7 Best Vitamin C Alternatives For Those Their Skin Couldn’t Agree With Vitamin C

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Your skin couldn’t agree with vitamin C, thus making you search for the best vitamin C alternatives? Then consider yourself lucky today, because you’ve hit the right page.


It’s no doubt that vitamin C  is an OG skin brightener, antioxidant protectant and anti-aging skincare ingredient. If you’ve been an dedicated BeautySparker, you would know my profuse love for vitamin C. In fact, I’ve used good numbers of vitamin C serums from reputable brands, from the likes of The Ordinary 12% Ascorbyl Glucoside Vitamin C Serum, Timeless 10% vitamin C serum, Geek & Gorgeous C-Glow serum, Timeless 20% and Skinceuticles 15% vitamin C serum. All worked wonders on my skin by increasing luminosity and promoting collagen production. My skin loves vitamin C, and I’m grateful for that.

But there are some individuals who haven’t found favour in vitamin C which is so sad because vitamin C is such a great skincare ingredient everyone should have in his/her skincare cabinet. But in a situation where your skin couldn’t agree with vitamin C, hey, it’s not the end of the world as there are quite decent vitamin C alternative ingredients that can also fill up the gap. Keep reading to know these vitamin C alternatives, and how they’ll help your skin reap the same vitamin C benefits.

But before we plunge into that, let’s know why some skins don’t synergize with vitamin C.

Why Do Some People’s Skin Don’t Interact Well With Vitamin C?

Skin Sensitivity.

This is the main reason why some individuals couldn’t enjoy vitamin C benefits – skin sensitivity. As regards with skincare, all skins aren’t the same, some individuals have more sensitive skin than others, as a result, makes them pretty much selective on skincare products they put on their skin as not to incur inflammatory-irritation. This puts them in a very difficult situation.

L-ascorbic acid vitamin C  (which is known to be the purest of all forms of vitamin C) is notorious for its acidic nature which could irritate sensitive skin when used in higher concentration (15-20%).

I once had such ugly skin irritation experience when I used the Timeless 20% vitamin C serum which caused burning and itchy sensation, which led me to drop down to a much lower concentration, (a 10% which is best recommended for people with sensitive skin) using the Timeless 10% vitamin C serum, and everything was calm and good.

Therefore, if you always experience irritation while using L-ascorbic acid-based vitamin C serum, then it could be that you’re using a high concentration. Consider cutting down to a lower concentration (recommend: 10%) or better still move to using vitamin C derivatives which are known to be very gentle on the skin, while delivering the same vitamin C benefits to the skin, but without causing inflammatory-irritation.

Your Skin Doesn’t Just Like Vitamin C.

As regards with the difference in skin type, some skins don’t just like vitamin C, as a result, not experiencing vitamin C brightening and anti-aging benefits. If you’re in such a category, just don’t be too hard on yourself, you can as well enjoy the same vitamin C skin benefits from various skincare ingredients which we term as vitamin C alternatives.

So, moving ahead, what are these vitamin C alternatives that can give my skin the same skin brightening effect, and anti-aging benefits just like vitamin C does? Keep reading to know about them.

Best Vitamin C Alternatives To Consider If Your Skin Doesn’t Agree With Vitamin C.

Vitamin C Alternatives - BeautySparkReview

1. Niacinamide. 

If you’re looking for a perfect vitamin C alternative, niacinamide acid is your best bet.

Niacinamide is also known as nicotinamide, vitamin B3 or nicotinic acid. It’s a water soluble-vitamin and doesn’t dissolve in oil, that’s why you’ll only see niacinamide in oil-free (water-based) moisturizers and serums.

Being a multifunctional skincare ingredient, this wonderful skincare ingredient helps boost the production of collagen in the skin, while it also increases the production of elastin and skin proteins.

It also regulates excessive oil production, reduces redness (blotchiness), shrinks large visible-pores and gets rid of nasty looking blemishes which in turn improves overall skin tone, texture and barrier function. Isn’t all these that vitamin C offers to the skin? In fact, niacinamide even offers more to the skin than vitamin C does. That being said, having niacinamide in your skincare routine puts you on a greater scale to enjoy premium vitamin C benefits.

That’s not all.

Niacinamide readily penetrates deeply into the skin to deliver its potentials, it’s one of the most stable active-vitamin in skincare, with a pH around neutral. It’s non-acidic and non-irritating. Unlike L-ascorbic acid vitamin C which is known for its limited penetration to the skin and its unstable nature, which makes it quickly oxidize (goes bad) upon exposure to air and heat. You can explore our best list of niacinamide serums.

Personally, I’ve had good experience with The Ordinary 10% niacinamide serumThe Inkey List 10% niacinamide serum and the Good Molecules 10% niacinamide serum too. These are great niacinamide serums to explore if you want to give niacinamide a shot.

2. Lactic Acid.

Lactic acid is a mild AHA (alpha hydroxy acid), suitable for all skin types, but especially for sensitive skins and new acid-users. It helps to tackle skin-texture-irregularities, smoothen wrinkles, fine lines and helps brightens the skin which in turn addresses minor hyperpigmentation problems suchlike dark spots and acne scars, thus making it a vitamin C alternative.  You can explore our list of best lactic acid serums.

Lactic acid is suitable for people with sensitive skin, as a result making it relatively a better option if your skin couldn’t take L-ascorbic acid. Lactic acid has large molecular size which limits its skin penetration, thus enabling it to work mainly on the top layer of the skin, to address superficial skin issues suchlike pigmentation, large pores, fine lines and textural issues.

The Ordinary brand has a 5% lactic acid serum for new beginners. So, if you’re new to lactic acid, you may want to ease your way into it by starting from the lower concentration.

I’ve used The Ordinary 10% lactic acid serum, and I must attest to the goodness of it. My skin texture massively improved. Looking all smooth, infact, it was as if I got a new skin overnight. With the lactic acid serum, I always wake up to a smooth, glowing skin. You can read my full review here.

3. Mandelic Acid

Mandelic acid is yet another suitable vitamin C alternative to try out, if vitamin C isn’t compatible with your skin.

Mandelic acid is an AHA, a derivative of bitter almonds. It has a larger molecular weight. The molecular weight of mandelic acid is 152.1 daltons, which is larger than other alpha hydroxy acids (glycolic acid is 76.0 daltons, for example). Making it the most mild amongst all alpha hydroxy acids.

Mandelic acid is considered an AHA for sensitive skin (just like lactic acid), as it’s more gentle on the skin as compared to other AHAs. This is so because of its large molecular structure which makes it not to penetrate the skin as deeply as glycolic acid does.

Its mildness, makes it the best choice for sensitive skin individuals, as it offers skin-superficial, mild exfoliation and also fades some forms of hyperpigmentation, treats inflammatory acne and minimizes skin aging-signs, thereby improving skin texture and complexion.

The Ordinary 10% mandelic acid serum was the best decent mandelic acid serum I tested. And it really lived up to the expectation. Skin texture was greatly improved. Large pores were looking minimized, skin complexion brightened. All these without incurring inflammatory-irritation. Read my full review here.

4. Tranexamic Acid. 

Tranexamic acid being a drug and synthetically derived from the amino acid lysine is traditionally used to treat heavy bleeding during menstrual period. Tranexamic acid works by slowing the breakdown of blood clots, which helps to prevent prolonged bleeding. It belongs to a class of drugs known as antifibrinolytics.

However, its skin depigmenting potential was discovered. As it helps tackle skin discoloration such as hyperpigmentation, by inhibiting melanocytes, thereby curbing excess production of melanin and simultaneously blocks the transfer of pigment from melanocytes to keratinocytes in the epidermis.

With the aforementioned skin benefits of tranexamic acid makes it share almost the same attributes with vitamin C, however when it comes to treating hyperpigmentation and improving over skin complexion, tranexamic acid is more potent. Thus making it an advanced vitamin C alternative.

So, if your skin doesn’t interact well with vitamin C, why don’t you give tranexamic acid a trail?. You can explore our best tranexamic acid serums.

I’ve personally used the one from Good Molecules brand – Good Molecules Discoloration Correcting Serum which previously contained 2% tranexamic acid but now contains 3% tranexamic acid in their new product version and 4% niacinamide and guess what? It faded all the spots on my cheek after four (4) weeks of usage and brightened my skin tone. The Inkey List Tranexamic Acid Night Treatment did wonders on my skin too. Same with the Superdrug Me+ Tranexamic Acid Booster.

5. Alpha Arbutin.

Alpha Arbutin is naturally derived from the bearberry plant; it’s also found in cranberries, blueberries, wheat, and pears. Alpha arbutin prevents the formation of melanin, as it functions as a tyrosinase inhibitor to provide skin lightening and brightening effects. As a result, giving you a more advanced skin benefits of vitamin C.

Therefore, alpha arbutin is the way to go if you don’t find favour with vitamin C. You can explore our best alpha arbutin serums.

My personal experience with The Ordinary 2% alpha arbutin serum was indeed a great one, as it gradually, but definitely got rid of my hyperpigmentation (dark spots). Although it took me two (2) weeks and some days to see visible results, that’s not really a long time to wait if you ask me. Read my full review here.

6. Azelaic Acid.

Just like niacinamide, azelaic acid is yet another multifunctional or multipurpose skincare Ingredient that also befits vitamin C alternative. In fact, it’s going to bless your skin with its multiple skin benefits than vitamin C will.

What’s Azelaic Acid?

Azelaic acid is a naturally occurring acid found in grains such as barley, wheat, and rye. It’s rich in anti-microbial and anti-inflammatory properties which makes it an effective treatment for acne and rosacea. Similar to retinol, azelaic acid puts a stop to future outbreaks and cleanses bacteria from your pores that causes acne. It also mildly exfoliates the skin, curtails redness and the appearance of hyperpigmentation and tackles skin textural issues due to its mild exfoliating potentials.

I put The Ordinary and Paula’s Choice azelaic acid to the test (both at 10% concentration) on live acne breakouts, to know between the two which is more effective towards treating acne and improving overall skin texture and complexion.

Result: Both did clear my acne quite effectively and improved skin complexion and texture, but with Paula’s Choice azelaic acid effectively doing that in shorter days (4-5 days), unlike The Ordinary version which took 9 days. Read my full review here.

7. Retinol.

Yes, retinol is a vitamin A derivative, a total different class from vitamin C, but guess what? It also serves as a vitamin C alternative. In fact, When it looks like skin aging signs such as wrinkles and fine lines have taken away the firmness and glow on your face, then consider retinol as your first line of defense.

Retinol is a vitamin A derivative and an anti-aging molecule that accelerates skin-renewal, reduces wrinkles, fine lines, and age spots, for firmer, smoother and more evenly-toned skin.

Retinol stimulates collagen production even more effectively than vitamin C does, brightens skin tone by stimulating cell turnover and regeneration, thus improving overall skin texture and complexion. You can explore our best list of retinol serums.

Keep in mind that as a vitamin A derivative, retinol should also be used with caution, although it’s a weak vitamin A derivative, but when inappropriately used (by using a higher concentration or using it way too much) may consequently cause inflammatory-irritation. Therefore it’s advised to start from a lower concentration, recommended 0.2% or 0.5% and start by using twice weekly, while you work your way up in concentration and days of application as your skin builds tolerance.

My experience with The Ordinary 1% retinol serum was marvelous. My skin’s texture greatly improved with minimized pores size which left my skin smooth, firm, supple with a glowing radiance. Read my full review here

In Conclusion. 

When it seems vitamin C isn’t going well with your skin, don’t fret, as there are other vitamin C alternatives to enable your skin to enjoy vitamin C benefits, and even more.

All you have to do is, make a pick out of any of the aforementioned vitamin C alternatives suitable to your skin, ensure to do a patch test before commencing full product treatment, also ensure to start off slowly, by starting from a lower concentration and at least twice weekly while you gradually work your way up as your skin builds tolerance or acclimatize with the skincare Ingredient.

UP NEXT: Here’s A Comprehensive Guide To Read A Skincare Ingredient-List Label Like A Pro!.

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