Vitamin C and Skin Hyperpigmentation

Hyperpigmentation is a condition that manifests as dark spots or brown spots on the skin. It results from increased melanin production and concentration of melanin synthesizing cells, also known as melanocytes, in a small area of the skin.

The condition can be triggered by photodamage, skin injuries, inflammation, acne scarring, and melasma among other causes. There are many depigmenting treatments for the condition, including the use of vitamins in various forms. Does Vitamin C help with hyperpigmentation? To answer this, here is all you need to know about Vitamin C and how it helps with skin hyperpigmentation.

What is Vitamin C

Also known as ascorbic acid, the vitamin is a water-soluble mineral and one of the most abundant minerals in nature. It’s an essential nutrient involved in most cell functions, including collagen synthesis and skin repair after injury.

Vitamin C was discovered in the 1930s and was the first vitamin to be synthesized in a lab. It’s listed as one of the most important, safe and effective medicine for healthy living. Citrus fruits like lemons and oranges are some of the natural sources of the vitamin. Vegetables with dark green leaves also contain vitamin c in abundance.

In supplemental form, vitamin C is available as pills, capsules and drink mixes. In these formulations, it comes in various compounds such as ascorbic acid, calcium ascorbate, potassium ascorbate, sodium ascorbate, and ascorbyl palmitate.

What Does Vitamin C do for Your Skin?

Among the primary functions of the skin is to protect the inner organs from external damage. The protection can be from mechanical damage, pathogens, and chemical threats. It also fends off skin ageing brought about by environmental factors such as ultraviolet radiation and even moisture loss from high temperatures. So where does vitamin C come in?   

To keep your skin healthy and glowing, vitamin C is found in the outer and inner layers of the skin. Here, it decreases cell damage which essentially reduces signs of ageing. Additionally, vitamin C helps in fighting off some illnesses such as scurvy- a disease characterized by impaired wound healing and fragile-looking skin. 

What Does Vitamin C do for Hyperpigmentation?

Whilst vitamin C is an essential part of a healthy body, it has very specific and important functions when it comes to the treatment of hyperpigmentation. To get rid of dark spots and other forms of skin blemishes, vitamin C helps to maintain skin integrity in the following ways; 

●    Promotion of Collagen Synthesis

Collagen is the main building block of connective tissue in the body. As a structural protein, collagen is vital in repairing the skin, keeping it elastic and reducing hyperpigmentation due to scarring. So how does vitamin c feature in this?

Vitamin C plays a big role in stabilizing the molecular structure of collagen. This it does by acting as a co-factor in the actions of proline and lysine hydroxylases – enzymes that promote the formation of collagen. Studies have shown that the absence of the mineral in fibroblasts (collagen synthesizing cells) reduces collagen in the skin.

●    Depigmenting Agent

As earlier noted, hyperpigmentation is as a result of increased melanin production. For this to happen the actions of tyrosinase, which is the enzyme responsible for melanin formation, also has to increase.

To this end, vitamin C interferes with the functions of tyrosinase, essentially reducing melanin production. As a depigmenting agent, vitamin C treats hyperpigmentation in various conditions such as age spots, sun spots, and melasma.

●    Anti Inflammatory

Once the skin is inflamed, healing usually leaves dark spots. This is usually the case with acne and rosacea. Vitamin C inhibits activation of pro-inflammatory cells found in the skin. This makes vitamin C an anti-inflammatory agent responsible for faster healing of wounds and prevention of post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation

●    Neutralizing Free Radicals- Antioxidant

Vitamin C is the most abundant antioxidant in the skin. It’s part of a complex network of enzymatic and non-enzymatic compounds that prevent skin damage from free radicals.

Since vitamin C is water soluble, it forms the aqueous part of cells. As such, it provides the electrons necessary for neutralizing free radicals generated by environmental factors. If these radicals are left in reactive form, they have the potential of causing reactions that damage skin cells, for example, photodamage.

How to Use Vitamin C for Dark Spots

Most topical and oral treatments of dark spots use vitamin C in their formulation. Ideally, taking oral supplements of vitamin C results in more of the mineral in the skin. This might however not be as effective since the body only uses what it requires and discards the excess.

Having said that, if oral supplementation does not work for you, there are Vitamin C serums, powders and creams, and even natural sources to consider. Whichever form of the treatment you choose to go with, here are some pointers on how to use vitamin C for hyperpigmentation:

  • Use serums with at least 10% of Vitamin C; use as indicated on the label.
  • Dab lemon juice on the dark spots, let it stay for about 15 minutes before washing off with cold water. Repeat twice daily for desirable results.
  • For pills take at least 40 mg of vitamin C as a dietary supplement and up to 3000 mg per day for treating hyperpigmented skin.    

Top Tip

To ensure that the treatment holds, always apply sunscreen with high SPF factor.

Side Effects of Vitamin C

Vitamin C can be used orally or topically on a daily basis. It’s also safe as part of a regimen consisting of skin lightening creams. However, the treatment comes with side effects such as;

  • Yellowish skin discolouration and staining of clothes
  • Stinging
  • Erythema
  • Skin dryness

These can all be avoided by slapping on moisturizer during the treatment.


Vitamin C is one of the most effective compounds that help with Hyperpigmentation. It’s one of the most common ingredients in skin care products and can be taken both orally or applied topically. The best vitamin C for hyperpigmentation is drawn from a combination of both. When used for the improvement of dark spots, the treatments take up to a few months for results to be noticeable. Its abundance, safety and effectiveness gives you enough reasons to try it out or increase its use since you are probably using it already.

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