Vitamin C Serum Side Effects: Find Out What Happens When Serum Goes Wrong

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Serums do a lot for the skin; their hydrating benefits cannot be overemphasized. On the flip side, any serum can have side effects on your skin. With different active ingredients in your serum come different side effects. Ahead, this article details the side effects of vitamin C serum.

Every skincare product provides your skin with amazing benefits, if and when you use them properly and in the right amounts. Vitamin C serum, well known for its skin brightening and anti-aging benefits, is generally considered mild for almost every skin type (especially for daytime use).

However, it can be quite harsh on sensitive skin. These side effects may set in like a burning or tingling sensation but it shouldn’t be a cause for alarm. It could be a part of skin adaptation to the new product. The signs always clear off after a few days but they are worth noting.

Is Vitamin C Serum Safe?

Dermatologists say topical vitamin C is generally safe for use, especially as serums. The water-based formula best delivers this vitamin C into the deep layers of your skin for reparative and preventative functions.

Moreover, in a vitamin C serum, you can have fragments of hyaluronic acid and vitamin E to help stabilize vitamin C which is naturally unstable. These supporting ingredients help to make the serum more effective.

However, a dermatologist, Nazanin Saedi says, “one major risk is some of these serums have so many different ingredients in them.” He further explains that these other ingredients (hyaluronic acid and vitamin E excluded), can cause certain allergic reactions.

Is It Safe to Use Vitamin C Serum Every Day?

Vitamin C serum usage will vary according to skin type and individual tolerance. While one skin type may tolerate the everyday application of this serum, another skin type will not.

Experts advise that, as a first-timer, you should slowly introduce vitamin C serum into your routine.

Begin with small amounts and apply the serum every other day, if your skin shows certain sensitivities with the serum. When tolerance increases, you can apply vitamin C serum every day as part of your morning and evening routine.

If your skin fares well with vitamin C serum from the start, you can use it every day. Most importantly, always moisturize your skin after applying vitamin C serum to seal in moisture.

Can Vitamin C Serum Make Skin Worse?

There’s an off chance that your vitamin C serum will worsen skin conditions like acne, inflammation, and hyperpigmentation. Wrong application and using a serum that has already been oxidized can be bad for your already ailed skin.

When your vitamin C serum comes in contact with air or sunlight, it oxidizes. It loses its good stuff, changes color, and can even take on a funny smell. Applying such serum to your skin can aggravate pre-existing skin conditions.

Also, although vitamin C has antioxidant effects that protect your skin from the damage of UVA and UVB rays, applying the serum without a moisturizer and sunscreen is not a good idea. You need a moisturizer to seal in moisture and counter the potential drying effect of vitamin C.

In addition, layering sunscreen will boost sun protection and prevent sunburns.

Does Vitamin C Serum Have Side Effects on Oily Skin?

As earlier mentioned, vitamin C serum is highly tolerable for every skin type. The woes of oily skin include the overproduction of sebum due to dehydrated skin cells, clogged pores, acne breakouts, and acne scars.

Applying vitamin C serum to your skin will keep these woes in check unless you use the wrong formula. For oily skin, you do not need an oil-based serum that can clog your pores and make your skin greasy. Moreover, you only need a serum with a vitamin C concentration of 5-20%.

Other than these potential side effects, topical vitamin C will help regulate sebum production by keeping your skin hydrated. It also has a mild exfoliating effect which helps to clear clogged pores and reduce acne breakouts.

Does Vitamin C Serum Have Side Effects on Dry Skin?

Vitamin C serum can turn its anti-aging effects against your skin when you use too much serum at a time. Dryness is one of the common side effects of vitamin C serum and this can get worse for dry skin.  

Naturally, vitamin C would stimulate collagen synthesis and enhance skin tightening. But when it is not used correctly, it can worsen sagging skin, make wrinkles and fine lines appear more pronounced.

Furthermore, it strips your skin of moisture when you do not use a moisturizer over the serum. And with sunscreen, your skin is helpless before UV rays that can cause the formation of free radicals and consequent premature aging.

Does Vitamin C Serum Have Side Effects on Sensitive Skin?

Sensitive skin should take more caution with vitamin C serum. First time application of vitamin C serum on sensitive skin comes with a stinging sensation. This can progress into irritations and skin redness.

Sensitive skin types are characterized by a compromised skin barrier. When L-ascorbic acid penetrates the skin, it can cause skin flares and sometimes worsen skin conditions like rosacea and eczema.

Althoughitisveryhydrating and not all sensitive skin may experience these downsides, you should take note. These phenomena do not last long. It could be a skin purge, especially if you’re a first-timer.

Also, when you use high concentrations of vitamin C in Sensitive skin, you’re likely to have such experiences.

Does Vitamin C Serum Make Skin Darker?

Vitamin C is an award-winning skin brightener; it certainly will not darken your skin. You may experience dark patches or staining when you use the serum, however, this is not skin darkening.

Vitamin C serum shows side effects of skin staining when you use an oxidized serum. The serum stains dead skin cells and it appears as though your complexion has been affected.

Additionally, the serum can oxidize on your skin when you do not apply sunscreen after your products. This darkening is reversible; skincare routines like exfoliation can help fade the dark stains.

Do Vitamin C Serums Cause Acne?

Vitamin C serum will not naturally cause acne. On the other hand, it can help improve the appearance of acne-prone skin by tackling issues like oiliness and clogged pores.

On the off chance that your skin breaks out with acne after using vitamin C serum, it could be a sign of skin purge.

Ingredients like vitamin C treat acne and trigger cell turnover; a common side effect of this is a skin purge which can manifest as skin redness or acne breakouts. However, the manifestations of skin purge are not permanent side effects of vitamin C serum; they disappear after a few weeks.

Who Should Not Use Vitamin C Serums?

If you have had a previous allergic reaction to vitamin C, you should stay away from vitamin C serum. Otherwise, you may experience recurring allergies. Before you use vitamin C serum, consult a doctor or skin expert.


Will vitamin C serum make your skin red?

Vitamin C is commonly present in the form of L-ascorbic acid. This acid is active within a pH range of 2.5-3.0, which is too acidic for the skin’s natural pH of about 5.5. These opposing values can cause skin redness after applying vitamin C serum. However, this redness is temporary.

Should you use moisturizer after vitamin C serum?

Yes, you should. After applying any serum, you should layer on moisturizer to seal in moisture and enhance the absorption of the serum. The moisturizer also strengthens your skin barrier, prevents moisture loss and skin irritations.

Can you apply vitamin C serum overnight?

Yes, you can. Although daytime use of vitamin C serum provides maximum benefits, you can also use it in the evening. Not an often effect but some skin types may experience photosensitivity with topical vitamin C daytime use.

At night, your skin is protected from exposure to sunlight and other irritants that can affect the effectiveness of vitamin C.


Serums are not without their side effects. While they seem to be everything your skin needs, inappropriate use of these products may leave your skin worse than it was. And vitamin C serum is not an exception to this.

The skin brightening and anti-aging effects of vitamin C can go wrong if you use too much product or use an oxidized product. Additionally, your skin type determines the formula you should use.

A water-based vitamin C serum best suits people with oily skin while an oil-based vitamin C serum will fare well with dry skin.

Thanks for reading.

You should check Serum101 to read more relevant articles on the possible side effects of your skincare products.