When you’re pregnant, you quickly get used to turning to Google several times a day to find out what’s safe for you and your growing baby. Can you eat ceviche? (No). What about hot yoga? (Sorry, nope). Do you need to buy all new skin care products when you’re expecting? (Probably not). If you find yourself staring into your medicine cabinet (or at the Google home screen) wondering if vitamin C serum is safe during pregnancy, then you’re in the right place.
The good news is that you’ll probably like the answer to this question more than the one about whether or not you can have brie, because vitamin C serum is safe to use during pregnancy. Here, a dermatologist explains the benefits of vitamin C, how to use it, and how often.
What is vitamin C in skin care?
If you’ve ever chugged an Emergen-C before getting on a flight or drank a tall glass of orange juice at the first inkling of a cold, then you already know that vitamin C is a powerful ingredient. It turns out that vitamin C serum, which is used topically, is also a powerhouse when it comes to skin care, and it can help protect the skin from environmental damage.
What are the benefits of vitamin C on skin?
“Vitamin C is an antioxidant which means it repairs oxidative damage to cells which can be caused by pollution, cigarette smoke, sun, and other environmental toxins,” Dr. Cybele Fishman, board-certified dermatologist with Advanced Dermatology PC tells Romper. “Oxidative damage contributes to premature skin aging and skin cancer. Vitamin C is also necessary to produce collagen.” Basically you can think of vitamin C as a line of defense against toxins you face every day, and even if you’re not planning to go out into the elements, the ingredient protects against blue light from screens too plus any other indoor pollutants, so it’s important to use anyway.
Is vitamin C serum pregnancy-safe?
Yep, vitamin C is a pregnancy safe skin care ingredient (meaning studies have shown it does not harm mother or baby) and it’s even recommended by many doctors. It can (and should!) be used every single day. A 2017 study showed that vitamin C products can inhibit melanin production; this means one perk of using vitamin C while pregnant is that it may help to brighten dark spots and hyperpigmentation that are associated with pregnancy melasma aka “the mask of pregnancy” (melasma is caused by excess melanin production).
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How should I use vitamin C?
With so many skin care products available, it can be tough to remember when and how to use each one (I used to rely on a Post-It note inside my medicine cabinets with a list of what to use in what order). “Use vitamin C in the morning under your moisturizer,” Dr. Fishman says. After cleansing or splashing water on your face in the morning, apply a vitamin C serum to dry skin and wait a few minutes for it to sink in. Then follow with moisturizer or oil, plus an SPF (or, as Dr. Fishman recommends, a moisturizing product that contains SPF). If you’re wearing makeup, that’s the last step, though it never hurts to use a spray SPF as your very final step.
There’s no harm in using vitamin C twice a day (once in the morning, once at night) but if you’re only going to use it once, morning is definitely your best bet, especially if you use AHAs at night (like glycolic or lactic acid), because vitamin C becomes less potent when it mixes with certain acids.
What type of vitamin C is best?
“L-Ascorbic acid is the chemically active form of vitamin C, so look for that,” Dr. Fishman tells Romper. She adds that vitamin C products should always come in a dark or opaque bottle. “If the bottle is light, then the vitamin C will get oxidized by the light and no longer provide antioxidant benefits.” You’ll know that vitamin C has gone bad if it looks yellowy orange or brown (it should be clear or a faint yellow), if the texture feels pilly, or if it smells off; many vitamin C products have a light citrus smell which will shift to a more rancid smell as it goes bad.
Dr. Fishman also says that the best vitamin C products will also contain vitamin E as “the latter potentates the effects of vitamin C four-fold.” This means vitamin C is even more effective in the presence of vitamin E.
As for her favorite vitamin C products, Dr. Fishman specifically recommends Skinceuticals CE Ferulic Acid and Maelove The Glow Maker Antioxidant Serum. “I like the price better on the Maelove,” she says.
Vitamin C serums are safe for pregnancy, and they’re often recommended. You can even use it daily— you just won’t know if it’s a pregnancy glow or all that serum.
Pullar J, et al. (2017). The Roles Of Vitamin C In Skin Health.
Dr. Cybele Fishman, board-certified dermatologist with Advanced Dermatology PC