Vitamin C in Skincare

Doctor Rogers Skincare Blog: Vitamin C In Skincare
Why is topical Vitamin C important in skincare?

Vitamin C has numerous useful properties that not only slow the aging process, but can also improve skin health and appearance.  However, it is also an acid and can irritate sensitive skin. As such, it’s crucial to understand how it works and how to use it correctly. 


What does Vitamin C do to the face?

Vitamin C, also known as ascorbic acid, plays a crucial role in maintaining healthy skin. When applied topically to the face, vitamin C offers several anti-aging benefits:

  1. Antioxidant Protection: Vitamin C is a potent antioxidant that helps protect the skin from damage caused by free radicals. Free radicals are the unstable molecules generated by sunlight, pollution, and environmental stressors.These free radicals cause skin cancer and the breakdown of collagen. Antioxidants are able to neutralize these free radicals before they cause damage to our skin cells. 
  2. Collagen Synthesis and Skin Elasticity: Vitamin C is essential for the synthesis of collagen, a structural protein that provides strength and elasticity to the skin. Collagen production naturally decreases with age, leading to wrinkles and sagging skin. By promoting collagen synthesis, vitamin C helps maintain skin firmness and reduce the signs of aging. 
  3. UV Damage Repair: Exposure to sunlight can lead to UV damage, causing premature aging and skin damage. Vitamin C helps repair UV-induced damage by promoting the repair and regeneration of skin cells. It neutralizes free radicals and supports the body’s mechanisms that repair damaged DNA.  It also enhances the effectiveness of sunscreen, providing additional protection against harmful UV rays.
  4. Brightening and Even Skin Tone: Vitamin C inhibits the production of melanin, the pigment responsible for dark spots and hyperpigmentation. Regular use of vitamin C can help fade existing dark spots and contribute to a more even skin tone, resulting in a brighter complexion. 
  5. Anti-Inflammatory Properties: Vitamin C has anti-inflammatory properties, which can help soothe irritated skin and reduce redness. This makes it beneficial for individuals with sensitive or inflamed skin conditions, particularly if the formula is non-irritating. 

    How to Implement Vitamin C into a Skincare Routine

    You can use topical serums, creams, lotions, and even sunscreens that contain stabilized forms of vitamin C. It's very important to note that vitamin C can be sensitive to light and air, so products should be stored properly to maintain their efficacy. Additionally, patch testing a new product is advisable, especially for those with sensitive skin, to ensure compatibility.  My favorite way to use vitamin C is as a morning serum on bare skin to ensure excellent penetration into the skin.

    1. Consider the Formulation: Different vitamin C derivatives have varying stabilities and potential for irritation. Pay attention to the specific formulation of the serum you are using. More on the different forms of Vitamin C below.
    2. Choose the Right Concentration: Vitamin C serums are available in different concentrations, ranging from around 5% to 20% or higher. If you have sensitive skin, you use a lower concentration because ingredients penetrate your skin more easily you do not need maximum concentrations. 
    3. Consistency is Key: For optimal results, consistency in usage is important. Incorporate the vitamin C serum into your morning skincare routine after cleansing and before applying moisturizer and sunscreen. A good formula will be effective for 24 hours on your skin. 
    4. Sunscreen is Crucial: Vitamin C can enhance the effectiveness of sunscreen, but it does not replace it. It's essential to use a broad-spectrum sunscreen with at least SPF 30 during the day to protect your skin from harmful UV rays. Don’t hesitate to reapply if it is very sunny or you are very active.
    5. Monitor for Irritation: While Vitamin C is generally well-tolerated, some individuals may experience mild irritation, especially if using higher concentrations. If you notice redness, itching, or irritation, consider reducing the frequency or concentration of the vitamin C serum.

      How to apply a Vitamin C serum

      If you are introducing a vitamin C serum into your routine for the first time, it's a good idea to start with a gentle formulation.  Start with just a small pea sized amount and only use it a couple times per week. Dab it on your cheeks, chin and forehead and gently rub it in. Apply another pea size amount to your neck and chest. Starting slowly will help your skin adjust and minimize the risk of irritation.  Apply it on clean skin as your first step for the best penetration. Follow your vitamin C with a supportive moisturizer and follow that with sunscreen. 

      Here is a video on my morning skincare routine: 


      What are the different types of Vitamin C?*

      In skincare, various forms of vitamin C are used, each with its own set of characteristics and stability. The choice of vitamin C derivative in skincare formulations often depends on factors such as stability, penetration into the skin, and the desired benefits. Here are some common types of vitamin C derivatives used in skincare:

      1. L-Ascorbic Acid: This is the purest and most potent form of vitamin C. It is water-soluble and provides antioxidant protection. However, L-ascorbic acid is unstable, oxidizes easily when exposed to light and air and can be irritating, especially in higher concentrations (over 10%)
      2. Sodium Ascorbyl Phosphate (SAP): SAP is a stable, water-soluble form of vitamin C. It is less prone to oxidation compared to L-ascorbic acid but also less potent.
      3. Ascorbyl Palmitate: This is a fat-soluble form of vitamin C. It is often used in oil-based skincare products. While it has antioxidant properties, it may not penetrate the skin as effectively as some other forms of vitamin C.
      4. Magnesium Ascorbyl Phosphate (MAP): MAP is a stable form of vitamin C that is water-soluble. It is less irritating than L-ascorbic acid, making it suitable for sensitive skin.
      5. Tetrahexyldecyl Ascorbate: This is an oil-soluble form of vitamin C that is known for its stability, effectiveness and tolerability. It also penetrates the skin well. It is often used in anti-aging formulations.  This is my favorite variation, and the one I put in my Day Preventative Treatment. 
      6. Ascorbic Glucoside: This is a stable, water-soluble form of vitamin C. It converts to ascorbic acid in the skin, providing antioxidant benefits. It is less prone to oxidation than L-ascorbic acid and is less potent. 
      7. Ethyl Ascorbic Acid: This stable form of vitamin C is oil-soluble. It is less prone to oxidation than L-ascorbic acid and less potent.

        Which brand of Vitamin C serum is best?

        Several brands are known for producing high-quality vitamin C serums that are well-regarded by skincare enthusiasts and professionals. Some popular brands include:

          1. Doctor Rogers Day Preventive Treatment: I personally chose to use 10% Tetrahexyldecyl Ascorbate (THD) in my formulation because it is the most stable, most absorbed, and least irritating form of Vitamin C. 
          2. SkinCeuticals: SkinCeuticals C E Ferulic contains 15% L-Ascorbic Acid.
          3. Paula's Choice: Paula's Choice C15 Super Booster contains 15% Ascorbic Acid. 
          4. Drunk Elephant: Drunk Elephant C-Firma Day Serum is water-based and formulated with 15% L-ascorbic acid.  You have to mix this one up at home.
          5. The Ordinary: The Ordinary offers vitamin C serums in various formulations, including L-ascorbic acid, ascorbyl glucoside, and ascorbyl tetraisopalmitate. Some of their formulas have high percentages that may be irritating to sensitive skin. 
          6. Mad Hippie: Mad Hippie Vitamin C Serum is a vegan and cruelty-free option containing Sodium Ascorbyl Phosphate. 
          7. Skinbetter: Alto Defense Serum uses Tetrahexyldecyl Ascorbate. 
          8. Vanicream: Vitamin C Serum is a relatively inexpensive and weaker formula that is a good place to start if you have sensitive skin and on a budget. Contains 5% Tetrahexyldecyl Ascorbate
          9. Avene: A-OXitive Antioxidant Defense Serum contains Ascorbyl Glucoside, which is a weaker formula for sensitive skin. 
          10. Beauty stat: Universal C Skin Refiner contains 20% L-Ascorbic Acid.

        Ultimately, the "best" vitamin C serum is one that works effectively for your skin, addresses your concerns, and fits well within your skincare routine and budget. If you have specific skincare concerns or conditions, consulting with a dermatologist can provide personalized recommendations tailored to your skin type and needs.

        What does Vitamin C serum do for oily skin?

        Vitamin C offers several benefits for individuals with oily skin, helping to address specific concerns associated with excess oil production. Here's how Vitamin C works for oily skin:

        1. Sebum Regulation: Vitamin C helps regulate sebum production, the skin's natural oil. By balancing oil production, Vitamin C can prevent excessive oiliness, reducing the risk of clogged pores and acne breakouts associated with oily skin.
        2. Antioxidant Protection: Oily skin is often more prone to environmental damage and oxidative stress. Vitamin C acts as a powerful antioxidant, neutralizing free radicals that contribute to skin aging and oil oxidation. This antioxidant protection helps maintain the health of oily skin and minimizes the potential for long-term damage.
        3. Acne Prevention: Excess oil production can lead to the formation of acne and blemishes. Vitamin C's anti-inflammatory properties can help reduce redness and inflammation associated with acne. Additionally, Vitamin C supports a healthy skin barrier, preventing bacteria from entering pores and causing breakouts.
        4. Collagen Synthesis: Vitamin C promotes collagen production, which is crucial for maintaining skin structure and elasticity. Oily skin doesn't mean you should neglect collagen support. Improved collagen levels contribute to skin resilience and can help minimize the appearance of enlarged pores often associated with oily skin.
        5. Brightening Effect: Vitamin C can help improve skin tone and reduce hyperpigmentation associated with acne scars or sun damage on oily skin. This brightening effect contributes to a more even complexion, enhancing the overall appearance of the skin.
        6. Mattifying Effect: Vitamin C can provide a mattifying effect on the skin, helping to control shine and reduce the appearance of excess oil. This can be particularly beneficial for those with oily skin who want to achieve a more balanced and matte finish.

          What does Vitamin C serum do for dry skin?

          Vitamin C offers several benefits for dry skin, helping to address issues related to hydration and overall skin health. Here's how Vitamin C works for dry skin:

          1. Moisture Retention: Vitamin C promotes the synthesis of hyaluronic acid, a natural substance in the skin that holds water. By enhancing hyaluronic acid production, Vitamin C helps the skin retain moisture, reducing dryness and improving hydration levels.
          2. Barrier Function Support: Vitamin C contributes to the maintenance of the skin's barrier function. A healthy skin barrier prevents water loss and protects against external irritants. By supporting the barrier, Vitamin C helps create a more effective shield against environmental factors that can contribute to dryness.
          3. Collagen Production: Collagen is essential for skin structure and elasticity. Vitamin C plays a crucial role in collagen synthesis, which, in turn, helps maintain skin firmness and suppleness. Improved collagen levels contribute to a healthier and more resilient skin barrier, reducing the likelihood of dryness.
          4. Antioxidant Protection: Dry skin is often more susceptible to oxidative stress and damage. Vitamin C's antioxidant properties help neutralize free radicals that can contribute to dryness and premature aging. By protecting the skin from environmental stressors, Vitamin C supports overall skin health and hydration.
          5. Brightening Effect: Vitamin C can help improve skin tone and reduce the appearance of dullness associated with dry skin. By promoting a more even complexion, Vitamin C enhances the overall appearance of the skin, making it look healthier and more radiant.


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          *These recommendations are not sponsored. They are the result of Dr. Heather D. Rogers, MD evidence-based research​ and​ extensive clinical experience​. 

          The information provided by Dr. Rogers is general health information inspired by this topic. The information in the Doctor Rogers web site, and related links, articles, newsletters and blogs, is provided for general information and educational purposes only. It should not be a substitute for obtaining medical advice from your physician and is not intended to diagnose or treat any specific medical problem (and is not an extension of the care Dr. Rogers has provided in her office for existing patients of her practice). Use the information and products on this site at your own risk. Use of this site indicates your agreement with these statements and the Terms and Conditions of If you do not agree to all of these Terms and Conditions of use, please do not use this site!  Never ignore your own doctor’s advice because of something you read here; this information is for general informational purposes only.  There is no doctor patient relationship implied.

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