“I think it is possible,” Greenfield says. “Vitamin C is oftentimes only one of dozens of ingredients in the product, and many of those non-actives may cause a non-ideal reaction in your skin, resulting in what appears to be breakouts.”
Essentially, it might not be the vitamin C itself; some of those other ingredients in the mix may cause your skin to react (think irritation, redness, etc.) or directly clog your pores. Run your vitamin C serum’s ingredient list through a pore-clogging ingredients checker (like this one from Acne Clinic NYC), and you may notice that it contains a potentially clogging ingredient.
Let’s say your product is acne-friendly, yet you’re still seeing breakouts: It could be from that irritation mentioned earlier. The solution? Look for products formulated for sensitive skin types, Greenfield says.
“If one product is not effective or causing acne, don’t give up completely on vitamin C just yet,” she adds. Instead, consider switching brands. Some serums are more potent (namely, ones with ascorbic acid) but come with drawbacks like increased skin sensitivity; if that sounds like you, seek another, gentler form of vitamin C. Greenfield prefers something more natural-leaning and plant-based, like the REN Clean Skincare Glow Daily Vitamin C Gel Cream, as it uses plant-based emollients like sunflower seed oil and rosemary leaf extract.
Finally, if your skin simply doesn’t like vitamin C, that’s OK. You don’t have to use this ingredient topically to have great, healthy skin. What’s more, ingesting vitamin C via supplements may even provide the same skin care benefits without the fuss.
If you do go the supplement route, you’ll also reap the benefits of immune support, enhanced iron absorption, collagen support, and more. Not sure where to find a trusty vitamin C? Here are our top 10 choices to get you started.