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Vitamin C is an important nutrient for several processes in the body. It can help keep skin healthy, and many skin care products contain vitamin C as a result.

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Vitamin C is important for the health of the whole body, but it can also play an important role in protecting and improving the appearance of the skin. Scientific studies testing the effectiveness of vitamin C for skin care are lacking, but many products now include this ingredient.

This article discusses what vitamin C is, how it can benefit the skin, and what products a person might consider.

The technical name for vitamin C is L-ascorbic acid. Vitamin C occurs naturally in some foods. However, many supplements and skin products contain the vitamin artificially. It performs many functions in the body, including:

  • synthesizing collagen and metabolizing protein
  • contributing toward antioxidant activity
  • supporting skin healing
  • supporting the immune system
  • improving the absorption of iron from plant sources

The body cannot make vitamin C naturally.

The most important functions of vitamin C for the skin are:

  • supporting the synthesis of collagen, which is essential for connective tissue such as skin
  • limiting the damaging effects of free radicals, which protect the skin from sun damage and aging

Although research and clinical trials are in their early stages, the potential benefits of vitamin C include:

  • providing additional protection from sun damage in combination with sunscreen
  • reducing redness
  • improve the appearance of wrinkles
  • diminishing dark spots
  • reducing acne

Vitamin C occurs naturally in fruits and vegetables. Food manufacturers sometimes add vitamin C to other products, such as cereals. It is available as a standalone vitamin, in multivitamins, and other combined nutritional supplements.

Learn more about the best vitamin C supplements here.

The following foods are rich in vitamin C:

Vitamin C is also present in many skin care products, including serums, lotions, and creams.

Differences between topical and consumable vitamin C occur because of how the body absorbs them.

Consumable vitamin C passes through the digestive system, which absorbs 70–90% of 30–180 milligrams (mg) per day. But when intake goes up to 1 gram (g) per day, absorption drops under 50%. Consuming vitamin C through a balanced diet is essential for health.

The body can also absorb vitamin C through the skin in smaller amounts. Vitamin C can pass through the epidermis to the lower layers of the skin. The best absorption rate occurs with a 20% vitamin C solution.

Although studies are limited, when using vitamin C for skin care and protection, it may be more effective to apply it directly to the skin.

Below are some of the best products using vitamin C for skin care.

Please note that the writer of this article has not tried these products. All information presented is purely research-based and correct at the time of publication.

Medical News Today follows a strict product selection and vetting process. Learn more here.

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Best for smoothing lines: SkinCeuticals C E Ferulic

This product contains 15% vitamin C, 1% vitamin E, and 0.5% ferulic acid.

The company claims that this serum protects the skin from free radicals, improves the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, and brightens and firms the skin.

Price: $166 for 30 milliliters (ml).

Best eye treatment: BeautyStat Universal C Eye Perfector

This eye treatment contains 5% vitamin C to firm and smooth lines and hyaluronic acid for hydration.

The company claims that the product calms and revitalizes the skin, and it is good for reducing eye puffiness and the appearance of dark circles.

Price: $65 for 15 ml, plus shipping. The company calculates shipping during checkout.

Best for vegans: Bliss Bright Idea Vitamin C + Tri-Peptide Collagen Protecting & Brightening Serum

This product is vegan and cruelty-free. However, it does contain a fragrance.

The company claims that it contains clinical-grade vitamin C to plump and brighten the skin while reducing the appearance of dark spots.

Price: $27 for approximately 30 ml.

In general, vitamin C is very safe.

When a person first starts using vitamin C for skin care, they may notice some redness or stinging of their skin. However, these side effects should go away on their own.

Early studies of vitamin C on the skin found that solutions of 0.6—10% vitamin C did not produce adverse events.

The general recommendation is that children should not use vitamin C for skin care.

People with sensitive skin should be cautious about using products with vitamin C for skin care. If they want to try such a product, they should first test a small amount of it on their arm before applying it to their face. They should only use it every other day at most.

Below are some common questions about vitamin C.

How does vitamin C help skin?

Using vitamin C for skin care can boost collagen production, which can help reduce the appearance of fine lines, wrinkles, and scars. It can also improve the appearance of photodamaged skin.

Can I use vitamin C every day?

Vitamin C for skin care is generally safe for everyday use. Negative reactions are usually minor and rare and include yellowing of the skin, dryness, and stinging. Moisturizers can generally treat these problems.

Is vitamin C good for acne scars?

Due to its anti-inflammatory and collagen-boosting properties, topical application of vitamin C products may help improve the appearance of acne scars. However, there is a lack of evidence supporting these claims.

Vitamin C occurs naturally in some foods, while manufacturers artificially add it in supplements and skin care products.

Skin care products containing vitamin C may protect the skin from sun damage, reduce inflammation, and improve the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles.