Vitamin C Serum Side Effects You Should Watch Out For

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Are you thinking of adding Vitamin C serums to your skincare lineup? Given its many benefits and effects, we understand the hype. 

While there are a lot of pros to using this awesome product in your routine, there are some Vitamin C serum side effects that you should watch out for. It’s not for everyone, after all!

pipette of serum with oranges and fern leaves

We’re here to help you out! We’re not discounting the amazing benefits of Vitamin C in skincare. 

However, it’s a highly potent product that not everyone can use! So, we’ll list down the side effects you might encounter from using it. 

Read on to learn more about the possible negative effects of Vitamin C serums.

What Are Vitamin C Serums?

Before listing side effects, let’s look at what Vitamin C serums are popular for. 

Because Vitamin C is one of the most scientifically supported skincare ingredients, many dermatologists recommend it. Thanks to research, we know the benefits it has on our skin. 

One of its most well-known advantages is its anti-aging properties. Thanks to being an antioxidant, it greatly helps slow down signs of skin aging. 

It protects our skin from the substances that cause collagen to break down, boosting collagen production even as we grow older. 

It’s also a great product to use if you want brighter skin. Vitamin C is well known in the skincare industry for its brightening properties

It works well in preventing hyperpigmentation and improving skin tone because it inhibits melanin overproduction.

On top of these two, Vit-C also has anti-inflammatory properties, which help reduce acne-caused redness and irritation. 

Vitamin C Serum Side Effects

It has many incredible benefits, but Vitamin C serums are not for everyone. Because of its instability and potency, it’s not fit for use by all skin types. 

Also, formulations vary in concentration and type of Vitamin C they use, so this might cause reactions of varying severity among people.

Luckily, thanks to science, Vitamin C serums’ side effects are few and mild. Here are some of them.

It Can Cause Skin Irritation

There is a possibility of Vitamin C causing an adverse reaction, thus, skin irritation happens when you apply it. If your skin is new and is getting used to Vitamin C, some itchiness, tightness, or redness might be expected. 

However, if the irritation is instantly evident and intense, you should stop using it immediately. People with sensitive skin or Vitamin C allergies are more likely to experience this side effect.

It Can React With Other Skin Care Ingredients

Vitamin C is potent and unstable, so some skincare ingredients might not jive well when used together.

While you can use Vit-C and Retinol in a skincare regimen, you should space out using them. 

Both are potent skincare ingredients, and your skin might be unable to handle their combined strength. Instead of helping your skin, it might just cause irritation and redness. 

On the other hand, you shouldn’t use Vit-C with chemical exfoliators. Such exfoliators are usually other forms of acids—AHAs and BHAs. 

When Vitamin C reacts to these ingredients, its potency might be reduced or rendered useless. 

It Is Unstable

Vitamin C is an unstable ingredient, even in its purest form. When you buy a bottle of Vit-C serums, you may have noticed that it always comes in a tinted bottle. 

This is due to the ingredient’s instability as it can easily react with sunlight, temperature, and the wrong pH.

If your Vitamin C serum is exposed to these elements, it may oxidize, reducing its shelf life and becoming useless or even harmful to use on your skin. 

Caucasian beautiful woman applying serum on her face

Vitamin C Alternatives

If you find yourself experiencing irritation and redness from using Vitamin C, it might be better to find an alternative product from the one you’re using.

1. Lower Vitamin C Concentrations

You might have experienced irritation on your face because you’ve used a highly potent concentration of Vit-C. 

If the reaction is not due to an allergy, you can try using Vitamin C serums with lower concentrations. 

For sensitive skin, it might be best to use serums with a 10% Vitamin C concentration of Vitamin C or less. 

This is a good spot for people with sensitive skin to reap the benefits of Vitamin C while keeping their skin safe from irritation.

However, if the side effect continues, stop using it altogether.

2. Niacinamide

Niacinamide is one of the most well-loved skincare ingredients that can be used as a Vit-C substitute.

Also called nicotinamide or Vitamin B3, this water-soluble vitamin provides multiple benefits when you add it to your skincare routine. 

Its benefits include boosting collagen production and increasing elastin and skin protein production. It also helps minimize visible pores and other blemishes on your skin. 

Niacinamide also helps brighten and even out your skin tone. Unlike Vit-C, however, niacinamide is stable and has a neutral pH. While it is potent, it’s also usually non-irritating.

For best results, try using a serum with a 10% concentration. This might be too potent if you have sensitive skin, so get a serum with a 5% concentration instead.

3. Alpha Arbutin

Alpha Arbutin is a substance derived from the bearberry plant, but you can also get it from blueberries, cranberries, pears, and even wheat. 

It has several similar benefits to Vitamin C. One of the most notable benefits is that it prevents or regulates melanin production and can also brighten your skin. 

4. Lactic Acid

An AHA chemical exfoliator, lactic acid, could be used in place of Vitamin C. Since it’s an AHA, it’s excellent for beginners in using acids and perfect for all skin types, including those with sensitive skin.

Like Vitamin C, lactic acid can help with evening out skin textures, minimize signs of skin aging like wrinkles and fine lines, and brighten and even out your skin tone. 

Because of this, it helps target hyperpigmentation and acne scars on your skin. 

If you have sensitive skin or are new to using acids in your skincare routine, try using lower concentrations of lactic acid. A 5% concentration is usually recommended. 

Also, note that lactic acid is still an acid, which can cause skin irritation and inflammation if you misuse it. 

5. Ginseng

More usually found in South Korean skincare products, ginseng is a great ingredient to look for if you’re looking for a Vitamin C serum substitute. 

Like Vit-C, it’s a potent antioxidant that helps block free radicals from damaging your skin. It also helps brighten your skin tone and even out your complexion. 

Additionally, it’s an effective anti-aging ingredient. It also improves the collagen production of your skin without Vitamin C serums’ side effects. 

It’s perfect for all skin types and a must-try for people looking for alternatives.

woman wearing bathrobe and head towel showing her perfectly clean face

Every Good Thing Has Its Drawbacks

It’s not a secret that Vitamin C brings a lot to the table, especially in skincare. However, with the strength and potency comes side effects that people who can’t tolerate it experience.

Different people have different needs and experiences. At the same time, not all skincare products are made the same. What may work for others may not work for you.

Research and trial and error are usually needed to find the best products for your skin. 

In your skincare regimen, remember that if you experience damaging side effects, it’s no longer worth it to keep using a product, no matter its benefits. 

If you experience Vitamin C serums’ side effects, look for some of the best alternatives that work for you!

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  • Ashley Pena

    Ashley Pena brings over 13 years of seasoned writing and editing expertise, fortified by her Bachelor of Science in Management. Esteemed in the beauty domain, her content captivates readers with its depth and authenticity. While she navigates a broad spectrum of beauty trends, Ashley shines particularly as our resident K-beauty guru. Her articles are a harmonious blend of passion and profound knowledge, inspiring readers on their unique beauty journeys.

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