How To Layer Vitamin C With Your Acids

Any skin savant knows what a powerful ingredient Vitamin C is for skin. That said, how to layer vitamin C can be a little less obvious. When you’re using a vitamin C serum like Pineapple-C Bright Serum — a potent brightener made of 22% pineapple juice, a potent source of natural vitamin C, natural AHAs, and bromelain enzymes — how can (or should) you apply your exfoliants and other active ingredients? To help you get the most out of all of your products, we’ve put together a handy guide to layering acids and Vitamin C. Here’s what you need to know.


In order to understand why acids and Vitamin C complement each other so well, it’s important to know what they both actually do.

Exfoliators come in two forms: physical and chemical. Most dermatologists prefer chemical exfoliators like Alpha-Hydroxy Acids (AHAs), Beta-Hydroxy Acids (BHAs), and Polyhydroxy Acids (PHAs). These acids are ideal for those fighting the good fight against acne. They tackle blemishes by dissolving the dirt, gunk, and dead skin cells underneath the surface of the skin that can clog pores and cause inflammation and infections.

Vitamin C serums like the Pineapple-C Bright Serum, on the other hand, work on top of your skin to brighten dull skin, fade acne scars and hyperpigmentation, and increase collagen production.


The pH of a product determines how acidic it is. Vitamin C, for example, ideally should have a pH between 2.0 to 4.0 in order to be the most effective. Your BHA should have a pH of 3.5, while you want a pH of 4 for your AHA.

The secret for how to layer Vitamin C with your acids is to apply them from lowest pH to the highest within a single category, like serums. We call this method CBA. It’s an easy to remember acronym for the exact order to use without you having to memorize pH levels. It means you apply your Vitamin C first, BHA second, and your AHA last. CBA — get it? For example, you would use the Pineapple-C Bright Serum, a BHA serum, and a serum with AHA last.

It’s important to pay attention to product pH and application order because when you ignore them, you run the risk of pairing your Vitamin C incorrectly, which renders it useless. No one wants to waste time or money on ineffective products.

One thing to note: this layering method works best when applied to a single category or step, like toners or serums. You’ll still want to use the products in your routine in the recommended order:

  • Oil-based cleanser
  • Water-based cleanser
  • Toner
  • Eye cream
  • Serum
  • Moisturizer
  • Sleeping Mask or SPF


Vitamin C, while amazing for the skin, is notoriously difficult to formulate. It’s sensitive to light and oxygen, meaning if not stored properly it can spoil. The hallmark sign is when your serum turns a dark orange or brown color. Once this happens, it’s time to discontinue use as your product will no longer be effective. We recommend storing your Vitamin C serums in a cool, dark place away from direct sunlight in order to avoid spoiling.


If your skin is not used to acids or you’ve never tried combining Vitamin C with BHA or AHA before, you’ll want to ease into it. Putting all three products on your skin right off the bat could cause irritation and redness. So work your way up to them. Start by applying just Vitamin C, every other day. Do this for a week and then add in your BHA. Once your skin can handle those two, it’s time to add in your AHA. If your skin reacts well to all three, you can keep it to an every other day schedule, or move on to using the combo every day. Keep in mind that you don’t want to go ahead and slather on all these products at once. Too much of a good thing too soon can lead to more skin problems, so do yourself and your skin a favor and take it slow.

If you are new to acids, PHAs are a great place to start. These acids work in the same way AHAs do, by sloughing away dead skin cells on the surface, but they have a larger molecule size. This means they penetrate the skin more slowly and help deter irritation, but are just as effective as their AHA cousins. We included PHAs in our Avocado Melt Retinol Sleeping Mask for gentle exfoliation without the risk of irritation.

Now that you know how to layer vitamin C, you’re just a CBA away from your clearest, glowiest complexion yet.

Keep reading about layering your actives:

Sorry, we couldn't find any posts. Please try a different search.