What Does Vitamin C Do for Your Skin?

Benefits of This Powerful Antioxidant to Brighten and Smooth Skin

Vitamin C—also known as ascorbic acid—is a water-soluble nutrient that plays an important role in keeping your body and skin healthy. If you're curious about what vitamin C does for your skin, this incredible antioxidant has many benefits, including the potential to:

  • Boost collagen production
  • Reduce the appearance of dark spots
  • Reduce the appearance of early aging
  • Protect against sun damage
  • Promote wound healing
  • Keep the skin hydrated
  • Reduce redness

Researchers have discovered that when it comes to healthy skin, topical vitamin C is significantly more effective than consuming it. It's no surprise that this potent antioxidant is commonly found in face cleansers, serums, oils, and moisturizers.

This article discusses the benefits of vitamin C for skin, how to use products with it, and potential risks.

Vitamin C Skincare Benefits

Laura Porter / Verywell

Boosts Collagen

Vitamin C is absolutely essential for producing collagen in the body. Collagen is the building block of skin, hair, muscles, and tendons, and it is what keeps our skin looking youthful and smooth. As we age, collagen production slows down, which may lead to sagging skin.

When applied topically, vitamin C accelerates the production of both collagen and elastin, which help keep the skin plump and firm.

Reduces Hyperpigmentation

Vitamin C may help improve skin complexion by reducing the appearance of dark spots.

Hyperpigmentation—a common condition characterized by the development of darker spots on the skin—is most often caused by overexposure to the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays and environmental stresses. Although harmless, hyperpigmentation can lead to an uneven skin tone.

Vitamin C helps inhibit the production of tyrosinase, an enzyme that aids in the production of melanin, preventing hyperpigmentation. Vitamin C doesn’t have an effect on normal skin coloration—it won’t fade away normal dark skin pigmentation, only the abnormal melanin deposits caused by excess sun exposure. 

Has Anti-Aging Effects

Topical vitamin C can help prevent premature aging of the skin, restoring a youthful, smooth appearance to the skin.

Not only does vitamin C boost collagen production, which can reduce wrinkles and increase elasticity of the skin, but it also help prevent the loss of collagen that results from natural aging.

In addition, this antioxidant plays an important role in combating unwanted dark spots and preventing signs of premature aging caused by factors such as smoking, environmental pollutants, and chronic sun exposure.

Protects Against Sun Damage

Studies show that vitamin C in the skin can help protect against UV damage.

Exposure to UV radiation from the sun (as well as tanning beds) can create free radicals in the skin, which may damage skin cells and lead to the breakdown of collagen. This causes photoaging (or premature aging). Signs of sun damage include wrinkles, sagging skin, uneven skin tone or texture, skin redness, and broken capillaries (spider veins).

As one of the most potent antioxidants in the skin, vitamin C can help combat oxidative stress caused by excess free radicals in skin cells. A 2023 systematic review published in Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology found that vitamin C was useful in treating uneven, wrinkled skin caused by prolonged or repeated exposure to UV radiation.

Promotes Wound Healing

Vitamin C plays a key role in tissue repair and regeneration due to its anti-inflammatory properties and its ability to encourage collagen production—an essential component of connective tissue. That said, it's not surprising that poor wound healing is a common symptom of a vitamin C deficiency.

A 2022 systematic review published in Antioxidants found that vitamin C supplementation was able to improve healing outcomes in people with certain types of wounds, particularly pressure ulcers.

Hydrates Skin

Without sufficient moisture, the epidermis (top layer of skin) starts to dry out, which leads to itchy, scaly skin and premature aging. Hydration is vital to keeping your skin healthy and youthful-looking.

According to a 2017 review article published in Nutrients, vitamin C may play an important role in the formation of the outermost layer of skin—enhancing the skin's ability to protect itself from water loss.

Fortunately, vitamin C is clinically proven to help skin retain water, keeping it plump and smooth and preventing it from becoming too oily or dry. Researchers found that individuals who were given a supplement containing vitamin C showed significant and sustainable improvements in skin hydration, elasticity, and roughness.

Reduces Redness

Blotchy, uneven, and red skin can result from a number of factors, including inflammatory skin conditions (e.g., eczema and rosacea), sun exposure, hormones, and medical conditions.

But you don’t have to live with skin redness, thanks to vitamin C. A significant body of research shows that this powerhouse vitamin minimizes redness thanks to its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. Vitamin C also helps mend damaged capillaries that cause skin redness, creating a smoother, more even complexion.

How to Use Vitamin C for Skin Care

Whether your skin is dry, oily, or a combination, vitamin C is beneficial for skin health, helping it look and feel healthier and younger longer. There are two ways to use vitamin C for skin care: nutritional intake and applying it topically.

Nutritional Intake

Foods rich in vitamin C, such as oranges and berries, offer many health benefits. And while it’s true that you can get plenty of vitamin C by eating lots of fruits and vegetables, dietary vitamin C generally won’t provide enough for you to see a noticeable improvement in your skin.

This is because dietary intake of vitamin C is sufficient to reach lower levels of your skin, but generally won’t reach the top layers of the skin. However tasty, eating a pint of blueberries isn’t likely to help your skin get that youthful glow (even if it's great for the rest of your body). That’s where topical vitamin C comes in.


Topical vitamin C is absorbed directly into the topmost layers of the skin, allowing it to get to work immediately on smoothing the skin, reducing fine lines and dark spots and protecting against free radicals.

Vitamin C is available in facial moisturizers and serums. Serums are more concentrated than moisturizers and more easily absorb into the skin, which is why more skincare specialists recommend vitamin C serums

Sometimes, less is more. Most research says that vitamin C is best implemented into your skincare routine when used as a topical serum. Even serums containing low concentrations (under 1%) of vitamin C still deliver antioxidant protection and skin benefits.

How Often Should You Use Vitamin C?

For best results, apply vitamin C topically one to two times a day—morning and night. Be sure to apply a moisturizer with a broad-spectrum SPF after vitamin C application for daytime. Follow the directions on your product’s packaging, as instructions may vary from product to product. If you find your skin is sensitive to daily application, try starting with applying a low concentration a few times a week or every other day, then build up use as tolerated.

Ready to incorporate vitamin C into your daily skin routine? Your skincare routine should generally include: 

  • Cleanser
  • Toner
  • Vitamin C serum
  • Moisturizer
  • Sunscreen

Before you go all-in on the vitamin C, test a patch of skin with a lower-concentration formula to see how your skin reacts. Some minor tingling is normal, but if you experience anything more intense, stop using the product and talk to your dermatologist. 


Vitamin C is generally safe when consumed in foods or applied topically. However, those with sensitive skin or allergies may experience a yellowish discoloration of the skin.

Some people may experience irritation such as stinging, itching, and dryness after using topical vitamin C. This can be treated by layering a moisturizer over the vitamin C serum when you use it, in addition to moisturizing daily. If you have sensitive skin, you can also start with a lower concentration of vitamin C to observe how your skin reacts.

No matter your skin type, it’s important to test vitamin C out before making it a part of your regular skin care routine. Start by applying vitamin C every other day or every few days, and then work your way up in frequency to avoid potential redness and irritation.

Research on Future Possible Uses Underway

Continuous efforts are being made to research other benefits of vitamin C, including its effects on hair growth, wound healing, smoking-related skin aging, scars, and stretch marks.


Vitamin C is one of the most well-researched skin care ingredients. When you’re young, levels of this powerful antioxidant in the skin are abundant, but they naturally deplete as you age. Vitamin C skincare products such as serums and moisturizers can help supplement, leading to skin that feels firmer and has a brighter, more even complexion.

When purchasing a vitamin C serum, look for dark bottles. Vitamin C breaks down when exposed to light or air, so dark glass bottles help maintain its efficacy and stability.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Can I use vitamin C every day on my skin?

    It’s recommended that you apply vitamin C twice a day. However, some people have sensitive skin that can get irritated by that much vitamin C. If you notice a reaction, try using vitamin C products a few times a week or every other day. You may be able to build up to daily applications as your skin gets used to it. 

  • What antioxidants are good for the skin?

    Vitamin C is one of the best antioxidants to protect the skin and promote a healthy look. Niacinamide is another antioxidant that can reduce lines and make skin brighter. 

  • Does applying vitamin C to your skin protect against skin cancer?

    It may, but for some people, it may do more harm than good. There is some research showing that high levels of vitamin C may promote cancer while others show that it may protect against cancer. The results could be affected by other substances used on the skin and your risk for skin cancer.

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Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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