The Power of Vitamin C: Effects When Combined with Peptides, Retinol, Niacinamide, or Acids

Combining Vitamin C with other active ingredients can create powerful skincare formulas that target various skin concerns. Here’s what happens when Vitamin C shares a bottle with peptides, retinol, niacinamide, or acids:

Vitamin C + Retinol

This combination works wonders on skin firmness (making it denser) and provides a noticeable brightening effect. Retinol prefers a neutral pH (5-6), so it’s often paired with stable forms of Vitamin C like Tetrahexyldecyl Ascorbate, which is effective for pigmentation at concentrations as low as 5% and thrives at pH 6.


  • Kate Somerville +Retinol Vita C Power Serum
  • StriVectin Super-C Retinol Brighten & Correct Vitamin C Serum
  • Obagi Professional-C Serum 20% + Retinol

Vitamin C + Peptides

This classic anti-aging combo is popular in eye serums, offering lightening and smoothing effects on fine lines. These products typically use stable forms of Vitamin C such as Ascorbyl Tetraisopalmitate and 3-O-Ethyl Ascorbic Acid, which are less likely to cause irritation and are suitable for the delicate peri-orbital area.


  • Dr. Dennis Gross C+ Collagen Brighten & Firm Vitamin C Serum
  • Algenist Genius Ultimate Anti-Aging Vitamin C+ Serum
  • Paula’s Choice C15 Super Booster

Vitamin C + AHA/BHA

This duo provides an instant visual improvement (primarily due to the acids), cleaner pores, and that coveted glow. Unstable forms of Vitamin C like Ascorbic Acid are often used here because they, like acids, prefer a low pH. When enhanced with penetration enhancers like Ethoxydiglycol and Dimethyl Isosorbide, the effects are amplified.


  • CosRx AHA BHA Vitamin C Booster Serum
  • Murad Vitamin C Glycolic Brightening Serum
  • Ole Henriksen Truth Serum
  • Drunk Elephant T.L.C. Framboos Glycolic Night Serum

Vitamin C + Niacinamide

Once a controversial combination due to a misinterpretation of a 1960s study, this pairing is now known for its potent brightening effect and ability to address post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation.


  • Mary&May Niacinamide Vitamin C Brightening Mask
  • Naturium Vitamin C Complex Serum
  • Glow Recipe Pineapple-C Bright Serum

These combinations maximize the benefits of each ingredient, providing targeted solutions for various skin concerns. Whether you’re aiming to brighten, firm, or clear your skin, these synergistic formulas are worth considering.