Does Vitamin C Treat Acne?

Vitamin C is a popular ingredient in topical skincare products. The idea behind this being that it has antioxidant activity, and so may prevent the oxidative damage which can cause skin aging.

Vitamin C might also have a positive effect on pigmentation, so products including this ingredient are marketed as being effective for improving skin tone and reducing signs of dark spots.


  1. One study found that topical application of 10% ascorbic acid had good results in treating mild-to-moderate acne, when compared to 5% benzoyl peroxide. A study in 1986 found that 8% ascorbic acid was more effective than 2% tretinoin (a vitamin A derivative) for treating acne lesions
  2. Another study compared the effects of vitamin C, retinyl palmitate (vitamin A), and vehicle, on acne. This study showed that both vitamin C and retinyl palmitate were similarly effective in treating acne lesions, when compared to vehicle. However, the concentration of retinyl palmitate was much higher than in most commercially available products containing “vitamin A”
  3. There are some studies on oral supplementation of vitamin C in acne vulgaris. One study found that 1 g/day of vitamin C, given to people with moderate acne for 3 months, had no effect on the number of lesions present
  4. Another study found that high-dose vitamin C (4 g/day) was effective in reducing oil production in people with facial sebum accumulation
  5. These results suggest that vitamin C is effective for treating acne, but may require a much higher dose than if it is used topically.


There isn’t enough evidence to support whether or not vitamin C treats acne. Some studies have shown positive effects on reducing acne lesions and oil production when used orally. Topical use of vitamin C in acne has also shown positive results, but no studies have compared it to standard treatments yet.