Highlighter, without a doubt, is a gift bestowed upon us by the beauty gods because it dresses up our cheekbones with that million-dollar radiance we all know and love. However, if you’re trying to scale back on wearing makeup every day, knowing how to use vitamin C on your face can get you the same gorgeous glow with way less effort and more skin-loving benefits.
“Vitamin C is the most studied and most effective topical antioxidant we have in skincare,” according to board-certified dermatologist Dr. Dr. Joshua Zeichner, MD. “It has multiple skin benefits including protecting the skin from environmental aggressors, blocking abnormal pigment production and brightening dark spots.”
Luminous shine aside, vitamin C also boasts additional skin-boosting benefits, according to board-certified dermatologist Dr. Hadley King, MD. Among these advantages are environmental protection and speeding up collagen synthesis, which can help heal wounds and prevent unwanted scarring, fine lines, and wrinkles over time.
“Vitamin C is an essential part of skin health both as an antioxidant and as a critical factor for collagen synthesis,” Dr. King told StyleCaster. “Vitamin C contributes to photoprotection, decreases photodamage, and is needed for wound healing.”
But while vitamin C is an integral part of any skincare routine, it can be a bit confusing to know which vitamin C product is best suited for your needs. The market is currently saturated with lots of sunscreen, serum, and moisturizer products too, making the choice a lot more difficult.
To give you a better understanding of how to use every type of vitamin C product on your face, we tapped both Dr. King and Dr. Zeichner (plus other board-certified derms!) to give us the full breakdown on everything you need to know about this superstar antioxidant.
Vitamin C Types
Although vitamin C is recommended for all skin types, board-certified dermatologist Dr. Zenovia Gabriel, MD, FAAD, explained that there are several types of vitamin C to be aware of.
For starters, she explained that L-ascorbic acid (which is best used at a 15 percent concentration) is the most common type of vitamin C found in skincare products, and is usually recommended for oily or normal skin types. This form of vitamin C also increases firmness and reduces photo-damage with continued use.
Next up is ascorbyl palmitate, which Dr. Gabriel explained is a lipid-soluble and stable form of pure vitamin C. This form of vitamin C exhibits impressive antioxidant activity, she added and protects the skin from free radicals and oxidation.
Sodium Ascorbyl Phosphate is another type of vitamin C to keep your eye on, according to Dr. Gabriel, as it is a soluble and stable form of vitamin C. This makes it more than effective for evening skin tone and brightening complexions, she explained.
Suitable for sensitive and dry skin types alike, Dr. Gabriel explained that magnesium ascorbyl phosphate (MAP) is another form of vitamin C to look into. This form of vitamin C is the most stable and preferred ascorbyl ester, she explained, and works to increase collagen and protects against free radicals.
Finally, there is tetrahexyldecyl ascorbate, which is an oil-soluble form of vitamin C, according to Dr. Gabriel. This form of vitamin C is best suited for aging skin, she explained, as it can penetrate deeper into the layers of the skin, delivering amazing results.
When To Use in Your Daily Routine
It’s true that the market is currently saturated with many vitamin C skincare products. However, board-certified dermatologist Dr. Y. Claire Chang, MD explained that it’s more important to know when to use them.
For example, vitamin C products can be used once daily in the form of serums and essences, she said. But if you want to see noticeable results from your products, she said it can be helpful to up your usage to up to two times a day.
“I recommend using vitamin C products twice daily for maximum benefits,” Dr. Chang said. “If used in serum or essence forms, it should be applied after cleansing and before your thicker moisturizers and creams.”
Similarly, Dr. Zeichner explained that vitamin C products (serums and creams) can also fit into your daily routine by being applied underneath your sunscreen. This helps boost your block’s effectiveness, shielding your skin from the sun’s harmful rays, he added. “Think of vitamin C as an insurance policy on your sunscreen,” Dr. Zeichner said. “It helps neutralize the effect of any UV light that penetrates.”
Vitamin C Powders
Powdered vitamin C products are another way you can add vitamin C into your skincare routine, as Dr. Zeichner said they are more stable and less likely to degrade with light. However, using these products correctly can be tricky since powdered vitamin C must be mixed with the right products in order to guarantee an effective result.
“Powdered vitamin C must be mixed in the right vehicle in order to be absorbed, and then released in the skin, so mixing it in the right products and proportions is important,” he explained. “Part of this is because it’s key to get the right pH levels–the pH of the vitamin C needs to be acidic to absorb, which can cause some irritation when it comes into contact with the skin.”
Our mission at STYLECASTER is to bring style to the people, and we only feature products we think you’ll love as much as we do. Please note that if you purchase something by clicking on a link within this story, we may receive a small commission of the sale and the retailer may receive certain auditable data for accounting purposes.
To use powdered vitamin C products correctly, Dr. Zeichner advised starting off slowly by adding a small amount of product to moisturizers or serums to see how your skin tolerates it. If your skin does not respond negatively to your mixture, he then recommended applying it onto areas of the skin that are subject to hyperpigmentation.
Vitamin C Serums
When shopping for vitamin C serums, Dr. Zeichner said you’ll want to look out for products that contain ascorbic acid, as he explained that this has been shown to be the most effective form of vitamin C for topical administration.
And yes, this form of vitamin C isn’t very stable. However, he added that other antioxidants can be added to increase the stability of your product. With this in mind, he advised looking for ascorbic acid combined with other antioxidants and packaging that protects the solution from air and light.
Dr. King also suggested that vitamin c serums fit into your daily routine easily. To apply them correctly, you’ll want to apply them onto cleansed skin before applying moisturizer and essential SPF. “I recommend using an antioxidant serum (mostly commonly vitamin C) every morning, followed by a moisturizer with broad-spectrum SPF 30 or higher,” she advised.
Vitamin C Moisturizers
Dr. King acknowledges that moisturizer products can also contain built-in vitamin C in order to brighten and hydrate the skin effectively.
However, while you may think it’s much more effective to layer a good vitamin C serum underneath your sunscreen, she suggested that vitamin C moisturizers help speed up the product application process, making it ideal for those on-the-go or those living with extremely dry skin.
“There are moisturizers that include vitamin C and for dry skin types, this would be another option that could avoid the need for two steps,” she said.
To use vitamin C moisturizer correctly, King advised using them as the regular hydrating products inside your routine. Just be sure to reapply your moisturizer throughout the day, she added, to keep your skin adequately hydrated throughout the day.
Vitamin C Eye Creams
Eye creams and serums also use vitamin C to help correct fine lines and dark circles around the eye area, according to board-certified dermatologist Dr. Debra Jaliman, MD.
To use these products correctly, Dr. Jaliman advised applying them onto your under eyes right after cleansing and before you proceed to moisturize.
“Allow your eye cream to penetrate before you layer the next step in your regimen,” Dr. Jaliman said. “Use your ring finger to apply it by tapping around the ocular bone.”
Vitamin C Masks
Dr. Jaliman noted that there are many peel-off masks that contain Vitamin C. However, people with oily and mature skin types benefit most from these products, as they can reduce pore size and achieve firmer skin.
“These masks can reduce pore size and eventually you may achieve firmer skin,” she explained. “If your mask contains vitamin C, fruit and/or plant extracts, and vitamin E, you may even notice there are less visible fine lines and wrinkles.”
To use vitamin C masks with ease, Dr. Jaliman advised applying them onto a cleansed face. And once it comes to remove your mask, you can then apply your favorite serum and night cream, she added.
Vitamin C Sunscreen
Sunscreens (either mineral or chemical) are essential skincare products that help protect the skin from UV radiation, according to Dr. King. However, when vitamin C is added to these products, it can help improve your SPF protection even more.
“If sunscreen ingredients are combined with vitamin C, then the protection has been shown to be greater because the antioxidants help to neutralize the free radicals from UV rays,” she explained. “Neutralizing the free radicals with antioxidants such as vitamin C improves the prevention of photodamage.”
To use these vitamin C sunscreens correctly, Dr. King suggested applying them on like your everyday go-to block. Just be sure to reapply your product often, she added, as sunscreen protection only lasts for a certain amount of time.
Shop some of the best vitamin C formulas on the market below.
BELLA Skin Beauty Vitamin C Serum
If you are looking for hard-working vitamin C serum to join your #shelfies, definitely add this product to your beauty wishlist. It utilizes this antioxidant to provide an anti-aging boost and full-spectrum antioxidant protection.
Baie Botanique Rose Renew Face Cream
Let’s face it: moisturizing is important, but applying it on often can feel like a chore.
However, this rejuvenating face cream makes it more than easy to remember this crucial skincare step, as it boasts a gorgeous floral aroma and is packed with skin-boosting ingredients such as glycolic acid, green tea, and vitamin C.
Kiehls Eye Cream Powerful-Strength Dark Circle Reducing Vitamin C Eye Serum
Erase blue and brown under-eye circles with this vitamin C eye serum, which uses 10 percent vitamin C extract, peptides and hyaluronic acid to give your peepers that well-rested look.
Biossance Squalane + Vitamin C Rose Oil
Your daily facial oil also gets a vitamin C boost, as this lightweight squalane and rose oil hydrates and brightens brilliantly thanks to added vitamin C.
Tatcha Violet-C Vitamin C Radiance Mask
This creamy anti-aging mask is a true skincare lover’s dream, as it uses two types of vitamin C (and AHA acids!) to keep skin glowing and velvety smooth.
Murad Essential-C Toner
Send breakouts and blemishes packing with this vitamin C-packed toner, which energizes and refreshes skin with each spritz.
Supergoop! PLAY Antioxidant Body Mist SPF 30 with Vitamin C
Upgrade your daily block with this SPF30 mist, which uses vitamin C to provide long-lasting protection (up to 80 minutes) throughout the day.
No7 Youthful Vitamin C Fresh Radiance
This vitamin C-charged radiance is a must-have if essences are a part of your everyday routine, as it absorbs quickly into the skin and employs a 5 percent vitamin C formulation to combat discoloration and dryness.
Erno Laszlo White Marble Dual Phase Vitamin C Peel
This two-step clarifying peel uses vitamin C to gently buff away dead skin cells, erase dark spots, and correct discoloration each time you use it.