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There are many common skincare ingredients that are effective at treating and preventing acne. Retinol, salicylic acid, sulfur, benzoyl peroxide, to name a few. One of the less common ones that’s claimed to clear up your skin is Vitamin C. But does Vitamin C help acne as much as those other ingredients are proven to do?
Vitamin C is a cult favorite for pretty much any skincare concern you may have. It can diminish fine lines and wrinkles, fade acne scars and hyperpigmentation in just a few weeks, give you glowing, bright skin practically overnight, it can even help with dark circles.
This potent ingredient has been touted as a do it all skincare ingredient. But, can it really? Does Vitamin C help acne?
What Is Vitamin C
Vitamin C is a potent anti-oxidant that will neutralize free radicals so they cannot damage your skin. Free radicals come from things like pollution and sunlight. Without anti-oxidants like Vitamin C, free radicals can cause oxidative stress in our bodies, which cause things like DNA damage, and in turn, skin damage.
This skin damage is responsible for aging skin, fine lines, wrinkles, dull skin and more. Additionally, this free radical damaged causes lots of skin inflammation. Inflammation is a key factor in acne.
Vitamin C neutralizes these free radicals before they get a chance to harm us! For this reasons, it’s one of the best anti-aging ingredients you can use in your routine. And, since it’s proven to be an anti-inflammatory, it can also help with reducing acne.
What Is Acne & What Causes It
Acne begins in our pores, which are made up of an oil gland and a hair follicle. The oil glands produce oil to naturally help moisturize and protect our skin. However, sometimes those oil glands can produce too much oil and cause clogged pores.
The oil gets trapped in the pore, along with things like bacteria, dead skin cells, dirt, etc. The bacteria that lives naturally on our skin are mostly responsible for acne. When they get trapped in our pores, the bacteria multiples. This creates an inflammatory immune response and leads to acne formation.
So, the main contributors to acne are:
- oil production
- dead skin cells
Does Vitamin C help acne that are caused by these three things?
Vitamin C & Inflammation
The anti-inflammatory properties fo Vitamin C have been proven time and time again. Even though Vitamin C has been shown to have lots of anti-inflammatory properties, it’s not been proven to be an effective acne treatment. But, does that mean it can’t help acne?
As we mentioned earlier, a big factor in acne is inflammation, right? And if Vitamin C is has anti-inflammatory properties, then it’s possible that Vitamin C can help with the inflammation aspect of acne.
Vitamin C has no effect on oil production, dead skin cells or bacteria.
However, its anti-inflammatory properties suggest that it could help with the inflammation associated with acne.
In fact, it has been shown that vitamin c alone was able to reduce inflammatory acne alone and in combination with topical retinoids. Unfortunately, there aren’t a lot of studies that show Vitamin C’s affect on acne. There are a few promising studies out there, but more research would have to be done to definitively determine if vitamin c helps acne.
Bottom line? It’s very promising that vitamin does help acne. Plus, vitamin c has been proven to help with the redness, acne scars and hyperpigmentation left behind from acne.
This, plus it’s potent anti-aging benefits means that it’s still a great ingredient to have in your skincare routine.
How To Pick A Vitamin C Serum
Unfortunately, it’s not as easy as just picking something off the shelf that says “with Vitamin C!” To really get the maximum benefit (or really benefit at all) you need a dedicated Vitamin C serum. That means you can’t just pick up a moisturizer that says it has Vitamin C in it.
Most likely the amounts of Vitamin C are negligible and you won’t see really any benefit from using it.
Vitamin C works best in concentrations over 8%. There are also many different forms of Vitamin C. Some are less potent than others, but still effective.
I’m mainly going to be talking about L-ascorbic acid today to keep this post from getting insanely long. If anyone is interested in more information about the other types of Vitamin C, let me know down below and I can do a dedicated post.
If you want the best bang for your buck, and get the most dramatic results, you need to look for L-ascorbic acid. It’s the most studied form of Vitamin C and has the most research backing it up.
One con about L-ascorbic acid is that it’s not very stable. Like other anti-oxidants, it’s easily degraded by light and airy. This means that you have to look for a product that is in a dark amber or opaque bottle. If your Vitamin C serum is in a clear, glass bottle, do not get it. You will only be wasting your time and money on something that is not going to be effective.
L-ascorbic acid also needs to be at a pH of 3.5 for it to be effective when applied to the skin. If your serum is not the right pH then it will not be as effective.
There are a few trustworthy brands that have the right packaging and pH of their Vitamin C serums that I will list later on. But, these things are important to remember when looking around for serums.
One other important thing to note when it comes to L-ascorbic acid, is that if it’s orange, it means it has oxidized and is no longer as effective.
Make sure your serum is clear or close to it, when you buy it. If your serum is made to be orange, then don’t buy it either. It only disguises the fact that your serum has oxidized.
L-ascorbic acid is the only form of Vitamin C that I use.
Because it gives me the best results. Simple as that.
I’ve tried the other forms of Vitamin C and they just didn’t work for me. I always went back to a L-ascorbic acid formula and immediately saw big improvements in my skin tone and brightness.
Pro tip: keep your Vitamin C serum in the fridge to keep it fresh longer (keeps it from oxidizing) and it will feel so soothing on your skin!
Vitamin C Serum Recommendations
These product recommendations are formulated correctly, at the right pH and come in the appropriate packaging in order to get the most benefit out of your Vitamin C serum.
Why I love it: With lots of skin loving ingredients like ferulic acid and hyaluronic acid, it’s formulated perfectly and at the right pH to penetrate the skin. Plus, it’s made fresh when you order it so you never have to worry about getting an oxidized serum in the mail. This is my personal favorite Vitamin C Serum that gives me the best results.
Why I love it: Perfectly formulated with the right pH, it’s gentle formula will brighten your skin in no time. Plus, Paula’s Choice products always have well-researched ingredients, so you know you’re getting the most effective products.
Why I love it: It’s a cult favorite for a reason, packed with powerful anti–oxidants for the most anti-aging benefits for your skin. I’ve never used this one, as I think $170 for a serum is ridiculous, but, hey, it’s super popular for a reason and obviously lots of people buy it.
So, does Vitamin C help acne? Although Vitamin C hasn’t been proven to help acne, it still has great anti-inflammatory properties that can help with the inflammation processes associated with acne.
Although, Vitamin C’s affect on acne hasn’t been proven yet, it is very promising and has great skin benefits. Vitamin C is really a do it all ingredient and should be in everyone’s skincare routine.
If you’re trying to get clear skin, check out my post on tretinoin and how it can help get you the skin of your dreams.