Why Most Vitamin C Products Can Harm Your Skin


This article might go against everything you've been taught with regards to Vitamin-C, an ingredient that has been touted for decades, as being an age-reversing miracle worker; essential to increasing skin radiance, reducing pigmentation, fighting off free radicals, and building Collagen. Things aren't that simple. If it all were true, considering the billions of dollars sold yearly in Vitamin-C products, none of us would have any remaining skin concerns.

Why is Vitamin C important in skincare?

While I won't question the power of Vitamin-C in supporting our immune system, enhancing nutrient absorption, and helping keep our bodies healthy, and skin youthful; I am an advocate of making sure it is part of your daily food and supplement intake. Dark leafy vegetables, red peppers and of course citrus fruits are all rich in Vitamin-C. An adequate diet is not only beneficial to the health of your body, but also to that of your skin.

It is important to note however, that cooking vegetables significantly reduces their vitamin C content. Additionally, with soils being depleted, it is increasingly difficult to get the necessary daily dose of vitamin C to help maintain overall health. Supplementation becomes necessary. I personally drink either Matcha or Moringa teas on a daily basis to optimize my levels. I prefer those to the synthetic  vitamins found in most supplements.

Key Vitamin C benefits:

  • May lower the risk of heart disease (1)
  • Aid in the absorption of iron and other nutrients (2)
  • Speed up wound healing (3)
  • Protect memory and cognitive function (4)
  • May help high blood pressure (5)
  • Reduce the risk of chronic disease (6)
  • Increase collagen production
  • Increase immunity
  • Support growth and repair of body tissue
  • Maintenance of teeth, cartilage and bone
  • Even out skin tone and balance melanin production
  • Help reduce breakouts

What are the side effects of using topical Vitamin C?

When looking at Vitamin-C in skincare, It is an entirely different ball game. Our skin PH sits at about 4.5 to 5. We generally want to stay as close to that range as possible. However, in order for a water-soluble Vitamin-C molecule to penetrate the skin, it needs to be at a low PH of 2 to 3, which can be disruptive and damaging to the skin's lipid barrier in the long term.

What are the most common Vitamin C Ingredients? 

L-Ascorbic Acid is the most commonly used in skincare, the most studied and the biggest sensitivity culprit. There are hundreds of claims out there about the magical benefits of this ingredients, including increased Collagen production, photo protection, brightening and reducing pigmentation. This might all be attainable if it wasn't the most unstable molecule in chemistry. It is known to oxidize fast, rendered not only ineffective, but harmful to the skin and pro-inflammatory.

If you've ever owned a Vitamin-C product that turned orange, that is what oxidation looks like. If you are a fan, regardless of the sensitivity warnings, I would at least seek out a product that has Ferulic Acid and Vitamin-E, which help maintain the stability of the L-Ascorbic Acid, buy it in an opaque and airtight pump bottle to reduce it's contact with air and light. And cross your fingers it may stay stable long enough for you to use it without causing an inflammatory response in your skin due to the low PH and high potential of oxidation.


Other derivatives may show up under Ascorbyl Palmitate, Magnesium Ascorbyl Phosphate, Sodium Ascorbyl Phosphate, Ascorbyl Palmitate, and Ascorbyl Glucoside. All are attempts by skincare manufacturers at producing less sensitizing and more stable versions. If you aren't too sensitive, and would like your version of the highly accoladed Vitamin-C, I'd recommend using a product with one of the above-mentioned derivatives, namely Magnesium Ascorbyl Phosphate as it's garnered the reputation for being the least sensitizing Vitamin C. Another one that has popped up recently, and caught my attention, is Tetrahexyldecyl Ascorbate which is more soluble in lipids, hence better able to penetrate the skin at a normal PH. This may potentially cause far less sensitivity or acid mantel disruption.


I have spent a great deal of time researching formulas. Despite the abundance of Vitamin C products available on the market, few meet all of my criteria, some of which are; clean, cruelty-free, non-toxic, synthetic fragrance-free, paraben-free, PEG's-free, and most of all non-sensitizing. The last attribute is very crucial for me as I believe that even brands with strong ethics still fail to create products that are suitable to sensitive skin, mostly due to using essential oils in lieu of fragrance, as well as having to use skin-irritating preservatives to maintain ingredient longevity.

I have included the top products that meet The Beauty Doctrine's criteria of clean and safe skincare, further down in this article.

Can you use Vitamin C with skincare actives?

Vitamin-C does not play well with others. So if you are a fan of actives like Retinol, Glycolic Acid and the like, you want to be very careful not to use them in conjunction with your Vitamin-C product. READ your labels. Many cleansers and toners tend to have a great deal of exfoliating acids, so make sure if you are incorporating Vitamin-C into your routine, that you are using more gentle cleansers and toners. I'd recommend your vitamin-C product, hopefully not L-Ascorbic Acid based, to be used during the day as it may help reduce environmental effects and photo damage, when you are in the sun. Whatever you do, do not layer any type of Vitamin-C with your Retinol. Leave the latter for your evening routine. And remember, there are many potent Antioxidants out there that surpass the benefits and power of Vitamin-C, which you can use without worrying about sensitivity or skin barrier damage.

What are good Vitamin C alternatives?

Vitamin C gets all the hype because it's the most recognizable, most studied (mostly by cosmetic companies to show positive results). However, there are other protective and reparative antioxidants with far higher potency and better stability than vitamin C. To name a few: Astaxanthin, Resveratrol, Green Tea, and Niacinamide. I will be covering these, in more detail, in upcoming articles. Till then, let's look at some of the best Vitamin C packed products with superior ingredients.

What are some clean Vitamin C products?

Starting off with our very own Barrier Repair Serum. This lightweight firming and balancing serum is suitable for all skin types and contains Vitamins A, C, and E. This super star combination of Jojoba, Rosehip, and Hempseed oil addresses most skin issues such as  acne, pigmentation, wrinkles, scarring, stretch marks and sensitivity. 


Versine Gentle Actives Clarity Serum is infused with vitamin C and was carefully formulated to be gentle enough for sensitive skin while still giving you the benefits of highly effective, evidence-backed active ingredients. Niacinamide, Squalane, Hyaluronic Acid, Kakadu Plum Extract, Ceramide, and so much more, in one pH-balanced, effective formula. Minimize the appearance of hyper-pigmentation, fine lines, and dry and fatigued skin with this all in one product!




Packed in Antioxidants, namely CoQ10 and vitamin C from sea berry, Earth Harbor Calypso is one of my favorite serums for sensitive skin types. It helps combat free radicals for healthier skin, while increasing radiance, decreasing pigmentation and strengthening the lipid barrier with the Ceramides packed Jojoba.


One Love Organics Botanical C Facial Serum contains a plant-powered formula that utilizes two potent sources of Vitamin C: Vitamin C ester — a potent, moisturizing and stable form of Vitamin C to boost radiance — and a plant-powered C to receive the benefit of the full range of C nutrients. This Facial Serum takes a triple action approach to help boost skin dulled by stress and environmental elements. It’s a great C serum choice for dry and sensitive skin types.

If you'd rather get your daily dose of topical vitamin c from a cream, a phenomenal clean option is Odacité Crème de la Nuit. It combines, Ashwagandha, green algae, hyaluronic acid, pomegranate, jojoba and various other potent actives and antioxidants. As far as Vitamin C, it uses Tetrahexyldecyl Ascorbate which is highly stable and fat soluble, allowing better absorption and utilization by skin cells without the sensitivity often associated with mainstream Vitamin C.

If you're looking for a great all-in-one product this is definitely one to check out! Kari Gran Vitamin C Serum can be applied on your face, neck and chest. This oil-based serum is formulated with an organic antioxidant super blend, of plum seed, cloudberry, and lingonberry oils. Antioxidants are key when it comes to preventing premature signs of aging on the skin and protects against free radicals.

The takeaway:

Vitamin C is necessary to normal skin function. It is often hard to meet the optimal dietary intake through diet and supplements, so topicals play a huge role in maintaining skin health. the majority of Vitamin C products on the market do more harm than good as they offset the skin's PH balance and cause sensitivity. However, there are some new derivatives on the market that show great promise, as well as clean products that help boost collagen production and reduce hyperpigmentation with minimal side effects, if any.


Be well. Be safe. Be beautiful!


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The Beauty Doctrine's List of Best clean products and supplement recommendations.


1.  https://www.who.int/en/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/cardiovascular-diseases-(cvds) 

2. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/20200263/ 

3. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/16297506/ 

4. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/6842805/ 

5. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22492364/ 

6. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/23675073/ 


As a blogger, my content may include affiliate links from advertisers. I may earn a small commission from actions readers take on these links such as a purchase, or subscribe. All my recommendations are based on my own research and personal trust in the products that I share. I am not a doctor or nutritionist. Please consult with your practitioner prior to using any products recommended.
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