Vitamin C oxidizing on skin and staining orange?

I notice that after I use some product with vitamin C (at night), I consistently wake up to light orange-ish/brown-ish streaks on my face. That staining washes off very easily with water alone, but I wonder if that means that vitamin C oxidizes on my skin overnight (the product itself is still white and looks the same). Is the oxidation on skin harmful? Does it contribute to free radical damage?

Thank you!


  • Wow, I've never heard of that orange staining problem. I wouldn't worry about the oxidation, though. That just occurs because the vitamin C is reacting with free radicals that might otherwise harm your skin. The Vitamin C sort of "sacrifices itself" to protect you.  
  • Thank you so very much, Randy!

    I read this statement, listed under "Adverse reactions of topical Vitamin C" in "Vitamin C in Dermatology":
    "Minor adverse reactions include a yellowish discoloration of the skin,
    hypopigmented hair and staining of clothes, which occur due to oxidative
    changes of Vit. C."

    Futurederm covers oxidation of Vitamin C products pretty well here ( but doesn't even address oxidation staining skin, it does seem like a rare reaction.

    I ran into (rare) reports of people running into this mysterious staining or even pigmentation (?) (

    I just want to make sure this product sitting on my skin can't create free radical damage after
    being fully oxidized on skin (the staining becomes visible only hours
    after application). Maybe it would be good practice to wash it off an
    hour or so after application?
  • Well, based on the FutureDerm article (thanks for the links, BTW) it doesn't look like this is a problem. She says "...after careful thought and evaluation, I must conclude there is not much evidence to support vitamin C cream causes oxidative damage." She says not to use brown Vitamin C cream because it won't work as well but it doesn't look like it could cause any damage. I suppose washing it off is a perfectly fine solution as well. 
  • Thanks a lot, Randy!

    It's quite reassuring!

    Generally, with skincare, I find it hard to tell if something is working or not, because the changes can be really incremental and too many factors are at play at once.

    Thank you very much for the great work you do informing us and breaking down some pretty confusing information in the cosmetic industry so clearly! :)
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