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When used at the right time, vitamin C can also be a powerful multitasker for your skin, tackling many of the most common complaints — dark spots, premature signs of aging and uneven, dull skin tone. Knowing when to use Vitamin C serum is vital to allowing the ingredient to be most effective, resulting in significant, noticeable changes to your skin’s appearance.
Vitamin C is one of 13 essential nutrients your body needs to function. Inside the body, vitamin C (which you may also see by its other name — ascorbic acid) helps with the absorption of iron and supports the immune system.
One of the vitamin’s biggest claims to fame is its status as an antioxidant. Antioxidants are vital for protection against free radicals, which are dangerous, unstable molecules that travel throughout the body looking for an electron to balance them out.
Unfortunately, because our bodies don’t have spare electrons lying around, free radicals tend to “steal” them from other, balanced molecules. Antioxidants like vitamin C save the day by working to support your skin cell health during exposure to free radicals.
However, the more unbalanced molecules you have in your body, the more likely it is that your body will show signs of what is known as oxidative stress — the imbalance between the number of free radicals and the number of antioxidants you have. Oxidative stress has proven to be bad for our health and is also one of the driving forces behind premature signs of aging, like fine lines and wrinkles.
The benefits of vitamin C extend to your skin health, as well. Its powerful antioxidant properties can help rejuvenate the skin, fighting off many of the signs of aging associated with oxidative stress. For instance, with regular use, topical vitamin C products can provide the following benefits:
Most people adapt to vitamin C serum without much trouble, but those with especially sensitive skin may experience some irritation while adjusting. Part of learning when to use vitamin C serum is about reducing that possibility.
Every skin care product has an optimal position in your skin care routine. Using a product outside of that position likely won’t hurt you, but it will make that product a lot less efficient (or even make it completely non-effective, which is ultimately a waste of money. There are two factors to consider in determining when to use vitamin C serum — what time of day and at what point in your routine.
Nearly across the board, dermatologists recommend incorporating vitamin C serum into your morning routine (as opposed to using it at night).
The reason for this recommendation relates to its ability to protect the skin. Not only is vitamin C a potent antioxidant, but it can also help back up the protective effects of sunscreen. When used in the morning, before applying your SPF, it helps guard against UV rays that may slip past that first layer of defense.
While it won’t hurt if you use your vitamin C serum at night, it may interact with other skin care products meant to be used in the evening (like retinol) and cause skin irritation and sensitivity.
Planning out the most effective and beneficial skin care routine is also vital. Although the specific skin care products you use may vary, sticking to the following morning routine format is a great place to start:
All good skin care routines, no matter your skin type or concerns, start with a supportive cleanser. While the type of cleanser you use should cater to your specific skin (for example, gel cleansers tend to be best for those with oily skin), cleansing the skin is non-negotiable. Cleansing is the first step to removing build-up, like makeup, sweat and environmental debris, that acts as a barrier to your other products.
After the skin is cleansed, the next step is to exfoliate. Exfoliants help to remove any left over dead skin cells from the skin’s surface, opening up the pores even further. They also help to reduce the potential for breakouts and keep the skin looking youthful.
A final step to prep the skin for treatments is toner, which may include similar ingredients (like AHAs and BHAs) as your exfoliant. Toners keep the pores wide open so that your serums can be absorbed even deeper inside your skin.
After you’ve toned your skin, it’s time to apply your vitamin C serum! Vitamin C serums, like our 10% L-ascorbic acid Glow Factor, are at their best when they can dive deep into the pores and make real change. They also pair well with niacinamide and hyaluronic acid-based serums, like our Youth Serum (you can buy them together here). As a general rule of thumb, apply the serum that is thinnest in consistency first, and always let them dry before moving on.
Once your treatments are on and completely dry, you need to seal the deal by adding a hydrating moisturizer. Your skin craves moisture and needs it to keep the skin barrier strong and the skin resilient. Hydrated skin is also glowy and radiant, so don’t skip this step! If the skin dries out, fine lines and wrinkles are more visible, and the skin isn’t able to heal as well as it should. Moisturizing is crucial.
The final step in your morning skin care routine should always be sun protectant. Sun damage ages the skin quicker than any other external factor, but it’s also one of the easiest to fend off. Look for a water-resistant sunscreen with an SPF above 30 and broad-spectrum (UVA and UVB) protection for optimal performance.
Finding the right time of day and the right part of your routine to incorporate your vitamin C serum is crucial in making the best use of this impressive skin care ingredient. When you use it correctly, vitamin C can overhaul your skin and make it dewy, clear and youthful.
When used regularly, it can even back up your sunscreen and give you an extra layer of protection from the sun. If you have any questions about your routine or you’re ready to make a change, let our skin care professionals help guide you toward your new holy grail products. We’re here for you every step of the way.
Oxidative Stress: Harms and Benefits for Human Health | PubMed
The effect of Vitamin C on melanin pigmentation – A systematic review | PubMed
Effect of vitamin C and its derivatives on collagen synthesis and cross-linking by normal human fibroblasts | PubMed