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Oof! You're Probably Using Vitamin C Skincare Products Wrong

How to use vitamin c skincare
PHOTO: Getty Images

At this point, you probably don't need us to preach the benefits of vitamin C in your skincare routine.

You know that it's one of the most powerful ingredients for fighting the effects of free radicals on the face, for slowing down aging (if that's a priority for you), for repairing damaged skin cells, calming pigmentation, and reducing scarring.

It's practically common knowledge. "It was one of the most-searched-for ingredients in 2020, and it's not hard to see why," says Dr. Aikaterini Charakida, Consultant Dermatologist & Dermato-Surgeon at EF Medispa.

But here's the thing: Spending a ton of your hard-earned money on vitamin C supplies is absolutely goddamn pointless if you're not doing it right. Because, despite incredible benefits, there are a few stumbling blocks along the path to glowing, revitalized skin.

Here's what to watch out for when investing in vitamin C.

Badly packaged products

Sure, never judge a book by the cover, but you can sometimes judge how well a vitamin C product will work for you by its bottle. You might have heard about "stability" when looking into vitamin C. That's because vitamin C degrades and breaks down over time with exposure to light and air in the outside world, becoming less effective.


"Things that help are a dark bottle [and] airtight containers." Says Dr. Ifeoma Ejikeme, General Medicine Consultant and Expert Aesthetic Physician and CeraVe's resident expert.

Dr. Charakida also recommends products kept in airtight packaging. On top of this, she recommends opting for vitamin C products used once daily only, to avoid excessive air exposure.

On the note of stabilitysome forms of vitamin C are more stable and beneficial than others. For example, you might see vitamin C referred to as "ascorbic acid" in skincare. To paraphrase Paula Begoun, founder of Paula's Choicethis is currently the most well-researched and stable form of vitamin C.

Along with ascorbic acid, Paula recommends the following derivative forms of vitamin C, (as long as they're appearing alongside ingredients like green tea, niacinamide, and retinol):

  • Sodium ascorbic phosphate
  • Ascorbic palmitate
  • Retinyl ascorbate
  • Tetrahexyldecyl ascorbate
  • Magnesium ascorbic phosphate

Incorrect storage

Your packaging may go some way to protect your vitamin C product from degradation, but as advised by Dr. Ejikeme, it's also important to keep your products away from heat and direct sunlight (so no shelfies on the window sillyou've been warned).

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Ignoring shelf lives

"You may be surprised [to learn that] some formulations last as little as six weeks". I'm told by Dr. Ejikeme. "When you are purchasing a vitamin C flip over the bottle. Underneath you will find how long the bottle will last before it is no longer active."

Irregular use

As with many things in skincare, consistency is key when it comes to vitamin C, according to Dr. Barbara Sturm.

"Regular usage results in a complexion that’s healthy-looking, fresh, and radiant." That's because vitamin C's ability to defend the skin from aggressors is limited (it has a half-life of eight hours according to some studies), so applying it at least daily is necessary to maintain the antioxidant benefits.

Need to shop for vitamin C serums? Check out this list!


This article originally appeared on Minor edits have been made by the editors.

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