The Benefits of Vitamin C Serums - And How to Choose One

The Benefits of Vitamin C Serums - And How to Choose One

We’ve all heard about the benefits of including vitamin C-rich foods in our diet. Vitamin C, or ascorbic acid, has a vital role in the growth, repair, and development of the body’s tissues. It’s involved in many body functions, such as the absorption of iron, the function of the immune system and the production of collagen.

But what about the skin? Does applying vitamin C on your skin have the same effects as ingesting it through food?  Actually, vitamin C has been used in the skincare industry for more than 70 years, ranging from products such as cleansers to serums.

This article will explore all the benefits of topical vitamin C application, as well as give you guidance for choosing the best fit for your skin. So, if you’ve wanted to give vitamin C serums a try for a long time but don’t know where to start, just continue reading.

What is Vitamin C Serum?

Serums, unlike moisturizers, are made up of smaller molecules which have the ability to penetrate more deeply into the skin, enriching it with useful and nourishing ingredients.

Vitamin C serums contain a high concentration of vitamin C. There are more forms of vitamin C which can be found in the skincare industry. Derivatives of vitamin C include sodium ascorbyl phosphate, retinyl ascorbate, and ascorbyl palmitate. Skincare companies tend to stick to ascorbic acid, the most active form of vitamin C which is also the most researched.

Most vitamin C products contain a 20% vitamin solution. This is the preferred percentage for most skincare companies, since higher than 20% carries some side-effects along with it, like poor product absorption and skin congestion.

The Problem with Vitamin C Serums

Before we delve into all the potential benefits vitamin C serums have to offer, let’s look at one issue which arises with the implementation of vitamin C into your skincare rotuine. The problem with vitamin C serums is that the vitamin is unstable. This issue exacerbates when the serum is exposed to light or air. In order to fix this, companies add other ingredients as a part of the formulation, so that vitamin C is stable. These ingredients include vitamin E, hyaluronic acid and feluric acid, which helps maximize the antioxidant benefits of the serum.

As far as packaging is concerned, companies have figured out a way to avoid the problem of serum degradation by using air-tight, non-transparent packaging.

Another way to avoid this problem is by looking at the label. Ascorbic acid, for instance, offers the best benefits regarding fine lines and wrinkles and collagen production, but it’s also the most unstable. If you want to stay on the safe side, go for ascorbyl palmitate, which is more stable and suitable for sensitive skin types. On the other hand, there are a few ingredients you should stay away from, such as water. Due to the oxidization of vitamin C, serums shouldn’t contain any water, otherwise, there’s a risk of losing the key benefits for the skin.

The Benefits of Using Vitamin C Serums for the Skin

Here are some of the biggest benefits of vitamin C serums.

Vitamin C Serums Protect Against Free Radicals

Vitamin C is an antioxidant which contributes to skin repair and protection in many different ways. According to this study, vitamin C has the ability to protect the skin from oxidative stress, which means that it will shield the skin from damage and environmental factors such as pollution and sun damage.

Vitamin C Serums Boost Collagen Production

As we’ve mentioned before, ascorbic acid boosts the production of collagen which is a protein essential for the skin. Collagen production slowly decreases as we age, so it’s important to include collagen-rich food in our diet, as well as apply products which contain collagen inside  topically.

Increased collagen production has a positive effect on fine lines and wrinkles. In addition, it also improves the elasticity of the skin and brightens the complexion.

Vitamin C Serums Provide Photo-protection

By applying vitamin C serums on a regular basis, you can reduce the signs of photo-aging, which is especially useful if you spend a lot of time outdoors or if you frequently forget to apply sunscreen before going out. This is not to say that vitamin C serums are a substitution to sunscreen in any way, but using them in conjunction with sunscreens will ensure that your skin stays youthful and healthy in the long run.

Vitamin C Serums Hydrate the Skin

Are you prone to getting dry skin or patches? Don’t worry, vitamin C can help.

One of the vitamin C derivatives called magnesium ascorbyl phosphate has an incredible hydrating effect on the skin. It’s shown to decrease water loss in the skin, which makes it more hydrating in the long run.

Vitamin C Serums Help with Pigmentation

Applying this type of serum can also help if you suffer from uneven skin tone or hyperpigmentation since the serums hinder melanin production. Hyperpigmentation includes sun spots and dark spots. Vitamin C serums can also smooth out the texture of your skin, which contributes to overall healthy appearance.

Vitamin C Serums Help with Certain Skin Conditions

Skin conditions which are largely attributed to inflammation such as acne and rosacea can start to see improvement if you’re applying vitamin C on a regular basis. It’s important to note that if you do suffer from any of these skin problems, serums shouldn’t be your go-to treatment, but rather something you use alongside your treatment. Serums alone don’t have the ability to help the conditions, but they do aid the healing process of the skin. If you want a guide for more serious acne medication, check out this article.

Vitamin C Serums Help with the Under-eye Area

Are you struggling with under-eye lines or dark circles? Well, don’t stress out about it. Due to their hydrating benefits and the fact they aid collagen production, vitamin C serums can help with this area of your face as well. Some people even claim that vitamin C can help brigthen up darkness around the eyes, so it’s an overall amazing product for this delicate area.

How to Pick the Right Vitamin C Serum for your Skin

There are so many different vitamin C serums on the market, so it’s not surprising that you might be feeling confused and in need of help. Picking out a product that comes in so many shapes and formulas is never easy, but it’s certainly worth it considering all the benefits vitamin C has to offer which we’ve mentioned earlier.

Serums, like any skincare product out there, need to be researched before purchasing. This way, you’ll be sure that you’re not wasting any money and time waiting for results which will never come.

Here is your detailed guide on how to select the right vitamin C serum for optimal skin benefits.

So, what should you look for in a serum? The answer isn’t very straight forward. Truth is, there are quite a few parameters which you need to be aware of. That being said, let’s start from the beginning and discuss the most productive forms of vitamin C serums on the market.

As we’ve discussed previously, vitamin C has many derivatives, all of which have the potential to be included in the ingredients list in a serum. The one you need to focus on if you want the best bang for your buck is L-ascorbic acid. This is the most effective form and it’s definitely something to look for in the ingredients list.

Now let’s move on to the concentration. According to this study, the utmost concentration a vitamin C serum should contain is 20 percent. Anything higher than that and the serum loses its effectiveness. On the other hand, anything lower than 8 percent will lead to underwhelming results and poor absorption. So, in order to maximize the potential of this widely used cosmetic product, opt for a concentration between 10 and 20 percent.

What ingredients should be in the serum alongside vitamin C? There are some ingredients which maximize the potential of the serum, so it’s worth paying attention to what comes after the vitamin C derivative. Not that you need to know the names and functions of each and every ingredient when purchasing a product but keep the following ingredients in mind and you’ll notice a tremendous difference in your skin.

Vitamin E contains a myriad of benefits for the skin, so you should rejoice if you notice it on the list. Vitamin E has the ability to prevent signs of aging, hydrate your skin, reduce the damage caused by the sun and help with hyperpigmentation and scars. Who wouldn’t want all these precious benefits in their serum? Combining vitamin E with vitamin C is a win-win situation since vitamin E stabilizes vitamin C which enables the best results.

Ferulic acid provides incredible antioxidant benefits for the skin. Just like vitamin E, ferulic acid enhances the stability of vitamin C, provides photoprotection and it also helps protect the skin against environmental stressors. In addition, it’s shown to provide many anti-aging benefits for the skin.

Glutathione is another powerful ingredient which you’ll likely find in your serum ingredient list. This amazing antioxidant has the ability to reduce oxidative stress, has a positive effect on psoriasis, it reduces damage in the cells caused by external and internal factors and helps with many illnesses and conditions. Glutathione works wonderfully in conjunction with vitamin C and it helps bring those well-known benefits to the maximum.

Now that we’ve established the ultimate companions to vitamin C, let’s explore the peculiarities behind the packaging and what you should pay attention to during the shopping process.

As with any other skincare product, exposure to factors like air, heat, humidity, and light can damage the product and make it less effective. This is why you need to look for a product which comes in dark packaging and is non-transparent. It’d be best if the packaging features a medicine dropper, so there’s no contact between the environment and the containment in the bottle itself. This will ensure that your product stays germ-free and dust-free, which is crucial for its optimization. You can store the bottle in a dark and cold area, but putting it in the fridge is also an option. For more guidance, make sure you refer to the instructions on the packaging.

How Often Should You Use a Vitamin C Serum?

The answer to this commonly asked question is that there’s no universal rule as to how many times a day you should apply it. For some people, it’ll work best if it’s applied once a day, for others twice a day, and for some every two days. This is a question you should be asking your dermatologist. Make sure you always consult with a professional before adding any product to your skincare routine. Generally speaking, it’s best to add a vitamin C serum in your daily routine slowly and work your way up, so maybe start by using it every other day and then gradually start applying it once a day.

How to Use your Vitamin C Serum

As is the case with the frequency of application, there isn’t a set rule regarding vitamin C serums. How you use it depends largely on the other products you’re using along with it, as well as your skin type and schedule. 

Typically, it’s best to apply the product after you’re done with cleansing and toning the skin. If your pores are filled with makeup, dirt or any other congestion, then it will hinder the absorption of the serum. After you’ve applied the serum, follow it up with your preferred moisturizer, SPF and foundation. Make sure you wait a couple of minutes so that the serum is properly absorbed before applying the rest of your skincare products. Don’t forget to apply all these products on the neck as well, since the neck is also prone to showing signs of aging.

When you’re applying the serum, massage it gently using your hands in circular motions.

Ingredients You Should Avoid while Using a Vitamin C Serum

Vitamin C serums are mostly regarded as safe to use along with other conventional skincare products which contain a large scale of ingredients. However, there are a few exceptions to this rule. Try to avoid niacinamide while you’re using a vitamin C serum in order to avoid making the serum less effective than it is, or apply it on alternate days. Vitamin C Serum Side-effects

While there are not many side-effects that come with using a vitamin C serum, there are a couple that might appear upon application, such as a tingling sensation, redness, a change in skin tone and itchiness. For most people, these effects go away on their own after a few weeks of regular usage.

Make sure you do a patch test before applying your chosen serum all over your skin. a patch test is when you apply a small amount of product on one area of your face in order to see if there will be any adverse effects.

Incorporate the serum slowly in your regular routine so that you don’t suffer any negative side-effects. When you first start using the product, apply a smaller percentage so that your skin gets the chance to get used to it. If you have sensitive or acne-prone skin, be wary of the other ingredients that are contained in the serum which might cause irritation and acne.

In Conclusion

Vitamin C serums are exceptionally effective in multiple areas such as aging, oxidative stress, wound healing, hyperpigmentation, and hydration. They can be a very effective tool in your skincare routine if you choose them wisely and pay attention to the intricacies that come along with it.

Make sure you consult a dermatologist beforehand so that you don’t risk any cross-reactions.


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Surg. 2001 Feb;27(2):137-42. PubMed PMID: 11207686.

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