Vitamin C for the Skin

citrus with vitamin c

Nowadays, vitamin C is an indispensable part of a good skincare routine for the face, especially for those over 30. Vitamin C can be applied to the face in creams, serums, solutions, and under-eye products. It clears blemishes and dark spots, makes the skin glow, stimulates collagen production, and helps combat aging.

Even though everyone talks about the benefits of vitamin C for your face, many questions still remain when it comes to using it. If I use vitamin C products, should I stop using retinol? Should I apply them in the morning or evening? Can vitamin C help with my acne scars? You’ll find all the answers throughout this article.

Key Ideas

  • Vitamin C is essential for a facial routine because it keeps your skin firm and glowing. It also helps prevent wrinkles, clears up blemishes, and delays skin aging.
  • Vitamin C can be applied to the face in creams, serums, solutions, and under-eye products. Products with a concentration of 5% to 20% vitamin C are effective and non-irritating for most skin types.
  • The older you are, the more your skin will benefit from vitamin C. However, vitamin C facial products are also recommended for anyone undergoing a great deal of stress and anyone overexposed to the sun.

What You Need to Know About Using Vitamin C on Your Face

Many skincare products have an excellent formula but fail to produce desired results due to misuse. There are several general recommendations for the proper use of vitamin C products on the face; these will help you make the most of their anti-aging properties.

girl on a pool with oranges
Vitamin C is essential for a facial routine because it keeps your skin firm and glowing. (Source: Buscher: ecjid00ajqs/ Unsplash.com)

What Are the Benefits of Vitamin C Skincare Products?

Vitamin C offers a wide variety of benefits to the skin and face, but most consumers use it to turn back aging and revitalise the skin. Let’s review in brief the positive effects that applying vitamin C can have on your face: 

  • Vitamin C is a natural antioxidant which combats the oxidative skin damage that accelerates aging. This damage is created by free radicals, whose production is stimulated by sun exposure, stress, and tobacco (1).
  • Daily use of vitamin C promotes collagen synthesis. It helps prevent wrinkles from appearing, as well as reducing the depth of existing wrinkles (2).
  • Vitamin C helps lighten dark spots and clear up blemishes, especially those related to age or unprotected sun exposure. It also improves the appearance of acne scars (1, 3, 4).
  • If your skin is dull and sallow, vitamin C provides glow and removes that tired appearance. 
  • Vitamin C’s antioxidant activity also makes it an ideal ingredient to neutralise the negative effects of air pollution on the skin (5).

What Types of Vitamin C Skincare Products Are There? 

Before delving deeper into how to use vitamin C on your face, let’s explore the various products you’ll find on the market, from creams and serums to under-eye gels. Although they all contain active forms of vitamin C (ascorbic acid or magnesium ascorbyl phosphate), they differ widely:

  • Vitamin C Solution: You may find vitamin C sold in dark glass vials which tend to contain approximately 2 ml of vitamin C in a liquid solution. The concentration of vitamin C in these vials tends to be 5 to 20%. These solutions provide a revitalising, illuminating, and firming effect which can be noticed almost immediately. 
  • Vitamin C Creams: Typically, these are moisturisers with vitamin C added, recommended for daily use.
  • Vitamin C Serums: Three to five drops of serum can be applied to the face, leading to noticeable results after four weeks of use. Their vitamin C concentration tends to be 20%. The most concentrated serums, with 25 to 30% vitamin C, may irritate the skin. Just like solutions, serums should have an acidic pH of 3.5 to 5 so that the vitamin C can penetrate the skin.
  • Vitamin C Under-Eye Products: Vitamin C helps firm up the under-eye area and reduce wrinkles. These tend to contain hyaluronic acid or proteoglycans to promote skin hydration.
aplicando crema en la piel
Vitamin C can be applied to the face in creams, serums, solutions, and under-eye products. (Source: Pixie: txbq7ylj6ju/ Unsplash.com)

How Should Vitamin C Be Used on the Face?

For a healthier face, simply buying vitamin C is not enough. Products must be used appropriately to achieve desired results like reducing wrinkles, illuminating the skin, and lightening blemishes. In our opinion, these are the most important suggestions and warnings when it comes to vitamin C skincare:

Recommendations for Vitamin C Skincare ProductsWarnings for Vitamin C Skincare Products
  • Wash and dry your face and neck thoroughly before applying vitamin C.
  • For best results, vitamin C should be used in the morning as part of a daily skincare routine.
  • Avoid using too much product and make sure that it’s fully absorbed.
  • If you use a vitamin C solution or serum, consider applying moisturiser and sunscreen once the product is absorbed. If you use a vitamin C cream, you can skip directly to the sunscreen. 
  • Ascorbic acid is the most potent form of vitamin C, but there are other compounds better suited for sensitive skin, such as magnesium ascorbyl phosphate. 
  • Vitamin C solutions and serums offer the best anti-aging results: they firm up, clear, and illuminate skin. Their pH should be 3.5 to 5, and the ideal vitamin C concentration falls within the 10 to 20% range.
  • When buying vitamin C facial products, choose products with dark packaging. This stops sunlight from removing significant amounts of the vitamin.
  • Vitamin C skincare formulations with hyaluronic acid and/or proteoglycans are ideal for dry skin types, as they are extremely hydrating. 
  • Combining vitamin C with ferulic acid maximises its antioxidant activity and boosts collagen production. This combination is recommended for aging skin types.
  • If you have sensitive skin or suffer from rosacea, acne, or psoriasis, always ask a dermatologist before using vitamin C on your face. Professionals will tell you what concentration and pH a product ought to have to be safe for your skin.
  • Avoid applying too much vitamin C to your face. Used in excess, it can cause mild skin peeling.
  • Though topical vitamin C is extremely safe, it may cause redness, irritation, and a burning sensation. If you experience any of these side effects, stop using the product. 
  • If a vitamin C product has a yellowish colour, this indicates the vitamin C has oxidised, meaning its effects will be weaker.

 

Are Vitamin C Skincare Products Compatible with Sunscreen?

They’re more than compatible – using both is necessary, as vitamin C is not a replacement for sunscreen. Though vitamin C does oxidative damage and lighten sun spots, it does not block ultraviolet rays. Once a vitamin C cream, serum, or solution has been absorbed into the skin, apply sunscreen (2).

At What Age Should You Start Using Vitamin C?

You can use vitamin C as part of your skincare as early as 20 years old, but this vitamin becomes truly indispensable after turning 30. Remember that vitamin C doesn’t just prevent wrinkles and lighten blemishes – it also lends the skin a glowing, healthy appearance.

Is Vitamin C Better Than Retinol for Skincare? 

The truth is that neither is better than the other; they complement each other. Retinol (vitamin A) stimulates skin regeneration. Much like vitamin C, it’s one of the most popular ingredients in anti-aging products. Retinol also has wrinkle-reducing and blemish-clearing effects (6, 7).

There is a myth that you cannot mix vitamin C and retinol because their effects cancel one another out. This supposedly could cause itching or irritation. However, this idea is neither confirmed nor disproved. Many dermatology and cosmetology specialists recommend applying vitamin C in the morning followed by retinol at night. 

guy applying some creams
Products with 5 to 20% vitamin C concentration are effective and non-irritating for most skin types. (Source: Lumin: bi7eefanj1q/ Unsplash.com)

Are Homemade Face Masks with Vitamin C Effective? 

There are various recipes for homemade vitamin C face masks. They tend to contain natural ingredients like orange, lemon, and kiwi which provide both vitamin C and a certain degree of acidity – which facilitates ascorbic acid absorption. Their popularity is growing thanks to the boom in natural cosmetics.

The problem with homemade vitamin C skincare products is that it’s extremely difficult to estimate the mask’s concentration and acidity. They may cause redness and irritation if you have sensitive skin or any chronic skin condition.

Do Oral Vitamin C Supplements Work as Skincare?

Ingesting vitamin C promotes collagen formation, maintains the immune system, and increases the absorption of non-heme iron (found in vegetables and egg yolks). Though vitamin C taken orally does have antioxidant properties, topical vitamin C is far more beneficial for the skin thanks to its anti-blemish, illuminating, and firming properties (1, 8).

Though liquid vitamin C supplements taken orally do exist, they should never be applied to the skin. They are not formulated for topical use and may cause redness, irritation, burning, and peeling. 

Our Conclusions 

There can be no doubt about vitamin C’s benefits for your face, but its success in your skincare routine depends on proper usage. Vitamin C creams, serums, and solutions are best used in the morning on a clean face. After applying these ingredients, remember to use sunscreen. 

Consistency is key when using vitamin C to reduce wrinkles, lighten skin spots, and remove that dull look from your skin. Though topical vitamin C is extremely safe, it’s always wise to ask a dermatology or cosmetology professional which product is best for your skin.

Now that you know how to incorporate vitamin C into your skincare, tell us about your experiences with this cosmetic ingredient! Plus, don’t forget to share this article on social media.

References (8)

1. Telang P. Vitamin C in dermatology. 2013.
Source

2. Pullar J, Carr A, Vissers M. The Roles of Vitamin C in Skin Health. 2017.
Source

3. Costa Caritá A et al. Vitamin C: One compound, several uses. Advances for delivery, efficiency and stability. 2020.
Source

4. Farris P. Topical Vitamin C: A Useful Agent for Treating Photoaging and Other Dermatologic Conditions. 2005.
Source

5. Milani M, Hashtroody B, Piacentini M, Celleno L. Skin protective effects of an antipollution, antioxidant serum containing Deschampsia antartica extract, ferulic acid and vitamin C: a controlled single-blind, prospective trial in women living in urbanized, high air pollution area. 2019.
Source

6. Bellemère G et al. Antiaging Action of Retinol: From Molecular to Clinical. 2009.
Source

7. Zasada M, Budzisz. Retinoids: active molecules influencing skin structure formation in cosmetic and dermatological treatments. 2019.
Source

8. Gallagher M. Los nutrientes y su metabolismo. En: Mahan L, Escott-Stump S. Krause. Dietoterapia (Edición 12). 2008. Elsevier Masson.
Source

Scientific article
Telang P. Vitamin C in dermatology. 2013.
Go to source
Scientific article
Pullar J, Carr A, Vissers M. The Roles of Vitamin C in Skin Health. 2017.
Go to source
Scientific article
Costa Caritá A et al. Vitamin C: One compound, several uses. Advances for delivery, efficiency and stability. 2020.
Go to source
Scientific article
Farris P. Topical Vitamin C: A Useful Agent for Treating Photoaging and Other Dermatologic Conditions. 2005.
Go to source
Clinical trial
Milani M, Hashtroody B, Piacentini M, Celleno L. Skin protective effects of an antipollution, antioxidant serum containing Deschampsia antartica extract, ferulic acid and vitamin C: a controlled single-blind, prospective trial in women living in urbanized, high air pollution area. 2019.
Go to source
Scientific article
Bellemère G et al. Antiaging Action of Retinol: From Molecular to Clinical. 2009.
Go to source
Scientific article
Zasada M, Budzisz. Retinoids: active molecules influencing skin structure formation in cosmetic and dermatological treatments. 2019.
Go to source
Book
Gallagher M. Los nutrientes y su metabolismo. En: Mahan L, Escott-Stump S. Krause. Dietoterapia (Edición 12). 2008. Elsevier Masson.
Go to source
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