I use Vitamin C, but my pigmentation isn't improving. Why?

Bespoke Admin, 11th November 2022

Vitamin C (also known as ascorbic acid) has fast become one of the most sought after skincare ingredients, well known for its antioxidant protection and brightening effects. As consumers, we are often led to believe that Vitamin C is the golden ticket to cure all our skin woes (aside from coconut oil of course). This isn’t necessarily the case.

In particular, a question we have been getting in our DM’s is “Why isn’t my pigmentation improving with use of a Vitamin C?”

Here is our take on what could be occurring and some key things to look out for when selecting products for your skin. 

Not all Vitamin C’s are made equal

As with anything, not all Vitamin C’s are created equal. Components like the type and concentration of Vitamin C, other ingredients in the product, and even the kind of bottle or dispenser make or break the benefits.

It is important to make note of whether the bottle your Vitamin C is housed in protects the skincare product from light.  Most science backed cosmeceutical ranges, will package their Vitamin C serums in coloured/opaque pump bottles to protect it from light/air exposure. When vitamin C is exposed to light it becomes unstable, the consequences include irritation, inflammation and acne. All of these can cause post inflammatory pigmentation, leaving you worse off than when you started. If you have any of these skin ailments, and are using a vitamin C serum, it might be time to rethink your regime. 

As well as the overall % of Vitamin C in products, the ingredients your Vitamin C is combined with also alter its effectiveness. Studies have shown that a combination of ferulic acid and vitamin E with vitamin C can help to stabilise the compound and increase vitamin C efficacy and absorption. 

It could actually be causing inflammation that leads to even more pigmentation

Vitamin C is also notorious for causing irritation in sensitive skin types,  particularly when mixed with other active ingredients such as AHA’s.  This can lead to a flare in conditions such as periorificial dermatitis, again, leaving you with post inflammatory pigmentation. 

There are very effective ingredients that reduce pigmentation, even better than Vitamin C.

Bespoke’s founding Dermatologist, Dr Katherine Armour, loves Astaxanthin

“I like to think of Astaxanthin as the younger, far sexier cousin of Vitamin C.  For so long, we have fixated on Vitamin C (ascorbic acid and its derivatives) as being the be all and end all in terms of antioxidants. Don’t get me wrong, Vitamin C is a fabulous brightening and collagen-stimulating ingredient.  But, it is difficult to work with, and is notoriously unstable in preparation.  As a dermatologist, it is one of the most frequent causes of periorificial dermatitis that I see.  

Astaxanthin is at least 65 times more potent an antioxidant than Vitamin C.  Free radicals be gone, and is a  powerhouse at combating wrinkles, unwanted pigmentation and sun damage.  When topically applied, brighter, more luminous skin is a given.”

As well as astaxanthin, Vitamin A (retinaldehyde,retinol), Bakuchiol, Niacinamide, Ferulic acid, resveratrol and Camellia Sinensis (green tea) are just as effective as Vitamin C but far better tolerated and don’t have any of the limited side effects we mentioned earlier. 

You can find these powerhouse ingredients combined in Dream Cream, Luminosity and Complete Night Shield


The women behind Bespoke

What does IWD mean to you?

KA: International Women’s Day is a time to be grateful for all the amazing women in my life who have mentored, cared for, and inspired me – from my Mum, to close friends, and teachers.

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