Does Vitamin C Help Acne?: True or False?


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does vitamin c help cystic acne?

Does Vitamin C Help Clear Skin?

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? There’s a lot of misinformation out there floating around about vitamin c for acne. Does vitamin c cause acne or does it help acne? Does oral vitamin c help acne or is topical vitamin c better? What about vitamin C and cystic acne?

Does Vitamin C Help Acne?

does vitamin c help clear acne

What you’re all here for right? So let’s get down to the bottom of does vitamin c help with acne? First we will go over what vitamin c is and what causes acne, then dig into the link between using vitamin c to help with acne.

What Is Vitamin C

does topical vitamin c help acne?

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
  • bacteria

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?

Not necessarily.

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. Which means if you struggle with inflammatory acne like cystic acne, vitamin c is a great option because it can help with the inflammation as well as the acne scars left over.

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.

Vitamin C And Acne

When you have acne, you can be pretty cautious about using new products and wondering will this break me out?? Trust me, I’ve been there. I was so hesitant to start using a vitamin c serum because I was so afraid it would just cause more breakouts! So if you’re anything like me, you’re probably wondering “does vitamin c make you break out??”

Vitamin C itself will not make you breakout, however, some of the ingredients in the vitamin c serum may. It totally depends on your skin type. So if you’re worried about vitamin c making your acne worse, then don’t! The vitamin itself will not worsen acne.

Does Vitamin C Help Acne Scars?

which vitamin c is best for acne

Vitamin C is one of the best products for acne scars. Vitamin C helps to lighten acne scars to help fade hyperpigmentation. It also helps to stimulate collagen production which can help with indented acne scars that can happen from cystic and other inflammatory types of acne. So yes, vitamin C does help acne scarring!

Oral Vitamin C For Skin & Acne

Many people wonder if taking vitamin c pills will help acne as much as using a topical vitamin c serum. Unfortunately, there is limited research on using oral vitamin c supplements for acne. Vitamin C is great for skin as part of a healthy diet, so it certainly cannot hurt to make sure you are getting enough vitamin c in your diet.

However, we just don’t really know if oral vitamin c helps acne or not. If you’re wondering what type of vitamin c to use for acne, I would stick with a vitamin c serum. Many time supplements aren’t really necessary for skin health as long as you’re getting enough of them in your diet.

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.

L-ascorbic acid 

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 air. 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 Serums For Acne

So now that we’ve learned how vitamin c can help acne, I know your next question is “well what’s the best vitamin c serum for acne??” I’ve got you covered!

does vitamin c help clear skin?

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.

Paula’s Choice C15 Super Booster

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.


Timeless 20% vitamin c & Ferulic Acid Serum

Why I love it: A potent concentration of l-ascorbic acid, plus ferulic acid for stability and anti-oxidant properties and vitamin e to moisturize and soothe skin, this is one of the most well-formulated vitamin c serums on the market. And it’s very affordable.


The Ordinary Ascorbic Acid 8% + Alpha Arbutin 2%

Why I love it: A lesser concentration of ascorbic acid means this is a gentler vitamin c serum perfect for sensitive skin. Plus with 2% alpha arbutin, you can kiss acne scars goodbye in no time. Very affordable and well formulated, it’s the best bag for your buck vitamin c serum.


Summer Fridays CC Me Vitamin C Serum

Why I love it: This serum has not one but two powerful forms of vitamin c, plus niacinamide to help with inflammation, oil control and acne scars. It’s truly a great vitamin c serum for acne-prone skin.


Is Vitamin C Good For Acne-Prone Skin?: Wrap Up

does vitamin c serum help with acne?

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. When treating acne, you really need to target all three major causes of acne, and by using a vitamin c serum, you will be targeting the inflammation cause of acne.

Since vitamin c has been shown to reduce acne in certain studies, 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. Vitamin c is great for acne scars, anti-aging, collagen production and so much more.

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