Ready to learn how to stop vitamin C serum from staining your skin? Let's get going...

How to Stop Vitamin C Serum from Staining Your Skin

In Anti-Ageing & Protective Skincare, Buzz skincare ingredients, How to mix skincare by Cheryl Woodman MChemLeave a Comment

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…

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.

Crazy ‘eh.

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;

  • Yellow
  • Orange
  • Brown
  • 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.

Psst; if you’re super fed up of vitamin C staining and just want it to stop – the fail safe is this. Switch to a different, even more effective anti-ageing active. Grab yourself a free copy of my 5 Best Anti-Ageing Skincare Actives Cheat Sheet here. It’s talking you through some of the very best switches.

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.

Protected forms of vitamin C get broken down after they’re absorbed into your skin. Which means L-ascorbic acid is released when oxygen rich air isn’t around to oxidise vitamin C into erythrulose.

Here are some fab indirect vitamin C serums;

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.

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;

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;

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 your lightest skincare products first and your 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.

And the final sixth stop. Stop vitamin C making your skin yellow by using an ascorbic acid formula that’s hyper-stabilised.

If vitamin C can’t break down, it’s not staining your skin. Whoopee to that. Get an example here in this magic serum review.

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 that stained your skin yellow-brown? What are you doing to help stop Vitamin C serum from getting jiggy with your skin?