What The Heck Does Vitamin C Serum Do For Your Skin, Anyway?

Everything you need to know about Vitamin C serum, from how often you should use it to what color it should be.

HuffPost may receive a share from purchases made via links on this page.

Photo by Jose Puma on Unsplash

Could your morning glass of OJ give you clearer skin?

These days people are turning to Vitamin C to give their lackluster complexion a juicy glow. Sephora’s best Vitamin C serums promise results for dry skin, oily skin, acne scars, fine lines and wrinkles, and even dark spots and sun damage. Those are some big promises for small bottles.

Before you head to the grocery store to stock up on orange juice and lemons, we put this trendy skin superfood to dermatologists and skincare experts for their take on the benefits of Vitamin C for your skin.

What does Vitamin C serum do for your skin?

Vitamin C serums are acidic, which means they slough away dead cells from the skins surface leaving it brighter and smoother. This in turn speeds up new cell regeneration, says Susie Wang, cofounder of 100% PURE. “Vitamin C is highly acidic and very bitter, so when applied to the skin, the skin is triggered to ‘heal’ itself by accelerating the production of collagen and elastin,” Wang told HuffPost. “Collagen is the protein fibers that make skin plump and prevent sagging; elastin are also protein fibers that help skin bounce back.”

“Vitamin C’s anti-aging, damage-repairing and UV-protecting powers make it a Holy Grail ingredient.”

- Sarah Lee, cofounder of Glow Recipe

One of Vitamin C’s biggest uses is for reducing scars, spots and other hyperpigmentation, says dermatologist Melanie Palm. “Vitamin C is a well-known brightening agent, as it interferes with abnormal pigmentation through tyrosinase inhibition of the melanin pigment pathway.” What does that mean in layman’s terms? “It is used topically to fade brown spots without altering normal skin pigmentation,” Palm says.

Can you eat a few oranges and get the same benefits as a Vitamin C serum?

Vitamin C actually is the super ingredient it claims to be, though you might need skip the juice section and instead head to the beauty department to score its benefits. “While ingesting Vitamin C is a great way to get your daily dose, applying Vitamin C topically through a skincare regimen allows the powerful antioxidant to perform its skin-brightening, hyperpigmentation-correcting and skin tone-evening benefits,” says Sarah Lee, cofounder of Glow Recipe. “Vitamin C’s anti-aging, damage-repairing and UV-protecting powers make it a Holy Grail ingredient, but it takes time and consistent application to see the best results.”

When should you use Vitamin C serum?

Though dermatologists recommended a few different Vitamin C serums, they do agree on a few things, like when you should apply Vitamin C serum in your skincare routine. “Apply your Vitamin C before your moisturizer for the best results,” says Annie Tevelin, green beauty expert and founder of SkinOwl. “Let it dry for one minute before applying a moisturizer with SPF.”

“If the serum has turned brown, return it and cease any use of it. Absolutely do not use if it has turned brown.”

- Susie Wang, cofounder of 100% PURE

There’s no real consensus among skincare experts on whether you’re better off wearing your serum in the morning or at night. Think of it in the daytime as another layer to protect your skin again free radicals and UV, and at night as a way to “undo oxidative damage from the day,” says dermatologist Tsippora Shainhouse of Rapaport Dermatology. Whenever you wear your serum, Wang recommends beginning with a lemon water rise to “prep the skin with a light dosage of Vitamin C to start.”

How often should you use Vitamin C serum?

Most of the skincare experts we spoke with recommend adding a Vitamin C serum to your skincare routine slowly before building up a daily or twice-daily tolerance. “I recommend every other day to daily use in the morning, typically three to five drops for the entire face,” Palm says.

What color should your Vitamin C serum be?

Vitamin C is quite unstable in its purest form, so look for stable formulas that are mixed with Vitamin E and ferulic acid to balance it out. This means that, just like a sliced apple will brown when exposed to air, Vitamin C serums often xidize over time. “When purchasing Vitamin C, it should be a very light yellowish color (almost clear). Over time it will start to darken, adjusting from yellow to orange to brown, eventually becoming black,” says esthetician Melissa Lekus of Melissa Lekus Skincare Consulting.

That said, you shouldn’t keep using a formula that has oxidized, Wang says. “If the serum has turned brown, return it and cease any use of it. Absolutely do not use if it has turned brown.”

Click through below for nine of the best Vitamin C serums recommended by skincare experts:

For the best of the best: SkinCeuticals C E Ferulic

Best Dermatologist-Recommended Vitamin C Serums [slideshow]

Looking for the best deal before you buy? Take a look at HuffPost Coupons where we have hundreds of promo codes from brands you trust.

Tatcha Violet-C Brightening Serum 20% Vitamin C + 10% AHA

Sephora's Highest-Rated Vitamin C Serums [slideshow]

Do you have info to share with HuffPost reporters? Here’s how.

Go to Homepage

MORE IN Style & Beauty