5 Common Mistakes Youre Making with Vitamin C Serum

Vitamin C, which is also known as ascorbic acid, is a powerful and popular skincare ingredient, celebrated for its anti-aging, collagen-boosting, anti-inflammatory, and skin-brightening properties. However, despite its benefits, many people unknowingly make mistakes when using vitamin C serums, which can lead to less effective results or even worsen skin issues. To help you get the most out of ascorbic acid serums, we’ve outlined five common mistakes and how to avoid them.

1. Wrong Timing

One of the most frequent mistakes is applying vitamin C serum at the wrong time of day. While it’s a common belief that vitamin C should be used at night due to its sensitivity to sunlight, using it during the day can be more beneficial.


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Vitamin C is a potent antioxidant, meaning it helps protect your skin from free radicals caused by UV radiation and pollution. By applying your vitamin C serum in the morning before sunscreen, you create an extra layer of defense against environmental damage, maximizing its protective benefits.

Tip: Apply your vitamin C serum in the morning, followed by a broad-spectrum sunscreen. This combination will enhance your skin’s protection against harmful UV rays and free radicals throughout the day.

2. Wrong Order

The order in which you apply your skincare products can significantly impact their effectiveness. Vitamin C serums are typically acidic and sensitive to changes in pH and temperature. To ensure optimal absorption and efficacy, vitamin C should be applied immediately after cleansing your skin or after using a toner. If applied after heavier products like moisturizers or other serums, its ability to penetrate the skin can be compromised.

Tip: Cleanse your face and, if you use a toner, apply it first. Then, apply your vitamin C serum. Wait for it to absorb fully for about one to two minutes before layering on other products like moisturizers or additional serums.

3. Wrong Concentration

Vitamin C serums come in various concentrations, and starting with too high a percentage can irritate the skin, especially for those new to the ingredient. It is important to introduce vitamin C gradually, beginning with a lower concentration (5-10%) and allowing your skin to build tolerance over time. Using a serum with a concentration above 20% can be too strong and may lead to skin sensitivity or irritation.

Tip: If you’re new to vitamin C, start with a serum that has a concentration between 5% and 10%. After a few months, once your skin has adjusted, you can consider increasing the concentration. However, avoid exceeding 20% to prevent potential irritation.

4. Using Oxidized Serum

Vitamin C is notoriously unstable and can oxidize quickly when exposed to air, light, and heat. An oxidized vitamin C serum turns from a clear or light color to a dark orange or brown, indicating that it has lost its potency and can even negatively affect your skin. Using oxidized vitamin C not only diminishes its benefits but can also lead to skin staining, making your complexion appear duller and darker.

Tip: Store your vitamin C serum in a cool, dark place, and ensure the bottle is tightly sealed after each use. If your serum changes color to a dark orange or brown, it means it’s time to replace it. Some formulations are more stable than others, so look for products that include stabilizing ingredients like ferulic acid or vitamin E.

5. Use During Active Acne

While vitamin C has anti-inflammatory properties that can be beneficial for acne-prone skin, using pure vitamin C (L-ascorbic acid) on active acne can sometimes worsen the condition. When vitamin C comes into contact with iron in the blood from inflamed or broken skin, it can act as a pro-oxidant, increasing free radical production and potentially exacerbating acne.

Tip: If you have active acne, avoid using pure L-ascorbic acid. Instead, opt for formulations that combine vitamin C with other antioxidants like vitamin E and ferulic acid, which can enhance the benefits without irritating your skin. Retinol (vitamin A) is another excellent ingredient to pair with vitamin C, as it helps regulate sebum production and promotes skin cell turnover.

The Bottom Line

Vitamin C is a powerhouse ingredient that can transform your skincare routine, but only when used correctly. By applying your serum at the right time, in the right order, and at the right concentration, and by avoiding oxidized products and reconsidering use during active acne, you can maximize its benefits. Always pay attention to how your skin reacts and adjust your routine accordingly for the healthiest, most radiant skin possible.

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