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What Does Vitamin C Do for Your Skin?

3 min read

Whether you’re looking to start a new skincare routine or trying to prevent wrinkles, it can be challenging to know what products are best for your skin concerns. Topical vitamin C is a popular ingredient recommended for reducing dark spots or pigmentation and wrinkles.1 But how does vitamin C support your skin health? Although this powerful ingredient has many benefits, you might want to learn how it works and where to find it before purchasing a product. Read more to find out if vitamin C is the right option for your skin.

What Is Vitamin C?

When you think of vitamin C, you might picture a glass of orange juice or a bottle of multi-vitamins. But what is vitamin C? Also called ascorbic acid, vitamin C is an antioxidant important for your skin, bones, and connective tissues.2 Antioxidants help protect your cells against free radicals.3

For most bodily functions, you can get this essential vitamin from a healthy, balanced diet filled with fruits and vegetables. Incorporating good sources of vitamin C into your diet can help your overall skin health. The antioxidant properties of vitamin C and its role in collagen synthesis have beneficial effects on your skin cells.4

Vitamin C Benefits for Your Skin

The multi-functionality of vitamin C is one reason dermatologists and skincare brands frequently promote this powerful ingredient. Sun exposure, pollution, smoking, and other environmental factors accelerate damage to your skin through “oxidative stress.”1 As a potent antioxidant, vitamin C can help neutralize this oxidative stress. Incorporating vitamin C into your topical skincare routine may help reduce these skin concerns:

Dark Spots and Pigmentation

Vitamin C has been shown to suppress melanin, leading to a significant decrease in skin pigmentation.1 For people with dark spots, melasma, or other unwanted pigmentation, vitamin C is a great choice. 

Aging and Wrinkles

Vitamin C, like other skincare products, can’t reverse the appearance of wrinkles, but it can reduce premature aging through its role in collagen production. Collagen is the most plentiful protein in your body and naturally decreases as you get older.5 Degraded collagen and decreased collagen production lead to pigmentation, coarse skin texture, and deep wrinkles.1 To make collagen, your body combines amino acids—nutrients you get from protein-rich foods.5 This process requires vitamin C, making it essential for skin health and appearance.

Sun Damage

Although vitamin C should not be used as an alternative to sunscreen, the antioxidant property of vitamin C helps protect against UV-induced damage caused by free radicals.1,4

How to Use Vitamin C in Your Skincare Routine

Vitamin C can be used in the following two ways to help support skin health. Depending on the desired effect, look into these two ways of adding vitamin C into your daily life. 


Vitamin C is an essential nutrient found in many different fruits and vegetables. Good sources of dietary vitamin C include citrus fruits, red and green peppers, tomatoes, broccoli, and leafy green vegetables.2

Topical Skincare

Topical vitamin C can be found in both prescription and over-the-counter skincare. The antioxidant is commonly found in skincare products like serums and moisturizers. Although most people are able to maintain adequate vitamin C levels through a diet rich in fruits and vegetables, using topical vitamin C is an additional way to support skin health .1 Before choosing a topical vitamin C product, talk to a healthcare professional to determine the right product for you.

What to Know Before You Try Vitamin C

Vitamin C is a common skincare ingredient, but there are some things you should take into consideration before purchasing a product with vitamin C. People with sensitive skin may experience irritation from some topical products that contain vitamin C. Before trying a product on your entire face, test a small patch of your skin to see how it reacts. While mild tingling is nothing to worry about, you should stop use if you experience irritation and contact a healthcare professional.

Many retailers of topical vitamin C will include storage suggestions for their products. Often, this includes storing the product in the fridge or away from sunlight to prolong shelf life. When in doubt, check the label for instructions.

  1. Topical Vitamin C and the Skin: Mechanisms of Action and Clinical Applications. Accessed 7/13/21. Referenced text is indicated in source PDF.
  2. Vitamin C. Accessed 7/13/21. Referenced text is indicated in source PDF.
  3. Antioxidants. Accessed 7/13/21. Referenced text is indicated in source PDF.
  4. The Roles of Vitamin C in Skin Health. Accessed 7/13/21. Referenced text is indicated in source PDF.
  5. The Best Way You Can Get More Collagen. Accessed 7/13/21. Referenced text is indicated in source PDF.