Why is my vitamin C serum not working? Why does nothing work for my skin? I hear you, my friend. Last week I pop into our local supermarket to grab myself a bunch of ginger. Usually, I’m an online food-shopping kinda gal, so I always, always soften in-real-life trips with visits to the skincare aisle. Hooray. It makes my shopping trip for ginger exciting.
I want to go.
As I’m surfing down the skincare aisle as slowly as my partner will let me (we’ve been together for 17 years so he lets me surf pretty slowly 🥰). I’m flirting with new pretty bottles, being chatted up by the promise of visibly reducing wrinkles in just 7 days (psst – just a short-term hydration effect – more about this soon) and being tempted by new anti-ageing serums I see on this brightly lit shelf in front of me.
I suddenly spot a new anti-ageing serum and I get excited. At first glance, I’m reading it as a 10% vitamin C serum. It’s by a budget skincare brand I like and trust. One that’s awesome for sensitive skin. I’m brimming with excitement.
My hand shoots out before I even know what’s happening. Suddenly this 30ml bottle in a box is in my hand. I’m clueless as to how it happened 😉
And then my heart sinks – I realise this bottle of anti-ageing promise is not full of anti-ageing potential for me.
It’s a lesson I must share with you today. A big reason why you’re asking yourself – Why is my vitamin C serum not working on my face? Why does nothing work for my skin?
Why Is My Vitamin C Serum Not Working?
This is the anti-ageing bottle of Vitamin C promise I pick up last week. I speed-read the label as 10% vitamin C.
Next, I see it’s actually promising us a 10% concentration of vitamins C, E and F.
I’m still excited and hopeful because as vitamin C gets mentioned first, there must be a beautiful anti-ageing dose of vitamin C in this bottle.
As I’m a skincare formulator I know vitamin E is usually in serums and creams at 1% or less, in fact, it’s usually in at 0.1-0.5% – you need just a pinch of vitamin E to get your skin glowing and actually, if you have too much vitamin E in your skincare it can cause ageing, wrinkle-causing damage to your skin. I explain all about why and how to avoid this big anti-ageing mistake inside my online anti-ageing video course AgeLock.
But as I’m slowly surfing down this skincare aisle I realise Vitamin C, E and F are on this front label in alphabetical order.
Turning to the ingredient list I’m realising this 10% serum including vitamin C has a much lower than 10% dose of vitamin C and therefore this is a vitamin C serum with low potential to work if you’re serious about anti-ageing.
Low potential to noticeably brighten your skin. Low potential to significantly reverse fine lines and wrinkles, low potential to mega-boost your skin’s collagen production, even your skin tone and get you a glow that has strangers wondering if you’re pregnant 😂.
A vitamin C serum that has you thinking – vitamin C doesn’t work for my skin – why is my vitamin C serum not working on my face? – why does nothing work for my skin?
So how do you tell a vitamin C serum with big potential to brighten, anti-age, plump and get you crazy improvements in your skin?
Vitamin C Doesn’t Work For My Skin
The fact is the concentration of active anti-ageing ingredients like vitamin C matters big time.
In fact arguably out of all skincare ingredients, the concentration of vitamin C matters the most.
There’s a wonderful sweet spot for vitamin C – too low of a dose and you’re left feeling like vitamin C doesn’t work for your skin. Too high of a dose and a very similar thing happens. Science studies show us that when using high concentrations of vitamin C on the skin, less of it gets absorbed – meaning you get fewer anti-ageing benefits.
Psst – I reveal this sweet spot inside AgeLock.
If you’ve increased the concentration of a vitamin C serum you’re using and instead of thinking wow – I’m so happy with my skin, I look alive and glowing, you’re feeling like, your skin just looks dull and tired – this could be why.
If an anti-ageing serum doesn’t tell you how much of an active ingredient it’s using, you can still take an educated guess by looking at the ingredients list. Every skincare ingredients list gets listed in order of concentration – that is until you get to ingredients which are used at below 1%, then these ingredients can be listed in any order.
Here’s how to check if your vitamin C serum has big potential to work.
Why Does Nothing Work For My Skin?
Skincare serums don’t work for your skin when they don’t contain enough of an active ingredient. So we need to take a guess at how much vitamin C a booster serum like the one I have in my hand contains.
Psst – I’m 36 so I’m wanting this serum to have a significant dose 😀
Here’s the ingredients list of this supermarket vitamin C serum;
There are lots of different types of vitamin C used in skincare which can make finding it on the ingredients list confusing. Don’t worry, I have a cheat way – all you need to look for is the letters, ‘ascorb’.
Some examples are;
- Ascorbic Acid
- Ascorbyl Glucoside
- Ethyl Ascorbic Acid
- Sodium, Ascorbyl Phosphate
Vitamin C is one of the top 5 anti-ageing actives I recommend using if you’re serious about anti-ageing skincare – get your free copy of my 5 Best Anti-Ageing Actives Cheatsheet to get your eyes on my other four – you can download your copy here.
Now can you find vitamin C on the ingredients list of this anti-ageing booster serum?
Yay – did you find it? This serum contains vitamin C as Sodium Ascorbyl Phosphate.
Come take a seat inside my brain – I’m about to talk you through exactly what I’m seeing – and why I believe this serum has low potential to get you younger, glowing skin.
How to Avoid Anti-Ageing Skincare that Won’t Ever Work
I see the first ‘active ingredient’ in this anti-ageing booster serum is Cannabis Sativa Seed Oil aka hemp seed oil.[For it to come first there must be over 5% of this active in comparison to vitamins C and E]
Hemp seed oil is actually ‘vitamin F’ in this formula – it contains essential fatty acids which are known as vitamin F. Meaning what I’m holding in my hand right now is primarily a vitamin F serum. There’s most vitamin F in this bottle.
Vitamin F helps reduce dry, flaky skin symptoms, can have some mild brightening effects and overall helps to hydrate your skin. It’s a great but also basic ingredient.
Next, I’m seeing the word Propanediol – propanediol is a humectant moisturiser meaning it’s attracting water to itself like a magnet and locking this hydration into your skin. Wahoo.
Remember how one of the anti-ageing products I was looking at before I saw this serum, promised to reverse wrinkles in just 7 days? Well, this isn’t a long-lasting effect happening by boosting your skin’s collagen production, it’s a short-term effect happening by boosting and plumping your skin with hydration courtesy of humectants like propanediol.
There’s usually a few percent of a humectant moisturiser like propanediol.
The next ingredient is Polyglyceryl-6 Distearate it’s an emulsifier that can bind together watery actives and oily actives. This is an active used at just a few percent which means the next ingredient – our star anti-ageing ingredient – Vitamin C – well it’s in this beautiful white bottle at an even lower concentration.
I’m taking an educated guess this budget vitamin C, E & F serum contains vitamin C at a concentration of 1 to 2%.
To be clear, this is still an ok vitamin C serum for beginners. It’s just not ok if your skin’s asking you to be serious about anti-ageing skincare.
This my friend is how to avoid anti-ageing skincare that won’t ever work.
- You first check the anti-ageing active is on the ingredients list – because yes, some products which claim to contain anti-ageing actives like vitamin C or vitamin A actually contain 0.0001% – rosehip oil which “contains vitamin A” is an example of this
- Next, you check the likely concentration of your key anti-ageing active
If this sounds way too techy for you, don’t worry I have a cheat way to always be using anti-ageing skincare with big potential to work. Enrol in my online course AgeLock and you get instant access to my secret anti-ageing skincare library. One page of this library is a dedicated sheet of vitamin C serums listed in order of concentration – plus with instructions for how to choose the perfect one for your skin type.
I created AgeLock so it can be your shortcut to an anti-ageing skincare routine that has you hydrated, smooth and glowing… and strangers wondering if you’re pregnant 😅. Here’s the link you need to find out more and enrol.
Cheryl Woodman is a scientist, skin health expert & award-winning skincare formulator who’s more friend next door than bow tie wearing professor. Through her 1-2-1 services and video courses she’s here helping you get healthier, happier skin you feel comfortable, confident and like the freakin’ awesomesauce you are in. Select the option which best describes your skin health here to see and hear the amazing transformations you could be getting.