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Debunking Vitamin C For Acne: Does It Work?

Acne is a common skin condition, affecting between 40 and 50 million people each year.

It’s characterized by red pimples or lesions on the skin and is generally caused by clogged or infected pores. 

While there are many solutions that can effectively treat acne, it can be challenging to know which will work well for you and your specific skin condition.

Vitamin C is a common ingredient in skin care formulas that can help to prevent future breakouts and to help skin heal from acne scarring.

This article outlines the benefits of vitamin C and explains how it can be used to maintain skin health and that radiant complexion. We also discuss some of the best ways to incorporate vitamin C into your skin care routine and how to use it correctly.


  • Vitamin C is often included in skincare formulas because it has healing, anti-oxidant, and hydrating qualities. 
  • For these reasons, vitamin C can be helpful both in preventing and treating acne when included in the right formulas, and it can even help with acne scarring.

First, What Is Vitamin C?

Vitamin C is a water-soluble L-ascorbic acid that helps the body and skin maintain its overall health. 

Since the body cannot produce vitamin C itself, we must ensure that we get enough vitamin C through a balanced diet or supplements.

You're probably most familiar with vitamin C for its benefits to the immune system, but it can be highly beneficial in skin care as well.

How Does Vitamin C Work on the Skin?

Vitamin C is a potent antioxidant that helps fight free radicals produced by UV radiation, pollution, nicotine products, and other sources.

Simply put, free radicals are unstable atoms that are believed to contribute to irritation and breakouts on the skin. They can also contribute to the formation of fine lines and wrinkles. 

Vitamin C has shown an ability to neutralize free radicals and reduce their harmful effects on the skin. Vitamin C breaks down chain reactions associated with free radicals that cause them to damage healthy skin cells. When this chain is broken, the free radicals are “deactivated” and unable to harm the skin.

By stimulating the production of new cells, vitamin C can also help heal areas of the skin that have been damaged by external factors. Cells that come into contact with free radicals lose their ability to protect the skin.

By stimulating the growth of new and healthy cells, vitamin C can help our skin rebuild from within. 

As an antioxidant, vitamin C also has anti-inflammatory properties. This means that vitamin C can reduce the redness and swelling that’s often caused by breakouts or environmental factors, like sun exposure or stress.

Vitamin C can also limit the frequency of breakouts by helping control the amount of sebum that the skin produces. We will discuss this in more detail later on. 


What Are the Benefits of Using Vitamin C for the Skin?

As mentioned above, vitamin C is an antioxidant that can help protect and repair the skin from external damage. 

However, many dermatologists recommend vitamin C for a number of other reasons.

Hydrates and Smooths Skin

When the skin is moisturized, it creates a strong barrier that allows it to protect itself against bacterial infections and damage. 

The skin barrier is essential for keeping harmful bacteria at bay and ensuring that our skin stays moisturized.

Vitamin C helps the skin stay hydrated by locking moisture into its surface and reducing any water loss.

Reduces Hyperpigmentation and Brightens

Hyperpigmentation is a skin condition where dark or uneven patches appear on the skin. This is often the result of an overproduction of melanin — the skin’s natural pigment.

Hyperpigmentation can also develop because of:

  • Excessive sun exposure. 
  • Acne scarring.
  • Hormonal fluctuations.

Vitamin C is able to control the production of melanin which helps reduce the formation of dark spots on the skin. 

It does this by preventing affected melanin cells from producing more pigment than they should, which means they won’t appear as dark patches.

Since vitamin C can help manage the formation of dark spots, it can also help brighten your complexion.


Boosts Collagen Production

When our bodies absorb vitamin C, it activates enzymes — the proteins responsible for chemical reactions — that produce collagen.

Collagen is one of our skin’s essential proteins and is responsible for keeping it “supple” and resilient.

When the body produces enough collagen, the skin is able to effectively repair damaged skin and skin substructures that contribute to wrinkles and sagging. 

Can Vitamin C Help With Treating Acne? 

Acne develops when the skin’s pores become clogged, leading to redness, swelling, and the formation of pus-filled bumps that can often be painful.

People who experience frequent and severe breakouts are often left with acne scarring and an uneven skin texture. 

Before we discuss how vitamin C can help treat acne-prone skin, let’s take a brief look at how it develops in the first place.

What Can Cause an Acne Breakout?

Excess Sebum Production

Sebum is a natural oil that is produced by the body’s sebaceous glands; it helps keep the skin moisturized. 

Although sebum is necessary for our skin to protect itself, too much of it can cause clogged pores and acne.

Unfortunately, the amount of sebum the skin produces is mostly out of our control.

Factors like genetics, hormonal changes, and even stress can influence sebum production and cause more frequent acne breakouts.

Bacterial Infection

Bacteria on the skin can also get trapped inside pores and infect existing acne, leading to a more severe breakout. 

Different types of bacteria can cause acne to worsen. One of the most common acne-causing bacteria is called Propionibacterium acnes (P. acnes).

This bacteria makes acne appear more inflamed, while causing irritated skin that’s painful to the touch.


How Does Vitamin C Help Acne?

By now you know that vitamin C is essential for the body’s overall health, and the skin is no exception.

Let’s take a closer look at how vitamin C helps fight existing acne and prevent future breakouts.

It Reduces Acne-Related Inflammation

An acne breakout can trigger inflammation which is the body’s natural response to an irritant or infection. This often leads to redness, swelling, and even painful lesions.

Because topical vitamin C is an antioxidant, it has anti-inflammatory properties that can help manage the above-mentioned side effects. 

Not only does vitamin C soothe irritated skin and inflammation, but it can also help to mend broken blood vessels that contribute to redness and uneven skin tone. 

Vitamin C Regulates Sebum Production

One of the main causes of a breakout is an overproduction of sebum which leads to clogged pores and acne development.

Vitamin C is often recommended as an acne-fighting ingredient because it can help regulate the amount of sebum the skin produces. 

It does this by removing any dead skin cells and excess oil on the surface to clear the pores. When our pores are free of this build-up, there’s less risk of an acne breakout occurring.

That’s why regularly using vitamin C can help you maintain a clear complexion.

It Improves the Appearance of Acne Scars

Everything from the severity of your breakout to picking and squeezing blemishes can cause acne scars to form. The scar tissue can result in an uneven skin texture and hyperpigmentation.

Vitamin C can help treat acne scars by stimulating collagen production to keep the skin’s structure firm and healthy.

To reduce and treat acne scars, collagen will form where the scarring has occurred and fill it with new, healthy skin cells, restore volume to the area, and help the skin look smoother. 

How Do I Add Vitamin C to My Daily Skin Care Routine?

Skin care products like moisturizers, serums, and cleansers are formulated with a higher concentration of vitamin C than what is usually found in food or supplements. 

No research ties dietary vitamin C to less frequent breakouts, which is why skincare products are your best route.

Although there is some evidence that a vitamin C serum benefits acne the most, dermatologists agree that daily use is beneficial as long as you use it topically.

It’s recommended that you use your vitamin C products during the day since it can help protect your skin from environmental damage like pollution and UV radiation.


Who Should Avoid Vitamin C?

Most people use vitamin C without any adverse side effects, especially if it's gradually incorporated into a skin care routine. 

Most dermatologists recommend starting with a 10% concentration of vitamin C and working your way up as your skin gets used to it. 

However, some people may still experience mild to moderate side effects, especially when they start using vitamin C serums with a high concentration.

Skin irritation is the most common side effect of using this ingredient. However, it usually only presents itself on sensitive skin

People with sensitive or oily skin can start with a lower concentration—typically under 10%—of vitamin C to reduce the risk of any adverse reactions.

Although sensitive skin is more prone to an adverse reaction, it’s always a good idea to do a patch test on your hand first.

This way, you can tell if the product will irritate your skin and avoid using it before it causes a bigger problem.

Many dermatologists also advise that people avoid using vitamin C with active ingredients like retinoids. 

Vitamin C and retinoids are both potent ingredients. When used together, they can cause skin irritation and sensitivities. 

The Best Ingredients to Use Alongside Vitamin C

In the event that you experience skin irritation while using vitamin C, there are a few ingredients that can help you manage side effects. 


Niacinamide is a vitamin B derivative that helps to soothe irritated skin while keeping it hydrated.

Since vitamin C may cause redness and dry skin for some people, dermatologists often recommend using it with niacinamide.

Due to its moisturizing and soothing properties, niacinamide can combat the negative effects of vitamin C without causing further irritation.

Hyaluronic Acid

Not only does hyaluronic acid have various skin hydrating benefits, but it can also relieve irritation and redness. 

It’s another gentle ingredient that doesn’t strip the skin of natural oils. This may help reduce the harsh or irritating effect that vitamin C can have on the skin.

Hyaluronic acid also complements vitamin C because both ingredients work together to strengthen and hydrate the skin’s moisture barrier.

This allows the skin to repair and protect itself from external damage. 

Hyaluronic acid is generally so well-tolerated that even people with sensitive skin rarely experience negative side effects.

Nava MD’s Solution for a Healthy Complexion

Now that you know how vitamin C works and benefits your overall skin health, it’s time to start looking for the right products for your routine.

All of the products in Nava MD’s Full Radiance set can help cleanse, treat, and hydrate skin.

Together with other naturally-derived and powerhouse ingredients, vitamin C is one of the main ingredients in the Nava MD range to help you achieve beautiful, glowing skin. 

By removing dead skin cells and stimulating collagen production, our vitamin C and oat extract combination supports external damage repair while soothing and calming the skin. This formulation also targets dark spots to improve the appearance of hyperpigmentation and uneven skin tone.

This helps keep redness at bay, too, while promoting a firmer and brighter skin complexion, with reduced redness and irritation.

Not only do our OTC products all work well together, but you can also pair them with any of Nava MD’s prescription formulas.

Nava MD is build on telemedicine, where our dermatologists prescribe custom prescription formulas for your skin type and condition. It's expert advice that's unique to your skin’s needs and sensitivities, and it's all done online.

It starts with our free online skin quiz so our tele-dermatologists can craft the right formula for you. If approved, it’s in the mail and delivered in no time.

Prescription skincare made easy.

Star your journey to clear skin with Nava MD today.

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This article is intended for informational purposes only and should not be considered medical advice.
Consult a healthcare professional or call a doctor in the case of a medical emergency