip Oil

Like all carrier oils, rosehip oil is great for locking in the moisture from your vitamin C serum.

In addition, rosehip oil is naturally rich in fatty acids and beta-carotene.

That beta carotene is converted to retinyl esters (aka preformed vitamin A, which is the same category that retinol belongs to. Same category but not the same thing 🙂 ).

Now, one final thing to keep in mind is that even though rosehips are rich in vitamin C, rosehip oil is not. This is because vitamin C is water-soluble and therefore, you won’t find it in oils.

So, you don’t have to worry about overloading on vitamin C when you use rosehip oil and vitamin C serum.

How to mix rosehip oil and vitamin C serum

Apply rosehip oil after vitamin C serum.

5. Aloe Vera Gel

Aloe vera and vitamin C complement each other because aloe is very hydrating and also has humectant properties that draw moisture to the skin.

So, if your skin tends to get dried out by vitamin C, pairing it with aloe can be helpful.

In addition, aloe is very soothing to sensitive or inflamed skin.

As for vitamin C it has been shown to improve redness in rosacea patients when used at a concentration of 5% (source).

So, paired together, these ingredients can be quite soothing for inflamed skin.

How to use aloe vera and vitamin C

  • Buy a product that includes both ingredients.
  • Layer them by applying aloe vera gel first, followed by vitamin c serum.
  • Make your own vitamin c serum with aloe vera. Here’s a quick tutorial:

6. Sunscreen

When used on it’s own, vitamin C’s antioxidant properties are known for protecting the skin from free radical damage (a lot of which occurs from environmental factors like pollution, and yes, the sun). However, by combining vitamin C and sunscreen, your skin can get even more sun protection.

Here’s why…

  • Sunscreens block about 55% of the free radicals that are produced after exposure to UV light.
  • Vitamin C neutralizes free radicals.

According to this study, using sunscreen and 10% vitamin C results in a 52% reduction in redness and a 40-60% reduction in the development of sunburn cells.

How to use vitamin C serum and sunscreen

  • Apply sunscreen as the final step in your routine (before makeup).
  • Consider using a vitamin C serum that has vitamin E and ferulic. Both of these will further boost vitamin C’s benefits.

WHAT NOT TO MIX WITH VITAMIN C FOR SKIN CARE

1. Alpha Hydroxy and Beta Hydroxy Acids

Ingredients like salicylic acid, glycolic acid and lactic acid can change the pH of your vitamin C product, essentially making it less effective. 

So, rather than layer these ingredients, it’s best to use them at separate times.

Now, having said that, you may be thinking “why do some brands sell products that contain vitamin C and AHAs or BHAs?”

It’s important to remember that those products are formulated for everything to work together, at the proper pH.

It’s a different scenario from layering individual products at home that contain those same ingredients.

2. Benzoyl Peroxide

Benzoyl could potentially oxidize vitamin C and subsequently, make vitamin C less effective.

To avoid this, use them at separate times or days in your routine. 

CAN I MIX NIACINAMIDE WITH VITAMIN C?

Although it was once believed that niacinamide and vitamin C are a no-no combination, the truth is that they can be used together…under the right circumstances!

In order to understand how you can use them together, let’s quickly look at why pairing them used to be a big no-no.

It all stems from old research showing that vitamin C and niacinamide produced nicotinic acid (which is a skin irritant).

However, the thing with that old study is that it used pure ascorbic acid (which is notoriously unstable) and niacinamide at high temperatures.

Nowadays, we have more stable forms of vitamin C that minimize the concerns about a bad interaction with niacinamide.

Furthermore, the temperatures in which most people live is not as high as the temperature used in that study. 

Therefore, the heat required to drive that chemical reaction is less likely to happen in real life.

Tips for combining vitamin C and niacinamide

  • You can either use a product that is formulated with both ingredients or you can layer separate products.
  • If you go with the layering option, just follow the basic rules of layering and apply the heavier or oil-based product last.
  • Lastly, if you’re still worried about the potential production of nicotinic acid, use a vitamin C derivative (such as sodium ascorbyl phosphate, magnesium ascorbyl phosphate and tetrahexyldecyl ascorbate) instead of ascorbic acid. These derivatives are gentler on the skin (and also, more stable than ascorbic acid)

CAN YOU MIX VITAMIN C AND RETINOL TOGETHER?

When it comes to combining vitamin C and retinol, the main thing to know is that layering them could cause serious irritation. So rather than layer them, follow these basic guidelines:

  • Some research shows that combining antioxidants – such as vitamin C – with retinoids, could actually boost the antioxidant’s protective properties. So, based on this, you could actually see better results by using them together (as long as your skin is okay with it).
  • To reduce the risk of irritation, use vitamin C and retinol at different times of the day (or even on alternate days). In general, vitamin C is suitable for the daytime while retinol is better at night.
  • If you want to use vitamin C and retinol at the same time, then reach for a product that is formulated with both (like this Naturium Vitamin C Super Serum Plus). An all–in-one formula simplifies things because the pH of the formula has been optimized for your skin and for the individual ingredients. It’s a safer option than layering separate products at home (though it’s still not a guarantee that your skin will like the combination).

FAQs ABOUT WHAT YOU CAN AND CANNOT COMBINE WITH VITAMIN C SERUM

Can I mix vitamin C with other serums?

Vitamin C serum can be used with other serums, as long as they don’t contain ingredients that shouldn’t be combined with vitamin C (such as AHAs and BHAs). Since vitamin C is considered a treatment serum, it’s best combined with a hydrating serum that has ingredients like hyaluronic acid.

Also, keep in mind that when layering serums, you should apply the one that is most important for your skin first.

So, if your primary goal is to improve hyperpigmentation, apply your vitamin C serum first, then any other serum you have.

On the other hand, if hydration is your primary goal, then apply your hydrating serum first.

Can I use vitamin C in the morning and retinol at night?

Using retinol at night is a good idea since it’s known for increasing photosensitivity. As for vitamin C, it can be used in the morning along with a sun protectant.

Can I use niacinamide, hyaluronic acid and vitamin C together?

Niacinamide and hyaluronic acid can be used with vitamin C, either individually or together.

Can I use vitamin C serum, hyaluronic acid and retinol together?

Hyaluronic acid and retinol can be used with vitamin C. Just make sure to follow guidelines above when it comes to incorporating retinol and vitamin C in the same beauty routine.

CONCLUSION

Overall, vitamin C plays well with hyaluronic acid, carrier oils and gentle antioxidants like vitamin E.

Avoid layering it with exfoliating acids or strong acne treatments like benzoyl peroxide. For these ingredients, it’s best to use them at different times of the day (or alternate days).

pin image for what to mix with vitamin C serum

You Might Also Like:

Best Vitamin C Serums for Rosacea (To Soothe Redness and Inflammation)

Vitamin C vs Squalane: Benefits and How to Use Them for Radiant Skin

Best Vitamin C Serums for Dry Skin

How To Choose The Best Vitamin C Serum: A Step by Step Guide

Vitamin C Serum vs Rosehip Oil: Benefits, Which Is Better and How To Use

Best Vitamin C Serum For Sensitive Skin: 5 Products to Unlock Your Natural Glow

Vitamin C Serum Vs Aloe Vera Gel: Which Is Better for Clear Skin?

Sharing is caring!