Which The Ordinary Vitamin C Should I Choose?

The Ordinary does many Vitamin C formulas, let me guide you to find the one that’s right for you and your skin.Which The Ordinary Vitamin C Should I Choose? Pinnable graphic

When faced with the tempting plethora that is The Ordinary website, you can go loopy trying to figure out which skin brightening anti ageing product will suit you. I have prepared this guide to help you wade through the complexity.

Why Do I Need Vitamin C In My Skincare?

Vitamin C is a well studied anti aging ingredient. Only a fool would over look it. I personally have struggled incorporating it into my skincare for reasons I’ll explain below. Here is a study about the benefits and drawbacks of Vitamin C for further reading.

  • It’s a good antioxidant and reverses sun damage– When UV light hits the skin, nasty molecules are created called Reactive Oxidative Species. These attack the skin and cause Photoaging. There have been studies that say UV damage contributes to as much as 80 % of the visible signs of aging. 80% of our skin aging is because of sun damage!! Let that sink in a moment. Anything we can do to prevent or reverse sun damage is going to make a huge difference to the appearance of our skin. Vitamin C can reverse sun damage, it can actually turn back the clock at a cellular level, as well as stopping damage from occurring in the first place.
  • It supports collagen– Vitamin C is essential for making collagen. Scurvy is vitamin C deficiency, without vitamin c, collagen falls apart. Collagen is the protein essential for keeping skin firm, here is the blurb on collagen. It makes absolute sense to have Vitamin C in skincare as it is the building block of the building block of the skin.
  • It brightens the skin– It also acts to prevent and reduce pigmentation. Magnesium Ascorbyl Phosphate is particularly effective for pigmentation as it penetrates the skin better.
  • It supports wound healing
  • It boosts the natural skin barrier
  • Can help with dry skin and rough texture

Here is a review study which explains how these amazing benefits come about. Studies have found that Vitamin C is up to 8 times more stable and effective when paired with other antioxidants like Reservatol, Ferulic Acid and vitamin E.

Why Is Vitamin C So Problematic

As much as we love the effects of Vitamin C in our skincare, it must be formulated well or it may well oxidise. It’s not easy to get into skincare and keep it in a stable form. Pure Vitamin C tends to go off easily, if your have a vitamin C product that has turned yellow, best to bin it, it’s gone off. In the presence of air, light and heat the L Ascorbic Acid Aka Vitamin C turns into Dehydroacsorbic acid and Diketogluconic Acid. This means that if a product has oxidised there will be less lovely active to do it’s work. It doesn’t keep well in water, so if you have a serum whose ingredients include ascorbic acid and water/aqua, I would be highly suspicious of it.

It’s not an acne causing ingredient but it can be irritating, which is difficult for all skin types. I have been put off all together by occasions when I have overdone things and ended up with vitamin C induced red face. I actually have such a red face as I’m typing, I’ve been trying out all the products and it stings!

You can deal with the problem of instability in a few ways- using powdered vitamin C that can be mixed at home fresh (fiddly), keep it at low pH (less than 3.5), use a vitamin C derivative that will be more stable (but maybe less effective) like Magnesium Ascorbic Phosphate or formulate it with something like silicone, which is very unreactive.

The Ordinary Vitamin C Options-

Here is a link to Deceim/The Ordinary’s guide to their Vitamin C formulas  It’s definitely worth a read but it’s very technical.

You can expect some stinging which subsides after a few minutes with all formulas, that is normal. The stronger it is, the worse the stinging. As it is a strong active, it is best used as close to the skin as possible to achieve maximum effect. The general rule of thumb is to use your chosen vitamin C after cleansing, toning and water serums, then apply moisturising creams and oils.

Vitamin C Suspension 23% and HA Spheres 2%

£4.90 for 30 mms from TheOrdinaries.com

Water free, Silicone free, oil free, alcohol free, nut free, cruelty free, vegan

Ingredients-Ascorbic Acid, Squalane, Isodecyl Neopentanoate, Isononyl Isononanoate, Coconut Alkanes, Ethylene/Propylene/Styrene Copolymer, Ethylhexyl Palmitate, Silica Dimethyl Silylate, Sodium Hyaluronate, Glucomannan, Coco-Caprylate/Caprate, Butylene/Ethylene/Styrene Copolymer, Acrylates/Ethylhexyl Acrylate Crosspolymer, Trihydroxystearin, BHT.

The Cosdna entry says there is one ingredient, ethylhexyl palmitate, that scores a 4 for comedogenicity.

This is a suspension of fine L Ascorbic Acid powder in an oily cream. I have written about 23% + HA spheres before. I didn’t really get on with it. The texture is greasy and gritty. It doesn’t rub in well and pills like crazy.  There is no way I could use this in the daytime with that sort of texture. I know I lot of people love it though and I’ve heard that  you can counteract it’s grittiness by mixing with Hyaluronic acid. 23% is the strongest formulation The Ordinary offers, it provides the maximum concentration of the active to the skin. If you can stand the finish, 23% will deliver results fastest. This is the product that is most likely to cause irritation so best avoided by those with acne and/or sensitive skin.

Vitamin C Suspension 30% in Silicone

Grey Tube of Vitamin C 30%
Which The Ordinary Vitamin C Should I Choose?

£5.80 for 30mls from TheOrdinaries.com

Water free, oil free, alcohol free, nut free, cruelty free, vegan

Ingredients-Dimethicone, Ascorbic Acid, Polysilicone-11, PEG-10 Dimethicone.

The Cosdna entry looks pretty clean, dimethicone getting a 1 for comedogenicity.

This is the newer formulation of the pure L Ascorbic Acid from The Ordinary, created in response to complaints about the 23% like the one above. Despite the stronger concentration, 30% is less active than the 23% . The silicone prevents the Vitamin C contacting the skin so it packs less of a punch. This has a much nicer feel to it, it is smooth like a silicone primer.

30% is totally workable for daytime and has a smooth mattifying finish.  This is definitely my favourite of The Ordinary’s pure Ascorbic Acids, though I know silicone doesn’t work for everyone. For some, silicone is pore blocking though I have never had that problem. This is the second strongest of The Ordinary’s line up and can again cause irritation.

Ascorbyl Glucoside Solution 12%

£8.90 for 30mls from TheOrdinaries.com

Oil free, alcohol free, silicone free, vegan, gluten free, nut free, cruelty free

The Cosdna entry flags triethanol amine with a score of 2 for comedogenicity.

Ingredients-Aqua (Water), Ascorbyl Glucoside, Propanediol, Aminomethyl Propanol, Triethanolamine, Isoceteth-20, Xanthan gum, Dimethyl Isosorbide, Ethoxydiglycol, Trisodium Ethylenediamine Disuccinate, 1,2-Hexanediol, Caprylyl Glycol.

I haven’t tried this myself but I’m betting that it’s easy going and simple to fit in to a regimen. If you’re looking for a gentle Vitamin C and you don’t want the hassle of worrying about stability. Ascorbic Glucoside is water soluble so it will feel like a serum. Ascorbic Glucoside is very gentle and suitable for all skin types, it is probably the weakest of the formulas. As it is gentle, you won’t get that immediate brightening.

Ascorbyl Tetraisopalmitate Solution 20%

£14.90 for 30mls from TheOrdinaries.com

Water free, alcohol free, silicone free, gluten free, nut free, cruelty free, vegan

Ingredients-Coconut Alkanes, Tetrahexyldecyl Ascorbate, Ethyl Linoleate, Coco-Caprylate/Caprate, Simmondsia Chinensis (Jojoba) Seed Oil, Solanum Lycopersicum (Tomato) Fruit Extract, Squalane.

The Cosdna entry is good, just the jojoba oil might cause acne in some.

This is The Ordinary’s oil based vitamin C. This will work for tackling pigmentation because it’s oil soluble it can absorb into the skin really well and reach the melanocytes. Ascorbyl Tetraisopalmitate is highly stable so can be used in high concentrations. This means it’s potent and has the potential to irritate. I would estimate that Ascorbic Tetraisopalmitate  is a nice middle ground product with other nourishing ingredients.

Magnesium Ascorbyl Phosphate 10%

£7.80 for 30mls from TheOrdinaries.com

Ingredients- Aqua (Water), Coco Caprylate/caprate, Magnesium Ascorbyl Phosphate, Isodecyl Neopentanoate, Plukenetia Volubilis Seed Oil, Coconut Alkanes, Disteardimonium Hectorite, Polyglyceryl-3 Diisostearate, Polyglycerol-3 Polyricinoleate, Glycerin, Hexamethyldisiloxane, Terminalia Ferdinandiana Fruit Extract, Tocopherol, Sodium Chloride, Phenoxyethanol, Chlorphenesin.

Cosdna entry just lists Vitamin E as a potential trigger for acne.

MAP by The Ordinary is a favourite of mine. It is in a silky cream which contains mountain peanut and kakadu plum extracts. It feels nourishing and has much less sting to it than other Vit C products I’ve tried. I use it after my water based products and sometimes mix with NMF and Reservation to increase the antioxidant effects and boost my moisture barrier. I never get any irritation after using MAP but definately have noticed some brightening and improvement in my pigmentation since using it.

MAP is particularly suitable for those with pigmentation. Similar to Ascorbyl Tetraisopalmitate is is Oil soluble so absorbs deep into the skin. I don’t have any issues with Magnesium Ascorbyl Phosphate 10% and my acne.

The Ordinary Vitamin C Hand Swatches
Which The Ordinary Vitamin C Should I Choose?- Hand Swatches of the Products I Own

There is also coming soon to The Ordinary is 100% L Ascorbic Acid Powder, for mixing up at home for absolute freshness and vitamin C brightening power. Also a recent email from Deciem explained a change in the price of Ethyl Ascorbic Acid means that this will also be joining The Ordinary Vitamin C collection. Although Deciem’s version of coming soon is different to many other people’s.

Other Skincare Brand Options

Close up of dropper bottles Hylamide with an orange label and Proaura with red label
Which The Ordinary Vitamin C Should I Choose? Hylamide C25 and Proaura
  • Hylamide C25 is also from Deciem under their Hylamide umbrella. I’ve written about this in a previous post (here’s my C25 review). It’s active ingredient is the very stable Ethyl Ascorbic Acid. I found C25 to have a dry oil texture with a pear drop smell that I didn’t enjoy much. But it’s stable and at an effective strength. Unfortunately Ethyl Ascorbic Acid isn’t available in the EU and U.K. due to regulatory problems. I’ve found it available from Amazon.

I haven’t tried these but I’m taking advice from Reddit, these products come highly rated and are probably more elegant than The Ordinary formulations.

  • Timeless Vitamin C,E+ Ferulic £32.99 from Amazon
  • Drunk Elephant C Firma Day Serum a whopping £99.50 from Amazon
  • Skinceuticals C E Ferulic £99.99 from Amazon
  • Kiehls Powerful Strength Line Reducing serum £49.50 from Kiehls, this is silicone based and contains 10.5% Ascorbic Acid.
  • Proaura Vitamin C 20% with Hyaluronic Acid and Astaxanthin £25 from Amazon. A water based serum combining 20% Sodium Ascorbic Phosphate with Hyaluronic acid and Astaxanthin. I have a review of the Proaura here.

The Ordinary Vitamin C- The Long and Short of it

Which The Ordinary Vitamin C Should I Choose? flat lay of tubes and dropper bottles
Which The Ordinary Vitamin C Should I Choose?


  • If you want your vitamin C strong and you’re easy going about the finish, you’re used to strong actives, you have skin like iron and you want to look young fast- then choose Vitamin C suspension 23%.
  • You want your product to be strong and effective, you’re a seasoned vet, you tried 23% and didn’t like it, you like the feel of silicone products, you don’t have sensitive skin- then choose Vitamin C 30% in Silicone.
  • You have sensitive skin, you prefer water serums, you want something that will slot easily into your routine without the risk of irritation- then choose Ascorbic Glucoside 12%.
  • You like oil formulas, you’re concerned about pigmentation, but you want something gentler than the pure ascorbic acid then choose Ascorbyl Tetraisopalmitate 20%
  • You like creamy moisturising formulas, you’re concerned about pigmentation, you have sensitive skin then choose Magnesium Ascorbyl Phosphate 10%

While vitamin C itself isn’t comedogenic but as it causes irritation it can make acne worse. The derivatives- the Ascorbyls and MAP will be a lot gentler to dry, sensitive or acne prone skin. MAP may even have anti inflammatory properties and help with acne. There is no way that I can say which product will exacerbate acne, everyone’s skin is different and your triggers will be different to mine. The other thing that I nearly forgot- pure Ascorbic Acid will give you black heads. The Vit C oxidises and turns pores black. You’ll need a good pore cleansing mask after using it.

Consider grabbing the Reservation serum while you’re shopping to boost the effects of the vitamin C. Also always remember to use sunscreen! If you’re still confused come and give us a shout at The Ordinary Chatroom where I am moderator.

*Products all purchased with my own money, apart from the Hylamide C25 which was gifted. The links are affiliate, which means if you click them and spend, I will get a tiny bit of money to spend on my blog.

For more information and purchasing The Ordinary Vitamin C and its derivatives head to Deciem.com

5 Comments Add yours

  1. Margie Jones says:

    Nia, this review is excellent and so helpful! Deciem needs to hire you to sort out all their technical lingo and make it more clearer and user friendly. FINALLY I realize MAP is exactly what I need to use for my skin. I have been hesitating making my decision and not taking advantage of the many benefits of vitamin C. Thank you for clearing up my confusion!💗🤗

    1. Nia Patten says:

      Map is fab. I love it. No blackheads, no irritation just brighter skin xx

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