Why Vitamin C Serums Can Cause Breakouts (& How To Rectify It)

Serums have soared in popularity since hitting the shelves, with the global market estimated to reach a whopping total of $5.6 billion by 2031 (via Allied Market Research). Many individuals often use this popular product to help give their skin a refreshing boost of hydration, with different serums targeting different consumer pain points. Ingredients such as hyaluronic acid and glycerin help the skin to feel plumper and softer, while serums containing vitamin E can help to fight inflammation.

However, some people find that applying serums on their skin can lead to irritation and breakouts. If you've experienced this yourself, you probably know all too well how frustrating it can be. You get home and are ecstatic to try your new product, only to find that it doesn't work well with your skin. While this is annoying, it is a surprisingly common problem for many skincare lovers — particularly with vitamin C serums. These serums offer a wide range of magical benefits; however, they can trigger unexpected breakouts, often leading to confusion. So what's actually going on with your vitamin C serum, and how can you get your skin back on the right track?

Other ingredients in vitamin C serum may cause breakouts

Vitamin C serums have become a much-loved product by many, best known for their hydrating and skin-brightening qualities. However, if you find that your vitamin C serum is causing irritation and breakouts, you may be wondering what the problem is.

Thankfully, there is a simple explanation. Vitamin C serums can cause breakouts, irritation, or redness due to the ingredients in the product, explains board-certified dermatologist Nava Greenfield, M.D., to MindBodyGreen: "Vitamin C is oftentimes only one of dozens of ingredients in the product, and many of those non-actives may cause a non-ideal reaction in your skin, resulting in what appears to be breakouts."

Some of these multi-ingredient products have acidic properties, which can trigger a process known as "purging" that causes your skin cells to turnover faster (via Health). However, this process is completely normal when you introduce a new product onto your skin. It should only be of concern if the problem persists for more than around eight weeks.

Greenfield also explains that the ingredients in the serum may clog your pores, leading to breakouts. If you suspect this is the case, you should check the ingredients in your serum to pinpoint the cause. Thankfully, both problems are easily rectifiable, and your skin will return to normal eventually. So, how can you prevent these breakouts from happening in the future?

Switch to serums for sensitive skin

If you're experiencing breakouts or redness when using a vitamin C serum, then there are a couple of solutions that you can try to rectify the situation. You may have already pinpointed the problem, which in that case, will make it easier to solve.

The first solution is fairly straightforward. If you don't find any pore-clogging ingredients in your serum and the problem is still persisting well after the eight-week mark, then you should stop using it completely, per Health. If the irritation continues after you stop using it, it may be down to one of your other skincare products.

On the other hand, if you find that your serum contains some pore-clogging ingredients, then there is a simple trick you can try. In this case, Greenfield suggests swapping out your serum for one that is "formulated for sensitive skin types" which should be easier on the skin and may help ease your skin issues (via MindBodyGreen). Of course, you must also pick the right vitamin C serum. You can try using a lower product concentration and avoiding an ingredient called L-ascorbic acid, per Sunday Edit. So, to prevent irritation and breakouts when using a vitamin C serum, try these tips before completely giving up on the powerful product.