Yeesssh! This is the last thing you want ‘eh. You use a vitamin C serum and vitamin C ends up staining your skin, turning your skin orange and making your skin streaky.
Did you pick up the wrong bottle? Was it sunless tanner?
How could vitamin C serum do this?
Is your boyfriend/partner/significant other/pesky brother playing tricks on you?
You can just imagine it ‘eh. A quick empty of your vitamin C serum (do they know how much it cost!) and a quick top up with your make-me-look-like-pure-glow sunless tanner.
Before planning your attack dear skin savvy know this;
Vitamin C can stain your skin.
Vitamin C can darken skin.
Vitamin C serum can turn skin orange.
All of the above can happen because of a scientific reaction. Which is great news because once you understand what this reaction is, you can stop it from ever happening again. Sorted.
Ready to learn how to stop vitamin C serum from staining your skin? Let’s get going…
Does Vitamin C Serum Stain?
FAQ: Help! What am I doing wrong? I’m using a vitamin C serum at night and I consistently wake up with light orange-ish/brown-ish streaks on my face.
Fact: Vitamin C serum has potential to stain your skin brown… exactly like a sunless tanner, because when a certain kind of vitamin C ‘goes-off’ it makes the same ingredient used in sunless tanning products.
If vitamin C is staining your skin yellow/orange/brown this is the reason why.
…and here’s the chemistry aka the cooking;
Some kinds of vitamin C serum are made with what you might call – pure vitamin C i.e. L-ascorbic acid – some people also call this direct vitamin C (because it doesn’t need to be broken down for your skin to use it as vitamin C).
When pure vitamin C ‘goes off’ it likes to turn into different people, and here’s its third undercover personality of choice;
L-ascorbic acid + water + oxygen > L-dehydroascorbic acid > 2,3-diketogulonic acid > erythrulose aka an active which can be used in sunless tanners.
Vitamin C Serum Turns Skin Orange
Vitamin C has potential to stain your skin but… vitamin C serum can also be stopped from staining your skin – we’ll get to this bit very soon. Vitamin C serum can depending on your skin tone and the amount of vitamin C that’s oxidised or gone off – turn your skin;
- Or darker
Essentially any colour you’d get from a bit of patchy sunless tanner. Vitamin C can also give you orange hands because you guessed it, you applied that vitamin C serum with your hands… and just like all sunless tanners will tell you to wash hands after use, not washing your hands after using a vitamin C serum with potential to stain skin – can – stain your skin.
But don’t worry my friend, there are lots of science proven things you can do to stop vitamin C staining skin.
How to Stop Vitamin C Staining Skin
Aka how to stop vitamin C from partying so hard it reacts with water and oxygen before sinking into your skin. Below dear skin savvy are 5 ways to call out the party police on your vitamin C serum;
First stop. And note – this is pretty much a fail-safe how to stop vitamin C staining skin trick – use an indirect form of vitamin C.
Indirect forms of vitamin C are L-ascorbic acid with an over protective dad glued to their hand – no partying too hard when your dad’s about ‘eh.
Here are some fab indirect vitamin C serums;
- The Ordinary Ascorbyl Glucoside Solution 12% (£8.90/30ml)
- Alpha-H Vitamin C – using vitamin C as ethyl ascorbic acid (ethyl is the over protective dad) – £39/25ml)
Second stop. Use a thin vitamin C serum and not a suspension.
Insiders know vitamin C doesn’t just love to party, vitamin C is the definition of a party animal. Give vitamin C any excuse to go-off and it will. It’s why you’ll find lots of different vitamin C formulas – because so many companies have tried so many different ways to stop vitamin C going off. Interesting ‘eh.
One of the ways some vitamin C skincare does this is by using a water less formula i.e. if water’s not around, vitamin C can’t oxidise into erythrulose.
Trouble is water free formulas using ascorbic acid are generally suspensions. This means lots of tiny vitamin C granules are suspended aka floating in a water free liquid – generally something which is silicone based. The Ordinary’s Vitamin C Suspension 30% in Silicone is a great example. Formulas like this take a lot, lot longer to absorb and therefore can be in contact with oxygen for longer – also likelihood is you’ve used a serum or moisturiser with water before applying your vitamin C suspension. Water + oxygen + L-ascorbic acid – you got it my friend = erythrulose.
— Cheryl Woodman (@HonestyForSkin) 3 October 2018
If a vitamin C serum has turned your skin orange, check whether it’s a suspension. If it is, switch for a vitamin C/L-acsorbic acid serum like one of these 2;
- Timeless Skin Care 20% Vitamin C Plus E Ferulic Acid Serum (1oz/$20) – for the UK version click here
- SkinCeuticals C E Ferulic Serum (£135/30ml)
Third stop. Stop vitamin C staining skin by using a protected form of vitamin C in an oil.
This is extra, extra vitamin C staining skin protection. Firstly you’re stopping vitamin C staining skin by using a protected form of vitamin C i.e. keeping vitamin C as L-ascorbic acid away from oxygen and secondly you’re using an oil – so no water. Like putting a spider underneath an up-turned glass and then running out and locking the door anyway.
These guys are great vitamin C serum picks for extra, extra vitamin C staining skin protection;
- The Ordinary Ascorbyl Tetraisopalmitate Solution 20% in Vitamin F (£14/30ml)
Medik8 C-Tetra (£29/30ml) – bonus; this guy’s paired with vitamin E which helps regenerate vitamin C inside your skin aka your vitamin C serum can be extra effective.
Fourth stop. Stop vitamin C staining skin by using a face oil after.
This is a super quick tip to try out. Essentially using a face oil after your vitamin C serum works by helping prevent oxygen from getting involved. Using a face oil after can literally seal in your vitamin C and seal out pesky oxidising oxygen. Skin identical squalane oil like this purse friendly bag from The Ordinary (£5.50/30ml) would work well.
Fifth stop. Stop vitamin C making your skin yellow by using your vitamin C serum in the right order.
Use any skincare product before your vitamin C serum which slows down the penetration of vitamin C and you’re at risk of vitamin C staining skin. To avoid you’ll want to use lightest skincare products first and heaviest skincare products second. If you’re not sure whether your vitamin C serum is lighter or heavier than another skincare product, be cautious and use it first.
There you have it my friend, how to stop vitamin C staining skin. Say goodbye to surprise patchy tan. Now’s time to tell me your experiences in the comments below – which products have you used which stained skin yellow-brown? What are you doing to help stop Vitamin C serum from getting jiggy with your skin?