Vitamin C Serum for Acne: Benefits and How to Use It
Although there is some debate among users, topical vitamin C can be an effective acne treatment. Vitamin C serum is most effective when combined with vitamin E and ferulic acid. Here's an explanation of Vitamin C Serum for Acne.
Vitamin C Serum for Acne: Benefits and How to Use It
Contrary to popular belief, poor diet and hygiene have not been shown to cause acne.
Acne is caused by clogged pores due to inflamed sebaceous glands, excess sebum production, accumulation of keratin in the sebaceous glands, or bacteria trapped in hair follicles.
Acne occurs mainly in teenagers due to hormonal changes that increase sebum production.
Vitamin C serum can be one of the best options for dealing with acne problems. It is the anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties of vitamin C, as well as its ability to promote wound healing, that makes it an effective acne treatment.
How Does a Vitamin C Serum Help Clear Up Acne?
Vitamin C serum has three main properties that help clear up acne. Each of these effects addresses a different cause or symptom of acne.
The ability of vitamin C to act as an anti-inflammatory allows it to prevent the appearance of acne as well as reduce its symptoms.
One study showed that the development of acne-causing bacteria can be caused by inflammation, therefore applying vitamin C to reduce skin inflammation reduces the risk of developing acne.
In addition, this anti-inflammatory process will help reduce any visible signs of acne (redness and erythema) that may be present.
Vitamin C can function as an anti-inflammatory because it is an antioxidant. Oxidants are responsible for skin inflammation that can lead to acne.
Oxidants are oxygen molecules that have unpaired electrons called free radicals. Since electrons prefer to be paired, free electrons will seek out other electrons that can damage the skin in a variety of ways, including inflammation and subsequently, acne.
Vitamin C has been shown to stimulate collagen production in the skin, which improves skin tone, and facilitates skin healing. This means that discoloration due to acne, as well as damaged skin, will repair more quickly after consistent application of vitamin C.
What about acne scars?
Although vitamin C cannot completely heal acne scars, it can help reduce the severity of new acne scars. These nutrients are able to encourage collagen production, improve skin tone, and reduce hyperpigmentation.
There is some indication that vitamin C may reduce the visibility of old acne scars by promoting the continued growth of collagen-rich skin. However, more scientific research is needed to confirm this theory.
Can Vitamin C Serums Cause Acne?
No, vitamin C serum can't cause acne.
One of the main arguments against vitamin C is that it acts as a pro-oxidant. That is, instead of neutralizing free radicals, they will act as free radicals themselves and begin to damage skin cells.
Such free radicals are called reactive oxygen species (ROS). It contains unstable oxygen molecules (i.e. oxygen with unbound electrons) which will cause oxidative stress to skin cells. Oxidation can be triggered especially if vitamin C comes into contact with metals such as iron which are carried to the skin by air pollution.
Evidence suggests that ROS and oxidative stress are strongly correlated with acne outbreaks by inducing inflammation, and therefore, some people claim that topical vitamin C can cause acne.
While it is true that Vitamin C is an unstable compound, scientific evidence continues to prove that vitamin C functions as an antioxidant rather than a pro-oxidant when applied to the skin. It actually neutralizes ROS and removes them from the skin, thereby reducing the risk of inflammation and acne.
What to Look for in a Vitamin C Serum for Acne
Not all vitamin C serums are created equal. There are a few guidelines to follow when choosing one in general, but when choosing one for acne consider the following:
- The antioxidant properties of vitamin C are most effective when found in concentrations between 8% and 20%. Higher concentrations are stronger and more suitable for oily skin.
- Vitamin C will be more potent as an antioxidant when combined with other antioxidants such as ferulic acid and vitamin E.
- Other ingredients, such as witch hazel and aloe vera, can be combined with vitamin C to soothe the symptoms of acne-inflamed skin.
- Vitamin C is best absorbed topically at pH below 4, so make sure that the additives are also effective at low pH. For example, salicylic acid (SA) is an active acne-fighting ingredient that also works at low pH (between 2 and 4).
- For dry skin, use a product with a lower concentration of vitamin C. One study found that the application of a 5% vitamin C cream effectively increased skin hydration.
Serums containing other hydrating ingredients such as HA, glycerin, or dimethicone are also effective in treating dry and acne-prone skin.
Staining the vitamin C serum will show its effectiveness. The serum will appear slightly yellowish, almost clear, and odorless. Over time, and exposure to oxygen, it will begin to show a discoloration—usually dark yellow and eventually brownish-orange.
When serum vitamin C is oxidized, it loses its potential as an antioxidant and therefore loses its efficacy. If you have a serum that has changed color, throw it away.
How to Make Your Vitamin C Serum
Making a homemade vitamin C serum can be simple and cost-effective. It is important to maintain the correct concentration for the best results.
The following recipe will make a serum with a 12.5% vitamin C concentration. These concentrations are high enough to be effective and low enough to avoid irritation:
- Mix 4 tablespoons of distilled water with half a tablespoon of pure vitamin C powder
- Pour into a brown or opaque bottle
- Whisk until the powder dissolves
- Store in the fridge and throw away after 2 weeks
How to Use Vitamin C Serum
Vitamin C serum can be applied once or twice a day—usually morning and evening. Apply after cleansing and before you apply other skin care products.
- Clean your face, ideally with a cleanser with a pH between 3 and 4, to ensure maximum absorption of vitamin C.
- Place a few drops (use sparingly) on your fingers and apply the serum to your face and neck.
- Allow the serum to penetrate the skin before applying additional products.
- Follow with moisturizer; If you apply the serum in the morning, it is recommended to use sunscreen.
- If you have sensitive skin, consider starting with a lower concentration of vitamin C as the acidity of vitamin C can cause irritation.
Vitamin C serum can be effective in treating and preventing acne by reducing inflammation, acting as an antioxidant, and improving skin tone. It also promotes wound healing, increases collagen production, and is effective in reducing the appearance of scars.
Acne sufferers with all skin types can benefit from using a vitamin C serum. Vitamin C can be combined with various ingredients to enhance benefits such as increasing moisture.
However, when combining it with other skin care products, it is important to consider the pH of your vitamin C product. You can also make your own vitamin C serum at home using simple, cost-effective ingredients.