How to Use Vitamin C Serum: Step-By-Step Guide
Vitamin C can help with just about everything: your immune system, muscles, skin, blood, and heart. Vitamin C has gained special stardom in the skin care community as a natural solution for brightening, toning, lifting, protecting, and regenerating the skin. As a result, vitamin C serum has become a crowd favorite in skin care routines of all kinds. Talk about the performance of a lifetime!
If you’re wondering whether vitamin C serum is right for you, you’ve come to the right place. We’ve got tickets to vitamin C’s latest show—and we’re taking you with us.
There are many benefits to utilizing vitamin C in your daily routine. In this step-by-step guide, we’ll cover how to use vitamin C serum in your skin care routine, how to apply vitamin C serum for maximum performance, considerations for using vitamin C serum, and its potential benefits for your skin.
Steps on how to use vitamin C serum
Let’s walk through the step-by-step process of how to apply vitamin C serum. But first, a few tips to get you started:
Apply in the AM – You can treat this elixir like any serum you’ve used before, but vitamin C is best suited for the morning. Skin mimosa, anyone?
Work it in after cleansing, but before moisturizing – Serums are typically lightweight and should be applied after cleansing and before moisturizing. Remember the golden rule of layering your skin care steps for success: Always apply products from thin to thick. That leaves vitamin C serum falling somewhere in the middle of a typical morning lather lineup.
Step 1: Cleanse and tone your face
To prep your skin before applying your vitamin C serum, cleanse and tone your face and neck.
Cleansing and toning your skin will remove:
This stuff could otherwise block your skin from absorbing all that glorious vitamin C.
Don’t use toner? No problem. A simple wash works here, too.
Step 2: Drop 2-3 serum drops onto clean hands or cheeks
Because serums contain such highly concentrated ingredients, they usually come in small bottles with eye droppers. Drop 2-3 drops onto your cheeks or fingertips—on clean hands, of course. No need to rub it between your palms.
Step 3: Massage serum into your face and neck
And now, for the luxurious moment you’ve all been waiting for: using the pads of your fingers, gently massage the serum all over your face and neck. It won’t take long for your skin to absorb the serum. Your skin should feel lightly moisturized but not overly dewy.
Step 4: Follow up with a moisturizer
As with any serum, it works best when followed by a moisturizer. Hydrating the skin after applying the serum helps the serum’s nutrients penetrate deeply into the skin.
Keep in mind, using a moisturizer before the vitamin C serum could prevent the skin from absorbing either product effectively.
Step 5: Seal the deal with SPF
Don’t let that serum go to waste by failing to protect your skin from UV rays. Sunlight and other environmental elements can actually decrease the potency of vitamin C. That’s why we recommend using vitamin C serum in the morning before sun exposure.
(Psst: Whether you’re using vitamin C serum or not, you should still apply SPF daily.)
That’s all there is to it! Vitamin C serum is safe to be used daily and can easily find its way into your existing morning routine.
A note on active ingredients
While it can be a magic active ingredient in a skincare product, it's important to be aware of what not to mix with vitamin C. Active ingredients help treat the skin in a variety of ways, like healing acne and regenerating scar tissue, so they’re an important step in many skin care routines.
However, some studies have shown that active ingredients like benzoyl peroxide and retinol can actually inactivate vitamin C, making it less effective. In some cases, the combination of vitamin C with these active ingredients may even cause irritation.
Active ingredients love freshly-cleaned skin just as much as vitamin C does. To work out this conflict, check those labels. If your regimen includes products with active ingredients such as:
…then opt to use vitamin C in the morning and your active-ingredient product at night. Using vitamin C and sunscreen in the morning can be a more effective way of incorporating it into your skincare routine anyways.
How long should you leave vitamin C serum for?
The beauty of vitamin C serum is that it can be applied and incorporated into the skin without needing to wash it off afterward. It’s designed with potent, nutrient-rich ingredients that your skin can drink up and benefit from all day long.
When using vitamin C serum in your skin care routine, you can try waiting a few minutes after applying vitamin C serum before adding your moisturizer. This can give the skin ample time to absorb the vitamin C.
More than likely, you’ll notice the serum will soak into your skin right away. That’s how you know it’s working.
Things to consider before using vitamin C serum
Skin care can be as unique as a fingerprint. Everyone’s needs are different. That means, even for a beloved ingredient like vitamin C, there are some questions to consider before hopping on the vitamin C serum train.
We recommend taking a look at these considerations before picking up that tiny orange bottle of skin tonic.
Understanding your skin type
First and foremost, get to know your skin on a deeper, hypodermis level. What products does it love? What products irritate it? How does the weather affect it? Knowing your skin’s behavioral habits is key to adding any new products into the mix.
Generally, vitamin C works well for most skin types, but it’s good to know your skin’s habits in case the serum causes a change. Knowing your skin type is important for most, if not all, products in your regime.
Combining products with vitamin C
As we saw in the active ingredient example, combining any ingredients in skin care routines should be done with care and attention. For example,
Avoid using exfoliating scrubs or acids alongside vitamin C serum as it can cause irritation.
Separate niacinamide and vitamin C. If using products with any of those ingredients, use them at night so as to not use them back-to-back with vitamin C serum.
Storing vitamin C serum
In order to keep vitamin C serum as potent and active as possible, you’ll want to store it in a cool, dark place. Exposure to light and oxygen can render topical vitamin C ineffective, so it’s best to keep the prized bottle away from these conditions. Look for vitamin C serums in air-tight bottles with light-blocking packaging. If you notice discoloration over time, it’s probably time to replace it.
Checking product labels
Always check skin care product labels—full stop. Marketing labels can be deceiving. Exercise a healthy level of skepticism when looking for products labeled with vitamin C. The best way to guarantee that you’re getting a quality product is to review the ingredient list on the back. The vitamin C potency level should be at about 10-20%.
Considering hormonal changes
In times of hormonal changes or pregnancy, your skin changes, too. Before using a vitamin C serum, consider whether or not your body may be experiencing extra hormonal fluctuations. They may be to thank for the skin change you’re seeing. Understanding your hormone habits can help you formulate the best solution for your skin.
Consulting your doctor about changes in your skin
A good rule of thumb is to always consult your doctor or dermatologist about any changes that occur in your skin. This is especially important if you’re experiencing chronic or hormonal acne or other unique skin conditions. Vitamin C could very well become part of your road to healthy skin, but your doctor will know how it best fits into your regimen and lifestyle.
What are the benefits of vitamin C serum?
Vitamin C is packed with powerful benefits for your skin. Vitamin C serum is the most potent topical vitamin C product on the market today, ensuring your skin is making the most gains for your buck. But with an ingredient that sounds as perfect as this, it can lead you to wonder, does vitamin c help with acne scars? What about collagen production and skin aging? Does it protect against UV rays and sun damage?
Everyone’s skin is different, so results vary per person, but here is a list of benefits vitamin C serum may be able to provide your skin.
Protecting from harmful UV and sun rays
Reducing the look of fine lines and wrinkles
Suppressing the production of melanin in dark spots
Aiding collagen production
Restoring damaged skin cells
Above all, healthy skin is going to look and feel the best. What is the foundation of healthy skin?
Maintaining a nutritious diet with plenty of fruits and vegetables, along with drinking water throughout the day, can help prime your skin to absorb the nutritious ingredients in topical products like vitamin C serum.
Reach for the vitamin C serum stars with The Pill Club
There is no doubt that vitamin C serum has the potential to improve skin health in so many ways. Incorporating vitamin C serum into your skin care routine is easy. In just five steps, you can be on your way to nourished, glowing skin.
At The Pill Club, we stick our noses (and the rest of our faces) in the best, most innovative skin care solutions. Our job is to strip away all the fluff and deliver pure, undiluted healthcare to all women and people who menstruate.
We’re on a mission to change the way women and people who menstruate experience healthcare. We know that every person’s health journey is diverse, layered, and complex—and call us crazy, but we think you should be treated accordingly.
Harvard Health. Why is topical vitamin C important for skin health? https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/why-is-topical-vitamin-c-important-for-skin-health-202111102635
Baylor College of Medicine. Benefits of adding vitamin C to your skin care routine. https://www.bcm.edu/news/benefits-vitamin-c-skin-care
At The Pill Club, our goal is to provide the most up-to-date, objective, and research-based information to help readers make informed decisions. Articles are written by experienced contributors; they are grounded in research and evidence-based practices. All information has been fact-checked and extensively reviewed by our team of experts to ensure content is accurate and on par with current industry standards. Articles contain trusted third-party sources that are either directly linked to in the text or listed at the bottom to take readers directly to the source.