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A Complete Guide to The Ordinary Vitamin C Skincare Products

Vitamin C is a potent antioxidant and a skincare ingredient that provides multiple benefits and supports skin health. If you’ve been thinking about trying an affordable vitamin C product, then you may want to learn about the different types of vitamin C products from the skincare brand The Ordinary.

Since The Ordinary offers 8 different vitamin C products, it can get confusing quickly, so this The Ordinary vitamin C guide will break down each formula, its benefits, and who it is best suited for.

A Guide to The Ordinary Vitamin C Skincare Products

Before we get into the guide, here is a quick primer on why you should consider adding a product containing vitamin C to your skincare routine.

This post on The Ordinary vitamin C guide contains affiliate links, and any purchases made through these links will result in a commission for me at no extra cost to you. Please read my Disclosure for additional information.

The Benefits of Vitamin C in Skincare

Vitamin C is also known as L-Ascorbic Acid or Ascorbic Acid. It is a water-soluble compound that is well known for its antioxidant qualities. Vitamin C can neutralize environmental aggressors and free radicals that can damage your skin cells.

Vitamin C also helps to minimize the appearance of the signs of aging, including fine lines and wrinkles. It supports collagen and elastin production, which makes skin look firm and youthful.

Vitamin C brightens skin tone and visibly targets the appearance of uneven skin tone and dullness. It also lightens hyperpigmentation and dark spots by inhibiting melanin production.

Vitamin C levels in our outer layers of skin decrease as we age and are also diminished by environmental factors. Luckily, you can apply topical vitamin C to your skin in various skincare formulas such as cleansers, serums, lotions, creams, or oils.

Drawbacks of Vitamin C

Vitamin C is truly an all-star skincare ingredient, so what’s not to like, right? Well, not so fast. Unfortunately, pure vitamin C is notoriously unstable in skincare products. Heat, air, and light may cause Vitamin C to degrade, oxidize and become less effective. Oxidized vitamin C will turn brownish in color.

This 2017 article in The Journal of Clinical and Aesthetic Dermatology notes that reducing the pH of vitamin C to under 3.5, which makes it more acidic, will help stabilize it and allow it to absorb better. Unfortunately, this causes it to become much more irritating on the skin.

Using a high concentration of vitamin C may also cause irritation depending on your skin type. The Ordinary describes this effect as a tingling but non-irritating sensation.

If your skin cannot tolerate a higher amount of L-Ascorbic Acid, you can try a lower concentration of L-Ascorbic Acid, mix an L-Ascorbic Acid product with another serum or cream, or start out with a vitamin C derivative.

Due to these drawbacks of pure vitamin C, you’ll see many vitamin C derivatives included in The Ordinary’s vitamin C skincare products. These derivatives are much more stable than vitamin C. Unfortunately, they come with drawbacks of their own.

Vitamin C derivatives are usually less potent since they must be converted to L-Ascorbic Acid in your skin cells after application.

Combining Vitamin C with other Skincare Ingredients for Better Performance

The benefits of vitamin C are enhanced when vitamin C is combined with other skincare ingredients. This study published in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology shows that when combined with vitamin E, topical vitamin C provides improved photoprotection against UV radiation.

This study published in the Journal of Investigative Dermatology found that ferulic acid can stabilize vitamin C and vitamin E and double their photoprotective qualities (minimizing sun damage). These benefits are why you often see vitamin C combined with ferulic acid and vitamin E.

The Ordinary Vitamin C Conflicts

The Ordinary vitamin C products containing L-Ascorbic Acid, or pure vitamin C, should not be used with other vitamin C products, peptides, direct acids, retinol, niacinamide, and EUK 134 0.1%.

Vitamin C derivatives from The Ordinary should not be used with niacinamide products or other vitamin C products. For complete details on using The Ordinary vitamin C products, please see The Ordinary’s Guide to Vitamin C.

Patch Testing

When introducing new products into your skincare routine, due to the tendency of vitamin C products to irritate the skin, it is good to patch test products before using them for the first time.

Please see The Ordinary’s patch test guide on their website, which will instruct you on how to perform patch testing.

When Should You Use The Ordinary Vitamin C Products?

You should apply most of The Ordinary vitamin C products after water-based serums except for the following two products:

Because The Ordinary Ascorbyl Glucoside Solution 12% is a water-based vitamin C serum, you should apply it before oils/creams. 100% L-Ascorbic Acid Powder is mixed with other products, so you should use it during the step of your skincare routine that you would use the product that you are mixing it with.

If you are wondering whether you should use vitamin C during the day or night, The Ordinary states that 100% L-Ascorbic Acid Powder, Vitamin C Suspension 23%+ HA Spheres 2%, and Vitamin C Suspension 30% in Silicone should ideally be used at night. You can use the rest of The Ordinary vitamin C products morning or night.

I like to use vitamin C products in the morning when my skin will be exposed to UV radiation during the daylight hours. This allows me to free up my evenings for retinoid use.

Related Post: How to Build A Skincare Routine with The Ordinary Products

A Guide to The Ordinary Vitamin C Products

The table below displays the characteristics of The Ordinary products that are formulated with pure vitamin C (L-Ascorbic acid). You’ll see that these pure vitamin C products are effective and affordable.

Scroll down to The Ordinary vitamin C derivates to view the characteristics of The Ordinary vitamin C derivative products.

The Ordinary Vitamin C Products (L-Ascorbic Acid) chart with product characteristics.

The Ordinary Vitamin C Suspension 23% + HA Spheres 2%

The Ordinary Vitamin C Suspension 23% + HA Spheres 2%

The Ordinary Vitamin C Suspension 23% + HA Spheres 2% contains 23% Ascorbic Acid in the form of a suspension of very fine L-Ascorbic Acid powder. It is water-free, silicone-free, and a stable suspension of vitamin C.

FORMULATED TO ADDRESS: Uneven Skin Tone, Signs of Aging, provides Antioxidant Benefits

BEST FOR: Those who want a high concentration of pure vitamin C and faster results without silicone in the formula.

This format provides the most direct exposure of topical vitamin C at a relatively high concentration.

This The Ordinary vitamin C serum also contains 2% hyaluronic acid in the form of sodium hyaluronate for hydration and plumping of the skin’s surface.

Due to this type of vitamin C exposure, The Ordinary points out that this product won’t feel like a serum, a lotion, or even a cream when first applied. It feels very gritty and powdery upon application until it is absorbed.

This product may cause an intense tingling sensation for the first few weeks of use until tolerance is increased to such high levels of direct exposure to pure vitamin C.

The Ordinary notes that this product can be mixed with a cream before each application to dilute the potency. For more details, please see my review of The Ordinary Vitamin C Suspension 23% + HA Spheres 2%.

If this delivery method is uncomfortable on your skin or if your skin is too sensitive for this concentration, you are in luck. The Ordinary offers many other formulations that are better tolerated by those with sensitive skin and that have a more comfortable texture. Read on to learn more about these products.

Related Post: RoC Vitamin C Skincare Review

The Ordinary Vitamin C Suspension 30% in Silicone

The Ordinary Vitamin C Suspension 30% in Silicone

The Ordinary Vitamin C Suspension 30% in Silicone is another pure vitamin C product from The Ordinary. It is a water-free stable suspension of 30% Pure L-Ascorbic Acid in lightweight silicones.

FORMULATED TO ADDRESS: Uneven Skin Tone, Signs of Aging, provides Antioxidant Benefits

BEST FOR: Those who want a high concentration of pure vitamin C for faster results in a smooth silicone-based formula.

This formula keeps the vitamin C stable, as it is a water-free base. Silicone entraps vitamin C, making it slightly less efficient in skin exposure than The Ordinary Vitamin C Suspension 23% + HA Spheres 2%.

The slight reduction of vitamin C exposure of this product is offset by the increase in vitamin C content of this product – 30% vs the 23% in Vitamin C Suspension 23% + HA Spheres 2%. The result is a smooth thick serum-like feel to the product with the potency of pure vitamin C/L-Ascorbic Acid.

This formula is a suspension of very fine L-Ascorbic Acid powder, which may create a strong tingling sensation on the skin. It may take a few weeks before your skin acclimates.

This formula can be mixed with a cream before each application to dilute the potency and decrease the tingling sensation.

The Ordinary 100% L-Ascorbic Acid Powder

The Ordinary 100% L-Ascorbic Acid Powder

The Ordinary 100% L-Ascorbic Acid Powder is a very fine L-Ascorbic Acid powder that you must mix with other treatments before you can apply it to your skin.

FORMULATED TO ADDRESS: Uneven Skin Tone, Signs of Aging, provides Antioxidant Benefits

BEST FOR: Customized application of fresh/pure vitamin C

Mixing this powder with other treatments before each application ensures that the vitamin C is fresh and has not oxidized. This way, you get an effective and potent vitamin C treatment.

This very fine powder provides direct exposure of extremely high concentrations of Vitamin C topically. Because these concentrations are so high, this powder may cause a very strong tingling sensation for the first few weeks of use until your skin becomes more tolerant.

The Ordinary cautions that you should not mix this vitamin C powder with products containing niacinamide, EUK 134 0.1%, peptides, direct acids, and retinoids.

This also should not be mixed with strong actives such as other vitamin C products and acidic products.

Related Post: The Ordinary Anti-Aging Skincare Review, The Ordinary Marine Hyaluronics Review

How To Use The Ordinary 100% L-Ascorbic Acid Powder

The Ordinary recommends adjusting the amount of powder that you use based on your skin tolerance. They suggest using between a quarter to half a scoop mixed in with 5-10 drops of serum or a pea/dime size amount of emulsion-based products.

If my skin needs hydration, I will mix this powder with The Ordinary Hyaluronic Acid 2% + B5 or The Inkey List Hyaluronic Acid Serum. The powder dissolves quickly and thoroughly. I use about a quarter scoop each application since I am somewhat sensitive.

In addition to serums, other product types you may consider mixing it with include a toner, essence, moisturizer, or face mask.

Related Post: The Inkey List vs The Ordinary: Anti-Aging Skincare on a Budget

The Ordinary Ascorbic Acid 8% + Alpha Arbutin 2%

The Ordinary Ascorbic Acid 8% + Alpha Arbutin 2%

The Ordinary Ascorbic Acid 8% + Alpha Arbutin 2% combines pure Vitamin C and Alpha Arbutin in a water-free stable solution that feels a bit oily on your face right after application even though it is oil-free.

FORMULATED TO ADDRESS: Hyperpigmentation, Dark Spots, Uneven Skin Tone, Signs of Aging, provides Antioxidant Benefits

BEST FOR: Those who want the benefits of pure Vitamin C and a targeted spot treatment.

The brightening power of vitamin C is amplified by Alpha Arbutin, a highly-purified biosynthetic active ingredient that helps to reduce the appearance of dark spots and uneven skin tone.

This vitamin C serum uses a lower amount of Ascorbic Acid (8%) than some other pure vitamin C formulations from The Ordinary. So if your skin is too sensitive for the higher strength Ascorbic Acid products, this may be an option, especially if you want to try a pure vitamin C product.

Alpha Arbutin in this product inhibits the production of tyrosinase, an enzyme involved in melanin production responsible for dark spots and hyperpigmentation.

Couple that with vitamin C, and you’ve created an effective dark spot fighting antioxidant cocktail. Perfect for acne scars resulting from post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation.

For more on this serum, see my review here.

Related Post: The Best Drugstore Vitamin C Serums, The Best The Ordinary Products for Hyperpigmentation and Dark Spots

The Ordinary Vitamin C Derivatives

The Ordinary Vitamin C Products (Derivatives) chart with product characteristics.

The remaining four products in The Ordinary’s portfolio of vitamin C skincare products are vitamin C derivatives. Vitamin C derivates must be converted to L-Ascorbic Acid in your skin cells after being applied to your skin, so they are less effective than using L-Ascorbic Acid directly.

Many vitamin C derivatives are more stable than pure L-Ascorbic Acid, making them easier to formulate in skincare products.

The benefits of vitamin C derivative products vary, whether it be their improved stability, effective formula, or comfortable texture.

The Ordinary Ascorbyl Glucoside Solution 12%

The Ordinary Ascorbyl Glucoside Solution 12%

The Ordinary Ascorbyl Glucoside Solution 12% is a water-soluble derivative of vitamin C. The derivative is much more stable in water, which results in a better texture and a more comfortable feel on the skin.

FORMULATED TO ADDRESS: Dullness, Uneven Skin Tone, Signs of Aging, provides Antioxidant Benefits

BEST FOR: Those who cannot tolerate pure vitamin C and want a pleasantly textured serum formulation or are vitamin C beginners. Also suitable for oily skin types, as this has a lightweight and non-oily serum texture.

But…there is a trade-off. Unfortunately, it is less effective than direct L-Ascorbic Acid (pure vitamin C) as it must convert to Ascorbic Acid when applied to the skin.

Yet, per The Ordinary, this type of vitamin C is considered a gold standard of vitamin C derivates. Why? Because it’s both highly stable and has a comfortable texture on the skin. (I agree with this! Of all of the derivatives that I’ve tried, this is the most comfortable to use.)

Another plus is that this vitamin C serum has caused no tingling or irritation like some pure vitamin C products that I’ve tried. This serum also works well with other skincare and makeup products.

For more on this vitamin C derivative, please see my complete review.

The Ordinary Ascorbyl Tetraisopalmitate Solution 20% in Vitamin F

The Ordinary Ascorbyl Tetraisopalmitate Solution 20% in Vitamin F

The Ordinary Ascorbyl Tetraisopalmitate Solution 20% in Vitamin F is an oil-soluble derivative of Vitamin C that you can use in higher concentrations without disadvantage. While stable in this format, it is not as potent as pure L-Ascorbic Acid since it is a derivative.

FORMULATED TO ADDRESS: Dullness, Uneven Skin Tone, Signs of Aging, provides Antioxidant Benefits

BEST FOR: Those with dry and dehydrated skin looking for a newer alternative to pure vitamin C.

Also included in this formula is Vitamin F, also called essential fatty acids, which support hydration and a healthy skin barrier.

This vitamin C derivative serum is stable and absorbs well, but studies on its effectiveness are limited to in-vitro instead of in-vivo (on real people).

While not yet well-proven, this lightweight oil may be an option for those with dry skin and those who experience sensitivities to pure L-Ascorbic Acid products.

The Ordinary Ethylated Ascorbic Acid 15% Solution

The Ordinary Ethylated Ascorbic Acid 15% Solution

The Ordinary Ethylated Ascorbic Acid 15% Solution is a very stable water-free formulation of 15% Ethylated Ascorbic Acid. This derivative is closer in molecular weight to actual Vitamin C and acts directly like vitamin C, which is supposed to provide faster results.

FORMULATED TO ADDRESS: Dullness, Uneven Skin Tone, Signs of Aging, provides Antioxidant Benefits

BEST FOR: Those who want a low-stinging, fast-acting vitamin C derivative.

Even though there is no oil in this formula, this The Ordinary vitamin C serum may feel slightly oily upon the initial application until it sinks into your skin.

Studies on this derivative are currently limited to the manufacturer’s claims, but one of its best qualities is supposed to be its skin-brightening abilities.

Related Post: Naturium Skincare Review

The Ordinary Magnesium Ascorbyl Phosphate 10%

The Ordinary Magnesium Ascorbyl Phosphate 10% (currently being reformulated) is a water-soluble derivative of vitamin C that is less potent than pure vitamin C (direct L-Ascorbic Acid).

FORMULATED TO ADDRESS: Dullness, Uneven Skin Tone, Signs of Aging, provides Antioxidant Benefits

BEST FOR: Those looking for the skin brightening benefits of vitamin C. Those with sensitive skin will appreciate the emulsified formula.

Since high concentrations of this vitamin C derivative don’t work in a low-viscosity serum format, it must be emulsified to form a cream.

The Ordinary Magnesium Ascorbyl Phosphate 10% is a light cream that contains a very high solubilized concentration of 10% pure Magnesium Ascorbyl Phosphate. The Ordinary notes that this derivative of vitamin C has been shown to provide better specific skin-brightening effects than other vitamin C derivatives.

Final Thoughts on The Ordinary Vitamin C Skincare Products

Whether you choose a pure vitamin C serum or one of its derivates from The Ordinary, know that you are choosing one of the best skincare ingredients to target the signs of aging.

As you can see from the product descriptions, each vitamin C product has benefits and drawbacks. You can choose based on your skin type and your skincare goals.

For more on The Ordinary cruelty-free skincare products for both dry and oily skin, be sure to check out these posts:

Thanks for reading!

The Ordinary Vitamin C Products