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3 Reasons Vitamin C Serum for Acne Can Be Bad

Vitamin C serums have long been hailed as magic elixirs for the skin. Known for their ability to brighten, hydrate, and smoothen skin, they have found a permanent spot in many a skincare routine.

The year 2023 has seen a wide range of vitamin C serums, with some being hailed as the best vitamin C serums for acne-prone skin. But is vitamin C serum for acne always a boon? The answer might surprise you. As with many skin care products, vitamin C serum can have its drawbacks, especially for acne-prone and sensitive skin.

In this article, we will delve into three reasons why vitamin C serum for acne might not always be the panacea it is often made out to be. Remember, it's essential to understand how a product can affect your skin before incorporating it into your routine.

Also read: How to choose the best acne treatment

Biggest Take-Aways:

  • Despite its benefits for acne-prone skin, Vitamin C serum can exacerbate acne symptoms if misused, with the wrong concentration or in the wrong formulation.

  • Vitamin C serum application requires careful consideration, including timing and technique, for optimal results. The serum's efficacy can depend on the skin type and the product's formulation.

  • The selection of the most suitable vitamin C serum should factor in the form of vitamin C, including other ingredients, and the concentration of vitamin C. A product that suits individual skin types and concerns would be the best choice.

  • Exposed Skin Care is an affordable, effective solution for acne management, leveraging the power of active ingredients like Vitamin C to improve skin health, reduce acne appearance, and cater to all skin types.

Woman holding vitamin c serum in front of table

Unexpected Irritation to Sensitive Skin

While vitamin C serum is generally recommended for most skin types, it's not always a friend to sensitive skin. Even the best vitamin C serums of 2023 might cause irritation and redness in sensitive skin, especially when used in high concentrations.

Why Does Vitamin C Serum Irritate Sensitive Skin?

Pure vitamin C or L-ascorbic acid, the most potent form of vitamin C found in many serums, is acidic in nature. It is often responsible for tingling sensations when applied to the skin. This feeling subsides quickly for most people, but for those with sensitive skin, this can lead to redness and irritation.

A form of vitamin C known as magnesium ascorbyl phosphate, a water-soluble vitamin, is considered less irritating but less potent than pure vitamin C. Unfortunately, many vitamin C serums for acne-prone skin do not specify the type of vitamin C used, leaving users with sensitive skin at risk of adverse reactions.

Does Every Vitamin C Serum Irritate Sensitive Skin?

No. It's worth noting that not all vitamin C serums are created equal. The concentrations of vitamin C and other ingredients in the serum can significantly influence how the skin reacts to the product. Some serums combine vitamin C with soothing ingredients like vitamin E, which can help counteract potential irritation.

However, finding the right balance can be challenging, especially for sensitive skin. For this reason, some people may prefer to skip vitamin C serums altogether, particularly if they have acne-prone or sensitive skin.

Potential for Worsening Hyperpigmentation

Ironically, while many use vitamin C serums to combat hyperpigmentation, these serums can sometimes worsen the condition.

Close up of woman freckles

How Can Vitamin C Serum Worsen Hyperpigmentation?

When exposed to light and air, vitamin C can oxidize and turn yellow or brown. Once oxidized, it loses its efficacy and can worsen hyperpigmentation. The chances of oxidation increase when vitamin C comes in a clear or light-permeable container.

How to Prevent Oxidation?

Choosing serums with stabilized forms of vitamin C or serums packaged in opaque, airtight containers can reduce the risk of oxidation. Also, storing the serum away from light and heat can prolong its shelf life.

However, those with hyperpigmentation might want to consider other options as a safer bet. It's best to seek products specifically formulated for this skin concern, rather than risking the potential side effects of vitamin C.

Possibility of Causing Dry Skin

While vitamin C hydrates most skin types, it can occasionally lead to dryness and flaking, particularly for those with already dry skin.

How Does Vitamin C Serum Cause Dry Skin?

The acidic nature of vitamin C can cause mild peeling, especially when used in high concentrations. This can lead to a cycle of dryness and peeling that may not be noticeable until a few days or weeks into regular use.

Additionally, many vitamin C serums for acne-prone skin contain other ingredients like salicylic acid or benzoyl peroxide, both known to cause dryness. Therefore, these serums might not be the best choice for dry-skin users.

Dry skin due to over use of vitamin c serum

Can Dry Skin from Vitamin C Serum Be Avoided?

Yes, to an extent. Choosing a vitamin C serum with moisturizing ingredients such as hyaluronic acid or vitamin E can help. However, for those with exceptionally dry skin, vitamin C serum might not be the ideal choice. Opting for a moisturizing serum or oil can help maintain skin hydration better.

The Intricacies of Application: When and How to Apply Vitamin C Serum

Vitamin C serum, like any skin care product, requires a careful application for best results. A typical question that might be on your mind is, "When should I apply vitamin C serum?"

Timing and Frequency

As an antioxidant, Vitamin C can help protect the skin from free radicals caused by exposure to sunlight and environmental pollutants. Applying vitamin C serum in the morning makes it beneficial, allowing it to fend off damage throughout the day. However, vitamin C is notoriously unstable and can degrade when exposed to sunlight, so some recommend using a vitamin C serum at night.

If you decide to use your vitamin C serum in the morning, be sure to follow up with a broad-spectrum sunscreen to protect your skin further. Vitamin C's ability to protect skin doesn't replace the need for sun protection.

The frequency of application depends on your skin. Some people might benefit from daily application, while others might find that every other day or even a few times a week is sufficient.

Application Technique

  • Start with clean, dry skin: Before you apply vitamin C serum, ensure your skin is clean and completely dry. Applying the serum on damp skin can dilute it, reducing its efficacy.
  • Dispense the right amount: Use a pea-sized amount of serum for your entire face.
  • Apply evenly: Using your fingertips, gently apply the serum in an even layer across your face and neck. Avoid the immediate eye area.
  • Allow it to sink in: Allow the serum to fully absorb before moving on to the next step in your routine. This usually takes a few minutes.

Woman waiting for vitamin c serum to be absorbed by skin

Choosing the Best Vitamin C Serum for Your Skin

With numerous vitamin C serums available in the market, how do you find the best vitamin C serum for your skin type? Here's what to look for:

Form of Vitamin C

Vitamin C comes in various forms. Magnesium ascorbyl phosphate, a water-soluble form, might be a better choice for sensitive skin. For oily skin, look for serums with L-ascorbic acid, a potent form of vitamin C that can help reduce oiliness and improve skin texture.

Other Ingredients

Consider what other ingredients are included in the serum. For instance, Vitamin E and ferulic acid enhance the effectiveness of vitamin C and improve the serum's stability. Exposed Skin Care is a popular choice recommended by dermatologists that include these beneficial additives.

Vitamin Concentration

The concentration or level of vitamin C in the serum matters. A concentration of 10-20% is typically effective for most people. However, you might want to start with a lower concentration if you have sensitive skin.

Remember, the best overall vitamin C serum is one that suits your specific skin type and concerns. It's not about finding the most potent or the most expensive serum, but finding the one that leaves your skin feeling healthier and happier.

Exposed Skin Care: A Simple Solution for Acne Management

When dealing with acne-prone skin, Exposed Skin Care can provide an effective and affordable solution to manage acne and improve overall skin health. The unique formulation leverages the power of various active ingredients, like topical Vitamin C, that work synergistically to address different aspects of acne.

Exposed Skin Care Ultimate Kit

These benefits include:

  • Antioxidant Benefits: Like Vitamin C, Exposed Skin Care is an antioxidant powerhouse. It helps reduce the appearance of acne by protecting skin cells from free radical damage.
  • Improved Skin Tone: The products can aid in evening out skin tone and reducing acne scars. Over time, users often notice a significant improvement in their skin's overall texture and tone.
  • Exfoliation: Exposed Skin Care can aid in eliminating dead skin cells, which often contribute to clogged pores and acne. This exfoliation process promotes healthier, smoother skin.
  • Suitable for All Skin Types: The range caters to everyone - whether you have oily skin, sensitive skin, or anything in between. Its gentle yet effective formulation sinks into the skin without causing irritation.

Consider the Exposed Skin Care line for an affordable Vitamin C serum alternative. Its benefits, particularly for acne-prone skin, make it a worthwhile addition to your daily skincare regimen.


Vitamin C serums, a popular choice in skincare regimes, offer a multitude of benefits, including their ability to brighten skin, fade hyperpigmentation, and protect against free radical damage. While often recommended for acne-prone skin, it's crucial to remember that not all serums are created equal. They may cause irritation, interact negatively with other skincare products, and possibly worsen acne if they contain comedogenic ingredients.

Applying vitamin C serums correctly and choosing the best one for your skin type can greatly enhance their benefits. When looking for the best vitamin C serum, consider the form of vitamin C, additional ingredients, and the concentration. An example of a comprehensive skincare solution is Exposed Skin Care which, much like a good vitamin C serum, offers an affordable and effective solution for managing acne and improving overall skin health.

In conclusion, vitamin C serums have their place in skincare, but they are not a one-size-fits-all solution, particularly for acne-prone skin. Understanding your skin and the products you use is essential in achieving the desired results without causing additional harm. With thoughtful selection and careful application, vitamin C serums can indeed be a valuable addition to your skincare regimen.


What form of vitamin C is best for sensitive skin?

Magnesium ascorbyl phosphate, a water-soluble form of vitamin C, is less likely to irritate sensitive skin. However, it's less potent than pure vitamin C.

Can vitamin C serum worsen acne?

For some, vitamin C serum can cause breakouts, particularly when it leads to dryness and flaking. Those with sensitive and acne-prone skin may want to approach vitamin C serums cautiously.

Why does vitamin C serum cause dry skin?

The acidic nature of vitamin C can cause mild peeling, especially in high concentrations. This can lead to a cycle of dryness and flaking that may not be noticeable until a few days or weeks into regular use.

Is there a way to prevent dry skin caused by vitamin C serum?

Using a serum with moisturizing ingredients such as hyaluronic acid or vitamin E can help. However, for those with very dry skin, a moisturizing serum or oil may be a better choice.

How can I prevent vitamin C serum from oxidizing?

Choose serums with stabilized forms of vitamin C and those packaged in opaque, airtight containers. Also, storing your serum away from light and heat can help prolong its shelf life.