Reviewed by Melinda Ratini, MS, DO on July 23, 2021

You know that vitamin C is good for your body. That includes your skin. You'll see it in many skincare products. So what can it do for your skincare routine?

Vitamin C is also called ascorbic acid. This valuable nutrient contributes to your body’s ability to heal injuries and to create:‌

  • Blood vessels
  • Cartilage
  • Muscle‌
  • Collagen

Vitamin C is also an antioxidant. Antioxidants help protect cells in your body from free radical damage. Causes of free radical damage that may affect your skin include:‌

  • Cigarette smoke
  • UV rays from the sun
  • Certain chemicals
  • Air pollution

While you can take vitamin C supplements to address deficiencies, keep in mind that supplements don’t offer the same benefits as vitamin C found in food. Adult women need around 75 milligrams of vitamin C each day, and adult men need around 90 milligrams.

Benefits of taking vitamin C orally. The vitamin C that your body absorbs during digestion benefits your skin cells. Some studies show that vitamin C protects against the effects of UV radiation on your skin. It can both prevent and treat damage caused by the sun or other UV sources. The benefits aren’t fully understood because studies on the benefits of vitamin C for skin are limited.‌

When you digest vitamin C, it is transported through your body in your bloodstream. When your vitamin C intake increases because you are consuming it in your diet or taking vitamin C supplements, the levels in your skin also increase.

Benefits of using vitamin C on your skin. Vitamin C also offers benefits to your skin when applied as a cream or serum. Some studies show that your body’s pH balance can impact your ability to absorb vitamin C through your skin effectively. Lower pH levels lead to greater absorption of vitamin C, while higher pH levels can prevent the nutrient from being absorbed.

Vitamin C skincare. Keep in mind that, when your vitamin C skincare products are exposed to air, heat, and light, the vitamin C in them may degrade and become less potent. Make sure that storage bottles are air-tight and prevent light from reaching the product before use. ‌

While the natural form of vitamin C, ascorbic acid, is the most beneficial form for your skin, it is also the least stable when used in skincare products. Ascorbate phosphate is a synthetic version of vitamin C that is shelf-stable but is absorbed only to a limited extent.

Cosmetic-grade skincare products may contain less vitamin C than prescription-grade skincare products do.

No matter what type of skin damage concerns you, it’s important to remember that it didn’t happen overnight. Just as damage took time to build up, it takes patience and diligence to heal. While ingredients like vitamin C can help to reverse aging and prevent some damage, they cannot repair or prevent all damage. Your results may be noticeable, but they may also be subtle. 

As with all nutrients and supplements, you can have too much of a good thing. Vitamin C may be dangerous for your health when taken in high dosages for an extended period of time. Side effects of too much vitamin C include:

  • Nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea
  • Heartburn
  • Bloating or stomach cramps
  • Sleep-related effects like excessive sleepiness or insomnia
  • Headaches‌
  • Skin flushing‌

Vitamin C may interact with the following treatments:‌

  • Aluminum – Vitamin C increases your body’s ability to absorb aluminum. This may be dangerous for people who are prone to kidney problems.
  • Chemotherapy – Some studies show that antioxidants like vitamin C can make chemotherapy drugs less effective at fighting cancer. 
  • Estrogen – When paired with oral birth control or hormone replacement therapy, vitamin C has the potential to increase your estrogen levels.
  • Protease inhibitors – Too much vitamin C can reduce the effectiveness of these antiviral drugs.
  • Statins and niacin – Vitamin C may also reduce these drugs’ ability to lower your cholesterol.‌
  • Warfarin – If you suffer from a blood clot disorder, vitamin C may impact the effectiveness of anticoagulants.

Show Sources


Harvard Health Publishing: "Drugstore skincare: Science-backed anti-aging ingredients that don’t break the bank."

Indian Dermatology Online Journal: “Vitamin C in dermatology.”

Mayo Clinic: “Vitamin C.”

Modern Aesthetics: "Medical-grade Skincare vs. OTC Skin Care: What's the Difference?"

Oregon State University: “Vitamin C and Skin Health.”

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