Find Out Which Form of Vitamin C is Best For Your Skin

Megan Dominion

Vitamin C has many benefits for the face. It can help reduce wrinkles, brighten skin, even out skin tone, protect skin from sun damage, and reduce the appearance of age spots. Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant that helps to protect skin from damage caused by free radicals, helping to reduce inflammation and promote healing. Vitamin C is also often used to even out skin tone, reduce discoloration, and boost collagen production, helping to keep skin firm and reduce wrinkles.

Who should be using vitamin C on the face?

Vitamin C can be used on all skin types, but people with oily skin may benefit from it the most. However, those with dry or sensitive skin should be aware that certain forms of vitamin C may be too strong for their skin type and cause irritation.

Vitamin C, along with any new skin care product or ingredient, should be introduced slowly and usage built up over time to allow your skin to get used to it. In my opinion, if your skin is going through a lot of breakouts and is particularly sensitive at the moment, rather choose other skin care ingredients that may be more targeted to these issues and get your skin under control before introducing vitamin C into your routine.

You could try retinol or bakuchiol for breakoutsand anti-aging, and read our guide on keeping your skin barrier happy if you find your skin more sensitive than usual.

What are the different forms of vitamin C for the face?

Vitamin C can be found in various forms, including serums, lotions, and creams, as well as topical treatments like peels and masks. Depending on the form, concentration, and ingredients, vitamin C can be highly potent and work quickly, or it can be mild and work gradually over time.

There are six different formulations of vitamin C. We’ll go into each one, so picking out a vitamin C serum or product feels less like a science project, and you are able to choose the most effective form of vitamin C for your unique skin!

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1. Ascorbic Acid or L-ascorbic Acid

Ascorbic acid or L-ascorbic acid, is the most popular, and it is the most natural form of vitamin C. It is a water-soluble antioxidant, so it can be absorbed quickly into the skin. Ascorbic acid also helps reduce inflammation, dark spots, and discoloration, making it an ideal choice for those with acne-prone skin.

Ideal for: oily to normal, acne-prone skin types.

Cons: It is fairly acidic, so those with sensitive skin should introduce this ingredient slowly, start with a lower concentration such as 10%, or rather choose a version of vitamin C that has a ph level closer to the skin’s. Ascorbic acid also oxidises when exposed to light and air so look for dark, air-restrictive bottles. Otherwise your vitamin C is likely to oxidise quickly and become ineffective.

2. Magnesium Ascorbyl Phosphate

Magnesium Ascorbyl Phosphate is a stabilized form of vitamin C meaning it won’t oxidise like ascorbic acid. It doesn’t irritate skin, and it offers antioxidant protection as well as hydration. It’s one of the few forms of vitamin C that can be used with niacinamide – another incredible and incredibly popular skincare ingredient.

Ideal for: dry, sensitive skin, acne-prone skin. Good for pigmentation caused by acne scarring.

Cons: This form of vitamin C doesn’t really have any drawbacks, but all skin can react differently, so it’s always a good idea to patch test and introduce a new ingredient slowly in case of irritation. But this is a great form of vitamin C to look out for!

3. Sodium Ascorbyl Phosphate

Sodium Ascorbyl Phosphate is a water-soluble vitamin C derivative that has anti-inflammatory and brightening benefits. It turns into ascorbic acid once applied to the skin. The process it goes through means some of its effectiveness gets lost, but it means it’s less irritating to the skin than pure ascorbic acid. It is often used in the treatment of acne, and it can also help lighten dark spots.

Ideal for: all skin types including sensitive skin

Cons: It is a less potent version of vitamin C, but that doesn’t mean it won’t be effective! It is far more stable than ascorbic acid, but I still recommend looking for serums in a dark, air-restrictive container.

4. Ascorbyl Palmitate

Ascorbyl Palmitate is an ester of vitamin C that is oil-soluble. It is easily absorbed by skin, and it offers antioxidant protection. It can also help to even out skin tone and texture, making it great for those with acne-prone skin. It’s also a more stable form of vitamin C than ascorbic acid.

Ideal for: all skin types, including sensitive skin

Cons: It is milder than ascorbic acid, but still a great option.

5. Tetrahexyldecyl Ascorbate

Tetrahexyldecyl Ascorbate is a fat-soluble form of vitamin C that works well with other antioxidants and skin-care ingredients, especially vitamin E. It’s again, more stable than ascorbic acid and helps to fight wrinkles by preserving the skin’s collagen, brighten skin, and even out skin tone.

Ideal for: sensitive, acne-prone skin, good for lightening pigmentation caused by acne scarring.

Cons: It works the same as Sodium Ascorbyl Phosphate by turning into ascorbic acid once on the skin, but still touted as the one of the best forms of vitamin C.

6. Sodium Ascorbate

Sodium Ascorbate is a stabilized form of vitamin C that is much gentler on sensitive skin. It helps to hydrate, protect, and reduce the appearance of wrinkles, and it is even known to help reduce redness. Sodium Ascorbate is usually combined with other ingredients to make it more effective and increase its antioxidant power.

Ideal for: sensitive, acne prone skin

Cons: It is much gentler than other forms of vitamin C, but it is not as strong


Skincare Products

Bottom Line:

The many forms of Vitamin C each have various benefits. Many of them are more gentle than Ascorbic acid and can be just as effective. Ascorbic acid is the most popular and natural form, but those with sensitive skin may want to look for other forms of Vitamin C, like Sodium Ascorbate or Magnesium Ascorbyl Phosphate. Ultimately, everyone’s skin is different, so it’s important to talk to a dermatologist to figure out the best form of Vitamin C for your skin.

Megan Dominion

Megan Dominion is SILKUP's Managing Editor. She's been down both the curly hair and skincare rabbit holes many times and loves that there's always something new to learn; a new science, method, product or personal experience.