Your body may get its daily dose of ascorbic acid through a tasty morning orange juice, high-quality multivitamin tablets, or potent vitamin C supplements you’re taking. However, there’s no scientific proof that those vitamins are actually reaching your skin.
So, the best way to feed your skin vitamin C is to put some directly on it. And by that, we don’t mean rubbing your skin with orange slices. Not all vitamin C serums are created equal, so here’s a detailed guide on choosing the best vitamin C for the face.
Why is Vitamin C Important in Skincare?
Vitamin C is incredibly beneficial to the skin. It protects it from harmful UV rays, pollution, and free radicals that speed up the process of aging. Moreover, it can slow down the production of melanin, which is essential for managing hyperpigmentation.
Basically, vitamin C helps your skin look and stay young, healthy, and bright for as long as it’s possible.
Benefits of Vitamin C Serum Products
Vitamin C does so much more for the skin than you can imagine. The benefits are practically endless, and some of them include:
- Hydration—one of vitamin C’s main derivatives, magnesium ascorbyl phosphate, has excellent skin-hydrating effects. It decreases water loss from the skin and helps it retain moisture better.
- Brightening—vitamin C gives skin a youthful glow by fading pigmentation (dark spots, sunspots, etc.), reducing dullness, and smoothing out its surface.
- Reduced redness—one of the lesser-known vitamin C serum for face benefits is that it soothes inflammation and redness while evening out the complexion.
- Lower melanin production—if your skin produces too much melanin, you can end up with sunspots, age spots, dark acne scars, and even melasma. Vitamin C slows down the production of this pigment, thus preventing and brightening already existing hyperpigmentation.
- Reduced under-eye dark circles—vitamin C can brighten the dark circles under your eyes, and plump up and hydrate the under-eye area, resulting in a more rested and younger look.
- Enhanced collagen production—collagen is a naturally occurring protein that depletes as we age. Vitamin C can boost its production and prevent early signs of fine lines and wrinkles.
- Preventing skin sagging—using vitamin C for the face can also make the skin firmer, give it more elasticity, and prevent sagging.
- Sun damage protection—vitamin C is packed with antioxidants that fight free radicals from UV rays and the environment.
- Sunburn soothing and wound healing—vitamin C can speed up cell turnover. That is, it quickly replaces damaged skin cells with healthy ones.
What to Look for in a Vitamin C Face Serum
Finding a good vitamin C serum is easy. Finding a good serum for your skin in particular—not so much! We mentioned that not all vitamin C serums are equal. You need to know what to look for to find the best one for your skin. Here’s some guidance:
Choose the Right Vitamin C Form
Vitamin C is available in many forms, but the best-known are:
- L-ascorbic acid
- sodium ascorbyl phosphate
- ascorbyl palmitate
- tetrahexyldecyl ascorbate
They’re all excellent and efficient—if you know how to use them. Don’t let the hard-to-pronounce names scare you—they’re easy to choose between.
L-ascorbic acid and sodium ascorbyl phosphate are water-soluble. They’re more likely to show up in a vitamin C serum for oily skin since they’re lighter.
On the contrary, ascorbyl palmitate and tetrahexyldecyl ascorbate are lipid-soluble (fat-soluble). They’re more suited for mature and dehydrated skin, as they’re excellent at plumping up and reviving dull skin.
Go for Tinted or Opaque Packaging
The packaging your serum comes in is almost as important as its ingredients. Vitamin C is highly sensitive to air, sun, and light exposure. If exposed, its molecules can break down quickly, and it’ll go bad.
The best vitamin C serums come in opaque glass bottles or tubes, airless pumps, or air-restrictive bottles. This type of packaging keeps the ingredients stable after you open the serum and start using it.
Consider the Vitamin C Concentration
You can find vitamin C in different concentrations—from less than 1% to over 30%. The effectiveness of the serum will (up to a point) depend on vitamin C concentration. Still, you should choose it according to your skin type and its sensitivity levels.
There haven’t been reports of any significant irritations and issues from using a highly-concentrated topical vitamin C serum, but be careful—just in case.
If you have dry and sensitive skin, stick with a lower-concentrated serum. Similarly, if your skin is on the oilier side or you have hyperpigmentation, go for the higher concentrations.
Whichever concentration you choose, dermatologists recommend not going over 20%. It won’t harm you, but the vitamin’s effects sort of taper off beyond the 20% mark. So, there’s no use in paying more for a higher concentration.
Even though pure vitamin C serum is efficient, products of this kind provide the best effects when vitamin C is combined with other ingredients.
Your face serum should contain both vitamins C and E, or L-ascorbic acid and tocopherol. Vitamin E is also a powerful antioxidant. It stabilizes vitamin C, and together, they protect the skin from environmental damage.
Furthermore, look for ferulic acid, which helps your skin drink up all the vitamin C and E benefits. Finally, a top vitamin C serum may also contain glutathione—another powerful antioxidant that enhances the vitamins.
Pay Attention to pH Levels
How successfully your skin will absorb vitamin C from the serum majorly depends on the serum’s pH level.
If you have a normal skin type, choose a serum with about 3.5 pH level, as it offers the optimal absorption. However, if you have sensitive skin, choose a serum with a pH between 5 and 6. This is the skin’s natural pH level, so it shouldn’t cause any irritation.
Consider Your Age
Along with the best anti-aging creams that are currently available on the market, vitamin C oil for the face can provide you with lots of anti-aging benefits. However, dermatologists advise people to start using a vitamin C serum after they turn 30. The main reason for this is that after 30, our bodies slow down the skin’s natural anti-aging powers.
Choose Quality Over Price
Vitamin C serums typically aren’t the most affordable part of a beauty regimen. Creating a good-quality formulation and combining ingredients to keep vitamin C stable and bring the best benefits to your skin cost a lot.
Naturally, this drives up the price of the final product—the vitamin C serum. However, expensive doesn’t automatically translate to high-quality. Our list of vitamin C serum for skin reviews features a couple of top-notch quality serums that won’t break your bank.
At What Point in Your Skincare Routine Should You Use a Vitamin C Serum
Dermatologists have different opinions on whether you should use the serum in the morning or in the evening. Some say it’s better to use it in the AM to protect your skin from free radicals. At the same time, others say it’s better to use the serum in the evening so your skin can heal and repair itself.
Besides getting an excellent vitamin C facial serum, it’s also essential to remember to use it. No matter when you use it—AM or PM, remember to apply it on freshly cleansed skin before you moisturize.
You may not need to apply the serum every day. Dermatologists recommend applying vitamin C serum once every 48–72 hours. You should monitor your skin and listen to its needs.
Vitamin C Doesn’t Combine Well With all Ingredients
All skin types usually tolerate vitamin C well. If you have hypersensitive skin, combining a vitamin C serum with some ingredients can cause a reaction.
Benzoyl Peroxide Oxidizes Vitamin C
Vitamin C doesn’t pair well with benzoyl peroxide. Even though excellent for fighting acne, benzoyl peroxide will oxidize even the highest-quality vitamin C skin serums and make them less potent.
Of course, you can use both benzoyl peroxide and a vitamin C serum, just not in the same part of your beauty routine.
Retinoids Weaken Vitamin C
Retinoids (vitamin A) are great for cell turnover and enhancing collagen production. However, you shouldn’t use retinol, retinoid esters, Retin-A, Accutane, or Adapalene with vitamin C, as they work in different skin environments and can make one another less effective.
Vitamin C and AHA/BHA Combo Cause Irritation
Top vitamin C serums can cause skin exfoliation. So, if you add alpha- or beta-hydroxy acids to exfoliated skin, you may cause skin irritation. You can combine them, but be careful and patch-test first.
Do Combine a Vitamin C Serum With an SPF
If you decide on using your vitamin C serum in the morning, you should invest in a good sun protection factor. No matter if you use vitamin C or not, you should always use SPF to protect your skin. However, a combination of the best–rated vitamin C serum and an SPF of at least 30 will multiply their powers and protect your skin from free radicals and untimely aging.