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Vitamin C Before or After Hyaluronic Acid? Here’s the Real Answer

by Yu-Jun Park 07 Mar 2024

In the vibrant world of skincare, where potions and lotions claim their fame, there lies a query as old as time.

Or at least as old as the skincare community's obsession with radiant, dewy skin. 

The question at hand: Which goes first, hyaluronic acid or vitamin C?

This isn't just about slathering on the newest products or following trends; it's about understanding the science of skin, maximizing benefits, and truly giving your skin the love and attention it deserves.

Which goes first: hyaluronic acid or vitamin C?

Short version? IF you’re using them separately (yep, serums that combine the two are a total ninja move), apply vitamin C first. After cleansing, of course.

For those following the dual approach, this maximizes the benefits of both.

See, hyaluronic acid actually attracts and retains up to a thousand times its weight in water! Think of it as your skin having a really good thirst quench. A hydration party, if you will. 

On the molecular level, here’s why these two are such a top-notch tag team. 

Vitamin C has a low molecular weight, meaning it can easily penetrate the skin's surface layers. However, with its hydrophilic (water-loving) nature, it needs a moist environment to best do its magic. 

Hyaluronic acid, on the other hand, operates in the liminal space between the inside and outside of your skin’s cells, creating a protective, moisturizing barrier. It lays down the perfect topcoat for the smaller, nimble Vitamin C molecules to get down into the dermis layer and get to work.

Are you with us so far? Great! Let’s go through the sequence again: cleansed face - vitamin C - then comes hyaluronic acid. 

Why not the other way around?

Glad you asked.

Here's the simplicity of it - if you were to put hyaluronic acid on first, you'd essentially be setting up a hydration barrier on your skin. 

Yes, hyaluronic acid can penetrate the skin, but it's much coarser than the petite vitamin C molecules. So, if it goes first, the vitamin C likely won't get through as much as it should, leaving you with less than optimal results. 

Think of this process as inviting guests into your home. You're not going to usher your guests into the living room and then drench it all in your favorite fragrance, right? Instead, you'd want the scent molecules (our vitamin C) to penetrate the air first, then invite your guests (hyaluronic acid) in to lock in the scent.

There are, of course, other factors that play a role in how well these ingredients absorb into your skin, such as pH levels and product formulation. 

For instance, the concentration of Vit C in skin-care products lies somewhere between 10%-20% for optimal effects, and hyaluronic acid works best in formulations with a pH of 5.5 to 6. 

But let's not get lost in the sauce; the fundamental takeaway is simple: vitamin C first, then hyaluronic acid.

To sum things up, when you’re lining up your skincare troops in the morning or at night, Vitamin C is your “vanguard”, charging in first to neutralize free radicals and brighten your complexion; hyaluronic acid is your “rear-guard”, attentively sealing in the vitamin C and replenishing your skin’s hydration levels.

So the next time you're faced with the conundrum of the sequencing of your skincare products, remember this little mnemonic (side note? That’s a totally fascinating topic):

“C comes before H in your ABCs. Likewise, vitamin C comes before hyaluronic in your skincare routine”.

Isn’t skincare fun? Especially when you know what you're doing!

What order do you apply vitamin C serum?

Got your vitamin C serum handy? Great! 

But you're likely wondering, in the long lineup of skincare performers, when is it time for this particular star to step into the spotlight? 

Well, sit back and stow away your curiosity, because we've broken down the science to provide a step-by-step guide bursting with helpful detail.

Imagine, if you will, a symphony of skincare. Like any well-composed masterpiece, it follows a certain order. 

This principle extends to your skincare routine too. Every product, from your light-as-air toner to your heavy-hitting moisturizer, has a particular spot reserved just for it. 

In this lineup, your vitamin C serum is like that tantalizing saxophone solo—it has got its specific cue and is not to be rushed or delayed! 

Start by setting the stage with squeaky-clean skin. This simply can't be emphasized enough. Cleansing is the fundamental act that removes dirt and excess oils, making way for your other products to do their magic. 

Your cleanser should be followed up with lukewarm water—avoiding a scalding or icy shock to your delicate skin cells.

This lukewarm water is, incidentally, the perfect temperature to loosen up any residual grime without stripping away your skin's natural oils—a process known as transepidermal water loss.

Next, cue the toner. This unsung hero is often overlooked or misunderstood, with many people opting to skip it altogether. This is a pity, because toners serve to rebalance your skin's pH levels after cleansing. 

Moreover, toners also act as a primer for the rest of your skincare routine, perfectly prepping your skin to absorb all the goodness to come. Imagine your skin as a sponge; a toner makes it damp and ready to soak up the next layers of skincare.

Now, with your skin suitably primed, it's time for your vitamin C serum (always easier if it’s blended with hyaluronic acid!) to make its grand entrance. 

Savor this moment. Revel in the refreshing, citrusy goodness as you lightly pat (no rubbing, please!) just a few drops of the serum into your skin. 

Remember, vitamin C serum, being a potent antioxidant, works to neutralize harmful free radicals from the environment and brightens your complexion. This liquid gold—or should we say, liquid orange—deserves a place of honor in your skincare routine.

Your routine doesn't end with the serum, though. Oh no. Next up are your thicker potions, like spot treatments or eye creams, while your moisturizer gets the final bow, locking in all the products you've applied. It is, essentially, the encore of your skincare show.

Remember, you're the conductor of your skincare orchestra. Every product, including your vitamin C serum, plays a vital part in creating a symphony of rejuvenation for your skin. 

By following this specific order, you're enabling each product to absorb properly and perform at its best. 

Now that's some food (or serum) for thought.

Is it better to use vitamin C serum at night or in the morning?

The good news? It isn’t a make-or-break deal either way — so whichever you prefer, you’re covered.

Let's break this down.

Under the bright sun: The morning case

Start your day off right with a morning burst of Vitamin C. 

Think of it like this: Vitamin C is your morning alarm clock invigorating your skin out of its slumber. Not only does it promote collagen production to keep your skin looking plump and youthful, but it also plays a hefty role in protecting your lovely face from potential harm. 

This delightful serum shields your skin from environmental aggressors that often show up uninvited — city smog, dastardly dust, and pesky pollution. It's an antioxidant powerhouse, neutralizing free radicals before they can wreak havoc on your skin cells.

And let's not forget about the sun. 

The pivotal role of Vitamin C is a protective barrier against harmful UV rays (always alongside your dear SPF, because no superhero flies solo). 

It reduces the potential for sun damage—an essential facet of preventing premature aging and reducing skin cancer risks. 

That's a pretty major perk for your morning routine, wouldn't you say?

When the moon shines: The night case

As night falls, your skin begins its restoration process—a crucial time for regeneration and repair. 

Luckily, vitamin C’s moonlight shift helps facilitate this process. 

Working undercover while you're catching your z's, it expedites wound healing, reduces inflammation, and lightens dark spots. 

Less external interference during the night allows Vitamin C to better tackle those already-formed free radicals with fewer interruptions. 

Better yet, as your skin naturally loses more water when you're asleep, a vitamin C serum can lock in much-needed hydration. 

If you've had a day full of exposure to environmental aggressors or a little more sun than you had banked on, a nightly application of Vitamin C serum may prove valuable to your skin health. 

It all aids in replenishing and rejuvenating to give you a refreshed, brightened look by the time your alarm clock rudely awakens you.

So, morning or night?

Think of your skin as a city. 

Daytime is all about safeguarding and defense–the Vitamin C patrolling as a dutiful protector warding off threats. 

Night time centers around repair work and rejuvenation–and Vitamin C steps in as the diligent janitor cleaning up the mess.

In essence, both morning and night time applications have their unique and significant benefits. It's not a competition per se; rather, it's about tuning in to your skin's needs, lifestyle factors, and personal preferences.

Still, whichever you choose, remember this golden rule: Consistency is key. An occasional dab of Vitamin C serum isn't going to cut it. Regular application is where the true benefits of Vitamin C serum come into play. 

The choice is yours, skincare explorer. Whether you infuse Vitamin C into your morning or night time routine, or dare to do both, remember that your skin says a hearty thank you every time that serum sinks in.

What to layer on top of vitamin C serum?

So, you've mastered the vitamin C serum application, have you? 

Fantastic first step there! 

The gleam of confidence illuminating your skin discerns it all; but are you privy to the grand panacea of skincare mastery? 

The secret lies in the correct layering of the skincare products following your vitamin C serum application. 

Will it be your trusty moisturizer up next? You've got that right!

But before we launch into our sequence of layering, let's unravel the science behind it. 

By layering skincare products in the appropriate order, you allow each product to penetrate your skin and deliver its full benefits. It's like making sure each player in an orchestra gets their solo moment to shine!

Now, onwards to the next in our roles of layering – the time-honored and cherished moisturizer. 

Its role? To fortify the skin's barrier, making it resilient, and delivering an energetic burst of hydration to your skin. 

After allowing your vitamin C serum to absorb for a brief moment, gently pat your chosen moisturizer onto your skin. Visualize it as wrapping your skin in a cozy, protective blanket that seals in the vitamin C serum's benefits. 

And after that? If your skincare routine is the entrée, then SPF is surely the dessert - you just can't do without it during daylight hours. 

Adorning sunscreen as the final layer provides a protective shield against the ruthless sun, blocking UV rays from sabotaging your vitamin C serum's effects. Because no skincare superhero is armed enough to fend off the brutal onslaught of unchecked sun exposure. 

Hence, the SPF guardian is a must!

But above all? Skincare is an intimate tango, as personal as your favorite Tiramisu variant and forgiving of all your miss-steps. 

So refine your routine; modify it; heck, even revolutionize it if need be! This is your skin's symphony, and you're the conductor. 

Play the notes, decode the rhythms, and break into a skin-glowing crescendo, my skincare maestros!

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