Could your vitamin C skin serum be too potent?

5 ways to pick the best vitamin C serum for your skin

There is nothing like a glass of fresh-squeezed, pulp-free orange juice with a bit of Prosécco. A mimosa. As a kid, I lamented breakfast time because it was synonymous with pulpy orange juice. I hated how the pulp felt on my tongue - it felt like I was drinking slimy, watery, sour dirt! My dad insisted that doing this every day was good for my health and would make me a strong woman. As an adult, I’d say that it has not given what he said it was supposed to give! I digress. Mother knows best, but it turns out that my dad was on to something, too. Vitamin C is good for your health, yes, but its skincare benefits are just as great! 

In case you missed it here, vitamin C skincare helps to defend your skin against free radicals, and slow down the appearance of aging. Because of its antioxidant properties, vitamin C is a potent anti-aging skincare ingredient. Vitamin C is not as harsh as vitamin A or retinol, another key anti-aging skincare ingredient. It speeds up skin cell turnover. In helping your body to repair damaged skin cells, you can look forward to:

  • A more refined skin texture 
  • Brighter and more even skin tone
  • Clear and blemish-free skin

Though many argue that vitamin A or retinol is the elixir of skincare, vitamin C skincare gives it a run for its money! No matter which you choose, it’s best to know why you need them, how best to use them, and what to expect after prolonged use. 

Many skincare brands use vitamin C in skin serums. A serum is a skin treatment with a higher concentration of active ingredients. You can use some serums daily, while others are best used 1-3 times per week. In many ways, skin serums function as the boosters of your skincare routine. Meaning, you don’t need them per sé, but using them may yield quicker, more effective results. With that said, let’s unpack vitamin C skin serums. 

1. There is no such thing as the best vitamin C skin serum

If you didn’t learn it here, there is no such thing as a skincare product that is the best. The range of skin tones and skin types makes it impossible to create skincare products that work for everyone. A vitamin C serum is best for your skin based on how effective it is at giving you the results you want. One of the most common reasons people use vitamin C skin serums is to treat hyper-pigmentation and other dark spots. To be clear, vitamin C is not skin lightening agent; hydroquinone is. Vitamin C is a natural skin brightener that blurs the appearance of dark spots and discoloration. So, if your spots are darker than usual, opt for a higher concentration of vitamin C. A higher potency increases the product's effectiveness.

2. Some vitamin C serums may increase skin sensitivity

Too much of anything can yield undesirable effects. That rings true for some vitamin C serums. People with acne-prone and sensitive skin need to be careful with skincare products. If your skin is acne-prone, you risk outbreaks if you use the wrong products. While the wrong products may result in inflammation, itchiness, dry patches, and a gamut of reactions if you have sensitive skin. The higher the concentration of vitamin C in a skincare product, the more severe reactions can be. That is why we recommend that you start with a vitamin C serum with a low concentration - think 5% or less. 

Note that some vitamin C skin solutions may cause brief tingling or burning sensations.

3. You will need to wear a broad-spectrum sunscreen when using a vitamin C serum

This is a friendly reminder that you should always wear a broad-spectrum sunscreen. Apart from increased skin sensitivity among more reactive skin types, vitamin C serums may also increase skin photosensitivity. Your skin becomes more sensitive to direct sunlight when using vitamin C skin serums. The reason for this is that vitamin C boosts cell turnover. As your skin cells renew, brighter, newer, and untouched skin pushes through. This type of skin has an unhealthy longing for a kiss from the sun! So be sure to invest in a sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30. If you do not wear a broad-spectrum sunscreen, the sun will counteract the effects of the vitamin C serum.

4. Vitamin C serums can be used as part of your day or nighttime routines

While you should only use retinol at night, you can use vitamin C skincare products from day to night. The antioxidants in vitamin C are the reason that your skin will hold up during the day. They create an invisible barrier that protects your skin from free radicals and sun damage. That is not to say that you should feel free to bask in the sun, though! 

At night, beware of pairing a vitamin C serum with retinol. Vitamin A increases skin sensitivity, and a potent vitamin C serum can inflame yours. Remember, less is more, so on nights that you want to use a vitamin C serum, consider skipping out on retinol to be safe.

5. Consider the other ingredients included in your vitamin C serum

I have yet to come across a vitamin C serum with a 100% concentration of this super nutrient. That is with good reason! Apart from considering the specific skin issues you want to address, think about the other skincare ingredients in your vitamin C serum. For example, vitamin E and ferulic acid are common ingredients that you tend to find in vitamin C serums. Why? They both have antioxidant properties and are anti-aging skincare ingredients. Vitamin E reduces inflammation, while ferulic acid reduces the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. 

The next time you go for brunch, think about how your bottomless mimosa could be the best choice for your skin. That is what I do. Kidding! If you have any questions or comments about vitamin C skin serums, we would love to hear from you in the comments below. Until next time!

Meet The Author

Otishka Ferguson

I am a women's fashion and beauty writer who survived 14 straight months of cystic breakouts and now has smooth, clear skin again. So obviously this makes me a skincare expert.

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