Can I Use Vitamin C in Skincare While Pregnant?

Vitamin C skincare on slices of orange

Iryna Veklich

When you hear vitamin C mentioned, your first thought may immediately go to a popular breakfast beverage—orange juice. But there’s much more to this powerhouse ingredient than that. When applied topically in skincare products, vitamin C can provide a host of benefits. However, with all the dos and don’ts that come along with being pregnant, you may wonder if it’s safe to use. And we totally get it. So many seemingly benign things harbor hidden dangers to you and your developing baby, it’s easy to question everything.

Ahead, we’re setting the record straight on whether or not you can use vitamin C serum  while pregnant, along with other vitamin C skincare such as lotions, creams, and masks. Read on to learn all about what vitamin C skincare is, how it can help improve your skin’s appearance, and why two board-certified dermatologists recommend it to their patients—pregnant or not.

What Is Vitamin C Skincare?

Vitamin C is a potent antioxidant found in nature, mainly in citrus fruits, green leafy veggies, and broccoli. You can also find it in strawberries, tomatoes, and papaya. And it’s a primary nutrient that your body needs. In scientific terms, the chemically active form of vitamin C is known as L-ascorbic acid.

“Vitamin C is a water-soluble vitamin that is essential for tissue health and function,” says Rachel Nazarian, MD, FAAD, a board-certified dermatologist at the Schweiger Dermatology Group in NYC. “It’s often used in topical form due to its protective and reparative effects on skin.” 

The amount of vitamin C you consume through foods and drinks alone isn’t enough to optimally nourish your skin though.

We’re not advising that you go slather your face with fruits and vegetables from the produce department. In skincare, vitamin C is diluted to make it less acidic and, therefore, more gentle on your skin.

“It must be stabilized at a low pH,” explains Mary P. Lupo, MD, a board-certified dermatologist at the Lupo Center for Aesthetic & General Dermatology and clinical professor of dermatology at Tulane University School of Medicine in New Orleans. “Tetrahexyl ascorbate and Mg ascorbate are examples of derivatives stable for skincare at a gentler pH.” I

f you see either of those names—or L-ascorbic acid—on your skincare labels, you’re looking at vitamin C derivatives. You’ll find them in all sorts of skin-friendly formulas from cleansers, toners, and serums to lotions, creams, and masks.

It’s also important to note that vitamin C compounds tend to be unstable and can degrade when exposed to heat or sunlight. “Research is being directed to find stable compounds of Vitamin C and newer methods of delivery of vitamin C into the dermis,” Dr. Nazarian shares. So, it’s best to keep your vitamin C skincare stored in a cool, dark place, like a bathroom cabinet—at least for now.

Is It Safe to Use Vitamin C in Skincare During Pregnancy?

With all the no-nos you run up against while pregnant, we’re happy to tell you that, yes, you can use vitamin C serums while pregnant, as well as other vitamin C skincare formulations. In order for it to become harmful in any way, you’d have to apply 100 to 200 times the recommended daily dose on your product labels—and you’d likely need to use many, many vitamin C skincare products simultaneously to reach that amount.

"Vitamin C is a great and safe ingredient to use while pregnant,” confirms Dr. Nazarian. “Thankfully, it’s a super safe ingredient, and works well with other products in most basic skincare regimens, such as sunscreen.”

She goes on to explain that both vitamin C and sunscreen will protect against premature aging and oxidative stressors in the environment. And advises looking for reputable, research-backed brands and products that are formulated for sensitive skin. Always be sure to use sunscreen—as you should every day, year-round—since topical vitamin C can make your skin more sensitive to sunlight and UV damage. 

We should also note that when taken orally, either in food, drinks, or your prenatal vitamin, vitamin C helps support your immunity and build strong muscles and bones. While it’s not generally recommended to take a vitamin C supplement on top of all the aforementioned sources, this important nutrient helps your body absorb iron, which can be beneficial for pregnant people, since they’re at a higher risk of developing anemia, a blood deficiency that can can cause weakness and fatigue.

Every pregnancy is different. Be sure to consult with a healthcare provider about your circumstances if you have any questions about using vitamin C skincare while pregnant.

Benefits of Vitamin C in Skincare During Pregnancy 

As we’ve foreshadowed, there are many benefits of using vitamin C serum while pregnant, as well as other formulations. Check out the following to see why you may want to start incorporating it into your skincare routine throughout your pregnancy and beyond.

Increases Collagen Production

Age and inadequate sun protection (ahem, again, always use sunscreen) lead to a decrease in the amount of collagen your skin produces—the structural protein which keeps your skin looking youthfully smooth and plump. Vitamin C is the sole antioxidant that stimulates collagen production, which can reduce the appearance of fine lines, wrinkles, and scars.

“Since vitamin C can stimulate collagen, it’s a natural alternative to retinoids, which are often contraindicated in pregnancy and breastfeeding,” explains Dr. Nazarian. Retinoids, like retinol, can severely impact your baby’s development when you’re pregnant or breastfeeding. So, if you’re a fan of using retinoids, and disheartened by having to set them aside for the safety of your baby, rest assured, you can safely swap vitamin C into your routine instead.

Evens & Brightens Skin Tone

Research has shown that vitamin C, and L-ascorbic acid in particular, can improve the appearance of sun-damaged skin. Harmful UV rays can cause dark spots to develop—often referred to as sun spots or age spots. In addition to repairing photodamage from sunlight to your skin, Dr. Lupo adds that vitamin C can help mitigate damage from the UV light emitted from your devices, such as your phone, computer, and smart TV. (That’s right. Even as you read these words, your skin is exposed to UV damage coming from your screen. Yet another reason to wear that sunscreen!)

 “Vitamin C is a potent antioxidant that can be used topically to treat and prevent changes associated with photoageing,” says Dr. Nazarian. Consider it an anti-aging, skin-friendly addition to your skincare routine.

Treats Hyperpigmentation

Along the same lines, Dr. Nazarian notes that vitamin C can also be used to treat hyperpigmentation, another type of skin discoloration caused by an overproduction of melanin, the pigment that gives your skin color. Hyperpigmentation can occur as the result of dark spots left from sun damage or acne lesions, as well as certain skin conditions, such as melasma.

While pregnant people can experience all the types of discoloration we mentioned, they’re especially susceptible to developing melasma (a.k.a. the “pregnancy mask”), which is thought to arise from an overproduction of hormones. Vitamin C can help fade its appearance, leaving you with a more uniform skin tone.

Protects Against UV Damage

Along with your daily sunscreen, the antioxidant action of vitamin C can help protect your skin against UV rays emitted by the sun and blue light, as well as pollution. It does this by neutralizing free radicals (a.k.a. reactive oxygen species), which, left unchecked, can result in premature skin aging, like fine lines, wrinkles, loss of firmness, dark spots, and hyperpigmentation. Bottom line: the beauty of vitamin C in skincare is that it can help both repair and defend your skin.

Risks of Using Vitamin C Skincare While Pregnant

As we’ve discussed, it’s absolutely safe to use vitamin C skincare while pregnant. However, we’d be remiss not to mention that, for some people, it can initially cause some stinging or redness, which will go away as soon as your skin adapts to it. But best of all, using vitamin C in skincare while pregnant is a situation in which the benefits far outweigh the temporary risks.

A Word From Verywell

It can be difficult—and confusing—to parse exactly what is safe to use and what you should avoid while pregnant. While vitamin C skincare is a “super safe ingredient,” according to Dr. Nazarian and decades of science, if you have any concerns about using it or any other skincare ingredient, it’s always best to speak to your healthcare provider.

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