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Benefits of Using a Vitamin C Serum, Time of Application & How to Select a Vitamin C Serum For Your Skincare Routine

If you want to ramp up your skincare routine or you want to simplify it, using a vitamin C serum can be the answer you are looking for. Topical vitamin C is known to a multipurpose serum that can not only enhance your skin, but at the same time, it can also repair and protect it. There are so many benefits to using vitamin C serum that you will be amazed at its effectiveness once you start using the serum. Most people swear that using vitamin C serums leads to brighter skin, but do they work?

Benefits of Using a Vitamin C Serum

Benefits of Using a Vitamin C Serum

Vitamin C is one of the most powerful antioxidants that occur naturally and can be found in citrus fruits and some vegetables as well. Being an antioxidant, it is capable of holding off and preventing any sun and environmental damage to your skin cells. Most people tend to have a morning glass of orange juice in order to derive the benefits of vitamin C for their body. However, the best way to achieve protection and avail the benefits of vitamin C is to apply it directly onto your skin.

However, you obviously cannot go around placing slices of citrus fruit on your face. Getting vitamin C through eating, drinking, or even through supplements, means that your skin is only able to get a small fraction of the many benefits of vitamin C, also known as ascorbic acid.(1)

However, when vitamin C is pressed into a serum form, after being chemically changed, it allows your skin to absorb more of the vitamin in a more efficient manner.

Some of the benefits of using a vitamin C serum include:

  • Brightens your complexion
  • Reduces the appearance of wrinkles and fine lines
  • Protects collagen and also boosts the production of collagen
  • Helps wound healing
  • Evens out the skin tone
  • Reduces hyperpigmentation
  • Protects against sun damage
  • Protects against pollution and other free radicals as well

Time of Applying Vitamin C Serum is Important

It is very rare that people pay attention to when they should apply a serum. You need to apply a vitamin C serum twice a day – once in the morning and once at night after cleansing and toning.

A study was done by the Joshi Hospital Maharashtra Medical Foundation in India, which recommended that you should apply a vitamin C serum on an eight hourly schedule, or twice a day for achieving the best level of protection.(2)

Vitamin C is known to have photoprotective properties and is known to protect from oxidative stress from free radicals that affect us in our day-to-day life. Just imagine the amount of pollution our skin gets exposed to through vehicle exhaust, cigarette smoke, chemicals, overprocessed foods, and even alcohol.

There is nothing to worry if you skip an application once in a while. Unlike moisturizers, sunscreen, or oils, vitamin C serums cannot be washed off or wiped off that easily. The protection provided by vitamin C and its free radical-fighting properties does eventually wear off, but over time, it is possible to build up a reservoir of vitamin C for getting sufficient photoprotection. You can achieve this by applying a vitamin C serum every eight hourly.

Also, keep in mind that exposure to UV rays lowers the skin’s vitamin C levels. Topical vitamin C works best if you apply it after your skin has been exposed to UV light, and not before.

Although vitamin C serum is not to be treated as a substitute for sunscreen, if you use a sunscreen and a vitamin C serum together, then it will lend greater protection to your skin against environmental and UV damage.

How to Select a Vitamin C Serum For Your Skincare Routine?

Some of the properties that can be found in some of the best vitamin C serums include:

  • It should contain 10 to 20 percent of L-ascorbic acid
  • It should have ferulic acid and vitamin E
  • It should come in an airtight packaging
  • It should preferably come in a tinted or dark glass bottle

Choosing a vitamin C serum that will work for your skin type involves doing a bit of research. Based on science, here are some recommendations:

Vitamin C Form to Look For: In cosmetic products, vitamin C can appear under several different names on the ingredient label. However, the form of vitamin C that you want is L-ascorbic acid. This is the most effective form of vitamin C. An older study carried out by the Duke University Medical Center in the US compared many of the common derivatives of vitamin C.(3) The study found that L-ascorbic acid did not show any increase in absorption. Ideally, this ingredient should be somewhere on the top of the ingredient label, preferably one of the first five ingredients on the label.

Concentration Level: The ideal concentration level of vitamin C should be between 10 to 20 percent. You want a concentration that is definitely greater than eight percent for achieving maximum effectiveness from the product. However, at the same time, going over 20 percent concentration could cause skin irritation, and it does not increase the benefit of the product. If you are using a product with a high percentage of vitamin C, then you should do a patch test on your elbow first before doing a full application. While vitamin C is usually safe to use, but in some rare cases, it might cause side effects such as redness, stinging, yellowish discoloration, or dryness of the skin also.

Choosing the Ingredient: You should search for both vitamin C and vitamin E, or they can also show up as L-ascorbic acid and tocopherol (for vitamin E) on the ingredient label. These skin-boosting vitamins work best when they are together. Vitamin E is known to stabilize vitamin C, and together, they offer the maximum skin protection. You can also check for an antioxidant known as glutathione(4), which also works well with vitamin C. You can also check for ferulic acid(5), which helps in lowering the pH level of vitamin C to allow your skin to easily absorb the serum.

The Packaging Is Important: It is important to pay attention to the product’s packaging. This is because exposure to light, air, and heat will degrade the serum.(6) The best product is one which comes in a dark glass bottle and includes a medicine dropper for delivery instead of an air pump. You can try to store the product in the refrigerator for prolonging the shelf life of the product. Majority of these serums are yellow in color, but if you find your product has turned dark orange or brownish in color, then it’s time to throw it out as it has gone bad. Another sign that the serum is oxidizing and has become less effective is if the serum started out clear and has turned yellow.


Vitamin C is known to be one of the best antioxidants, anti-aging, and protective ingredients on the market and it is being hailed as the most effective solution to protecting your skin and maintaining a smooth, even, and brighter complexion. While you are probably getting vitamin C in your diet, there is no way to tell whether this vitamin C is benefiting your skin. Using vitamin C serums to apply topically directly on the skin is the best way to reap the benefits of vitamin C. You will find that using vitamin C serum regularly will help heal any blemishes, decrease hyperpigmentation, and also give a wonderful glow to your skin.


  1. Al-Niaimi, F. and Chiang, N.Y.Z., 2017. Topical vitamin C and the skin: mechanisms of action and clinical applications. The Journal of clinical and aesthetic dermatology, 10(7), p.14.
  2. Telang, P.S., 2013. Vitamin C in dermatology. Indian Dermatology Online Journal, 4(2), p.143.
  3. Pinnell SR, e. (2019). Topical L-ascorbic acid: percutaneous absorption studies. – PubMed – NCBI. [online] Ncbi.nlm.nih.gov. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11207686/ [Accessed 18 Jul. 2019].
  4. Prime-journal.com. (2019). Feeding your skin with Vitamin C | PRIME Journal. [online] Available at: https://www.prime-journal.com/feeding-your-skin-with-vitamin-c/ [Accessed 18 Jul. 2019].
  5. Murray, J.C., Burch, J.A., Streilein, R.D., Iannacchione, M.A., Hall, R.P. and Pinnell, S.R., 2008. A topical antioxidant solution containing vitamins C and E stabilized by ferulic acid provides protection for human skin against damage caused by ultraviolet irradiation. Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, 59(3), pp.418-425.
  6. Linus Pauling Institute. (2019). Vitamin C and Skin Health. [online] Available at: https://lpi.oregonstate.edu/mic/health-disease/skin-health/vitamin-C [Accessed 18 Jul. 2019].

Also Read:

Sheetal DeCaria, M.D.
Sheetal DeCaria, M.D.
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Sheetal DeCaria, M.D. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:October 10, 2019

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