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Unraveling the Potential of

Vitamin C in Acne Treatment

Dr. Craig Smith, MD

4 Min read

The quest for effective acne treatments often leads individuals to explore a variety of options, with topical products like vitamin C serum gaining popularity for their purported benefits in reducing hyperpigmentation and inflammation. While preliminary studies show promise, a deeper investigation is required to establish the definitive efficacy of vitamin C in addressing acne concerns.

Understanding Vitamin C and Its Role in Skincare

Scientifically termed ascorbic acid, vitamin C is a water-soluble nutrient vital for various aspects of health, including skin wellness. Given its status as a potent antioxidant, vitamin C plays a pivotal role in neutralizing free radicals, unstable compounds that can harm the body's cells over time. The skin's epidermis, the visible top layer, harbors substantial levels of vitamin C, making it a key player in skin protection, healing, and regeneration.

How Vitamin C May Impact Acne

Acne, characterized by blocked pores and inflammatory responses, can result in redness, swelling, and unsightly lesions. Vitamin C, known for its anti-inflammatory properties, holds promise in alleviating these symptoms when applied topically. Limited studies suggest significant improvements in acne lesions with the use of vitamin C formulations, such as a lotion containing 5% sodium ascorbyl phosphate (SAP). However, the need for more extensive, high-quality research is emphasized.

Addressing Acne Scars

Vitamin C emerges as a potential ally in the battle against acne scars by promoting collagen synthesis. Collagen, crucial for skin structure, aids in the healing process, potentially minimizing the appearance of scars. Studies involving microneedling and a 15% vitamin C topical cream showcase moderate improvements, though further investigation is warranted to ascertain the individual contributions of these treatments.

Tackling Hyperpigmentation

Hyperpigmentation, characterized by darkened spots on the skin resulting from acne or UV exposure, may find relief through vitamin C's interference with the melanin-producing enzyme, tyrosinase. While some studies demonstrate promising reductions in hyperpigmentation with topical vitamin C, the method of application, such as iontophoresis, complicates the assessment. Additional research is imperative to delineate the specific effects of vitamin C in isolation.

Sources and Formulations

While vitamin C is abundant in various foods and supplements, skincare products formulated with this vitamin are more likely to address acne-related conditions. L-ascorbic acid, the most potent form, is, however, less stable, leading to the utilization of more stable derivatives in skincare products. Caution is advised when combining vitamin C with other treatments, and consultation with healthcare professionals is recommended, especially for those already using acne medications.


Acne, a prevalent skin disorder, prompts individuals to explore diverse treatment options. Vitamin C, celebrated for its antioxidant prowess, shows promise in the realm of acne treatment. Topical vitamin C products exhibit potential in managing hyperpigmentation and inflammation, yet the need for robust research persists. While dietary vitamin C lacks direct links to reduced acne, its role in supporting overall skin health remains essential. As individuals consider incorporating vitamin C into their skincare routine, seeking guidance from dermatologists or healthcare professionals is a prudent step.

About the Author

In 1984, Dr. Craig Smith founded Lifesource. As a coach, he's worked with world-class athletes and guided thousands towards successful weight loss. Driven by a desire to elevate his understanding of the human body, he returned to the rigors of medical school in his 50s, achieving his goal of becoming a physician at 56. Now in his 60s, Dr. Smith leads by personal example, continuing to inspire, educate and empower individuals from all walks of life to achieve their health and fitness goals. If you wish to train and diet online with Dr. Smith, hear his message and schedule a 45-minute consultation on the New You page.