How to Use Vitamin C Serum the Right Way


Vitamin C serum is an age-old beauty secret, and if you’re adept at skincare, you’ve heard of it.

It’s highly acclaimed as an effective anti-aging ingredient and a great aid in keeping your skin smooth, even, and glowing. 

The question is, since you’re probably getting vitamin C from your diet anyway, why use a vitamin C serum?

A serum is the best way to ensure that vitamin C goes to your skin, thereby reaping the benefits in the most direct way. Otherwise, without using serums and other topical products, there’s no way to guarantee that.

In this article, we discuss, among other things, the following:

  • How to use a vitamin C skin serum
  • Vitamin C treatment regimen
  • Should you use vitamin C serum with retinol or hyaluronic acid
  • Benefits of using a vitamin C serum

How to Use a Vitamin C Skin Serum

The first step you should never ignore is to do a patch test to determine whether using vitamin C serum will cause an allergic reaction.

You may wonder why your skin would react in the first place. After all, isn’t topical vitamin C usually well-tolerated? It’s because all skin products, in general, can cause side effects.

To conduct a patch test, select an area of your skin that’s easy to conceal, such as your forearm, and apply a small amount of the product. Give it 24 hours, after which if nothing happens, you can go ahead and apply the product on your face. If, however, you develop a rash, redness, or hives, then discontinue use.

Factors to Consider Before Using Vitamin C Serum

Before you apply a vitamin C serum, remember to follow the instructions given on the product’s label.

It’s vital to check the product’s expiry date. You also want to ensure the bottle is opaque and airtight, and that the product’s formulation is water-free. Why? No water means no bacteria, so no preservatives, hence a better product.

If the product has a dark color or a different color, it’s likely oxidized. And though harmless, oxidized vitamin C no longer carries the same benefits.

Also keep in mind that the best way to use vitamin C serum is to apply it once or twice a day. And a good skincare process starts with cleansing, followed by toning, applying vitamin C serum, and then moisturizing.

It’s safe to use it alongside other active ingredients except for niacinamide, which reduces vitamin C effects.

How to Apply Vitamin C Serum

Follow these steps for vitamin C serum application:

  1. Cleanse your face. Remember applying even the fanciest of creams is a waste of time if your skin is dirty.
  2. Tone (if you’re a toner person), then apply the serum. Put some product on clean fingers, and on damp skin, press the serum evenly, patting onto your neck and hands any excess product.
  3. After applying the serum, wait 90 seconds for your face to absorb, then put on moisturizer. The logic behind using a moisturizer after the serum is the rule of thumb to apply from the thinnest to the thickest.
  4. Apply your favorite eye cream.
  5. Apply sunscreen and allow it to set (dry).
  6. You can now apply your makeup. Vitamin C serums can be used as a base layer under any product you apply, which is great. A good serum won’t feel sticky.

Vitamin C Treatment Regimen

For the best outcome, use vitamin C serum daily. And because a primary benefit of using vitamin C is it helps protect skin by shielding it from pollution, radicals, and ultraviolet light, you want to use it in the morning rather than the evening.

After applying vitamin C, give your face 90 seconds to absorb and follow with a moisturizer. The moisturizer seals the benefits of your serum and boosts your skin’s protective lipid barrier.

To get the most out of a vitamin C serum:

  • Apply it and also sunscreen to bolster protection as SPF absorbs UVA and UVB rays. Teaming up vitamin C serum with sunscreen can also reduce signs of premature aging.
  • Use it after cleansing and toning, then apply moisturizer and SPF.
  • Vitamin C serum works best on exfoliated skin. Otherwise, when you don’t exfoliate, and there’s a build-up of dead skin cells, it makes it difficult for the product to penetrate. However, especially chemical exfoliates can irritate your skin, therefore avoid using them at the same time. Instead, apply one in the morning and the other at night.

Keep an eye on the product’s ingredients list and percentages to get an idea of its effect on your skin, more so after exposure to sunlight. We understand these lists can sometimes seem like a foreign language, so if you’re unsure how strong a percentage is, contact the company.

If still in doubt about the effect it’ll have, then it’s advisable to use it in the evening. As mentioned earlier, it’s best to use it in the morning, but it’ll still restore and brighten your skin if you use it at night.

Vitamin C Serum and Retinol

Next to vitamin C, retinol, a form of vitamin A, is a most common and effective skincare ingredient. It encourages collagen synthesis, thus tightening the skin, treating acne, and leveling skin pigment.

When you use vitamin C and retinol separately, each of them will target specific skin disorders. But when combined, they form the ultimate beautifying duo.

What Are the Benefits of Using Retinol?

Retinol supports our body’s cellular turnover (the process that prompts our bodies to shed dead skin cells and regenerate new skin cells).

How is this beneficial?

It rids old, dead skin cells, which cause the skin to look dull, and replaces them with new, healthy cells, reinvigorating the skin and making it appear radiant.

Remember, our skin cells go through a lot with the pollution and dirt they face every day, which makes the skin dry, flaky, dull, and generally undesirable and prescribed retin A or non-prescription retinol can help.

Should You Use Vitamin C With Retinol?

There’s been a lot of uncertainty around using retinol and vitamin C. This hesitation is due to their differing pH levels.

You see, both retinol and vitamin C require a specific pH level to get absorbed into the skin. For vitamin C, it’s 0 to about 3.5, while retinol requires a higher pH level of 5.5 to 6. And mixing vitamin C and retinol results in an increase in the vitamin C’s pH and a decline in the retinol’s pH, which is why many believe that the two ingredients render each other ineffective.

However, contrary to this popular belief, the two work brilliantly together. The secret lies in applying the two in succession. Apply vitamin C serum and wait a minimum of 30 minutes to give it time to get absorbed before using retinol.

It’s common, though, to experience skin irritation, but you can prevent such a reaction by using them at different times of the day.  Ideally, you can use your vitamin C serum in the morning and the retinol at night.

Vitamin C stabilizes retinol, making it more effective. And when applied correctly in the right succession, the two ingredients form a barrier which protects the skin from the adverse effects of the environment that cause skin damage and speed up aging.

Tips for Using Vitamin C and Retinol

While using vitamin C and retinol was considered harmful in the past, now you know that it’s perfectly okay. Just ensure you follow these tips:

1. Start Slowly

As with any skincare ingredient or product, start slowly and observe how your skin reacts.

That’s because although very effective, vitamin C and retinol are intense ingredients and so you need to give your skin time to adjust before you go all in. Integrating them too quickly can cause dryness, flakiness, or inflammation.

You could begin using them once a week and if you don’t notice any reaction, use them twice a week, then thrice a week until you reach the most suitable frequency for you.

2. Wear Sunscreen

Yes, vitamin C builds a barrier that protects the skin from UV rays, but this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t wear sunscreen.

And no matter how much you change specific ingredients in your routine to meet your skincare concerns, you should always include SPF.

Sunscreen application applies too to when you introduce retinol to your skincare. As mentioned earlier, retinol is a form of vitamin A. This vitamin thins the skin’s barrier, increasing its susceptibility to the sun’s UV rays, so it’s vital to wear SPF when using retinol.

3. Hydrate

Your skin needs regular hydration and moisture for it to be healthy. And the fact that retinol can have a considerable drying effect on the skin, causing flakiness and dryness, is more reason to hydrate often.

Both vitamin C and retinol are potent ingredients. And although vitamin C is a natural moisturizer that minimizes loss of water from the skin, as retinol removes the old and dead skin cells to allow new ones to be formed, the old cells flake away at the surface, resulting in a dehydrated effect.

Vitamin C Serum and Hyaluronic Acid

Hyaluronic acid is a molecule our bodies produce naturally in our skin, bones, connective tissue, hair follicles, and cartilage.

As a natural humectant (moisture retainer), it’s a skincare ingredient to reckon with for its anti-aging benefits.

Again, vitamin C and hyaluronic acid each have their benefits, But when paired, they make a remarkable, highly effective skincare formula.

What Are the Benefits of Using Hyaluronic Acid?

Hyaluronic acid retains water, keeping the skin moisturized for a radiant look and fighting the formation of fine lines and wrinkles. It also reduces present wrinkles by filling them in, thereby making them less noticeable.

The acid also has antioxidant properties that help to keep the skin looking healthy.

Another benefit of hyaluronic acid is its healing properties. You can apply it to wounds to reduce the size of surface wounds. It also relieves pain caused by the wound on the skin around the wound.

Should You Use Vitamin C With Hyaluronic Acid?

The simple answer is yes. It’s okay to layer the two products but ensure you leave enough time for each of them to dry before applying the next one.

And if you’re wondering which one you should apply first, remember the rule of thumb to go from the thinnest to the thickest. So if your HA serum is slightly thicker like mine is, then start with the vitamin C.

Benefits of Using a Vitamin C Serum

Here are the benefits of using vitamin C:

  • Hydrating: Manganese ascorbyl phosphate, a precursor of vitamin C, hydrates the skin, helping it to maintain its moisture by reducing trans epidermal water loss (when water passes through the epidermis and then evaporation from the skin surface).  
  • Brightening: Using vitamin C can help reduce pigmentation and dullness, resulting in a youthful glow.
  • Evens skin tone: Vitamin C is known to treat several inflammatory conditions, including redness, leading to an even skin complexion.
  • Fades hyperpigmentation: Sometimes, excess melanin is produced in certain skin areas, resulting in dark spots, such as sunspots and melisma. Applying vitamin C in these areas hinders melanin production, removing dark spots much like hydroquinone.
  • Promotes collagen production: Over time, collagen depletes, causing fine lines and wrinkles to develop. Vitamin C bolsters collagen production.
  • Can help reduce under-eye circles: It plumps and hydrates the area under the eyes, smoothing out the discoloration causing the circles.     
  • Helps prevent skin sagging: Collagen is tied to skin elasticity and firmness, and when its levels drop, the result is the skin sagging. But when you apply vitamin C serum, it helps boost collagen production, causing overall tightening.
  • Protects against sun damage: Because vitamin C is rich in antioxidants, it acts as a barrier against the damaging effect of free radicals.
  • Helps soothe sunburns: Vitamin C promotes cellular turnover, enabling the damaged sunburn cells to be replaced with new healthy ones.


Here are some other frequently asked questions about vitamin C serums:

Which ingredients should you avoid when using vitamin C?

Exfoliating acids, when applied immediately after vitamin C, can irritate. But that doesn’t mean you can’t use them in one regimen. Just avoid using them at the same time. You can use vitamin C in the morning and then exfoliate in the evening.

Another skincare ingredient to be wary of when using vitamin C is niacinamide. That’s because if niacinamide is in a combined water-based product (and those are the ones you want to use), it inactivates vitamin C.

Again, that doesn’t mean you should avoid it altogether and lose out on its benefits. No, use it as part of your nighttime routine.

Does vitamin C cause skin reactions?

Product formulation and packaging are paramount to a serum’s stability. And to retain effectiveness longer, l-ascorbic acid, magnesium ascorbyl phosphate, and ascorbyl palmitate, which are vitamin C derivatives, are used.

The l-ascorbic is formulated at a low pH (3 to 3.5), and this low acidity may cause you to experience tingling.

It’s why you should always conduct a patch test before full application, as it’s the only way to know how your skin will react.

If you experience a reaction, lower the frequency of use, spacing it out until your skin acclimates and you’re comfortable using it. And if you have very sensitive skin, then avoid any products with l-ascorbic acid.

Generally, magnesium ascorbyl phosphate is gentler, and products with it are less likely to cause a reaction. 

What are other alternatives to a vitamin C serum?

Granted, adding a serum to your skincare routine is the most common way to ensure that vitamin C gets to your skin. However, you may be reluctant to add an extra step to your regimen or you may be among the people with sensitive skin who experience irritation when they use it.

Either way, the good news is, you’re not limited to a serum. You can also get vitamin C facial oils, moisturizers, cleansers, exfoliates, and sunscreens. We recommend you look into Admire glow drops.


We hope this article answers everything you wondered about vitamin C serums. Now that you’re more well informed, you can safely incorporate it into your beauty regimen and use it the right way