Alternatives To Try If Vitamin C Is Too Harsh On Your Skin

Your skin just isn't what it used to be, and you've been soaking up all the research and benefits of vitamin C serums and cleansers. However, when your beloved package came in the mail, you discovered vitamin C was too harsh for your sensitive skin. Don't be discouraged because it wasn't the miracle cure you hoped it would be.


Vitamin C is known for its healing and restorative properties for the skin. In addition to brightening and fighting dreaded hyperpigmentation, it's good for hydrating the skin, eliminating redness, and amping up that much-needed collagen. Producers of vitamin C products rave about everything from getting rid of wrinkles to soothing out under-eye circles, but vitamin C isn't for everyone. While it might be safe for most skin types, the higher percentage of vitamin C on the skin can cause redness, irritation, and even rashes. 

Get all the benefits vitamin C offers your skin by trying a few tried-and-true alternatives. Find out what the experts say about these gentle skin care products.

Arbutin serum to brighten your skin

The brightening effect of vitamin C on darkness and brown spots is one of the reasons that serums fly off the shelves. But, a 2017 study in The Journal of Clinical and Aesthetic Dermatology found that some people can experience skin irritation from the concentrated amounts of vitamin C in some serums. That doesn't mean you need to deal with those brown spots. Arbutin is a viable alternative to brighten your skin that can be gentle enough not to irritate your face. 


Speaking to Everyday Health, board-certified dermatologist Dr. Annie Chiu explained, "Arbutin evens out and brightens skin tone, lightens darkened areas, and can help with the appearance of scars." Hyperpigmentation can come from a plethora of different sources, like too much sun and certain meds; however, arbutin reacts to that overabundance of melanin leading to the lightening effect. It also has sun-protecting properties, which can be excellent in your fight against aging UV rays.

Reduce inflammation with azelaic acid

In addition to minimizing redness and inflammation, azelaic acid provides mild exfoliation and fights the bacteria that typically cause acne.And like arbutin, this acid is good for helping to prevent dark spots and lighten hyperpigmentation, specifically for pregnant individuals with sensitive skin product needs. Dermatologist Francesa Fusco, MD, told Byrdie, "Azelaic acid is produced naturally on your skin by yeast, but you can also make it in a laboratory, and it can come from grains and cereals." Azelaic acid is also readily available in several different products, including foams and creams.


Dr. Fusco also noted, "There have been some reports suggesting that it could help treat alopecia or hair loss. Some doctors have pharmacists incorporate it into their hair products because it might help to grow hair." Given the different benefits and its gentle nature, azelaic acid can replace vitamin C to reduce the redness in your skin.

Copper peptides help stimulate collagen

Many experts would agree the key to keeping your skin looking rejuvenated is maintaining firmness and elasticity. If the collagen miracles claimed by vitamin C are just what your face craves, then copper peptides are just what your skincare ordered. According to dermatologist Tiffany J. Libby, MD, in Real Simple, "[P]eptides are applied topically via serums and creams and work by signaling to your cells to produce more collagen and other complex molecules that help support skin's structure."


Like vitamin C, copper peptides can help fill fine lines and wrinkles, making the skin appear more plump. Dr. Libby also pointed out, "This is likely because copper is known to be a critical component involved in the formation of enzymes. When applied topically, copper peptides work as an antioxidant, promote collagen and elastin production, and soften the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles." Copper peptides also help to increase blood flow, wound healing, and inflammation.

Copper peptides can be safeul used twice daily on sensitive skin, but do not combine them with retinol as this could cause a skin reaction. As always, patch test on your skin first to ensure you have no issues before slathering it on your face.


Niacinamide is gentle on skin

Sensitive skin can leave you a bit high and dry when adding those essential nutrients to hydrate your skin and relieve inflammation. So if you can't reach for vitamin C, add niacinamide to your skincare routine. Despite the long name, it's just one of the B vitamins, B3 to be exact. Dermatologist Alok Vij, MD, told Cleveland Clinic, "Niacinamide may be the 'it' product of the moment, but it's been around for years and has staying power given its positive impacts on many skin conditions." 


One of the most incredible benefits of this B vitamin for your face is that it helps support the skin's barrier, making it harder for bacteria and other germs to cause blemishes. This also works to help keep environmental stressors from wearing your skin out, causing breakouts and wrinkles. It's also vital in removing dead skin and helping your pores look smaller because the antioxidants help to enhance the skin's texture. 

As with any skincare ingredient, start by introducing a low percentage of niacinamide into your routine to get your skin used to the ingredient. When it comes to healthy skin, slow and steady wins the race. 

Try rice extracts for a natural alternative

Individuals with sensitive skin or those prone to eczema might struggle to find an anti-aging, brightening, and antioxidant cleanser that comes close to the power of vitamin C. However, rice water is gentle enough for even the most sensitive of skin and has research backing up its efficacy.


A study published in 2022 by the National Library of Medicine found that topically applied rice water could provide skin care benefits, such as helping to reduce inflammation from injury and skin brightening. The study also found that rice extracts included moisturizing and anti-aging properties. Equally worth noting is that in addition to research showing the healing properties of rice water, the process of using rice water in a cleaning routine has been around for centuries. And it's natural enough that you can easily make your rice water wash at home by either soaking or boiling rice and then straining the water. You can use it as a facial wash, spritz it on your face after cleaning, or create a homemade mask. 


The benefits of vitamin C for improving your complexion, acne treatment, and smoothing out wrinkles have a lot of research to back them up. But sometimes, the concentrations for all those benefits can be a bit too much for those with super sensitive skin. Thankfully, you can try several alternatives that work just as well.