The Best Vitamin C Serums For Pregnancy
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If you've found yourself overhauling your skin care routine during pregnancy, you'll be happy to know that vitamin C passes the test. "Vitamin C is a safe and effective ingredient to use during pregnancy," dermatologist Jeannette Graf tells Romper. The best vitamin C serums for pregnancy will be free of retinol and hydroquinone, which are not recommended to be used during pregnancy. Dermatologist Dustin Portela echoes Dr. Graf's advice about avoiding retinol during pregnancy: "Although the true risk from topical use is likely very low, we know that systemic retinol (think Accutane) can cause birth defects," he explains. Additionally, Dr. Graf recommends avoiding skin care products that contain licorice root extract, as it hasn't yet been researched enough to deem it entirely safe. "Enough research has not been conducted to know the exact results of the licorice root extract in skin care, but ingesting licorice during pregnancy may cause early labor, so it is suggested not to use it," she explains. Depending on your skin type or known allergies, you may want to skip any serum (or any other skin care product) with fragrance, too. "There's no particular reason that fragrances should be avoided unless somebody is allergic to them," Dr. Portela says. But Dr. Graf notes that because synthetic fragrances don’t offer any real benefits, it's never a bad idea to opt for a fragrance-free skin care product.
Dr. Jeannette Graf, M.D., is a board-certified clinical and research dermatologist with a private practice in Great Neck, New York. A regular contributor to television, radio, and print and digital publications, Dr. Graf serves as an assistant clinical professor of dermatology at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine and has her own skin care line.
Dr. Dustin Portela, O.D., is a board-certified dermatologist and dermatologic surgeon. He has been published in several medical journals and is currently practicing with Treasure Valley Dermatology in Boise, Idaho.
What To Look For In A Vitamin C Serum
Dr. Portela and Dr. Graf both recommend looking for a vitamin C serum that's formulated with bakuchiol, which is a plant-based retinol alternative that can bolster vitamin C's collagen-boosting, complexion-evening effects without causing irritation, and while still being safe to use while pregnant. Additionally, Dr. Portela suggests a vitamin C serum with hydrating hyaluronic acid and/or multitasking niacinamide, while Dr. Graf recommends vitamin E. "Vitamin C and vitamin E work to trap moisture more effectively, and in turn strengthen the skin barrier," she says. For anyone dealing with inflammation, Dr. Graf shares that pairing your vitamin C with ferulic acid might be helpful. "Using ferulic acid with your vitamin C serum during pregnancy is safe," she says, adding that the antioxidant ingredient is derived from plant cells. "A combination of vitamin C and ferulic acid may help with inflammation of your skin, acne, and an uneven skin tone."
Why Are Vitamin C Serums Helpful During Pregnancy?
It's not exactly surprising to find that your skin can undergo changes during pregnancy (you are literally growing another human, after all). But two of the most common skin concerns that can develop during pregnancy, melasma and acne, can potentially be improved with vitamin C. Acne is certainly common enough, but if you're not familiar with melasma, it tends to occur during pregnancy because of hormonal fluctuations, and will appear as darker patches of skin on the cheeks, upper lip, and forehead.
"Overall, vitamin C can help achieve a healthier skin complexion and even out your skin tone," Dr. Graf says, noting that, in particular, it can help reduce blemishes and unwanted hyperpigmentation. She also adds that, as we age, we lose collagen in our skin, and vitamin C can help boost our skin’s ability to produce the protein.
Dr. Portela confirms that a vitamin C serum can help prevent melasma from developing or becoming exacerbated. "Vitamin C is a potent antioxidant that helps protect the skin against free radicals caused by ultraviolet light or environmental pollution," he explains. "During pregnancy, [some people] experience skin [concerns] like discoloration due to melasma, making it especially important to protect the skin from damage," he says, stressing that you should always apply a broad-spectrum sunscreen after your vitamin C serum in the morning (he recommends sticking with mineral sunscreens during pregnancy).
Shop The Best Vitamin C Serums For Pregnancy
In a hurry? Here are the best vitamin C serums for pregnancy:
- Best Vitamin C Serum Capsules: Neutrogena Rapid Tone Repair 20% Vitamin C Serum Capsules
- Best Prestige Vitamin C Serum: IMAGE Skincare VITAL C Hydrating Anti-Aging Serum
- Best Vitamin C Serum With Niacinamide: Wander Beauty Sight C-er Vitamin C Concentrate
- Best Vitamin C Serum With Bakuchiol: Celement Bakuchiol Super C Serum
- Best French Vitamin C Serum: Vichy LiftActiv Vitamin C Serum
1. The Experts’ Pick: Best Vitamin C Serum Capsules
Both dermatologists named these Neutrogena Rapid Tone Repair 20% Vitamin C Serum Capsules as one of their go-to vitamin C serum recommendations for pregnant people. The high percentage of vitamin C can help fade unwanted hyperpigmentation and leave you with brighter, smoother skin overall. The formula is also a solid choice for acne-prone and sensitive skin types, as it's oil-free, noncomedogenic, alcohol-free, and fragrance-free. Dr. Portela points out that the individual capsules give you the perfect amount of product for a single application, so there’s no guesswork involved. Plus, the biodegradable capsules, with their dark bronze color and airtight design, prevent the vitamin C from oxidizing due to exposure to light and air.
Other Beneficial Ingredients: Vitamin E, Raspberry Leaf Extract Fragrance-Free: Yes Size: 7 Capsules
2. Expert’s Pick: Best Prestige Vitamin C Serum
Dr. Graf recommends this vitamin C serum if your skin’s elasticity (or lack thereof) is your main concern. "This product uses vitamin C to hydrate and plump the skin," Dr. Graf says of this serum from IMAGE Skincare, which combines several forms of vitamin C with collagen-stimulating peptides. Further helping to plump up skin is a combination of hydrating ingredients like squalane and hyaluronic acid. While it is free from artificial fragrance, the serum does contain citrus-derived oils, which can potentially be irritating to those with sensitive or allergy-prone skin.
Other Beneficial Ingredients: Sweet Almond Oil, Vitamin E, Jojoba Seed Oil, Squalane, Green Tea Leaf Extract, Centella Asiatica Extract, Hyaluronic Acid Fragrance-Free: Yes Size: 1.7 oz.
3. Best Vitamin C Serum With Niacinamide
Among the many benefits of niacinamide that make it a standout to Dr. Portela is its ability to help promote a more even skin tone without the risk of irritation (which can be beneficial for patients with melasma). The Wander Beauty Sight C-er Vitamin C Concentrate pairs the versatile ingredient with vitamin C derived from Kakadu plum extract to boost its effectiveness when it comes to fading unwanted hyperpigmentation and increasing collagen production. While niacinamide offers its own skin barrier benefits, this serum also contains vitamin E, squalane, and hyaluronic acid to attract moisture for an instant hydrating and plumping effect.
Other Beneficial Ingredients: Niacinamide, Squalane, Hyaluronic Acid, Vitamin E Fragrance-Free: Yes Size: 1 oz.
4. Best Vitamin C Serum With Bakuchiol
Even though retinoids are a pregnancy no-no, you can still get similar benefits without any potential risks. "If you are pregnant and want a retinol alternative, bakuchiol has shown similar results without irritation," Dr. Graf says. This Celement Bakuchiol Super C Serum pairs 18% vitamin C with 1% bakuchiol to improve skin’s elasticity and promote a brighter, more even tone. It also contains vitamin E, glycerin, and hyaluronic acid to nourish and hydrate your skin without being the slightest bit greasy.
Other Beneficial Ingredients: Glycerin, Bakuchiol, Broccoli Extract, Hyaluronic Acid, Vitamin E Fragrance-Free: Yes Size: 1 oz.
5. Best French Pharmacy Vitamin C Serum
Another vitamin C serum with vitamin E and hyaluronic acid, Vichy’s LiftActiv Vitamin C Serum is a French pharmacy classic that's also a favorite on Amazon (it currently has more than 7,000 five-star ratings). There are only 11 ingredients in this fragrance-free serum, including 15% vitamin C in the form of L-ascorbic acid. The 0.34-ounce bottle ($29) should last you about a month, while the bigger, 20-milliliter size ($34) should give you closer to two months’ worth.
Other Beneficial Ingredients: Glycerin, Vitamin E, Hyaluronic Acid Fragrance-Free: Yes Size: 0.34 oz.
Dr. Jeannette Graf, M.D., board-certified clinical and research dermatologist with a private practice in Great Neck, New York.
Dr. Dustin Portela, O.D., board-certified dermatologist and dermatologic surgeon practicing with Treasure Valley Dermatology in Boise, Idaho.
Safety of skin care products during pregnancy, by Pina Bozzo, Angela Chua-Gocheco, MD, and Adrienne Einarson, RN; https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3114665/
How much do we really know about our favorite cosmeceutical ingredients?, by Jacquelyn Levin, DO, and Saira B. Momin, Do; https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2921764/