Vitamin C breaks down in heat and sunlight, so it's no wonder why some Vitamin C creams work less effectively than advertised, or not at all. If you want to use a Vitamin C cream on your skin, you'll get the most value and efficacy by simply making it yourself.

Vitamin C is one of the most effective topical skin lighteners out there. However, commercial and store-bought Vitamin C-based skin lighteners usually contain very small amounts of this ingredient.

If you find that your Vitamin C skin cream isn’t working as it claims, there’s a good chance you’re not actually getting enough of it to make a difference.

On top of the potentially small amounts of Vitamin C added by the manufacturer, Vitamin C is also not a shelf-stable ingredient — meaning it breaks down easily over time. Most creams nowadays are imported and shipped over long distances, and it’s not unusual to purchase something that was manufactured many months ago.

Add to that uncertainties such as the temperature at which the products were stored, handled and transported (Vitamin C also breaks down in heat and sunlight), and it’s no wonder why some Vitamin C creams work less effectively than advertised, or not at all.

If you want to use a Vitamin C cream on your skin, you’ll get the most value and efficacy by simply making it yourself.

This would be relatively cheap to do and uses only two ingredients.

How to make your own Vitamin C serum or cream

  1. Purchase some pure Vitamin C powder from the health food store (look for L-Ascorbic Acid or Magnesium Ascorbyl Phosphate)
  2. Add a small amount of the powder to some clean cool water in a small bottle (e.g. travel-sized bottle). Do not use hot water as heat denatures Vitamin C.
  3. Shake this mixture well.
  4. Dab this mixture (or serum) over the areas you want to treat.
  5. Keep the bottle refrigerated and use up within a week. If you’re not able to refrigerate the serum, keep it in a tightly closed bottle in a cool dark place (like in a drawer or cupboard).

If kept well, this serum should stay largely clear and may develop a slight yellowish tinge after a few days. When it starts looking distinctly yellow, it’s time to discard it and make a fresh serum to use.

Because of this, it’s better to make the serum in small batches. Use a small bottle to make your serum instead of a large one.

Alternatively, you can also make your own Vitamin C face cream or body lotion by mixing the powder with one of your favorite unscented creams or lotions. It’s best to use a cream that has as few chemicals as possible (such as a simple cold cream or a natural shea butter cream) to maintain the integrity of the Vitamin C.

A DIY (do-it-yourself) Vitamin C cream or lotion should last longer than a DIY water-based serum, but you should still discard it when the cream turns yellow. It will not be harmful, just ineffective, as the yellowness indicates that the Vitamin C has oxidized.

How much Vitamin C powder to use?

The best ratio of Vitamin C powder to water or cream will vary depending on your skin sensitivity. Also, the skin on your face is much more sensitive than the skin on the rest of your body. So adjust the amount depending on where you plan to apply the serum.

Start out by adding a small pinch of Vitamin C powder first. Then test it on a patch of skin. Experiment to find the ratio that works gently without stinging your skin or making it red.

In general, the mixture should not be so strong as to cause excessive stinging or redness when applied.

If you want to make a stronger mixture, a little stinging should be okay and might actually help increase cell turnover, but remember to only use it when you’re not going to be exposed to sunlight. Otherwise, the extra skin sensitivity may cause hyperpigmentation.

Avoid sun exposure soon after application (use it in the evenings)

It’s very important to avoid sun exposure soon after applying any Vitamin C serum, as your skin will be more sun-sensitive and vulnerable to redarkening and hyperpigmentation. To eliminate this risk, apply the serum only in the evenings or before going to bed at night.

Where to get pure Vitamin C powder

You should be able to find pure Vitamin C powder (L-Ascorbic Acid or Magnesium Ascorbyl Phosphate) from your local pharmacy or health food store. Compare prices as Vitamin C powder is relatively cheap in general.

You can also find pure Vitamin C powder in online stores like iHerb (discount code NUR428).