Keep in mind that a higher percentage of L-ascorbic acid doesn't always mean a better product. Sometimes it can be too strong for your skin, causing it to react via purging, breakouts, or itchiness. You don't want the product to sting and itch even after you apply moisturizer.
Retinoids, vitamin C, AHAs and BHAs (glycolic, malic, lactic, and salicylic acid) can also activate the skin's purging. Retinoids are the major ingredient that can cause Skin purging. Retinol is found in most of acne skin care products, is an active ingredient that is known to cause a skin purge.
So if you used a vitamin C serum and it gave you acne, redness or any other skin issue, it is because the serum took away your body's ability to fight off bacteria, and weakened it, inviting pathogens to infect your skin.
A tell-tale sign of vitamin c over-use can be increased blackheads or a development of blackheads. General skin irritation and breakouts can also occur if you are using your vitamin c too much or too often. We recommend using your serum 1-2 times a day and 2-4 drops is all that is needed.
There's no proof that Vitamin C causes acne. In fact, it may even help treat it faster! And yet, many of my clients with oily, acne-prone skin complain their acne got worse after introducing a Vitamin C serum into their skincare routine.
The purging pattern
It could take anywhere between two to six weeks and will generally go like this: If your skin freaks out at first but then improves after 4-6 weeks (and even looks better than it used to!), it's probably a purge.
If you're wondering when to apply a vitamin C serum, the answer is both morning and night, after cleansing and toning. One study even recommends applying a vitamin C serum every eight hours, or twice daily for the pinnacle of protection.
Vitamin C contains anti-inflammatory properties and helps reduce the redness and swelling that comes with acne. The results are more pronounced when you use the vitamin topically. It, therefore, helps improve the appearance of acne wounds.
Purging is a sign that the product is working and you should continue with the treatment as prescribed. After a few weeks of purging, your skin and acne will have noticeably improved. Breaking out is when your skin is reacting because it is sensitive to something in the new product.
How to treat skin purging. “If the skin barrier is compromised when you see purging then start ingredients which help with barrier repair, such as ceramides and hyaluronic acid in a non-comedogenic formulation. If you are using a treatment or product continue with a slower approach.”
Occasionally, though, serums can actually cause acne—so proceed with caution. "They can lead to breakouts—especially if you're using the wrong one for your skin type," says Green.
Vitamin C serum (leave to absorb for 1-2 minutes)
Dr Khan explains: “With vitamin C, you want to get the most out of the product by not diluting it. A couple of minutes should be an adequate time for the product to dry down before you go in with your next step.”
It'll also absorb into your skin most effectively after you've cleansed and exfoliated, so it makes sense to apply it during your nighttime routine. When you use your vitamin C serum during the night, you'll also avoid the risk of photosensitivity, which can occur in some cases with daytime use.
Skin purging typically looks like tiny red bumps on the skin that are painful to touch. They are often accompanied by whiteheads or blackheads. It can also cause your skin to become flaky. The flare ups caused by purging have a shorter lifespan than a breakout.
Niacinamide With Vitamin C Are a Winning Combination
This means that you're safe to use both niacinamide and vitamin C, either together in the same product, or combined from different products that you layer one over the other.
If you are applying a Vitamin C serum and hyaluronic acid separately, it's suggested that you apply the Vitamin C first, and then add the hyaluronic acid afterward in order to help fortify the skin barrier and lock in the moisture.
Not only can you use vitamin C and hyaluronic acid together, but when you do, they can help create a more effective skincare routine. Each one has skincare benefits, some of which we mentioned, but when combined, they can form a more potent formula that offers increased results.
Use your vitamin C serum first, and let it dry.
Then "Let vitamin C completely dry prior to placing niacinamide," says Lamm. That way, the ascorbic acid has a chance to settle into the skin, and there's a smaller chance of combining the two actives.
Notice if the product has changed color.
“Your vitamin C serum should be colorless or a light straw color,” Dr. Hogan says. “If it is oxidized, it becomes yellow or brown and is likely going to be less effective.”
Symptoms of irritation normally include redness or a mild burning sensation, and they tend to appear immediately. Irritation may also cause breakouts. An allergic reaction, however, occurs after repeated exposure. The skin may be red, inflamed or scaly.
Does Vitamin C really darken my skin? No, it does not. It may stain your skin but it cannot darken your skin. It is important to know the difference between staining and darkening the skin.
Sudden acne breakouts can be because of numerous reasons, including hormonal changes or hormonal imbalance, an unhealthy diet including lots of deep fried and junk food, release of cortisol hormones because of excessive stress, excessive production of sebum and much more.
“Ascorbic acid and L-ascorbic acid are known to oxidize quickly on the skin in the presence of light and air,” Rouleau states. “This can cause unwanted side effects like more noticeable blackheads.”