5 ways you shouldn't be using vitamin C, according to the experts

Vitamin C is beloved for its brightening and glow-boosting powers but there are a few key things to avoid when applying it to your skin...

A close up of a woman, with a milky pink manicure and wearing a white robe, is pictured holding a brown glass serum bottle/ in an orange and pink gradient template
(Image credit: Getty Images/Iryna Veklich)

Vitamin C is beloved for its brightening powers and exfoliation, but like with all active and hard-working ingredients, knowing how to use it - and thus, how not to use vitamin C - is crucial to achieving glowing results...

If you're someone who is chasing radiance or looking to reduce the appearance of dark spots and fine lines, the best vitamin C serums have no doubt crossed your radar. The active, also known as ascorbic acid is touted for its ability to protect the skin from environmental aggressors (like sunlight and pollution), whilst simultaneously brightening the complexion, making it a true giant in the skincare space. That said, it's not without its challenges.

Like its fellow exfoliators, there are a few vitamin C mistakes to avoid, especially when it comes to application, specifically. So to that end, we've quizzed the skincare experts on what not to do with it - to ensure you're getting the most out of your radiance-boosting products...

How not to use vitamin c, according to the experts

If you're new to vitamin C, it's good to know that it's available in many forms from concentrated serum treatments to brightening eye creams. But like with the best retinol creams and serums, it's important to get clued in on its compatibility with other ingredients - and the things to avoid when using.

For instance, if you have sensitive skin, knowing exactly how to use vitamin C for sensitive skin is key to avoiding irritation. Thus, we've asked dermatologists and skincare experts to break down what not to do, in terms of application...

1. Don't apply it too close to the eyes

Unless you're using a specifically designed vitamin C eye cream or eye serum, Dr Magnus Lynch, Consultant Dermatologist and Surgeon says to: "Apply Vitamin C sparingly around the delicate eye area to prevent irritation."

A good and gentle trick when applying your eye products is to use the pad of your ring finger, to dot and carefully press the formula in - this helps to avoid tugging and irritating the skin.

2. Don't apply it with exfoliating acids

A common theme - and faux pas - with skincare application is knowing what ingredients pair well together.

Hyaluronic acid and vitamin C for instance, are okay to use in tandem, however, this isn't the case with all skincare ingredients and the latter. Indeed, Dr Lynch advises to, "avoid combining it with exfoliating acids like AHAs and BHAs simultaneously to prevent over-exfoliation."

3. Don't apply it on broken or irritated skin

Dr Mahsa Saleki, Aesthetic Doctor and founder of SAS Aesthetics warns to avoid, "using vitamin C on irritated or broken skin, " and again reiterates to be cautious around delicate areas like the eyelids.

4. Don't use it alongside retinol

Dr Lynch also advises avoiding mixing vitamin C with other products containing retinol or benzoyl peroxide, "as this can cause irritation and decrease efficacy."

Dr Saleki seconds this and adds that combining it with retinol and benzoyl peroxide, "can destabilise vitamin C and diminish its effectiveness. Maintaining the stability and potency of vitamin C ensures its optimal performance, so avoiding these combinations helps preserve its benefits for healthier, brighter skin. I’d advise using Vitamin C in the morning and then retinol at night before bed."

The exception to this is treatments that have been specifically formulated to include both ingredients, like Beauty Pie's Super Retinol + Vitamin C Night Renewal Moisturiser, which features Encapsulated retinol and vitamin C - along with a myriad of other skin-loving ingredients.

5. Don't apply too much - or rub the skin

Another misstep to avoid is applying too much vitamin C and too often. Dr Saleki says: "Applying too much or too frequently can lead to discomfort and may compromise results."

Careful and intentional application is also key (with all of your skincare staples, not just vitamin C) as Dr Saleki notes, "Gentle application without excessive rubbing or massaging helps prevent skin irritation and ensures the optimal absorption of vitamin C for maximum benefit. It's also best to use Vitamin C in the morning, before applying sunscreen."

Our go-to Vitamin C serums and creams

If you're looking to incorporate vitamin C into you're routine, we've rounded up a few popular options, from the likes of Beauty Pie, Ole Henriksen and La Roche-Posay...

Naomi Jamieson
Digital Beauty Writer

Naomi is a Digital Beauty Writer from woman&home, where she covers everything from skincare to fragrance but specialises, particularly, in makeup and nail trends. Through her work, Naomi gets to share her trend expertise and share her own shopping recommendations and product reviews. Previously, she worked as a Lifestyle News Writer for My Imperfect Life magazine, where she used her savvy for TikTok to bring readers the latest beauty buzzwords, fashion movements and must-have products. 

Before that, Naomi split her time between both GoodTo and My Imperfect Life, whilst training for her Gold Standard diploma in Journalism with the NCTJ, for which she earned a Distinction. Interestingly though, Naomi actually has a background in design, having studied illustration at Plymouth University but leapt into the media world in 2020, after always having a passion for writing. Now, when she isn’t reporting on the best perfumes and latest beauty releases, you can find her drinking copious cups of coffee, drawing and probably online shopping...