Ascorbic Acid / Vitamin C
|Best used: AM Or PM||Caution: Sensitive Skin, Rosacea,||Best for: Anti-aging, skin pigmentation, UV protection|
|Comments: All rounder however can cause skin irritation in some||Mode of action:|
Why use vitamin C?
Vitamin C is a powerful skincare vitamin & forms the last vitamin of the ABCs of dermatology. Its main roles in skincare include the following-
- Pigment inhibitor: frequently prescribed to reduce pigment production, it is useful to treat melasma pigment, age spots & post acne marks.
- Collagen builder: as adjunct to retinol & AHAs
- Antioxidant: often combined with vitamin E & ferulic acid to help protect the skin from free radicals & environmental damage.
When should I you use vitamin C, in the morning or night?
When should I use vitamin C? Ascorbic acid is a super multi-tasking skin vitamin that can be used in the morning or in the evening, & if you have resistant skin twice a day!
Morning application of ascorbic acid enables this to function as a free radical scavenger & an antioxidant, reducing the effects of harmful UV rays. Vitamin C is most often combined with other free radical scavengers including vitamin E & ferulic acid. “C” also acts as a stabilizing molecule to prolong the bioactivity of other formulations including Hydroquinone.
Evening application of vitamin C amplifies its role as a collagen builder & pigment corrector. Ascorbic acid can lighten & brighten skin as it inhibits the enzyme that produces melanin (pigment).
A small minority of patients can tolerate vitamin C twice a day in addition to other skin care actives. Do NOT attempt twice a day application if you have sensitive skin.
Can I use Vitamin C serum every day?
Vitamin C serum is typically applied once a day. A good rule of thumb is to cleanse, , apply vitamin C serum, and then moisturize or layer your SPF of choice. Applied in the morning vitamin C acts as an antioxidant, protecting your skin against UV rays. Applied at night, ascorbic acid works by decreasing pigment production & aids in improving skin tone by building new collagen.
View our Treatment Gallery
🩺 My real job: @101.skin @the_melasma_clinic
🇦🇺 Founder: @cutis_dermatology @theformulated
Can vitamin C lighten skin & treat hyperpigmentation?
Hyperpigmentation — including melasma, sunspots & post inflammatory hyperpigmentation from acne occurs when melanin is overproduced in certain areas of the skin. Vitamin C application has been shown to impede melanin production by inhibition of the enzyme that produces pigment, tyrosinase. Vitamin C is also a potent antioxidant, acting to reduce UV damage to your skin’s cells.
How long does vitamin C take to lighten skin?
Expect that your skin texture or dark spots will lighten over time. How long it takes will vary with each person but in general, you should notice a difference within 3 weeks. By two to three weeks, and a significant difference in eight to 12 weeks.
Can vitamin C reduce wrinkles?
This vitamin can be a powerful anti-aging ingredient, as it prevents collagen breakdown whilst at the same time promoting new collagen formation. Along with retinoic acid, ascorbic acid is one of our favourite moleculas to prevent & treat wrinkles.
Does vitamin C reduce pore size?
Vitamin C can improve skin texture and appearance of pores by increasing elastin and collagen levels. This increase of the dermal matrix supports the entrance of pores, making them smaller. On the other hand, excessive use of ascorbic acid can lead to skin irritation & swelling, potentially making pores seem larger. Strike a balance!
What should I not mix with vitamin C serum?
Vitamin C is effectively an acid with a low pH, so layering it with AHAs and BHAs like glycolic, salicylic, and lactic acids is one way to get in BIG trouble. It’s also really unstable so any acids you layer it with will destabilise the pH balance rendering it less stable. Good idea not to mix retinol/retinoids with ‘C’ as this can lead to increased skin irritation. Here is a quick checklist to see what should not be mixed together
- VITAMIN C + AHAS/BHAS.
- RETINOL + AHAS/BHAS.
- RETINOL + VITAMIN C.
- OIL-BASED + WATER-BASED.
- GLYCOLIC ACID + SALICYLIC ACID.
- NIACINAMIDE + VITAMIN C
Can I mix Vitamin C with Vitamin B-Niacinamide?
Even though concurrent use seems complimentary as niacinamide is anti-inflammatory, using compounds with pH of less than 5.0 with niacinamide is not advisable. A more alkaline environment may render vitamin C less effective.
Can I use retinol and vitamin C together?
It’s best to apply vitamin C before retinol, as vitamin C has a lower pH than retinol. A good routine to develop is to use ascorbic acid in the morning, & either retinol or a retinoid in the evening. Using both topicals together will alter the skin’s pH, rendering both actives less potent than if individually spaced apart.
Can I mix vitamin C and hyaluronic acid?
Absolutely ! Hyaluronic acid can be combined with Vitamin C products or applied separately as the second layer of defense. While HAs are water-based, it is used to bind moisture to the skin and pump up moisture levels, so many Vitamin C products will already boast hyaluronic acid on their ingredient list.
How should I start my vitamin C journey?
SLOWLY. Dermatologists see more mishaps with this vitamin compared to all others combined (A,B,E). Not everyone can tolerate high bioavailability ascorbic acid as formulations are in the pH region of 2.5 to 3.0. This acidity enhances the potency of vitamin C at the expense of skin irritation. As with any other skin care products, start at a superlow concentration- say 5 to 10%, increasing as tolerated. Be careful if you are layering or mixing ascorbic acid with AHAs such as lactic, glycolic or citric acids. The same goes for BHAs such as salicylic acid.
Why should you NOT use vitamin C if you have sensitive skin?
Ascorbic acid is, as the name suggests, an acid with an optimal pH of around 2.5. This can frequently irritate & inflame conditions such as rosacea, seborrheic dermatitis & eczema. Skin care actives including hyaluronic acid, niacinamide, green tea, & tocopherol are better options if you have reactive skin.
What Vitamin C serum is the most effective?
Formulations matter, & picking the BEST serum for your skin type is not as easy as recommending one product. It is quite safe to say that the cheapest Vitamin C serums including The Ordinary do not have the best formulations. What they do provide is a high concentration of vitamin C. In the context of skin care formulations will always outweigh the concentration of actives.
The Ordinary Vitamin C Suspension 23% + HA Spheres 2% is popular amongst consumers. The Ordinary Magnesium Ascorbyl Phosphate 10% has a lower concentration, & maybe less irritating, however it is generally less biologically active compared to say, L-Ascorbic Acid.
Is vitamin C powder from The Ordinary good?
The Ordinary makes some good formulations; however DIY ascorbic acid has both pluses & drawbacks. The major advantage of making a fresh batch of L-Ascorbic Acid guarantees the potency as this molecule is heat & light labile (*unstable). The flipside is that you are playing with a very strong acid with a pH of less than 3.0. This causes significant irritation in most people, especially at higher concentrations exceeding 15%.
How do I incorporate ascorbic acid in my daily skin care routine?
A sensible skin care routine that incorporates ascorbic acid goes something like this;
AM: Gentle cleanser, then ascorbic acid, SPF, make up. (+/-Tocopherol, ferulic acid)
PM: Cleanser, actives such as Niacinamide, Hyaluronic Acid, Tretinoin or Retinol OR ascorbic acid (*Refer to below)
*There are many formulations of ascorbic acid, with endless combinations. The use of other acids such as AHAs, BHAs, retinoic, etc…with vitamin C should not be attempted. Azelaic acid can be safely mixed with ascorbic acid. As a pigment corrector, vitamin C is usually found in good formulations of HQ as it stabilizes this compound.
A sensible starting point is to use a good formulation of L-Ascorbic Acid every other night and gradually incorporate it into your routine. If in doubt, dilute the active with a moisturiser, & conduct a test patch. Be guided by your skin care expert.
Davin’s Skin Protip
Ascorbic acid is the best & the worst ingredient on the market. The good? It is a super antioxidant, reducing UV & environmental stressors that break down collagen, elastin & hyaluronic acid. It also has an important role in stabilizing compounds such as hydroquinone. The bad? Not many people know how to use it well. Good formulations are acidic with a low pH, hence one should be careful in introducing this acid into a sensible skin care routine. The majority of patients who have skin sensitivities or rosacea will not tolerate high concentrations of ascorbic acid. Formulations matter with this skin care vitamin.
Join the conversation
Join Dr Davin Lim on Instagram to stay up to date