Can You Use Vitamin C Serum After Salicylic Acid Cleanser In Your Routine?

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If you are into skincare, then you are probably familiar with the rules that follow layering and application. However, can you use vitamin C serum after salicylic acid cleanser?

As you know, these two skincare ingredients are highly effective acids, and you can find them in most skin cleansing and rejuvenating products.

Moreover, due to their high potency, they do not blend well with other equally potent ingredients. Consequently, knowing if they match on the blending table, will your skin be safe with these ingredients over another?

I will be treating this issue to expand your skincare knowledge and how to safely layer skincare ingredients for the best results.

What is vitamin C?

Vitamin C, also known as ascorbic acid, is an essential vitamin found in fruits and some vegetables. The vitamin is consumed and applied to the skin to improve and enhance the skin’s health.

One of the reasons vitamin C stands out is its antioxidant properties, which help the immune system, and protects the skin.

For skincare, vitamin C plays an important role in improving skin texture, fighting free radicals, stimulating skin cell regeneration, and brightening the skin complexion. These features make vitamin C a one-of-a-kind ingredient in skincare products.

Furthermore, it helps reduces aging signs and spots by repairing skin tissues. Consequently, vitamin C is one of the most potent ingredients for skincare.

What is salicylic acid?

Salicylic acid is a Beta Hydroxy Acid (BHA) known for exfoliating the skin. The acid is part of the acids effective (salicylates) in removing and treating the skin for different reasons. It is derived from the willow bark but can also be synthesized in the lab.

While the acid is acid based and potent, it is an over-the-counter ingredient. Salicylic acid works to exfoliate the skin, treat acne, spots, hyperpigmentation, and the usual cleansing of the skin.

A feature that makes salicylic acid stand out is its oil-soluble feature (which makes it fall under the BHA category). It can penetrate the skin easily due to the separation of hydroxyl and acid by two carbon atoms.

It also works to unclog skin pores and remove debris, making it suitable for cleansing and exfoliating. Therefore, you will find this acid a major ingredient in cleansers and exfoliating products.

Can you use vitamin C after salicylic acid?

Yes, you can.

If you find yourself with a salicylic acid cleanser and a vitamin C serum, you can use the salicylic acid cleanser first, then apply vitamin C serum.

While it is advised you use the ingredients in separate routines, it is possible to use the highly potent ingredients after the other.

Salicylic acid works well with vitamin C and even makes skin penetration easier. Due to its effectiveness in exfoliating – unclogging the pores and peeling off the ‘glue’ between debris, dead skin cell, or residue – it makes penetration of vitamin C possible.

This, in turn, improves the efficacy of vitamin C on the skin, thereby improving skin results.

Furthermore, salicylic acid works to remove acne and whiteheads. As a cleanser, it reduces the oil and dead skin cells lodged in the pores, thereby keeping it clean and free of reactions like whiteheads.

Can you use vitamin C after salicylic acid cleanser at night?

Yes, you can.

You can use vitamin C serum after applying your salicylic acid cleanser. It is true vitamin C works better during the day, when it gets to protect and fights free radicals attacking the skin.

However, using vitamin C at night before you sleep helps to prep your skin for the next day.

Therefore, while you remove dead skin and debris from the day using a salicylic acid cleanser, apply your vitamin C product to rejuvenate and fortify your skin for the next day.

What happens if you use vitamin C serum after salicylic acid cleanser?

If you correctly apply vitamin C and salicylic acid to your skin, you should see the following benefits:

  • Cleared pores
  • Brighter skin
  • Improved skin complexion and pigmentation
  • Reduced wrinkles and fine lines
  • Reduced acne, blackheads, and whiteheads
  • Reduced spots and scars
  • Improved skin texture
vitamin C serum salicylic acid cleanser

How to Use Vitamin C after salicylic acid cleanser

If you want to layer a vitamin C product with a salicylic cleanser, it starts with cleansing your skin. Follow these steps in applying these acids (this is for a morning routine):

  • Start by applying the salicylic acid cleanser to your face. You can use a cotton pad or your hands.
  • Wash the cleanser completely off your face.
  • Apply a face toner to remove leftover residue and dead skin cells. Wait for the toner to dry completely.
  • If you are using a vitamin C serum, apply using your hands. Sprinkle drops on your forehead, cheeks, and neck.
  • Massage the serum thoroughly into your skin.
  • Leave the serum to dry for about two minutes.
  • Move to your spot treatment.
  • Apply eye cream
  • Apply moisturizer
  • Finish up with sunscreen.

For your night routine, you can also follow these steps. However, skip sunscreen because you are not going under the sun.  

Can you use vitamin C after salicylic acid cleanser and niacinamide?

While these skincare ingredients work well together, it’s best to use them separately from each other, especially niacinamide and salicylic acid. These ingredients have varying pH levels that can cancel each other.

Niacinamide has a pH level of 7, which counters the pH level of salicylic acid (between 3-5) and vitamin C (between 3-4). Using ingredients with a difference of 2.0 pH level is detrimental to the skin. It can cause an imbalance.

Moreover, it is best to use ingredients with a pH level close to the skin’s 4.7. However, using high pH level ingredients like niacinamide will help to balance the skin’s pH level (required is between 5-6).

Consequently, you cannot layer niacinamide, vitamin C, and salicylic acid. It creates an imbalance, which, in turn, could lead to reactions like redness and irritation on the skin.

Can you combine vitamin C and salicylic acid?

You will find skincare products with both vitamin C and salicylic acid as active ingredients, so it’s safe to say you can use products with both ingredients. However, do not mix the products.

For instance, mixing vitamin C serum and salicylic acid serum could cause adverse effects like burning sensations, irritations, and redness on the face.

Rather, layer the products, with salicylic acid coming first to clean and clear the pores, and vitamin C following to penetrate easily.

Are there any side effects of using vitamin C and salicylic acid?

You can get skin irritations if you do not use your products, as you should. For instance, vitamin C always comes before salicylic acid. If you use vitamin C before the BHA acid, you will cancel out the effects of the vitamin C and possibly irritate your skin further.

Additionally, using them wrongly can cause common skincare side effects like irritation, redness, and even breakouts. It’s best to follow product instructions before using any. This prevents the increased reaction you do not want.


Does vitamin C burn your skin?

No, it shouldn’t.

You can experience burning sensations from using vitamin C due to the wrong formula, wrong application, or wrong product. Also, you can experience it if you are using the product for the first time and your skin tries to purge your skin.

However, vitamin C should not burn your skin. If it does, check the formula and ingredients to see if they are harmful compounds or components not suitable for your skin.

Does salicylic acid burn your skin?

No, it shouldn’t.

Salicylic acid is not supposed to burn your skin. You can experience a burning sensation if your skin is purging old compounds in the skin or if you are using the wrong product. Nonetheless, it is safe to use the BHA component.

What skin type best suits vitamin C and salicylic acid?

Oily skin. Oily skin is best suitable for these tag ingredients. They help remove excess oil, reduce acne, unclog pores, and reduce whiteheads and blackheads.


You can use vitamin C serum, spot treatment, or moisturizer after using a salicylic acid cleanser. The ingredients go well together, despite being acids. Furthermore, they are a tag team for clearness and rejuvenation.

Moreover, you can use them in your morning or nighttime routine. As long as you use the products properly with the right formula composition, you will get the best results in no time.

Thanks for reading.

You can get more helpful skincare guides here on Serum101.