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How and When To Use Vitamin C

We’re all familiar with taking our daily vitamins and supplements for optimum health and our skincare routines shouldn’t be exempt. A cup of OJ may be your fix when it comes to immunity, but what exactly does vitamin C do for your skin? From a powerhouse antioxidant to blitzing hyperpigmentation, get the true rundown on this well-loved ingredient and why it needs a place in your lineup.


Vitamin C, also known as ascorbic acid, is a multi-purpose molecule proven to help protect, brighten, and firm the skin. Known as the gold standard antioxidant, board-certified dermatologist Dr. Ranella Hirsch explains that vitamin C helps to neutralize free radicals, which are unstable atoms known to accelerate the aging process. “Vitamin C stabilizes free radicals, caused by pollution, UV rays, smoking, sugar, and stress, and in doing so, prevents cell damage.” If its protective prowess wasn’t enough, vitamin C is also the go-to ingredient for diminishing a dull complexion, fading dark spots, and brightening the skin. Whether you’ve picked up some pesky sun damage over the summer or have post-inflammatory pigmentation from old blemishes, regular vitamin C usage will help diminish them. “It inhibits the skin from producing melanin which helps to lighten areas of hyperpigmentation and evens skin tone,” Dr. Hirsch adds. 


You’ll find vitamin C in everything from cleansers to serums to facial peels. This ingredient comes in different strengths and concentrations meaning that all skin types—even acne-prone complexions and sensitive skin—can enjoy its benefits. While it can be applied daily, start with 3-4 times a week if you like to play it safe and work your way up. Although vitamin C is most commonly used in the morning, there is a place for it in your PM skincare routine too, Hirsch tells us. “Vitamin C helps with cellular metabolism which happens all the time, but particularly at night.” If you’re looking for a new vitamin C product to bring into your routine, check out our Weekend Glow Daily Brightening Moisturizer, a lightweight, non-comedogenic cream enriched with not one, but two stabilized forms of vitamin C that work deep in the skin to deliver even better glowing and firming results.


We'll admit it: Vitamin C doesn't always have the most pleasant scent. We don't include artificial fragrance in our products as it can cause irritation, redness, and other uncomfortable skin concerns, however, any noticeable scent stemming from the vitamin C active should subside shortly after application. Trust us: the results make it more than worth it.


No, we don’t include artificial fragrance in our products as it can cause irritation, redness, and other uncomfortable skin concerns. Any noticeable scent stems from the vitamin C active and should subside shortly after application. Trust us: the results make it more than worth it.

Whichever product you choose, Dr. Hirsch says the most important thing is finding one that’s well-formulated. Its most potent form, known as L-ascorbic acid, is incredibly unstable as it’s sensitive to light and air, so look for products with airtight, opaque packaging, replace the cap quickly after application, and store away from direct sunlight in a cool, dark place (not your steamy bathroom). Vitamin C doesn’t have a true expiration date, but most serums (depending on the vitamin C it's formulated with) are most effective when used within 3-6 months after opening. A tell-tale sign that it’s time to part ways is if your product has turned dark brown from oxidation (don’t fret—orange is normal). For maximum freshness, try using vitamin C in powder form, such as in Found The Light Vitamin C Powder, which not only ensures that it stays potent for longer but allows you to mix this skin-brightening ingredient into any of your other skincare favorites.


Vitamin C pairs well with most other ingredients, but it’s especially effective when combined with these ingredients.


This is a great combo for acne-prone, dull, and aging skin. While vitamin C brightens the complexion and boosts collagen, niacinamide smooths out the appearance of pores, calms inflammation, and boosts elasticity. For overall brightness, find this combo in Stroke of Brilliance Brightening Serum or if you’ve got pesky dark circles, tap it on the under eyes using our Vacation Eyes Brightening Eye Gel.


Because vitamin C is an antioxidant, it enhances the effect of your sunscreen due to its ability to fight off free radicals and prevent sun damage. Layer on a vitamin C moisturizer before Guards Up SPF for maximum protection.

Exfoliating Acids (AHAs/BHAs)

This combo works so well because the acids dissolve any dead skin cells, allowing vitamin C to penetrate the skin more effectively. Reap their benefits together in our Weekend Glow Daily Brightening Toner or, if you’re looking for something a bit more intense, our Doctor's Visit Instant Resurfacing Mask.


This powerful pairing can be used to fade and fight off environmental aggressors, but to avoid any potential irritation, don’t mix and match on your own. Instead, look for a product that’s already formulated with the two ingredients together.