Vitamin C is an anti-aging workhorse that can make a major difference to the condition of your skin. This one ingredient can enhance, repair, and protect your skin.
If your skin is in need of a boost, but you don't want to complicate your routine with a high maintenance ingredient like retinol, then vitamin C could be your solution.
But, vitamin C does have its own set of complexities. Factors like the concentration, type of derivative, plus packaging are all crucial to the success of your serum.
In this post, I’ll break down the skin benefits of vitamin C serum, how to start using it in your daily routine —even if you have sensitive skin, how to buy a suitable serum for your skin type, and give you 28 clean beauty recommendations so you can start using a vitamin C serum today.
*This post may contain affiliate links. Meaning, I get a commission if you purchase through my links, at no cost to you. Read the full disclosure here.
Table of Contents
What is Vitamin C Serum & Why is it So Important?
Vitamin C serum has a thin watery, gel-like consistency that should ideally be packaged in a dark-colored glass bottle (more on that later). On the label, you’ll likely see skincare buzzwords like “brightening”, “firming,” and “collagen boosting.”
The magic of Vitamin C lies in its powerful antioxidant effects. This means it acts as a shield between your skin and environmental hazards (free radicals) that can damage and age it.
The human body naturally produces free radicals, but a healthy balance between free radicals and antioxidants is necessary to prevent disease and damage.
Things like UV rays, pollution, pesticides, smoking, alcohol, and fried foods can all trigger free radicals. This can overwhelm the body's ability to regulate them and cause an imbalance called oxidative stress. This is a major player in skin aging!
Oxidative stress accelerates skin aging like wrinkles, sagging, pigmentation marks, and a loss of firmness. Over time, the effects of free radical damage become more and more noticeable.
Daily use of a vitamin C serum helps to neutralize free radicals before they have a chance to age your skin!
Does Vitamin C Stimulate Collagen Production?
Collagen is a naturally occurring protein that keeps your skin youthful, plump, and strong. Unfortunately, it depletes with age leading to wrinkles and sagging.
Topical vitamin C has been shown in studies to enhance collagen production because vitamin C is a required component in collagen synthesis.
This makes it a collagen booster. Exactly what you need in your skincare repertoire!
The Skin Benefits of Vitamin C Serum
Enhanced collagen plumps the skin smoothing and reducing wrinkles
Fades sun spots, acne scars, and pigmentation marks by inhibiting the enzyme that creates melanin in your skin —this lightens, brightens, and evens the skin
Speeds wound healing thanks to increased collagen
Acts like a suit of armor protecting your skin against free radical damage
How Do I Apply Vitamin C Serum?
It’s important to apply your vitamin C serum at the correct stage of your skincare routine. For optimal results apply it to a freshly cleansed face, after toner but before any other serums, oils, or creams. This gives the ingredient prime opportunity to reach the deeper layers of your skin, where it does its best work!
When To Apply Vitamin C Serum: Morning or Night?
There are no rules on exactly what time of day to use vitamin C serum. And it can be applied in both of your daily routines if you wish. However, vitamin C is an active ingredient that can potentially cause irritation. This means it may not play nice with your other nighttime products like glycolic acid or retinol.
And remember, vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant that is able to protect your skin from the elements. To me, it makes sense to add it to your morning routine.
Can I Use Vitamin C Serum Every Day?
Yes! Vitamin C serum should be a staple step in your anti-aging skincare routine. If you follow a proper anti-aging skincare routine you will begin to see visible results from a vitamin C serum in a matter of days or weeks depending on your skin concerns.
WHAT TO LOOK FOR IN A VITAMIN C SERUM
Now you know all of the amazing anti-aging benefits of vitamin C serum you probably want to start using one today. But, hold your horses because there are four very important things to know before you buy —I did warn you this serum was a bit complex.
1. Types of Vitamin C
Vitamin C has a bad reputation in skincare for being highly unstable. Factors like ingredient combination and packaging play an important role in the success of your vitamin C serum.
There are a few different types of vitamin C to look for in skincare. The most potent and beneficial form is L-ascorbic acid.
If you have super sensitive skin you might want to start off with magnesium ascorbyl phosphate. This form is known to be less irritating. Look for the following types of vitamin C derivatives:
magnesium ascorbyl phosphate
2. What percentage of Vitamin C should I use?
Concentrations can range from 5% all the way up to 30%. A good vitamin C serum will contain at least 8% to do its job. A serum formulated with less than 5% is basically useless.
The sweet spot for most skin types is around 15-20%. Also, it should be noted that the effects of vitamin C plateau around the 20% level. So buying anything above that is pointless.
If you have sensitive skin start with a lower concentration of 5%, and work your way up once you know your skin can tolerate it. If your skin is especially sensitive, choose magnesium ascorbyl phosphate instead of L-ascorbic acid as this form is less likely to cause irritation.
Normal and oily skin types, including mature skin with considerable skin damage or acne scars, can handle higher concentrations.
As mentioned above vitamin C is a highly unstable skincare ingredient. A good quality vitamin C serum will be packaged to prevent and slow oxidization. Look for dark glass, like amber or cobalt blue bottles, with an airless pump delivery. Store out of direct sunlight too!
4. Ingredient Combination
Vitamin C (L-ascorbic acid), Ferulic acid, Vitamin E (tocopherol), Glutathione.
These ingredients are all-powerful antioxidants too. It's believed that they all work very well alongside vitamin C because they help to stabilize it and improve its efficacy.
Clean Beauty Vitamin C Serum Recommendations
As always, I decipher ingredient labels so you don't have to! Here are my clean beauty picks. Some I've tried, some I use regularly, some waiting to be used, some in my basket —but, all free of parabens, sulfates, artificial fragrance, silicones, and other synthetic toxic ingredients that are counterproductive to your skin glow goals!
Budget Beauty Buys: Vitamin C Serums on Amazon
I hope this post has been helpful to you, especially if your skin is in need of a boost. And as we move forward into Spring with sunnier days there's no better time to add a vitamin C serum to your routine.
So to recap, here’s the four most important thing to look for when buying your vitamin C serum:
- Look for L-ascorbic acid. There are several different forms of vitamin C used in skincare. L-ascorbic acid is the most effective one.
- When buying your serum choose an airless pump and dark glass bottle. Vitamin C is highly unstable, meaning exposure to light, air or heat will degrade your serum. Fast! Look for dark glass-like amber, cobalt blue bottles, and an airless pump delivery. Store out of direct sunlight.
3. Ingredient Combination
- Vitamin C (L-ascorbic acid), Ferulic acid, Vitamin E (tocopherol), Glutathione is the combo you want. These ingredients all work very well alongside vitamin C because they are powerful antioxidants that help to stabilize it. They also help to improve its efficacy.
- Look for percentage levels between 10% - 20%. The concentration of vitamin C needs to be above 8% to be effective. But higher than 20% could lead to irritation and is not any more beneficial than a lower percentage.
Need Skincare Help?
I make sense of skincare. Together we create better routines and lifestyle habits to empower you to feel more confident and in charge. I want everyone to be able to have a Skin Coach in their life, which is why I’ve designed 3 Skin Coaching Plans to fit any budget.