Here's How To Make Sure You're Picking The Right Vitamin C Serum

Applying vitamin C topically is one of the best ways to deliver its benefits straight to the source. According to Dr. Caren Campbell, with its ability to accelerate collagen production, vitamin C is a "vital" addition to any skincare routine (via NBC News). An antioxidant with anti-inflammatory effects, vitamin C is effective for those dealing with skincare woes such as wrinkles, inflammation, and hyperpigmentation from sun damage, and it has the ability to slow down the aging process (via Baylor College of Medicine).


Vitamin C can be found in numerous forms, but you stand to get the most benefits from creams and serums. "Vitamin C cleansers and other skin care products that you rinse off are not considered treatments and typically include much lower percentages of active ingredients," as reported by NBC News. Medical aesthetician Kim Chang told Baylor College of Medicine she recommends using it as a serum because "other products can be diluted by other ingredients and less concentrated." To amplify its benefits, here's how to pick the right vitamin C serum for you and how to use it the right way.

The right way to use vitamin C serums

Not all vitamin C serums are created equal. When shopping for vitamin C serums, look for those that contain L-ascorbic acid, along with vitamins C and E, tocopherol, and ferulic acid. These ingredients work well together and help amplify the effects of your serum, according to Healthline. How the serum is packaged matters also. Because vitamin C serum can degrade when exposed to light, oxygen, and heat, make a point to purchase serums stored in dark bottles with droppers rather than pumps.


As for the best times to use vitamin C serum, dermatologists recommend applying it in the morning and night after cleaning your face and following it up with moisturizer and sunscreen (via Baylor College of Medicine).

While vitamin C serums are generally safe for all skin types, finding the right concentration balance is important. In serums, the concentrated form of vitamin C can be anywhere in the range of less than 1% to as high as 20%, Dr. Shari Lipner, dermatologist at Weill Cornell Medicine and New York-Presbyterian, told Self. For those with sensitive skin, Lipner recommends using a serum that contains about 5%. While it's true that the higher the dose, the faster you'll see results, higher concentrations can trigger irritation in sensitive skin.


The wrong way to use vitamin C serums

In spite of its benefits, using vitamin C serum can have side effects for some, which include itching, redness, and tingling sensations upon application, according to Pure Obagi. If you experience mild skin reactions, don't stop using the serum immediately; your skin may just need time to get used to it. However, if your skin irritation lasts a long period of time or you have an allergic reaction such as swelling or hives, stop using the product. In that case, there's a chance that the concentration of vitamin C is too high for your skin.


Mixing vitamin C with other products can also potentially irritate your skin. Dermatologists told The Healthy they recommend not applying vitamin C serum at the same time as benzoyl peroxide or hydroxy acids. You should also avoid combining vitamin C with retinol.

The bottom line is that vitamin C serums are safe for most skin types to use on a daily basis. However, to avoid potential side effects, know when and how to apply it and pay special attention to its concentration levels.