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The Ordinary Vitamin C: Your Complete Guide to Each Product

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Last modified on September 3rd, 2021

The Ordinary is one of my favorite brands, and especially The Ordinary Vitamin C products. With that being said, it gets a little confusing because there are several different vitamin C products. For example, there’s The Ordinary Vitamin C Suspension, The Ordinary Vitamin C Powder, and The Ordinary Vitamin C Serum.

We’ll go over everything you need to know, including why vitamin C products are so important for your skin, the difference in each of the products from The Ordinary, and how to choose the right one for you, or maybe the right combination.

The Ordinary Vitamin C Guide

First things first—topical vitamin C has a lot of skin benefits, but there are varying formulations.

To give a quick rundown of what’s available from The Ordinary, check below. We’ll also go into each product in more detail.

  • The Ordinary Vitamin C Suspension 23% +HA Spheres 2%: This is a heavy serum, but it can seem more like a cream, and it’s in a tube. The suspension has fine L-ascorbic powder, which is vitamin C powder. The inclusion of vitamin C powder helps give you the highest exposure to topical concentrations. This Vitamin C from The Ordinary can create some tingling or burning because it is highly concentrated, but not everyone experiences that.
  • Vitamin C Suspension 30% in Silicone: This has a smooth rather than gritty finish and is a heavy cream-serum in a tube. It does create tingling but not burning for most people during the first week or so when you use it. You can dilute this product in a cream base.
  • 100% L-Ascorbic Acid Powder: This powder is finely ground, and it’s highly concentrated. You should only mix it with a water-based product right before you’re going to use it because otherwise, it will oxidize and won’t have the same benefits.
  • Ascorbic Acid 8% + Alpha Arbutin 2%: This light oil is one of my favorite The Ordinary Vitamin C products, personally. It is lightweight and smooth and feels a bit oily but only for a few seconds after you put it on.
  • Ascorbyl Glucoside Solution 12%: This product is a light serum that comes from ascorbyl glucoside, which is a derivative of vitamin C. It’s not as potent as the products that have L-ascorbic acid.
  • Magnesium Ascorbyl Phosphate 10%: This is a cream vitamin C derivative. It’s not as potent as direct vitamin C and it can brighten the skin but not as much as higher concentrations.
  • Ascorbyl Tetraisopalmitate Solution 20% in Vitamin F: This light oil also has a derivative of vitamin C that you can use in high concentrations. Vitamin F is an essential fatty acid, so it’ll likely have some moisturizing benefits in addition to being brightening.
  • Ethylated Ascorbic Acid 15% Solution: This light oil is again a vitamin C derivative, and it’s one that most closely acts like vitamin C.

For our review, we’re going to focus on the first four products above because they are the ones that have actual vitamin C rather than a derivative. As such, they’re probably going to be more potent and more in line with what you’re looking for if you’re interested in vitamin C for your skin.

Before we review those four products, we’re going to briefly go into what you need to know about adding vitamin C to your skincare routine.

Vitamin C for Your Skin

Vitamin C serums are one of the most popular ways to use these products topically, but there are also creams, suspensions, and powders. Vitamin C is safe for most types of skin.  

The reason I love it for topical use is the fact that it’s brightening. It can smooth out the surface of your skin and reduce dullness, so you get a true glow. It can also even out your skin tone. I deal with uneven skin tone and dark spots, especially in the summer. I’ve found that The Ordinary Vitamin C products are the only ones that have truly helped me with that.

Hyperpigmentation, including age spots, melasma and sun spots can be stopped by vitamin C because it blocks melanin production.

Topical vitamin C can reduce the appearance of undereye circles, and it helps boost your natural production of collagen.

When your body is producing more collagen, you may notice fewer wrinkles, more firmness, and increased elasticity.

Overall, vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant, and it can help reverse damage that leads to issues like dark spots, as well as inflammation-based skin problems like acne.

The following are some general tips for using vitamin C products on your skin:

  • Using a vitamin C serum in the morning may get you the most benefits because it’s going to provide you with some protection from sun damage. At the same time, light oxidizes vitamin C and makes it less effective, so let your product soak in fully before you head out.
  • A big difference you’ll see in The Ordinary Vitamin C products is the fact that they vary in the concentrations of vitamin C. In general, not just for The Ordinary but for all vitamin C products, you might see a concentration range of 5% up to 30%. If you have sensitive skin, you’re better off with lower concentrations because they’ll be less irritation. If you have dry skin, you might also want to use a lower concentration. If you have oily skin or you have more severe pigmentation problems, you can probably opt for a higher concentration.
  • Avoiding using a vitamin C product with a product that includes benzoyl peroxide. This will cause oxidation which will make your vitamin C less effective. If you’re going to use a vitamin C product and benzoyl peroxide, use them at different times.
  • Store your vitamin C products carefully in air-tight containers that don’t let light in.

What to Know About Vitamin C Serums

Whether it’s The Ordinary’s vitamin C serums or another product, these are the most popular way to apply vitamin C topically.

When choosing a vitamin C serum, you want one that comes in a tinted glass bottle, and usually, it’s best if it ranges from having 10% to 20% L-ascorbic acid.

L-ascorbic acid is the most effective, rather than a derivative.

What to Know About Vitamin C Powder

You can add vitamin C powder to your current products, such as serums you already have or a moisturizer you like to use. Vitamin C powders are inexpensive, and you can adjust your mixture to your needs. They do have a longer shelf life than other vitamin C products, as long as you don’t pre-mix them.

What to Know About a Vitamin C Suspension

A vitamin C suspension is an interesting combination of cream and a powder, and it has a bit of a gritty texture, which some people like and some hate.

The spheres in a suspension like the one from The Ordinary are fully stable because there’s no water in the product. You get the benefit of smoothing along with the other general benefits of topical vitamin C.

The Ordinary Vitamin C Suspension, which we talk more about below, is very potent, so if you have sensitive skin it’s best to avoid this one.

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Image Source: Amazon

The first product we’re going to look at in detail is The Ordinary Vitamin C Suspension 23% +HA Spheres 2%. You might be wondering what all that means, so we break it down.

  • Water-free and silicone-free
  • Contains 23% pure L-ascorbic acid
  • Remains stable because there’s no water
  • The system includes dehydrated spheres of hyaluronic acid
  • Helps smooth the surface of the skin
  • Should be applied at bedtime
  • The suspension is a fine L-ascorbic powder
  • Gives you exposure to high concentrations of vitamin C

I have The Ordinary Vitamin C Suspension 23%, and I love it. I have dry skin that’s not sensitive, so I don’t notice very little tingling, but some people will with this product because they’re being exposed to a highly concentrated level of vitamin C.

The powder that’s in this suspension gives it a gritty feel, which, again, I like, but other people might not prefer.

This product is silicone-free, which is one feature that sets it apart from similar vitamin C suspensions. Silicone can actually impede the absorption of vitamin C into the skin because silicone traps the vitamin. Since this doesn’t have the silicone you’re getting full exposure to a powerful dose of topical vitamin C.

I looked at the reviews on Ulta, and they honestly weren’t great for this product, which I get. It might not be for everyone. The biggest issue for people who left negative reviews of this The Ordinary Vitamin C product seemed to be that the concentration was too high for their reactive or sensitive skin.

If you have sensitive skin, you may notice irritation and inflammation.

The other big complaint, as was touched on, is that the consistency isn’t what people expect or want. It’s like a very thin moisturizer with the grittiness of the powder.

This is one of those products from The Ordinary that you’re probably going to either love or hate.

I also checked out Amazon reviews for the product, and they were a lot more favorable, although someone put it well when he said that the product does the job, but it’s not for “wimps.”

Benefits that people seem to notice when using the 23% vitamin C suspension include brighter, smoother, and more even skin.

Some users find that it worked for their acne scars, and it helps with sun damage.

The stinging will likely go away after using the product for a week or so consistently.

I give this a thumbs up for its effectiveness, and I don’t mind the texture, but if you think it’s not for you, there are other The Ordinary vitamin C options.

As far as how to use this product, as was mentioned, it’s best to use it at night. You can theoretically use it in the morning, but you may get a little redness and irritation. You might not want to apply products or makeup on top of it either because of the grittiness.

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Image Source: Amazon

The following are the key things to know about The Ordinary Vitamin C Suspension 30% in Silicone:

  • Alcohol, oil, and water-free
  • The formula features 30% pure L-ascorbic acid
  • The ascorbic acid remains stable because of the absence of water
  • Doesn’t include the grittiness of the Vitamin C Suspension 23%
  • Best applied at bedtime

The Ordinary Vitamin C Suspension 30% is a powerful way to use high concentrations of vitamin C on your skin. You’ll likely experience the tingling and perhaps even a bit of stinging that can come with this, but usually only during the first one to two weeks of use.

If you find that it’s too much for you, you can mix it with another cream or serum to take down the potency a bit.

The Ordinary Vitamin C Suspension 30% in Silicone still doesn’t have great reviews on Ulta, and I haven’t personally tried this product, but I did a little research as to why some people don’t like it.

Even though it’s not supposed to, some people still feel like it has a gritty texture. That seems to again be the biggest issue.

However, some users say that once they started mixing it with another cream, they ended up loving it when they didn’t initially like it.

While there are negative reviews, other reviews describe this product as life-changing, so again, I think this boils down to a personal preference issue. On Amazon, the reviews for this Vitamin C suspension are much better than the reviews on Ulta, as is the case with the 23% product.

Users say that it gives them glowing skin and especially helps with fading hyperpigmentation. There are also users that mention melasma and feel that the 30% vitamin C suspension from The Ordinary is the only thing that has helped them with it.

the ordinary vitamin c, the ordinary vitamin c suspension, the ordinary vitamin c powder, the ordinary vitamin c serum, vitamin c the ordinary
Image Source: Amazon

This L-ascorbic powder is a different way to use vitamin C topically in that you mix it yourself. This gives you more control over the experience, but some people feel it’s inconvenient. At this price point, we think it might be worth trying. The following are a few things to know about The Ordinary’s 100% L-ascorbic acid powder:

  • The vitamin C powder is very finely ground
  • You can mix it with other treatments as long as they don’t contain niacinamide or EUK 134
  • You can formulate your mixture to get high concentrations of vitamin C
  • Don’t pre-mix it because the vitamin C will oxidize and won’t be effective
  • Mix a bit in your hand each time you’re using it

Our biggest issue with The Ordinary 100% L-Ascorbic Acid powder is that company itself gives very little information or guidance as far as how to use it. Luckily, we can help you out with that.

You’ll get a little tub of the powder and a tiny spoon. The powder is fine, white, and fluffy according to reviews.

The benefit of using a powder instead of other types of vitamin C products is that you’re reducing the potential for oxidation when it’s being stored. You’re further reducing that risk by mixing it fresh each time.

Some of the things you might mix a vitamin C powder with include:

  • Serum
  • Resveratrol
  • Moisturizer
  • Oil
  • Vitamin E
  • A face mask

The really important thing with The Ordinary vitamin C powder is to mix only a tiny amount, especially at first.

If you want to be especially cautious with your use of vitamin C powder, you might get pH strips to test it. You want a pH level of around 3.5. If you have a pH any higher than this, it might be too irritating to your skin.

The Ordinary Ascorbic Acid 8% + Alpha Arbutin 2%

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Image Source: Amazon

Along with the 23% suspension, this is another one of The Ordinary vitamin C products that I personally use regularly. It has higher ratings than the suspensions, maybe because people know what to expect with the texture.

  • Extra-brightening because of the alpha arbutin
  • Reduces dark spots
  • Helps with multiple signs of aging
  • Water-free
  • Highly rated among The Ordinary’s vitamin C products

This vitamin C serum also has alpha arbutin, which is another skin-brightening ingredient. The formula is water-free, so it’ll be more stable and last longer.

It’s good for dark spots and antioxidant benefits.

With this, you just add a few drops to your skin in the morning and evening, and a small bottle goes a long way.

According to reviews, many users find that this vitamin C from The Ordinary works quickly to start brightening your skin. It’s again excellent for hyperpigmentation and also seems to work well for acne scars.

While it might initially feel oily on your skin, let it absorb, and then you add moisturizer, and that feeling should go away. We also found that many reviewers with oily skin didn’t feel like this product was a problem for them, and it didn’t increase their overall oiliness.

One of the biggest complaints that we consistently saw was that some people felt the product smelled bad. I haven’t noticed that, nor do most reviewers, which may indicate that a few people got bad bottles that had started to oxidize. The product shouldn’t have an especially strong smell.

Are There Topical Vitamin C Side Effects To Be Aware Of?

Overall, vitamin C products from The Ordinary and other brands can have a lot of benefits for your skin. However, there are a few things to be aware of.

First, for some people, using vitamin C can cause redness, dryness, and irritation.

Also, since vitamin C is naturally acidic, when it oxidizes, it’s not effective, which we’ve mentioned above. Vitamin C can oxidize in the bottle but also on your skin when oxygen hits it. That can lead to skin sensitivity.

What’s good about The Ordinary vitamin C products is that they’ve designed them to be stable so that there isn’t that irritation that occurs when the oxygen hits the product and it’s on your face.

If you are using one particular type of vitamin C product and you’re getting continuous side effects, you should probably switch to one that’s less potent.

The Ordinary Vitamin C FAQs

Since choosing a vitamin product can be a bit confusing, the following are answers to some of the most commonly asked questions about these products.

How To Use The Ordinary Vitamin C in Silicone?

You can apply The Ordinary Vitamin C in silicone directly to your skin. A little goes a long way, and because of the gritty texture, you might prefer to apply it in the evening, but you don’t have to. You can also reduce some of the texture if you mix it with a moisturizer and then apply it to your skin.

Which Vitamin C from The Ordinary Is Best For Me?

While everyone is different, a few guidelines for choosing the best Vitamin C from The Ordinary include:

  • Is your skin type oily, combination, or dry? If you have oily or combination skin, you might be able to use one of the higher-concentration and more potent vitamin C products. This could include either the powder, or you could use one of the suspensions. If you have dry skin, these products could be a little irritating for you, in which case you should choose a vitamin C serum instead. The serums will give you some moisture along with the brightening effects of the vitamin C itself.
  • If you have significant hyperpigmentation, you might want to try either the powder or you might try the 30% suspension because these are going to give you the most vitamin C concentration and topical exposure.
  • Start out slowly with any of The Ordinary vitamin C products. Because they are potent, you may experience tingling or even burning. Do a patch test and give it a couple of weeks for that sensation to go away fully. It shouldn’t last for longer than two weeks with consistent use of any of the vitamin C products.

The Ordinary Vitamin C Powder—How To Use It?

To use The Ordinary Vitamin C powder, you should take a tiny amount and add it to another product such as serum or cream. You want to mix it as you’re using it rather than mixing it ahead of time. If you mix it ahead of time, then the product may oxidize, and then it won’t be effective. Mixing it in your hand and then immediately applying it is best.

You might also want to buy inexpensive pH strips and check the levels each time you mix it. You shouldn’t have a combination that’s any higher than a pH of 3.5.

How Should You Incorporate Vitamin C Into Your Skincare Routine?

If you’ve not used any of The Ordinary vitamin C products, you might be wondering the best ways to incorporate them into your existing routine.

You could follow the steps below or find a variation that works for you:

  • Start by washing your face as normal
  • Use a toner if that’s something you like
  • From there, you can apply your vitamin C serum or suspension, or you can mix a bit of the vitamin C powder into your moisturizer
  • Apply moisturizer after the vitamin C because you’re supposed to ideally follow the thinnest to thickest rule when it comes to your products
  • From here, if you’re using vitamin C in the morning, you can add your sunscreen and then do your makeup

Vitamin C serums, in particular, make a good base under your products.

Where To Buy The Ordinary Vitamin C?

You can buy The Ordinary Vitamin C on Amazon if you want easy shipping. You can also buy it online and in-person from Ulta and Sephora. I’d say check the websites if you’re using Ulta or Sephora and make sure it’s in stock because the stores don’t always have all of The Ordinary products.

Final Thoughts

In my opinion, it’s hard to go wrong with any of The Ordinary Vitamin C products. I think they’re great, at least the ones I’ve tried. I would just say again to take it slow with any new vitamin C because it’s going to tingle and potentially burn at first.

If you have issues with discoloration, hyperpigmentation, acne scars, or melasma, I’d say that The Ordinary vitamin C products may be worth your time to try. Plus, everything from The Ordinary is so affordable that you can really experiment and find what works for you.

References

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5605218/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3673383/

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