Vitamin C for Skin: Benefits + How to Use It for Best Results

Besides being our strongest ally in fighting against the flu, vitamin C can also make our skin fresh and glowing.

September 25, 2021 7 minutes read
Young woman holding a sliced orange

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Growing up, our parents made sure to educate us about all the great benefits of vitamin C. Eating oranges and grapefruits was a familiar routine whenever we felt under the weather.

As it turns out, vitamin C isn't only good for boosting our immune system and healing our bodies. It has also proven to be a powerful ingredient that can bring tired and dull skin back to life.

Over the recent years, vitamin C has become one of the most popular skincare ingredients and an anti-aging superstar, making the skin look smooth, healthy, and young-looking.

And, here's how!

What Is Vitamin C?

Vitamin C, also known as ascorbic acid or L-ascorbic acid, is a powerful antioxidant and an essential nutrient for tissue repair and fighting free radicals damage.

Free radicals are highly unstable and reactive particles from our environment that attack our cells and damage them. These are the main reason for oxidative stress and premature aging of the skin. Vitamin C stimulates the natural regenerative processes in the skin, preventing and repairing cell damage caused by free radicals [source].

sliced lemons, oranges, grapefruit

Young and healthy skin normally contains abundant amounts of vitamin C. However, due to age, unprotected sun exposure, and pollution, these levels deplete over time, leaving the skin looking dull and uneven.

However, the problem is that our bodies don't produce it naturally, and we can only replenish it through diet and supplements. But no matter how many oranges we eat daily, our skin will still reap the most incredible benefits from topical vitamin C skincare solutions [source].

Vitamin C Benefits for the Skin

Vitamin C is well tolerated by any skin type, and the majority of people can use it without any adverse effects. Some people with hyper-sensitive skin may experience minor irritations, but these cases are exceptionally rare.

vitamin c face serum

Adding vitamin C to your daily skincare routine, in the form of serums, creams, or masks, will drastically improve your skin condition. And here are some of the many benefits you can expect:

#1: It Stimulates Collagen Production.

Collagen is the most vital protein in our skin. We can look at it as our skin safety net or building blocks, providing structure, firmness, and plumpness to our skin.

With age, our body produces less and less collagen, and the skin starts sagging and showing more wrinkles and fine lines.

This is where vitamin C comes in. It will increase collagen synthesis in our skin and give it more elasticity and, thus, reduce the appearance of wrinkles and other signs of aging [source]. Our damaged and tired skin will be refreshed, hydrated, and most importantly, it will look plum and feel firm.

#2: It Helps With Hyperpigmentation.

When our skin is damaged due to sunburns or inflamed acne, the part of the healing process is triggering skin cells to create more melanin and, thus, prevent further damage. However, overproduction of melanin can cause age spots, sun spots, and melasma.

The topical application of vitamin C has been shown to reduce melanin production [source]. Therefore, it reduces and fades dark spots and leads to a brightened complexion.

#3: It Protects Against UV Damage.

Antioxidants help protect the skin against harmful UV rays, and therefore, prevent photoaging [source]. The UV radiation from sunlight causes the production of oxidative stress in our skin and the formation of free radicals that damage skin cells. Free radicals are molecules that miss one electron. Skin damage happens when free radicals rob skin cells of electrons.

As a potent antioxidant, vitamin C allots an electron to these free radicals, making them harmless and maintaining healthy skin cells.

#4: It Promotes Wound Healing.

Vitamin C accelerates cell turnover and has anti-inflammatory properties, promoting healthy wound healing with the risk of infection and scarring [source]. This means that, whether you suffer from acne or sunburn, your skin will recover quickly with the help of vitamin C.

#5: It Helps Even Out Your Skin Tone.

Again, thanks to its ability to speed up natural cell turnover as well as anti-inflammatory properties, vitamin C has proven to reduce redness and minimize pigmentation [source]. As a result, it leaves the skin brightened and radiant, with a complexion that's even in texture and tone.

How to Use Vitamin C in Your Skincare Routine

woman applying vitamin c face serum

To get the most out of your vitamin C skin care product, check out these tips and tricks on how and when to use it:

Tip #1: You Can Use It in the Morning and Evening.

Vitamin C products can be used twice a day, and you can incorporate them into both your morning and nighttime skincare routine.

However, bear in mind that it can become less effective when exposed to sunlight. So, if you use it as a part of your morning skincare routine, make sure to give it enough time to absorb before going outside. Also, it's essential to wear broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF 30 or higher.

Tip #2: Use It at the Right Point in Your Skincare Routine.

This will depend on the type of product you're using. If you're using a vitamin C serum, a good rule of thumb would be to apply it to freshly cleansed and toned skin and before your moisturizer.

However, if you already have a moisturizer with vitamin C in it, there's no need for the serum. In this case, apply your moisturizer as you normally would, at the end of your skincare routine but before your SPF in the morning.

Tip #3: Pay Attention to the Strength of Vitamin C in Your Product.

Vitamin C products come in a wide variety of strengths and concentrations. Those found in targeted serums and treatments typically have a concentration of 10% or higher. For uneven and dull complexion, you might want to go for 15% vitamin C serums or boosters that are lightweight. These have proven to be well-tolerated by most skin types.

However, if you're dealing with persistent dark spots and discoloration, you might benefit from higher vitamin C strength, such as 20% or even higher.

If you find your skin can't handle these higher concentrations, stick to lower strengths. Regular use will provide a cumulative effect, and after a while, you'll notice anti-aging and brightening benefits to the skin. Lower-concentrated vitamin C products will also enhance the performance of your other anti-aging treatments, like other antioxidants as well as ceramides.

Tip #4: Choose the Right Formulation.

If you're in search of a vitamin C skin care product, you are bound to find different formulations popping up everywhere. To find the right one for you, target those formulas that will be the most beneficial for your skin type.

Ascorbic acid or L-ascorbic acid is the most researched form of vitamin C for the skin. If appropriately formulated, with a PH between 2.5 and 3.2, it can do wonders for your skin, making it firmer, even-toned, smooth, and wrinkle-free.

vitamin c serum

However, other formulations, such as sodium ascorbyl phosphate, tetrahexyldecyl ascorbate, ascorbyl palmitate, and others, can also offer great benefits.

For oily skin, water-soluble and lighter formulations of vitamin C, such as sodium ascorbyl phosphate and L-ascorbic acid, are better suited. On the other hand, if you have dry and mature skin, you'll reap greater benefits from moisturizing serums and boosters with lipid-soluble formulations of vitamin C, such as tetrahexyldecyl ascorbate and ascorbyl palmitate.

Tip #5: Be Mindful of the Expiration Date and Packaging.

Vitamin C is naturally very reactive and unstable. If routinely exposed to air, heat, and light, it oxidizes and quickly loses its potency and antioxidant properties.

The shelf life of your vitamin C skin care product will depend on its formulation. But, generally, once opened, it will last between three to six months. Unopened products will last anywhere between one year and 18 months.

vitamin c serum in a dark glass bottle

Therefore, if you plan to use your vitamin C serum frequently, it's best to choose smaller packaging to avoid expiration. Also, to make sure it lasts as long as it should, your vitamin C product should be in an air-tight pump container or bottle that's opaque and dark in color. It would help if you also stored it at room temperature and dark place, away from sunlight.

The best sign your vitamin C serum or moisturizer is expired is the change of its color. Usually, vitamin C serums are pale yellow or colorless. Once oxidized, they tend to get darker yellow and even brown. Apart from slight yellow skin discoloration, an expired vitamin C product can't harm you; it just loses its potency and efficacy. However, if it darkened drastically, you should definitely get rid of it.

Tip #6: Don't Mix Vitamin C With Certain Skincare Ingredients.

Vitamin C can typically be used in conjunction with many other skincare ingredients without any adverse effects. It's also well-tolerated by most skin types. But if you have hypersensitive skin, you might want to skip it altogether, or at least avoid using it the night you're using a face scrub or exfoliating acid.

In addition, vitamin C shouldn't be mixed with benzoyl peroxide or soap-based cleansers. If used alongside these ingredients, vitamin C will oxidize and lose its potency. You can still use products that contain these ingredients, just not the same day you use vitamin C or as part of the same routine.

You should also avoid using a vitamin C serum together with retinoids, AHAs or BHAs, as it can increase the risk of irritation.

Tip #7: Do a Patch Test Before Full Application.

Although vitamin C has proven safe and well-tolerated by most people, some can be particularly sensitive to it and develop skin irritation and allergic reactions.

To make sure it's safe for you, do the following:

Step #1: Apply a small amount of product to a small area of your skin, something you can easily conceal with clothes, like the inner side of your forearm;

Step #2: Leave it on for 24 hours;

Step #3: If no irritation, rash, redness, or other side effects occur, it's safe to continue with full application. If you notice any of these uncomfortable effects, you should probably gift it to your mother or a friend (since it would be a waste to just throw it away).

If you already have sensitive skin, don't buy products that contain ascorbic acid or L-ascorbic acid in the first place. You'll likely fare better with products with magnesium ascorbyl phosphate instead.

orange slices arranged to from letter c


Whether you're dealing with blemishes, dark spots, or want to reduce signs of aging, including a vitamin C product in your daily skincare routine can help tremendously. It will improve your skin tone, texture, and firmness and give it that much-desired glow.

For maximum effect, pick the right concentration and formulation of a vitamin C product and be consistent. As with many other skincare products, regularity is the key if you want to achieve any results and improve your overall skin condition.


How does vitamin C help your skin?

Vitamin C has numerous benefits for your skin, such as anti-aging, helping with hyperpigmentation, protecting against pollutants and UV rays, supporting wound healing, and making your skin tone brighter and even.

Is it good to put vitamin C on your face?

Applying vitamin C-rich face serums and creams can help lighten your skin tone, remove dark spots, decrease wrinkles and fine lines. However, be mindful of the concentration of vitamin C in your product (the bigger the concentration, the better effect) and other active ingredients you use (some ingredients don't mesh well with vitamin C).

Which form of vitamin C is best for skin?

The most trusted and well-researched form of topical vitamin C is ascorbic acid or L-ascorbic acid. However, it needs to have a certain concentration and PH to get all the benefits from the product.

Does vitamin C lighten skin?

The topical application of vitamin C has been shown to regulate melanin production in your skin. As a result, it can help you if you're struggling with hyperpigmentation as it fades dark spots and, generally, leads to a lighter complexion.

Can I use vitamin C serum every day?

Yes, you can use your vitamin C skincare products every day. Just remember that it may lose its potency when exposed to the sun. So if you're applying vitamin C on your face as a part of your morning skincare routine, make sure to slather on your SPF.

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