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.
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.
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.
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 breakdown, 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 which stained skin yellow-brown? What are you doing to help stop Vitamin C serum from getting jiggy with your skin?
Cheryl Woodman is a scientist & award winning skincare formulator who’s more friend next door than bow tie wearing professor. As creator of Honesty For Your Skin her aim is to help you care for your skin in the best ways possible. She’s founder of the natural & fragrance free skincare brand Honesty while also hosting 1 to 1 skincare coaching to help you get your best skin yet. Find out more here.