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A product shot of Powerful-Strength Vitamin C Serum


How To Add a Vitamin C Serum To Your Routine

Vitamin C serums are a wildly popular—and beneficial—skincare staple. Here at Kiehl’s, learn how to use vitamin C serum in your skincare routine.

Over the past few years, vitamin C serums have made the shift from being trendy to earning a place as flat-out skincare staples. These antioxidant-rich formulas can make a huge difference in your skin’s texture and tone. But having a bottle of serum on your shelfie isn’t enough—you also need to know how and when to use vitamin C serum in order to reap the most benefits out of this beloved essential.

Ahead, we’ll take you through how to incorporate vitamin C serum into your skincare routine. From understanding what to look for before buying to determining what to use with your chosen formula, Kiehl’s has you covered. Read on to learn how to use vitamin C serum for glowing, healthy-looking skin.

What Are The Beauty Benefits Of Vitamin C?

Vitamin C is an antioxidant—in other words, a substance that helps neutralize free radicals generated by exposure to stressors such as air pollution and ultraviolet radiation. When applied topically to the skin—like via the use of a vitamin C serum—this potent ingredient can help protect the skin from these damaging aggressors. It’s also known to help improve the appearance of dark spots and discolorations, boost radiance, and help give the skin a smoother, firmer appearance.

How Do You Choose The Right Vitamin C Serum For Your Skin?

Before you can use a vitamin C serum, you need to own one. And finding a good quality product is key. That means doing some research first.

Generally, the best vitamin C serums are colorless or very light in color. Being light in color can be indicative that your serum hasn’t oxidized and, therefore, is still effective. If a serum with vitamin C has started to turn brown or yellow, it’s a tell-tale sign that the serum is starting to lose its strength. Because vitamin C products can degrade faster when exposed to heat and light, they often come in dark or opaque packaging that has an airtight seal.

Powerful-Strength Vitamin C Serum

When looking at vitamin C serums, you should also pay attention to the ingredients because there are several forms of vitamin C. Our Powerful-Strength Vitamin C Serum, for example, has two types of vitamin C in its formula: pure vitamin C (also known as L-ascorbic acid) and ascorbyl glucoside. The concentrated serum helps smooth skin’s texture and visibly minimizes the appearance of enlarged pores. With continued use over time, it also helps visibly reduce fine lines and wrinkles, leaving your skin looking firm, smooth, and radiant.

How To Apply Vitamin C Serum Correctly

In order to see the gorgeous and glowy skin benefits you’re seeking from your vitamin C serum, you’ll need to apply it correctly. Here, learn how to use vitamin C serum in your routine morning and night.

Step 1:

Prep Your Skin

Starting with clean skin is a must if you want to get the most out of your skincare products, so to start, wash your face with Calendula Deep Cleansing Foaming Face Wash. Made with renewable calendula extract and glycerin, this non-drying cleanser gently lifts away dirt, oil, and other impurities, leaving your skin feeling balanced and fresh. Dispense a small amount into your palms, then add water to activate the gel-to-foam formula and massage it over your face before rinsing with lukewarm water. Once you’re finished, pat your skin dry and use a clean cotton round to sweep Calendula Herbal-Extract Toner over your face. Like the cleanser, this alcohol-free toner helps cleanse and soothe the skin. With consistent use, it also helps diminish redness, minimizes the appearance of enlarged pores, and helps improve skin texture.

Step 2:

Apply Your Kiehl’s Serum

For all your anti-aging needs, gently apply two pumps of our aforementioned Powerful-Strength Vitamin C Serum onto your face, ensuring not to pull or aggressively rub your delicate skin. As you apply the formula, you may experience a feeling of warmth—this sensation is normal.

If your main skincare goal is addressing discoloration, we recommend Clearly Corrective Dark Spot Solution for your vitamin C serum instead. It has a potent formula with activated C (a stabilized form of vitamin C) and buffered salicylic acid and is clinically demonstrated to help visibly correct dark spots and discolorations, such as age spots and post-blemish marks.* Over time, it helps visibly brighten for a more even and radiant skin tone. Apply the serum all over your face or as a spot treatment to help target stubborn spots (bonus: the serum can even be used on dark spots on your hands, neck, and chest).

*Results based on expert grading in a 12-week clinical test on 104 subjects.

Powerful-Strength Dark Circle-Reducing Vitamin C Eye Serum

When applying your serum, avoid the sensitive eye area. Instead, to care for the skin around your eyes, try our Powerful-Strength Dark Circle-Reducing Vitamin C Eye Serum with vitamin C and hyaluronic acid. It’s designed specifically for the delicate skin around your eyes and can help decrease the appearance of lines, crow’s feet, and dark circles. For the best results, apply a small amount very gently to the under-eye and up to the crow’s feet region.

Step 3:

Lock It In With Moisture

Once you’ve applied your serum, wait a few moments for it to absorb before smoothing on your moisturizer. (Think of your moisturizer as a seal to help lock in all the goodness from your serum). We recommend Ultra Facial Cream with Squalane, our super hydrating yet lightweight moisturizer with squalane and glycerin. It’s suitable for all skin types and provides up to 24-hour hydration for softer, smoother-looking skin.

If you have oilier skin or want to control unwanted shine, try Ultra Facial Oil-Free Moisturizer instead. The ultra-light gel moisturizer absorbs immediately, providing deep hydration without leaving behind any sticky or tacky residue. Plus, it helps visibly diminish shine, minimizes the appearance of enlarged pores, and leaves the skin feeling balanced and fresh.

Step 4:

Finish With Sunscreen

Super Fluid Daily UV Defense SPF 50+

Last but certainly not least, apply SPF for a final layer of skin protection. During the daytime, sunscreen is vital in protecting your skin against harmful UV rays. And this is true even on cold and cloudy days. Apply Super Fluid Daily UV Defense SPF 50+ over your face, taking care to avoid the eye area. It helps protect skin from environmental aggressors, including UVA and UVB rays and pollution, which can cause the first signs of aging.

In addition to your sunscreen, you’ll also want to take other sun protection measures. These include wearing UV-blocking sunglasses and a broad-brimmed hat and avoiding the sun (when possible) during its peak hours, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

What Can You Use With Vitamin C Serum?

All in all, vitamin C is a pretty stable, compatible ingredient. As always, though, if you’re unsure whether a specific product or ingredient can safely be paired with your vitamin C serum, consult your dermatologist—they can help you figure out what’s best for your skin.

Ahead, we’ll review three ingredients to use with vitamin C and give you the rundown on how to pair these products properly.

1. Other Antioxidants

Vitamin C can pair beautifully with other antioxidants, such as vitamin E—in fact, some evidence shows that pairing the two can increase the efficacy of vitamin C.I To suffuse your daytime skincare routine with more antioxidants, try following your moisturizer with Daily Reviving Concentrate. Suitable for all skin types, this lightweight facial oil with sunflower seed oil and vitamin E helps protect the skin against damaging free radicals. It also works to reduce the appearance of fatigue and gives your skin a fresh, healthy-looking glow.

2. Retinol

Retinol is an immensely popular anti-aging ingredient that you may want to add to your routine. Rather than layer it with vitamin C, we recommend using the two separately, at different times of the day. Try designating your vitamin C serum for morning use and your retinol for nighttime. In terms of which retinol to use, we love Micro-Dose Anti-Aging Retinol Serum with Ceramides and Peptide. The creamy serum contains a precise daily-strength micro-dose of pure retinol, plus ceramides and peptide. It helps reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles and firms the skin with minimal dryness, redness, or peeling. Plus, it’s suitable for all skin types—even sensitive skin.

3. Exfoliating Acids

To help promote a glowing, even appearance, you can pair your vitamin C serum with a formula containing alpha-hydroxy acids, such as Ferulic Brew Antioxidant Facial Treatment with Lactic Acid. This facial essence with ferulic acid, lactic acid, and squalane helps gently remove dull surface skin to reveal a more radiant appearance. Over time, it also helps diminish the appearance of fine lines, wrinkles, and other premature signs of aging. Pat the fast-absorbing formula directly onto your face after cleansing and toning but before applying your serum for the best results.


I. Telang, Pumori Saokar. “Vitamin C in dermatology.” Indian dermatology online journal vol. 4,2 (2013): 143-6.

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