Vitamin C Serums Are the Way to Go For Brighter Skin
Vitamin C Serums Are the Way to Go For Brighter Skin

Vitamin C Serums Are the Way to Go For Brighter Skin

11 minutes read

Vitamin C, as part of your diet, is a valuable nutrient that helps protect your cells from free radicals and aids your body’s healing process. But, when incorporated into your skincare routine, it can also hold as many benefits for your skin. It’s a powerful antioxidant that helps protect your skin from environmental damage and can reduce fine lines, dark spots and blemishes.

However, it’s certainly not a case of washing your face in orange juice every morning, and there are many factors to consider when slotting vitamin C into your skincare routine. But panic not – we’ve spoken to the experts and have everything you need to know about how to use vitamin C serum.

applying serum

Vitamin C serum benefits

Soften wrinkles

Much research proves vitamin C’s efficacy in improving and smoothing fine lines and wrinkles. Studies report that using a product infused with the good stuff every day for 12 weeks will improve wrinkles and smooth skin texture. “Topical vitamin C is absorbed directly into the topmost layers of the skin, allowing it to work immediately on smoothing the skin, reducing fine lines and dark spots and protecting against free radicals,” explains Dr Pamela Benito, Aesthetic Medicine Specialist. “It is a must for any anti-ageing skin routine”, adds Julie Brown, Beauty Therapist and Founder of The Source Clinic.

Read next: Treatment For Wrinkles Above The Lip & How To Rejuvenate Your Mouth

Sun protection

Studies have shown that when vitamin C is used in conjunction with other topical ingredients (such as ferric acid and vitamin E), it can help protect your skin from dangerous UV rays. But this doesn’t mean you can skip the sunscreen!

Also read: The Best And Worst Beauty Products To Wear Under The Sun


Certain derivatives of vitamin C used in skincare have been shown to boost hydration and help your skin to retain moisture better, meaning it also gives your skin barrier a helping hand.

Improve blemishes

If you’re wondering whether vitamin C serums will help acne, due to their anti-inflammatory properties, they can help control the sebum production in your skin, a big plus in acne-prone skin. And while there have been trials that have shown that vitamin C can improve acne lesions, it’s worth noting that research in this area is in relative infancy, with more studies needed to draw more accurate conclusions.

Reduce redness

A further benefit of vitamin C’s antioxidant qualities is its ability to soothe skin and reduce redness, leaving your skin tone looking more even.

Improve pigmentation

Vitamin C can also help hinder the amount of Melanin (pigment) your skin produces, meaning that using vitamin C topically has been shown to improve dark spots, discolouration and hyperpigmentation.

Brighten dark circles

A problematic area for many of us, dark circles under our eyes and the fine lines often found in this delicate area of skin can be plumped and hydrated by a vitamin C serum, plus the ingredient is adept at evening out skin tone, so it will help alleviate any darkness in the area.

Boost collagen

Collagen is an important protein that keeps our skin bouncy and plump. However, as we age, the levels of collagen we produce significantly declines. Vitamin C helps to boost collagen production in the skin, which means firmer, tighter skin awaits. “When applied topically, vitamin C accelerates the production of collagen and elastin, which help keep the skin plump and firm,” adds Dr Benito.

Sunburn relief

Vitamin C, when used in conjunction with vitamin E, can help accelerate cell turnover, meaning cells that have been damaged by exposure to the sun can heal quicker.

What does vitamin C serum do?

Despite the plethora of benefits vitamin C holds for your skin, there’s a reason that skincare experts don’t advise you to pop orange slices directly onto your face. This is because using ingredients in this way isn’t very effective and, in some cases, isn’t safe either. In addition, when we digest vitamin C, only a very small amount of it reaches our skin. In contrast, skincare formulations like vitamin C serums will absorb directly, efficiently and safely.

Vitamin C serums are also considered safe for most skin types. In addition, studies show that most people can use topical vitamin C products (in concentrations below 20%) without experiencing adverse side effects. Vitamin C in skincare pops up in many different varieties, with L-ascorbic (an active form of vitamin C with a lot of research around it) being the one you want to look out for in your products. Studies have shown it can help improve fine lines and wrinkles, reduce hyperpigmentation, dark spots and acne scarring, and is derived from natural sources of Vitamin C.

Best vitamin C serum

There are several important things to consider when choosing the best vitamin C serum. L-ascorbic acid is the most effective form, so look for its appearance on the top end of your product’s ingredients list to indicate that it’s one of the more significant ingredients. In terms of concentration, look for a formula with a strength of 10-20%; this is because most clinical trials have looked at products that fall into this bracket. Under 10% and you might not reap the benefits, and over 20%, you ramp up the chances of irritating skin with no guarantee of any extra benefits. Other ingredients that play nicely with vitamin C include vitamin E to stabilise and ferulic acid, which will help lower its pH level so your skin can absorb the product more effectively. Lastly, look for darker bottles or packaging that dispense via a dropper, as exposure to the air could destabilise the vitamin C, leaving your product less potent.

Best vitamin C serum for the face

beauty flash ampoule

Clarins Beauty Flash Fresh Ampoule Vitamin C Shot, £38

Combining a 15% concentrated vitamin C complex with a serum, this hybrid 7-day intensive treatment targets dullness, dark spots, lacklustre skin and uneven skin tone.


drunk elephant

Drunk Elephant C-Firma Fresh Day Serum, £70

You cleverly mix this innovative serum at home to ensure maximum potency while ingredients are kept as fresh as possible.

Best vitamin C eye serum

balance me serum

Balance Me Vitamin C Brightening Eye Serum, £30

Customer trials report brighter, smoother and more hydrated skin after using this soft and sumptuous serum. Perfect for if you’ve been missing out on much-needed sleep lately.

Best vitamin C serum for dark spots

Clarins bright plus serum

Clarins Bright Plus Advanced Brightening Dark Spot Targeting Serum, £84

This powerhouse serum is packed with Vitamin C and New Organic Sea Lily to reduce drop spots and leave brighter, smoother and more radiant skin in its wake.

Best vitamin C serum for mature skin

skinceuticals serum

Skinceuticals C E Ferulic Vitamin C Antioxidant Serum, £165

The 15% Vitamin C concentration in this popular serum will visibly improve the signs of ageing and neutralise free radicals. In addition, vitamin E and Ferulic Acid are in for the ride, making it an excellent anti-ageing vitamin C serum.

Best vitamin C serum recommended by dermatologist

zo skin vitamin c

Zo Skin Health 10% Vitamin C Self-Activating, prices vary. Search for a stockist here.

Facial Aesthetics Specialist Dr Benito recommends Zo Skin Health’s offering, adding, “This serum provides a potent dose of vitamin C that brightens your skin, promoting a more even skin tone and minimising the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. It also contains squalane, an ingredient miming our body’s natural moisturiser for additional hydration.” Julie Brown’s top pick is AlumierMD Everactive C&E, as “it is the most active form of vitamin C available on the market at the moment. It contains vitamin E and peptides alongside 15% vitamin C (L-ascorbic acid, which is the most effective form for the skin), and is kept separate until you open the bottle and activate it. This means you know you are always using the strongest efficacy of vitamin C possible on your skin.”

How to use vitamin C serum

Patch test

A patch test is vital to ensure you won’t have an adverse reaction when adding a new product to your line-up. Apply a small amount to the inside of your elbow or behind your ear and monitor for 48 hours.

Start slow

“Start by applying vitamin C every other day or every few days, then work your way up frequently to avoid potential redness and irritation. It could sting or make your skin red at first, but that should go away if you keep using it,” advises Dr Benito. “Some minor tingling is normal, but if you experience anything more intense, stop using the product and consult your dermatologist or skin specialist.”


Vitamin C doesn’t play nicely with certain other ingredients, so be sure nothing is lurking on your skin before applying, with a good cleanse.


Toner is a brilliant and often overlooked step that will help balance your skin’s pH before applying your vitamin C serum.


Apply a couple of drops of your chosen serum to clean dry skin on your face, neck, and chest. Remember that Vitamin C serums can tingle but shouldn’t be substantially uncomfortable.


If you’re wondering, should you apply vitamin C serum before or after moisturiser, the answer is always the former. A sumptuous dollop of moisturiser should come after your vitamin C serum.

Super Restorative Day Cream - All Skin Types

Clarins Super Restorative Day Cream, £80, is a vitamin C-enriched moisturiser that also contains ‘nature’s retinol’, organic harungana, to renew, revive and add a dose of glow to the skin.

Don’t forget sunscreen

We’ll never tire of reminding you to end your skincare routine with the enthusiastic application of sunscreen to protect your delicate skin from damage.

When to use vitamin C serum in your routine

“Most research says that vitamin C is best implemented into your skincare routine when used as a topical serum. The best time to apply vitamin C serum is in the morning, after cleansing your complexion, and before your moisturiser and SPF,” advises Dr Benito. Julie Brown agrees, adding, “Vitamin C should be used daily and preferably in the morning so you can make the most of the free radical fighting antioxidant throughout the day.”

Vitamin C serum slots into your routine post cleansing and toning, but pre moisturiser and sunscreen, to ensure the best possible absorption. It’s also important to consider the other products in your repertoire. “Vitamin C is also safe to use with other skincare actives, including alpha hydroxy acids and retinol,” says Dr Benito. However, “While you can use vitamin C and retinol in a skincare regimen, you should consider using them on alternating days rather than at the same time,” says Dr Benito.

How often should you Use vitamin C serum?

How often you choose to apply Vitamin C serum depends on your skin’s needs and how the product feels on your skin. It is okay to use vitamin c serum every day or twice a day, and for those wondering: can I use vitamin C serum at night? It can be applied morning and night daily if required, with one study recommending an application every 8 hours, but those with more sensitive skin might prefer to stagger their use.

How to use Hyaluronic acid and vitamin C serum

Hyaluronic acid is the cornerstone of a good skincare routine because it retains 1000 times its weight in water. Both hyaluronic acid and vitamin C are potent soldiers on their own but create one hell of an army when used together, boosting the benefits each brings. “Not only can you use vitamin C and hyaluronic acid together, but when you do, they can help create a more effective skincare routine. When combined, they complement each other to hydrate, protect and repair ageing skin,” says Dr Benito. Lots of products utilise this by containing both ingredients, but if you are reaching for separate products, “depending on the consistencies of each serum will determine which to apply first,” advises Julie Brown. “A lighter vitamin C serum can be beneficial for the skin to apply first after cleansing, allowing it to work to the lower levels of the skin.”

Vitamin C serum side effects

Dr Benito stresses that “Vitamin C is a safe and generally well-tolerated ingredient, although because of its instability and potency, it is not fit for use by all skin types.” In addition, vitamin C serums, particularly with higher concentrations, come with the added risk of irritating skin, especially those on the more sensitive side of the spectrum. “As with any skincare product, you may experience side effects when using a vitamin C serum. If you have sensitive skin, you may be more likely to experience common side effects such as itching, redness, skin irritation and tingling sensation. However, if the irritation is instantly evident and intense, you should stop using it immediately and consult your dermatologist,” adds Dr Benito.

And if you’re planning to apply twice a day, picking a lower concentration may help minimise this risk. Lastly, sensitive skin may not react well to L-ascorbic acid, the most common form of Vitamin C in skincare. Hence, one study suggests using products containing magnesium ascorbic phosphate as this may be less likely to irritate.


Is it good to use vitamin C serum every day?

Vitamin C has many benefits when used in skincare and can be used daily. However, remember to listen to your skin, and if it becomes irritated or sensitive after applying any product, dial back your usage and always consult your doctor if concerned.

Can you use vitamin C serum twice a day?

You can use vitamin C serum both morning and night, with one study even suggesting an application every 8 hours for optimal results.

How long does vitamin C serum take to work?

Patience is key when using Vitamin C serums, with results starting to show from around three weeks, but there’s a sweet spot of three months of daily use to see the benefits.

Next Read: Oats: The Ancient Ingredient Could Be The Secret to Great Skin

Sign up for our newsletter

We will keep you in the loop for special offers, exclusive gifts and product news.

Hydra-Essentiel - 335 x 100
Hydra-Essentiel - 1180 x 200