Inclusive Clinical Skincare
Inclusive Clinical Skincare
FREE SHIPPING on U.S. orders $50+   Learn More

Does Vitamin C Cause Sun Sensitivity?

Are you worried that your Vitamin C serum might be causing you to burn a little bit more than normal? We get it — this ingredient while well loved in the skincare world, is a bit misunderstood.

Vitamin C is an incredibly potent acid that can have wonderful effects on your skin if you use it right. In fact, Vitamin C is a key ingredient for many brightening products.

Vitamin C has a reputation for causing your skin to be sensitive to the sun, but is that true? Our even tone experts are here to answer that question and more. 

What Is Sun Sensitivity?

 Sun sensitivity is when your skin is more susceptible to sun damage than normal. If you have sun sensitivity, you might notice that you burn quickly. While sunburn is the physical manifestation of sun damage, a lot more damage occurs under the surface.

While UVA rays are causing your skin to burn, UVB rays work behind the scene to cause dark spots, wrinkles and fine lines, red discoloration and dryness. 

UVB rays can even sneak attack your skin through windows.

Heightened sun sensitivity can occur because of medications, illnesses and even skincare products. With skincare product-induced sun sensitivity, sunlight reacts with an ingredient on your skin to create more damage than you would normally sustain.

What Is Vitamin C?

Vitamin C is also known as Ascorbic Acid, and it is an ingredient in many fruits and vegetables. In fact, you may already know Vitamin C as a hero component of orange juice. But, did you know that Vitamin C also comes from greens like broccoli, brussels sprouts and cabbage?

Vitamin C in its most potent form is called L-Ascorbic Acid. This is the ingredient you’ll see most often on skincare labels. L-Ascorbic Acid on its own is highly unstable, meaning that it can break down when it comes into contact with sunlight and oxygen.

Because of this, most skincare formulas include stabilizing ingredients like Vitamin E. Vitamin C can’t work without a bestie!

Your body does not synthesize its own Vitamin C, so you have to introduce it through diet, supplements or topical skincare products. Even once you have Vitamin C in your body, it doesn’t stay very long. Excess Vitamin C gets flushed out at the end of the day with all the other compounds your body didn’t use.

How Does Vitamin C Work?

Now we know what Vitamin C is, but what does it do? How does Vitamin C work? We have the answers!

Skin Hydration

Vitamin C can help soothe and nourish dry skin. Research found that Vitamin C may help reduce trans-epidermal water loss, thus helping your skin retain more water during the day and thus stay hydrated. Because of this, Vitamin C may also have benefits for skin texture, as hydrated skin tends to be smoother than dry skin.

Targets Dark Spots

Vitamin C can also help improve the appearance of dark spots and blemishes. Dark spots (formally known as hyperpigmentation) occur when your melanin gets a little overexcited and creates more than you need. Hyperpigmentation can be caused by stress, harsh skincare products and sun damage.

Although hyperpigmentation mainly refers to the dark spots that frequently affect darker skin tones, the term can also refer to freckles, age spots and red discoloration. Whatever your skin tone, Vitamin C is here to help you.

Vitamin C targets melanin production and can break down those dark spots. Once the spots are broken down, Vitamin C helps disperse the melanin. This leaves you with glowing, even-looking skin.

Protects Against Free Radicals

Free radicals are a buzzword in skincare, but what are they? They are atoms that are unstable because they’re missing parts. Since they’re unstable, they can react very quickly with other atoms.

UV light increases free radical production in your skin. Since these unstable atoms are so reactive, they can start damaging your skin. As your skin ages, it is harder to fight the free radicals.

Free radical damage is part of why your skin develops fine lines and wrinkles over time. The more damage the free radicals cause, the more wrinkles, dark spots and other skin blemishes show up on your skin.

This is where Vitamin C comes in. The atoms in Vitamin C are very generous and help reduce free radical damage by giving those unstable atoms their missing parts. The more Vitamin C is in your skin, the more glowing and youthful-looking your skin can become.

Youthful-Looking Skin

Vitamin C can also help smooth the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles over time.

Vitamin C also helps combat rough skin by helping your skin retain moisture, which also makes the skin less susceptible to damage and wrinkles. Overall, Vitamin C can help give you that effortless glow you’ve been looking for. 

Can Vitamin C Cause Sun Sensitivity?

Some people believe that Vitamin C can cause sun sensitivity. We’re here to help lay that rumor to rest — it’s simply not true.

This myth may have started because of how insatiable pure Vitamin C can be. However, most skincare products that incorporate Vitamin C also use stabilizing ingredients like Vitamin E.

This rumor is likely based on the fact that some skincare products can actually cause sun sensitivity. Ingredients like Retinol, Benzoyl Peroxide and Alpha Hydroxy Acids like Glycolic Acid, Lactic Acid and Citric Acid work by removing the top layer of your skin.

Because of this, these ingredients can make your skin more sensitive to sunlight. However, Vitamin C does not belong to any of these ingredient families.

In fact, because Vitamin C stimulates collagen production and neutralizes free radicals, it can actually provide protection against UV light. It’s not the same as sunscreen, but it does add another layer of protection.

Exposure to sunlight can drain your Vitamin C stores, so it’s very important to restore your supply of Vitamin C after every day. Since most of your dietary Vitamin C doesn’t make it into your skin, topical Vitamin C products are an essential part of your sun protection routine.


How Can I Use Vitamin C?


Vitamin C should be an important part of every skincare routine, so we’ve come up with a few ways to incorporate it into every element.


While Vitamin C is strongest in serums, you can find cleansers that employ this ingredient to help you have a healthy-looking glow. We recommend our Resurfacing Vitamin C Cleansing Bar.

This cleanser is jam-packed with brightening ingredients that work together to stabilize the Vitamin C. It also acts as an exfoliator, which is normally its own step!

Vitamin C Serum

You’ll get the most bang for your buck if you use a Vitamin C serum. Other delivery methods can work, but serums offer the highest concentration of Vitamin C and spend the most time on your skin.

The cool thing about a Vitamin C serum is that the Vitamin C won’t come off with water or rubbing once you apply it. It’ll keep working its magic until it runs out of Vitamin C to give you!

We recommend our Super C Brightening Serum. This serum has 20% L-Ascorbic Acid, which is the maximum amount of Vitamin C allowed in skincare products. We recommend applying it in the morning for optimal results.

If you want extra brightness, you can even use an at-home chemical peel like our Even Tone Resurfacing At Home Peel Pads. These pads use Lactic Acid and Retinol to exfoliate your skin gently. These pads can cause your skin to be more sensitive to the sun, so sunscreen is important!


Moisturizer is an important step in every routine because it helps seal serum against your skin for deeper penetration. Your moisturizer should be tailored to your specific skin type so that you don’t experience any unnecessary irritation.


Sunscreen should always be the last step in your morning routine. Vitamin C helps strengthen your skin’s natural defense against the sun, but it will not stop you from getting damaged by UV rays. You should always apply SPF 30 or higher before leaving for the day for the best protection.

We recommend our Complexion Protection Moisturizer With SPF 30. This gentle formula works with all skin types to hydrate your skin for the day and protect you from sun damage during all of your daily activities.

In Conclusion

Contrary to popular belief, Vitamin C does not cause sun sensitivity. This acidic ingredient is commonly found in fruits and vegetables and can help strengthen your skin’s natural defense against sun damage. Vitamin C can be highly beneficial when used in skincare with the advantages ranging from free radical protection to skin hydration to even tone enhancement.

Vitamin C can be a largely effective ingredient to incorporate into your skincare routine.

If you want to start using Vitamin C but are interested in learning more, take our skin quiz and schedule a virtual consultation with one of our experienced licensed aestheticians for personalized recommendations. And as always, keep up with our latest on social media!

By: Ivey Rogers Aesthetician Educator & Community
Engagement Manager