Vitamin C Serum: Benefits and Effectiveness

Vitamin C Serum: Benefits and Effectiveness

A vitamin C serum is a skincare product based on a serum formulation and applied on the face or specific areas of the skin that provides high doses of topical ascorbic acid or its esters and precursors such as ascorbyl-6-palmitate or magnesium ascorbyl phosphate.

Note that a serum is a specific category of skincare product and specific face care product used typically on the face. But how is it different from other leave-on face care products such as moisturizers, toners, sleeping masks, essence, and face lotions or creams?

Manufacturers use the word “serum” on products formulated with a higher concentration of specific active ingredients to address specific skincare concerns. It comes in either a water-based, gel-based, or oil-based formulation.

Compared with a toner, it is thicker. However, compared with moisturizers and creams, it is less thick and less viscous. The overall consistency is fluid or watery. It is also has a clearer to translucent appearance compared to face creams.

Benefits of Vitamin C Serum: Purpose

The general purpose of serums is to deliver a higher-than-average concentration of active ingredients aimed a targeting a particular skin problem. Nevertheless, as mentioned, a vitamin C serum has a high concentration of ascorbic acid or its esters and precursors.

Vitamin C has several benefits on the skin, especially when applied topically. Vitamin C serums on the marketed capitalize on these. Below are the specific benefits and purposes:

1. Lightening the Skin and Reducing Pigmentation

One of the benefits of a vitamin C serum is that it can help in lightening the skin. The active ingredient has been known to reduce the level and activity of the tyrosine enzyme. This enzyme is responsible for the production of the brownish pigment called melanin.

The specific skin lightening benefits of this ingredient have been marketed to brighten the skin or reduce hyperpigmentation caused by post-acne breakouts, exposure to UVA and UVB radiation, and scars from minor or superficial wounds and skin traumas.

Note that this ingredient lightens the skin without changing or bleaching its natural color. Delivering high doses of this ingredient in the skin through topical application is believed to increase its skin-lightening and anti-hyperpigmentation activity.

2. Anti-Aging and Antioxidant Activity and Property

Vitamin C serums and other skincare products with ascorbic acid as their main active ingredient are also marketed as anti-aging products. Note that this vitamin is one of the known powerful antioxidants that scavenges reactive oxygen species or free radicals.

Free radicals can damage the skin at both the molecular and cellular levels. Their high levels in the body can accelerate skin aging. Some of their common sources are exposure to ultraviolet radiation, tobacco smoke and air pollution, and diet.

Of course, apart from its antioxidant property, the anti-aging benefits of vitamin C come from the fact that it stimulates the production of collagen—a protein that keeps the skin firm and elastic. Vitamin C serums have been positioned to boost natural collagen production.

3. Managing Acne Breakouts and Other Skin Blemishes

Ascorbic acid or its esters and precursors have also been used to manage acne because of its different activities and effects. Remember that it can help reduce hyperpigmentation. Acne can cause dark spots. The vitamin works by reducing melanin production in the target area.

Furthermore, acne can result in scarring. The same is true for other blemishes and skin injuries. Ascorbic acid has an anti-inflammatory property that reduces redness and swelling that come from these skin conditions, thus improving skin appearance.

Stimulating collagen production using a vitamin C serum can also expedite the healing process of the skin. Regular use can help in improving the appearance of acne while also lessening the susceptibility to scarring and hyperpigmentation.

Effectiveness of Vitamin C Serum: The Studies

The skin-lightening effect of vitamin C has been identified and proven by numerous studies. The same has been true for its effect on collagen synthesis, as well as on its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant activities. There is an abundance of research about its effectiveness.

A 2020 study by medical researchers P. Rattanawiwatpong et al. involved 50 female volunteers aged between 30 and 65 years old and were given a serum formulated with 20 percent ascorbic acid. They applied the serum on one side of their face for 2 months.

Results showed significant skin and appearance improvements as far as skin color and tone, elasticity, and perceived radiance are concerned. There were also noticeable and measurable improvements in smoothness, scaliness, and wrinkles.

Researcher S. S. Traikovich invited 19 female volunteers with mild to moderate photodamaged facial skin for a three-month, randomized, double-blind, and vehicle-controlled study to evaluate the effectiveness of topical vitamin C as a skin-lightening ingredient.

Optical profilometry image analysis showed that active-treatment participants had 73.7 percent improvement in skin color and tone on the north-south facial axis and 68.4 percent improvement on the north-south facial axis parameter compared with vehicle control.


  • Rattanawiwatpong, P., Wanitphakdeedecha, R., Bumrungpert, A., and Maiprasert, M. 2020. “Anti‐Aging and Brightening Effects of a Topical Treatment Containing Vitamin C, Vitamin E, and Raspberry Leaf Cell Culture Extract: A Split‐Face, Randomized Controlled Trial.” Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology. 19(3): 671-676. DOI: 1111/jocd.13305
  • Traikovich, S. S. 1999. “Use of Topical Ascorbic Acid and Its Effects on Photodamaged Skin Topography.” Archives of Otolaryngology–Head & Neck Surgery. 125(10): 1091. DOI: 1001/archotol.125.10.1091
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