When it comes to creating a balanced skincare routine, we often look to get the most bang for our buck, streamlining the number of bottles and tinctures we have lined up on our bathroom vanities. While there is always a hot new skincare product or trend circulating on social media, one that really has staying power — not to mention a number of benefits! — is vitamin C. While you may be familiar with it, you may also be wondering, why is topical vitamin C for skin so beneficial and how should I incorporate it into my skincare routine?
Playbook chatted with Dr. Lara Devgan, MD, MPH, FACS, a top-ranked, board-certified New York-city based plastic surgeon and founder of Dr. Lara Devgan Scientific Beauty, a medical-grade skincare line, to answer these questions and more.
While you can incorporate vitamin C into your diet by consuming citrus fruits, cruciferous vegetables, and bell peppers, you can also use the powerful antioxidant in your skincare routine. Vitamin C can help fight internal and external toxins, and when used as a topical skincare treatment, can improve the skin’s overall appearance.
Topical products that contain vitamin C — like serums, creams, or moisturizers — can help slow skin aging, prevent sun damage, and improve the appearance of wrinkles. Vitamin C can also help brighten skin, providing that healthy, sunkissed glow we all crave particularly during the summer months.
Best of all, vitamin C skincare products are typically suitable for all skin types and provide a number of key benefits, according to Dr. Devgan.
“Vitamin C, or ascorbic acid, is a very important skincare ingredient that helps our skin scavenge free-radical damage from the environment, [such as] UVA/UVB rays and radiation, and [it] improves the textural quality of the skin, fine lines, and hyperpigmentation,” she says.
The best way to incorporate vitamin C into your skincare routine, according to Dr. Devgan, is with a serum. “It is the most potent product that will deliver the best results,” she says.
Dr. Devgan cautions that vitamin C can cause sensitivity at first, so you might experience a few subtle side effects when you begin using a vitamin C serum.
“The only side effects of using vitamin C are potential tingling and light irritation, especially if you have never used a vitamin C serum before,” she says. “Start [by using the product] every other day and gradually escalate to daily use as the skin adapts to the product.”
While slowly building up to daily usage as your skin adapts to vitamin C is key, so is applying your skincare products in the proper order, according to Dr. Devgan.
“Our general rule for layering skincare products is to go from light to heavy consistency,” she says. “Start with cleansing, [followed by] toner, and a hyaluronic acid-based serum. Next, apply a vitamin C serum, moisturizer, and finish off with SPF and any additional makeup.” Dr. Devgan’s own skincare line, which is available at Sephora, includes two vitamin C powerhouse products: Vitamin C+B+E Ferulic Serum and Vitamin C+E Ergothioneine Antioxidant Serum.
“The general guideline for vitamin C serums is to apply it in the morning for antioxidant protection,” Dr. Devgan says, noting that adding a vitamin C serum to your morning skincare routine can also provide a brightening boost.
As always, remember to consult with your dermatologist or primary care doctor before incorporating a new product into your skincare routine, especially if you’re looking for a product to target a particular concern.
“If you have any specific skin conditions, I always recommend speaking with your medical provider before trying a new product,” Dr. Devgan says.
About the author
Cara is a passionate writer and editor with more than 10 years of experience in print and online media. She loves storytelling and believes that words have the power to change the world. In her free time, Cara is an avid reader, enjoys meditating, and loves spending time with her husband and their chihuahua pug mix, Callie, streaming the latest horror flick or true crime documentary. She is a graduate of Michigan State University's School of Journalism.