A Beginner’s Guide to Using Vitamin C the Correct Way


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If you’ve made your way to skin care TikTok by now, you’ve seen dermatologists and skin care lovers buzzing about vitamin C. The latest in the sequence of viral hero ingredients, vitamin C is best known for helping to fight dark spots and boost collagen production to keep your skin looking plump and smooth.

“Vitamin C is a potent antioxidant that reduces the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles,” says cosmetic dermatologist Dr. Ife Rodney, MD, FAAD. “It also brightens your skin tone by reducing melanin production in the skin and protects against UV damage and environmental pollutants.”

With all its skin-nurturing properties, it makes sense why vitamin C has crept into cleansers, moisturizers, and serums. However, adding a new ingredient to your skincare routine can be a bit nerve-wracking, especially if you have sensitive or reactive skin. Understanding how different ingredients work with your specific skin type is important to achieving your skin goals.

Ahead, we talked with skin care professionals to give you all the details you need to know about vitamin C before adding it to your stash.

What are the benefits of vitamin C for the Skin?

You might be more familiar with its benefits when you drink your morning glass of orange juice, but vitamin C has impressive benefits for the skin. Similar to how taking the supplement makes your body feel its best by supporting your immune system, topical use helps boost collagen production and fade dark marks and fine lines. “Vitamin C helps people with uneven or blotchy skin and can help even out skin tone; it also reduces the appearance of brown spots from sun damage,” says double-board certified cosmetic dermatologist Dr. Karan Lal DO, FAAD

What is the best way to incorporate vitamin C into your skincare routine?

You’ve probably seen a variety of products advertising vitamin C as the standout ingredient, but finding the best way to work it into your routine might help to increase its effectiveness for more noticeable results. According to Lal, “It’s best to use vitamin C every morning to help fight against free radicals that we come in contact with every day.”

If you tend to use other serums in your routine, try adding a boost of vitamin C to the mix to enhance your results. “Use this in the morning after a hyaluronic acid serum, before moisturizer and sunscreen,” Lal continues.

How often should you use vitamin C?

Depending on your skin type, it’s best to start using vitamin C gradually to ensure your skin won’t react negatively. Once you’ve decided that vitamin C works for you, adding it to your routine every day is the best way to see noticeable results and prevent skin issues like sun damage and fine lines.

Are there certain skin types that should avoid vitamin C?

Before using any skin care product, taking a quick inventory of your skin to learn your skin type and understanding what exactly it needs is imperative. Knowing what issues you’re looking to target can make the process of incorporating new products much easier, but can also keep you from possibly damaging your skin.

“If you have sensitive skin, vitamin C may cause redness, irritation, or even acne flares,” says Rodney. “Before using it on your entire face, do a patch test on a small area of skin to make sure that it’s right for you. Then you can start by using the vitamin C serum every other day, then gradually increase to daily use.”

Can vitamin C have different effects on certain skin types?

“Vitamin C is a go-to for all skin types and tones, but it can be especially useful if you have dark spots or hyperpigmentation. Even if you do not have skin discoloration, vitamin C can help you achieve that bright, dewy glow,” says Rodney. For acne- and rosacea-prone skin, it can help to reduce redness and inflammation, and the effect on collagen production also makes it ideal for aging skin, where fine lines are the issue,” she continues.

Because Vitamin C in its active form may be a bit too intense for certain skin types, searching for products that are a bit gentler is a good alternative. In this case, Lal suggests opting for ingredients like, “magnesium ascorbyl phosphate, sodium ascorbyl phosphate, ascorbyl palmitate, and ascorbyl glucoside.”

Are there any negative effects of using vitamin C on your skin?

Introducing an active ingredient into your skin care routine is not one-size-fits-all. Luckily, reactions to vitamin C aren’t too hard to dodge. “I recommend vitamin C to many of my patients because the negative effects are mild and easy to avoid,” says Rodney. “As with other skincare agents, it can make your skin sensitive to the sun. So be sure to use sunscreen that is at least SPF 30 in your skincare regimen after applying a vitamin C serum.”

Many, particularly those who are more sensitive, tend to worry about breakouts with new products. Remember to take it slow to find out if your skin can receive vitamin C without any adverse reactions. “To prevent irritation, especially if you have sensitive skin, start slowly, then gradually work up to daily use,” Rodney suggests.

Also, it’s important to know what other ingredients you regularly use in you skin care routine to ensure you reap all the benefits of vitamin C. “You want to make sure you aren’t using AHAs/BHAs and or retinoids at the same time as vitamin C, as it may become inactivated,” says Lal.

What are the best vitamin C serums to use?

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