Vitamin C Benefits for Skin

Powerful Antioxidant for Brightening and Smoothing Skin

Vitamin C is legendary in the skin care world. In fact, some say it is the holy grail for all things skin-related, and for good reason. This incredible antioxidant, anti-inflammatory nutrient is known to improve skin tone and texture, hydrate the skin and reduce signs of aging.

You can get vitamin C in fruits and vegetables, but that’s not the only way to enjoy its benefits for skin health—it’s widely used in cosmetic products. Researchers have discovered that when it comes to healthy skin, topical vitamin C is significantly more effective than consuming it.

Adding vitamin C to your skin care routine can not only brighten your complexion but also protect against skin damage caused by sun exposure and harmful free radicals. This potent antioxidant is commonly used in face cleansers, serums, oils, and moisturizers.

Vitamin C in food or topically is used for skin care
RuslanDashinsky / iStock / Getty Images 

How Vitamin C Supports Skin Care

Vitamin C—also known as ascorbic acid—is a water-soluble nutrient that plays an important role in keeping your skin healthy. Topical vitamin C is clinically proven to have a wide range of clinical applications thanks to its antioxidant, antiaging, antipigmentary properties. This potent nutrient offers many benefits for the skin, including:

  • Make collagen to used to keep skin youthful and plump
  • Heal wounds
  • Maintain and repair damaged skin and cartilage
  • Diminish the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles
  • Brighten up complexion 
  • Even skin tone
  • Reduce the appearance of dark spots
  • Prevent premature aging

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 feel healthier and younger skin looks and feels healthier and younger longer. There are two ways to use vitamin C for skin care, including 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. That’s where topical vitamin C comes in.

Topical

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. Even serums containing low concentrations (under 1%) of vitamin C still deliver antioxidant protection and skin benefits.

Most research says that vitamin C is best implemented into your skincare routine when used as a topical serum. Ready to incorporate vitamin C into your daily skin routine? Your skincare routine should generally be: 

  • 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. 

How Often to Use Vitamin C?

For best results, apply vitamin C topically 1-2 times a day—morning and night. Be sure to apply a moisturizer with broad-spectrum SPF after vitamin C application. Follow the directions on your product’s packaging, as instructions may vary from product to product.

Benefits

Vitamin C may give you these benefits.

Reduce Undereye Circles

When you notice dark circles under your eyes after a night or two of bad sleep, you’re actually seeing a network of blood vessels just under the skin.

In a small clinical study, researchers observed that vitamin C helps reduce and prevent dark circles under the eyes by strengthening the otherwise thin, delicate skin under the eyes. Vitamin C’s antioxidant properties make skin more elastic and resilient, helping conceal the blood vessels underneath.

Collagen Production

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

Treats Hyperpigmentation

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 make you appear older.

One study found that Vitamin C’s antioxidant properties play an important role in combating unwanted dark spots and preventing signs of aging caused by sun damage. Vitamin C also 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, just the abnormal melanin deposits caused by sun damage. 

Hydrates Skin

Without vitamin C, 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.

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 of 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, antioxidant properties. Vitamin C also helps mend damaged capillaries that cause skin redness, creating a more smooth, even complexion.

Research on Future Possible Uses Underway

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

Risks

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 easily be treated using a moisturizer. If you have sensitive skin, 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 once a day, every other day, and then work your way up in frequency to avoid potential redness and irritation.

A Word From Verywell

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 with an 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.

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