Vitamin C: Which one and How much to use for Best Results

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Vitamin C for Bright, Wrinkle Free & Hydrated Skin

The Ordinary Pure Vitamin C Ascorbic Acid Powder

Vitamin C (labeled Ascorbic acid) is a very powerful antioxidant which protects your skin and prevents damage to your skin. 

Who should use Vitamin C for Skin

If you want to brighten your skin and fade the dark spots, or if you have wrinkles (aging concern) or feel your skin lacks hydration; you should incorporate Vitamin C into your skincare routine. 


What are Free Radicals

Free Radicals are those nasty oxygen species on your face that cause deep damage in your skin and make you look old before you reach old age. 


We have a skin barrier that protects us from UV radiation, pollution, visible light and infrared light. We use a broad-spectrum sunscreen to further protect the skin from the damage of these lights. All these radiations are triggers for your skin which can lead to nasty reactive oxygen and nitrogen species also known as free radicals.


Free radicals are the worst thing for your skin. They react with the biomolecules in the skin to cause damage to the epidermis (top layer of your skin) and the dermis (middle layer of the skin) and prevents growth of tissue. Free radicals also modify the normal functioning of cells. They decrease the skin’s elasticity and flexibility. What ends up happening is aging. [Source] To neutralize these radicals, we need antioxidants and Vitamin C is the best at this job.

List of Benefits on Skin

  • Hyperpigmentation. Vitamin C is a Tyrosinase Inhibitor which means it controls the rate of melanin production. At a higher percentage at about 5-10% Vitamin C, it can actually help to reverse hyperpigmentation as well. [Source]
  • Neutralizes Free radicals thereby preventing future damage to the skin barrier. [Source]
  • Hydration: Ceramides are important for your skin hydration and Vitamin C stimulates the synthesis of Ceramides. [Source]
  • Wrinkles: Vitamin C prevents wrinkles and improves the Firmness and Elasticity of the skin as it promotes the synthesis of Collagen Type 1 and Type 3 which is beneficial for the Dermis layer and the capillaries within the skin. [Source] Having high levels of collagen means preventing wrinkles. A clinical study using topical application of 5% Vitamin C for 6 months concluded that it was an effective treatment for sun-induced skin ageing and the use decreased the deep furrows [Source]

Types of Vitamin C for Skin

So you have decided to incorporate Vitamin C into your skincare routine. But which one to buy? Well first of all you need to understand the different types of Vitamin C in order to decide which one is the best for your case and your skin.

Pure Vitamin c

  • L-Ascorbic Acid (Ascorbic Acid)
  • Ethylated Ascorbic Acid

Vitamin C Derivatives

  • Magnesium Ascorbyl Phosphate (best bet for all - very stable and safe for skin of color and for mature skin)
  • Ascorbyl Glucoside (good for acne prone skin)
  • Tetrahexyldecyl Ascorbate (good for sensitive skin)

Problem with Ascorbic Acid

Ascorbic acid is the most potent form of Vitamin C. The problem with using Ascorbic acid on skin is that it is highly unstable which means it can easily deteriorate when exposed to light or air and basically become useless.


The very valuable raw Ascorbic acid deteriorates by 50% when it is exposed to light and air, so it is a challenge when it comes to the technology and how to stabilize it. 


The best way to prevent photodamage of Vitamin C products is to store it in a tinted glass bottle with a pump or a dropper so it does not introduce air to the product when you are using it.


If you have L-ascorbic acid in your cream, you will see that over time your cream will start to turn yellow which should be an indication of how unstable L-Ascorbic Acid is as a source of Vitamin C.


Fixing and Stabilizing Methods are used to keep it stable. This is achieved by adding another antioxidant such as Ferulic Acid and Vitamin E. That is why you will see many formulations having Vitamin C and Ferulic Acid together for that reason of stabilizing Vitamin C. L-Ascorbic Acid is also made stable by reducing its pH level.


Another problem with L-Ascorbic acid is its poor absorption into the skin. L-Ascorbic acid is a hydrophilic molecule (meaning water loving molecule). It is difficult to get a water loving molecule through our oily waxy skin. This is the reason why we use salts to form stabilized versions of Vitamin C.

Best type of Vitamin C for Skin

For Vitamin C to work on your skin and for you to see results, it has to be in higher percentage and it should be able to penetrate your skin (at a pH 3.5) and pass through the stratum corneum which is the top most layer of your skin where all dead cells lie. So a Vitamin C product should need to have a low pH and high concentration of Vitamin C in it, and be as stabilized as possible for no side-effects.


Vitamin C is water-soluble or hydrophilic and such ingredients are difficult to penetrate our waxy lipid skin barrier. If Vitamin C is not penetrating your skin, you will not find any positive results from the use of Vitamin C. The Vitamin C penetrates best in acidic skin (pH 3.5). If the pH of your skin is naturally high (alkaline), it means you have dry skin, and a low pH (acidic)means you have oily acne prone skin. 


The best non-irritating and stable forms of Vitamin C are salts like Magnesium and Sodium which allow us to make stable forms of Vitamin C that also have better penetration into the skin. Magnesium Ascorbyl Phosphate (which is an ester) is a much more gentle and stable form of Vitamin C for sensitive skin and for olive/brown/dark skins of color.

How much Vitamin C for Skin brightening

If you want to use Vitamin C for its anti-pigmentation benefits by brightening dark spots from pigmentation and “glowing” skin, you should use Vitamin C at a higher percentage between 5% to 20% for it to work as a brightening agent and to see results.


However, keep in mind that at higher percentages of Vitamin C, the pH of it tends to become lower as it has to be stabilized which can be irritating and drying for sensitive skin.

How much Vitamin C for Skin Health

If you want to use Vitamin C as an antioxidant for your skin and to keep your skin healthy by avoiding free radicals on your skin, a 0.5% to 1%Vitamin C is recommended.

Vitamin C + UV Radiation

Vitamin C sensitizes your skin to UV. Any thermal energy created due to the ingredients you have on your skin need to be avoided, and Vitamin C can sensitize your skin when the UV rays hit your face. That is why it is recommended to wear your Vitamin C only at night time and be vigilant with using your SPF 50 if you are wearing Vitamin C during the day.

Active Ingredients you cannot mix with Vit C

There are Direct Vitamin C’s like 100% l-ascorbic acid. 


Do not combine direct Vitamin C with 

  • Niacinamide
  • Acids (glycolic acid, azelaic acid, mandelic acid, lactic acid, alpha lipoic acid)
  • Peptides (Buffet, Peptides + Copper, Matrixyl)
  • EUK 134
  • Benzoyl Peroxide

Do not combine Derivatives Vitamin C with any product that is a 100% Niacinamide.


Top 10 Vitamin C Product Recommendations

  1. For non-sensitive Skin: Timeless 20% Vitamin C, E + Ferulic Acid Serum ($25 | 30ml, $70 | 120ml)

Timeless 20% Vitamin C, E and Ferulic Acid Serum for non sensitive skin

It has a low pH (so not for sensitive skin), high concentration of Vitamin C and grouped with other antioxidants to keep the Vitamin C stabilized

  1. For Sensitive Skin: Eminence Citrus & Kale Potent C+E Serum ($110 | 30ml)

Eminence Vitamin C for Sensitive Skin

  1. For Sensitive Skin: SkinMedica Vitamin C+E Complex ($102 | 30ml)

Skinmedica Vitamin C for sensitive skin

  1. The Ordinary Magnesium Ascorbyl Phosphate 10% ($12 | 30ml)

The Ordinary Magnesium Ascorbyl Phosphate Vitamin C

A very powerful antioxidant and a great hydrating cream. Good for anti-aging and wrinkles with an unusually stable pH of 6.5 to 7.5. 

  1. The Ordinary Vitamin C Suspension 30% in Silicone ($8 | 30ml)

The Ordinary Vitamin C Suspension 30% in Silicone is suitable for Dry Skin

This is a good choice especially if you have dry skin. Vitamin C can induce dryness and those who have Dry skin can see increased dryness when they use Vitamin C. This Vitamin C from The Ordinary is in Silicone and is perfect for people with Dry skin. The silicone will create an occlusive barrier on top of the skin to keep the hydration of the skin covered and reduce loss of moisture in the skin.

  1. Caudalie VinoPerfect Serum ($48 | 30ml)

Caudalie VinoPerfect Serum Vitamin C for Acne Scar

Recommended By: Hyram

  1. Drunk Elephant C-Firma Serum ($80 | 30 ml)

Drunk Elephant Vitamin C Serum for Acne Scar Treatment

Recommended By: Hyram

  1. Body Merry Super 6 Serum ($19 | 30ml)

Body Merry Super 6 Serum Vitamin C

It has 22% of Vitamin C. It also has Witch Hazel in it, so if you have an active breakout, this can also help to sanitize and sterilize the area. It also has retinol and COQ10.



  1. Humbert PG, Haftek M, Creidi P, Lapière C, Nusgens B, Richard A, Schmitt D, Rougier A, Zahouani H. Topical ascorbic acid on photoaged skin. Clinical, topographical and ultrastructural evaluation: double-blind study vs. placebo. Exp Dermatol. 2003 Jun;12(3):237-44. doi: 10.1034/j.1600-0625.2003.00008.x. PMID: 12823436.


  1. Telang, Pumori Saokar. “Vitamin C in dermatology.” Indian dermatology online journal vol. 4,2 (2013): 143-6. doi:10.4103/2229-5178.110593
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