Vitamin C in Skincare | 10 Things You Need to Know

What to know about Vitamin C in Skincare

Do you need Vitamin C in skincare? Using Vitamin C products in your skincare routine could be complicated as this ingredient could harm your skin as much as it could do you good. There are countless skincare brands that promote Vitamin C products. We all know that Vitamin C is something very good for our body especially when consumed which mostly promoted are oranges as one of the natural sources. So what about Vitamin C in skincare? Is it the same thing? I bet you all generally will think it's a really good ingredient, which it is, BUT... There are a few things you should know before thinking to start using this active ingredient. Turns out it's not that simple as you think. Read on to know what I mean.

Let's be honest, so who here buys a skincare product because the brands marketing lines and strategy is awesome? I'm guilty as charged! In my younger days, when I first started to try skincare,  I didn't have much knowledge on skincare so I mostly just bought anything that people say is good and if the product has great marketing. In later years I became more alert on this and I discovered the holy side of 'Ingredients Lists'. LOL... To cut things short, it's been a while since I've used Vitamin C in my skincare routine, so when I wanted to use it again, I finally did my study on this very popular ingredient and I'M SHOCKED! Vitamin C isn't an easy ingredient in skincare and I've done a couple of mistakes while using this. But no shame to that, mistakes are made to be learnt. So if you're looking into adding this in you're skincare regime, I suggest you read this guide to use Vitamin C in skincare where I'll be sharing the basic rules of implying this ingredient in your routine.

1. What is Vitamin C in Skincare?

This research-proven ingredient is a water-soluble antioxidant and a natural component to obtain healthy skin. It is raved for its antioxidant and immune-boosting benefits which is why we see so many Vitamin C Skincare products in the market nowadays. 

When we’re young, Vitamin C level in skin outermost layers are sufficient, but as we age, these levels naturally deplete because of sun exposure. Pollution also fastens this decline, leading to skin looking dull, uneven, and less firm than it once was. That's why the most recommended remedy to get back that radiant skin is Vitamin C.

Vitamin C is also known as Ascorbic Acid and of course, there are other variants of it which I'll get into that below. The usage of it in skincare is often included in moisturizers and serums. Moisturizer’s main job is to hydrate skin, serums typically include a higher concentration of ingredients to penetrate the skin and efficiently target skincare concerns such as hyperpigmentation or signs of ageing. Both are both good agents to include Vitamin C in your skin but it mostly depends on what type of treatment you are looking to fix with.

2. Benefits of Vitamin C in Skincare

Do you actually need Vitamin C in skincare? You'll be surprised what this ingredient in skincare could actually do to your skin. Below is how Vitamin C work in skincare but basically it is a power ingredient to boost skin glow! If your skin is looking dull, one way to solve it is by adding Vitamin C in your routine as Vitamin C contains these properties:

1. Boosts Collagen Production

As we get older, our skin tends to lose natural collagen which leads to sagging and wrinkles. This also is caused by sun damage which is mostly unavoidable if you live in a tropical country. Vitamin C is known to have properties to boost the skin's collagen production which can show the result for firmer and plumper skin.

2. Anti-Ageing

Vitamin C is famous for its antioxidant properties which help fight free radicals caused by UV rays. This will help in keeping the skin look younger as you'll see even dark spots lightens.

3. Even Out Skin Tone

We all want to get rid of hyperpigmentation and Vitamin C could help with that. It carries melanin production which results in repairing the skin tone and also brighten it. You'll soon see those dark spots fading in no time.

4. Protection From Radical Damage

Believe it or not but what Vitamin C does is by giving you some extra protection from the sun by thickening the dermis layer of the skin which then acts as a guard from UV rays. Vitamin C is also highly praised for the ability of it to defend skin from free radicals and external stressors, lessening the effects of exposure to the elements that could damage the skin.
Do not ever use Vitamin C without sunscreen because Vitamin C is highly sensitive towards sun exposure. It may result in more damaged skin, so make sure you apply sunscreen around 30 minutes before you expose your skin to the sun when you use Vitamin C. 

3. When to Apply Vitamin C in Skincare Routine

When is the right time to use Vitamin C in a skincare routine? That's usually the first question in mind once we have a product right? For Vitamin C, is rather tricky due to its sensitive behaviour. I've always had people advising me to use Vitamin C only at night as it's a super-sensitive ingredient but with some Vitamin C products in the market highlighting in morning use, it got me confused. Honestly, I didn't do much research before trying on Vitamin C for the first time, so I just used it in my night routine to be safe. Until I did some research on Vitamin C recently, there's a light of hope to use Vitamin C in the day and actually, it's rather recommended to do so.

The law of using Vitamin C only in the night is like an urban legend, there's no certain proof for that. Recently I found out that dermatologists are recommending Vitamin C used in the morning would be more beneficial to the skin. This is to take advantage of its free radical protection which the skin generally needs more of during the day due to pollution and UV rays.

Vitamin C is recommended to be applied before starting the day, as UV radiation is at its highest at that time. BUT you all know that Vitamin C cannot be exposed to the sun. So make sure that the Vitamin C product that you're using is well absorbed into the skin and sunscreen afterwards is applied before you go out and have your skin exposed to the sun.

The rule of applying Vitamin C in the morning is putting it in freshly cleansed skin (many recommends serums) which then follows with an application of moisturizer then lastly is sunscreen. It's advisable to use a broad-spectrum sunscreen with Vitamin C. Using Vitamin C once a day is sufficient enough for the effect to last 24 hours.

4. How To Apply Different Types of Vitamin C Products

This is where it gets confusing, there are so many types of Vitamin C products in the market. Cleansers, serums, moisturizers, creams, balms and so much more. So how to apply them? The most popular ones are serums and moisturizers.

1. Serums

If you are new to Vitamin C start with a lower concentration, about 10%, then slowly adjusts to higher concentrations of 15-20%.

It's advised to apply on freshly cleansed skin, a few drops depend on the product. Best follow label instructions. 

Wait for 15 minutes at least for the serum to be completely absorbed before moving on the next step of your routine. I don't usually do that since 15 minutes is quite long, the longest I could hold is 5 minutes but as long as the serum is absorbed into the skin, it should be fine. Just don't use too much on the skin if you don't have time to let it sink in. Some also say that waiting for 20 to 30 minutes between applications may be too much of a precaution, 5 minutes is actually enough. Also, make sure your cleanser isn’t sabotaging the serum’s efficiency. The residue left over by cleansing your face can create a barrier preventing Vitamin C from penetrating into the skin. So make sure your skin is dried off completely before applying any serum on.

2. Moisturizers

Should you use Vitamin C Moisturizers? As moisturizers are more for moisturising purposes, should it be included with Vitamin C too?

You may think it should be much more effective to layer a vitamin C serum underneath sunscreen but to your surprise, Vitamin C moisturizers help speed up the product application process. If you think about it, it's actually true, you'll just have one step instead of two steps. Besides, Vitamin C in moisturizers should be good for those with dry skin too!

To use vitamin C moisturizer correctly, use them as the regular hydrating products inside your routine. Just make sure to reapply your moisturizer throughout the day to keep your skin hydrated.

5. Different Types of Vitamin C

What are the best form of Vitamin C? There are different types of vitamin c and different names for vitamin c in skincare. Below is the list of popular Vitamin C types mostly used in skincare. You can usually find these names in the Ingredient List of a product which will help you determine which type of Vitamin C it's using.

1. L-Ascorbic Acid (LAA)

This is the most potent vitamin C form and you'll usually find a lot of brands promoting Ascorbic Acid too! LAA has the most research backing in terms of effectiveness. However, it does has its downside as it’s less stable than other forms of Vitamin C. 

If Ascorbic Acid is properly formulated at a pH of less than 4 this form will help create younger-looking skin while fading signs of uneven skin tone and spots

It could also cause skin irritations if used in high doses and those with sensitive should also try to avoid using this. If you have tried Ascorbic Acid before and don't happen to see any negative reaction, then you can bet that this type should help you see the results you'll want.

2. Magnesium Ascorbyl Phosphate

This is a more stable form of Vitamin C as it does not oxidize as easily as other forms. It also causes less irritation so it should be suitable for those with dry and sensitive skin as well.

3. Ascorbyl Palmitate

Ascorbyl Palmitate is a stable form but a less potent type of vitamin C. It's commonly used in oil-based skincare formulas and has the power in fighting free radical damage to protect against signs of ageing and repairing skin.

4. Ascorbic Glucosamine

This is a water-soluble derivative of vitamin C and often used for its antioxidant and skin-brightening properties. It's considered best for hyperpigmentation but not much research has been done on it.

5. Tetrahexyldecyl Ascorbate

Tetrahexyldecyl ascorbate is a stable form of vitamin C that is considered to be comparable to L-ascorbic acid. Unlike Ascorbic Acid which is pure vitamin C, Tetrahexyldecyl Ascorbate is a lipid (fat) soluble. It's believed that this form of Vitamin C has greater benefits for the skin because its fatty acid component helps aid penetration. It also pairs well with other forms of vitamin C and retinol.

6. Sodium Ascorbyl Phosphate

Its a stable, water-soluble derivative, this form of vitamin C is gentle on the skin and converts to ascorbic acid after it’s absorbed.  It functions as an antioxidant and is potentially effective for brightening an uneven skin tone.  There are also research-proven that of 1% and 5% concentrations of sodium ascorbyl phosphate can help with breakouts resulting it to be an effective ingredient to anti-acne products that contain benzoyl peroxide and salicylic acid.

6. Choosing Vitamin C Concentrations For Your Skin

As mentioned above, according to your skin type and what you want to achieve from using Vitamin C, you can seek into their concentrations in a product before you decide which type of Vitamin C product should suite best with you.

1. Lower Concentrations

Lower concentrations of Vitamin C provides benefits in leave-on products such as moisturizers, eye creams, and serums. In fact, research has shown that concentrations as low as 0.6% provide antioxidant and anti-ageing benefits to the skin. Lower strengths of vitamin C also help enhance the benefits of other youth-preserving ingredients such as retinol and ceramides.

Those with dry or sensitive skin probably want to stick with lower concentrations, around 5%, which are less likely to be irritating.

2. Higher Concentration

Higher Concentrations of Vitamin C are typically found in targeted treatments or serums usually 10% and higher. These are particularly effective and provide a host of benefits for the skin.

Those with more oily skin or with more extensive pigmentation issues to tackle can handle higher concentrations. For stubborn dark spots, a richer-textured 25% vitamin C treatment works great for delivery into skin wherever discolourations and dullness are noticeable.

7. Does Vitamin C Need To Be Introduced Slowly?

Using Vitamin C actually doesn't require much caution even though it is irritating, it is actually a common irritant for most skin types. But still, the best to practise if you're still new to Vitamin C is use products infused with Vitamin C a few times a week and then start with working up to a daily routine.

Feeling a slight tingling sensation upon application is completely normal. Vitamin C can be used on all skin types but because the PH of the product is low, sometimes it can produce a slight stinging sensation People with sensitive skin may feel that sting more than others, but by adding Vitamin C in your skin regime can surely benefit you. What is most important is finding the formulation that’s best for your skin.

8. Ingredients To Combine With Vitamin C

There are many Vitamin C skincare products that are infused and mixed with other skincare ingredients already. But these are the 2 most recommended ingredients that should work best with Vitamin C.

1. Ferulic Acid

Ferulic acid fights free radicals to prevent and correct skin damage and extends the life and effectiveness of vitamin C. However, when we combine it with ferulic acid, it helps to stabilize vitamin C so its antioxidant potency isn’t vanishing into the air.

2. Vitamin E

Vitamin E when paired with vitamin C it creates a combination that is more effective in preventing photodamage than either vitamin alone. Both work by negating free radical damage, but each combats different types of UV damage. By adding vitamin C and E serums into your routine, or using products that contain both, you’re giving your skin double the antioxidant ammunition to fight damage from free radicals and more UV damage than vitamin C by itself.


9. Ingredient To Avoid Using With Vitamin C

1. Benzoyl Peroxide

Benzoyl Peroxide can oxidize the Vitamin C and, therefore, making it less potent and of course less effective. It'll be a waste of product, money and time. You can still use Benzoyl Peroxide products, just not in the same part of your routine as the Vitamin C. Instead use Vitamin C in the morning and Benzoyl Peroxide in the evenings, or use them on different days which suits you most.

2. AHAs

Vitamin C should never be mixed with citric acid or alpha-hydroxy acids, chemical exfoliants that improve skin texture. The results in mixing it together with citric acid and AHAs are that these ingredients destabilize each other and can be irritating to the skin. This combination is feared to be too active for the skin and cause sensitivity and dryness.

3. Retinol & Niacinamide

If you google what ingredients shouldn't be used with Vitamin C, these 2 products will pop out the most. This is because the pH levels of these ingredients don’t get along with vitamin C, and they end up cancelling each other out and rendering each other ineffective. The reaction may also cause redness to the skin.

But the same case as Benzoyl Peroxide, if you still want to use Retinol and Niacinamide in you're routine wait at least 30 minutes before application. That means you can still use it in the same regime, just make sure you give a waiting period for your skin to give your skin’s pH levels some time to normalize.

10. Other Things To Know About Vitamin C for Skincare

There are still a few more things to highlight before you start using Vitamin C in your skin routine. These are important as again I'm mentioning that Vitamin C is a highly unstable product, so of course, you'll need to make sure you'll be able to get results with using it or else it'll be just a waste of money. I'm guilty of not knowing much about Vitamin C before using it on my skin and that's probably the main reason why it may have not worked on me before.

How to Properly Store Vitamin C

You may think that Vitamin C should be stored the same as your other skincare products, but you're wrong. For Vitamin C you have to consider a few factors for it to stay potent if not it becomes oxidized to dehydroascorbic acid, which is less stable and less effective. So these products should be stored in opaque containers that are either air-restrictive or air-tight, like an airless pump rather than a tub or dropper bottle that requires being opened all the way. But you won't have to worry about packaging as most Vitamin C products already come in opaque containers for this exact reason. It's just good to have common knowledge about it. So again, for storing your Vitamin C stay alert to these factors:

1. Keep It Away From Light

LAA is vulnerable to oxidation from light exposure. That’s why Vitamin C serums typically come in pretty dark glass bottles. (Best not buy those with transparent bottles) Keep the serum somewhere dark and away from direct light especially sunlight.

2. Always Keep It Air Tight

Oxygen can also break down Vitamin C serum. Always put the cap back on instantly and make sure it is screwed on tight to keep air from seeping in.

3. Keep Away From High Temperature

High temperatures will degrade Vitamin C. Some manufacturers suggest storing Vitamin C serum in the fridge, but some advice against it. I normally store it in room temperature but at the far end of my skincare stash, that's quite dark.

But what concerns me is that our skincare nowadays are mostly shipped directly to our doorsteps in small packagings and from there you could already imagine how high the temperature could get during the shipment process especially if you're living in tropical countries like myself. 

How To Know That Vitamin C is Already Oxidized

Colour Should Be Colourless

Vitamin C serum should be colourless or light straw colour. If it is oxidized, it becomes yellow or brown and is likely going to be less effective. You can still use it if you want, but it won’t do as much for your skin and very rarely, oxidized vitamin C products can even cause slight yellow discolouration of the skin

Get rid of any vitamin C products that have dramatically changed colour since you bought them, especially if it is brown. The reason is that it can stain your skin as Vitamin C degrades into erythrulose which may even age your skin. This process generates free radicals and could accelerate sun damage and DNA damage when we're trying to avoid that in the first place by using vitamin C.

Also, take note that serums that some manufacturers may add tints to hide oxidation. Vitamin C moisturizers may often have tint as the formulas are creamier, and contain other ingredients, but serums should typically be near colourless or clear.

Shelf Life For Vitamin C

Since Vitamin C is an active ingredient this property makes it tricky to maintain it once the bottle has been cracked open.  There are formulations that will last just a month and there are others that will last up to three months, but it’s generally not a product that can stay on your shelf for six, nine, twelve months. 

So it's best to use up Vitamin C products as soon as possible as you wouldn't want it to waste, especially serums that are usually more potent with Ascorbic Acid. I'm guilty of doing these mistakes too thinking that they could last at least a year. 

So mostly that's about it on what you need to know on Vitamin C. I'll probably update this post from time to time if I find new info since this will be my reference in using Vitamin C products again. I hope this short write-up will benefit you too.

Till then peeps!