- Vitamin C serum offers a number of powerful skin care benefits suitable for sensitive skin.
- Lower concentrations of L-ascorbic acid (LAA) or its derivatives can be beneficial for sensitive skin types.
- Vitamin C products with higher concentrations of LAA may cause skin irritation.
Dermatologist-endorsed vitamin C serum can help soothe and protect sensitive skin. In spite of its many benefits however, if used incorrectly, vitamin C serum can cause irritation. This is why it’s important to ensure you are using the vitamin C serum best suited to your skin.
Is Vitamin C Serum Good for Sensitive Skin?
Yes, for those with sensitive skin, whether caused by sun damage, aging, inflammation or other factors, the potential benefits of vitamin C serum are many. However, it’s important to choose the right form of vitamin C for your skin type.
LAA is the purest version of vitamin C, and its skin care benefits are well studied. It is most effective at a low pH (a measure of how acidic or alkaline something is).
For optimal skin care benefits, LAA should be included in a vitamin C serum with a pH under 3.5 (which is slightly more acidic than your skin’s ph of 4.2–5.5), as it degrades when included in a product with a higher pH level. But a lower pH also means sensitive skin types can occasionally experience stinging, redness or other irritations.
Although it has been shown that vitamin C serums with LAA concentrations outside the range of 5–15% are not optimal, one study does show that even at 3%, LAA can help improve signs of aging and photodamage such as wrinkles, sun spots and dry skin. Those with sensitive skin can typically use vitamin C products with an LAA concentration of up to 10% without issue.
Vitamin C Derivatives
Unlike LAA, magnesium ascorbyl phosphate (MAP) can be used at a pH that is in the same range as your skin’s, which helps avoid irritation. Some studies have shown it has a hydrating effect and is suitable for all skin types including dry, sensitive and oily skin.
Tetrahexyldecyl ascorbate, an oil-soluble form of vitamin C, is also ideal for all skin types. It penetrates deeper than other forms of vitamin C and is stable at a pH of up to 5. It is also one of the most effective forms of vitamin C for stimulating collagen production, making it a useful anti-aging product.
Ascorbyl palmitate is a fat and oil soluble form of vitamin C that is well suited for dry sensitive skin. Unlike most forms of vitamin C, ascorbyl palmitate is not water soluble, making it more stable in serum form and giving it a better shelf life. While ascorbyl palmitate is not an effective tool to improve collagen production, it can help protect the skin from UV damage.
Benefits of Vitamin C Serum for Sensitive Skin
Studies show that vitamin C has several abilities to aid in the prevention and treatment of sensitive skin.
- Antioxidant: destroys free radicals generated by UV light before they result in skin wrinkles and dark spots
- Lightening: fades hyperpigmentation and discoloration; enables a healthy complexion
- Firming: stimulates collagen growth, the protein that keeps skin firm and youthful- looking.
- Anti-inflammatory: has a soothing effect and can be used to improve conditions such as acne-prone skin and rosacea.
How to Choose a Vitamin C Serum for Sensitive Skin
While vitamin C serum on its own can be a very beneficial part of your skin care routine, it’s even more powerful when used in combination with other skin care ingredients, such as vitamin E and ferulic acid. Together, they boost photoprotection and make your sunscreen more effective. Hyaluronic acid (HA) may also be of particular effect in anti-aging skin care routines due to its hydrating properties.
Those with sensitive and/or dry skin should avoid high concentrations of LAA (above 10%), and consider non-LAA vitamin C serums, particularly those containing MAP.
Dry sensitive skin
Dry sensitive skin can benefit from serums formulated with HA. This acid replenishes the skin’s moisture by drawing water to the skin’s surface. HA does not cause irritation, making it a good choice for those with sensitive skin.
Vitamin C serums often contain vitamin E, as the combination can offer increased UV protection. As a gentle and potent moisturizer, vitamin E can improve dry, sensitive skin. Vitamin E can also be beneficial in reducing the itchiness and redness associated with overly dry skin.
Oily sensitive skin
Oily sensitive skin that’s prone to breakouts can also benefit from LAA. This form of vitamin C can increase the skin’s natural exfoliation rate, reducing the buildup of dead skin cells that can trigger outbreaks. LAA also soothes acne inflammation, reducing the visibility and severity of this condition.
Those with oily skin should avoid serums that contain vitamin E, as the thick jelly-like nature of vitamin E can lead to clogged pores. This can exacerbate many of the skin issues associated with oily skin such as blackheads, whiteheads and other forms of acne.
Simple DIY Vitamin C Serum for Sensitive Skin
It is always advisable to investigate which vitamin C serum ingredients are best tolerated by your skin. Once you have a better idea, it is wise to do a patch test first to determine how your skin will react. Use the following ingredients to make a basic serum at home:
- 1/2 tsp pure vitamin C powder
- 1 tbsp distilled water
- 2 tbsp vegetable glycerin
- A dark-colored container (vitamin C breaks down easily when exposed to light)
- Dissolve the vitamin C powder in the water.
- Stir in the glycerine
- Pour contents into container; discard after approximately 1 month.
Although vitamin C serum in higher concentrations can irritate sensitive skin, a product with the right concentration can be quite beneficial to those with sensitive skin.
By choosing either a lower concentration LAA serum, a derivative-based serum such as MAP, or by making one’s own low-concentration serum at home, most if not all sensitivity to the product can be avoided, and all its benefits enjoyed.
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