My Vitamin C Serum Has Turned Brown! Can I Still Use it?

by Gio
vitamin c serum has truned brown

What’s that?! A yellow tinge in the serum? I swear it wasn’t there yesterday. What’s going on?!

Yep, your vitamin C serum is a magician. It can change colour and go from clear to yellow all the way to brown. Ain’t that cool?

Not really. Cos that’s Vitamin C’s way of warning you it’s stopped working. Oops!

What The Heck Is Vitamin C And Why Should You Use It?

In case you’re wondering why you should bother using something that stop working after a while, here’s the lowdown on vitamin C:

You want this stuff in your skincare routine, trust me!

Related: 5 Antiaging Superstars You Should Include In Your Skincare Routine

Why Does Vitamin C Turn Brown?

L-Ascorbic Acid, the pure form of vitamin C, is super unstable. As soon as it comes in contact with air, heat or light, it throws a tantrum and loses a bit of its effectiveness.

Actually, it gets weaker and weaker by the day even if you don’t put it in touch with its enemies (just like food). But if you do, you’ll accelerate the oxidation process.

You know when this is happening because your vitamin C turns darker until it takes on a brown hue. In other words, the darker the colour, the less effective the vitamin c.

medik8 ce tetra vitamin c antioxidant serum

How To Prevent Your Vitamin C Serum From Turning Brown

You can’t stop vitamin C going bad. But you can slow down the process so your vitamin C serum doesn’t go bad before you’ve had the chance to use up the entire bottle. Here’s how:

1. Choose A Stable Form Of Vitamin C

L-Ascorbic Acid is the most effective form of vitamin C out there. But it ain’t the only one. Scientists are coming out with new types all the time. These derivates are less powerful but more stable so they don’t go bad as quickly. Some of my faves are ascorbyl glucoside, magnesium ascorbyl phosphate and tetrahexyldecyl ascorbate.

Best Picks:

Related: Types Of Vitamin C In Skincare (And Where To Find Them)

2. Avoid Jars

You’re exposing your precious vitamin C to light and air every time you open them. And you know what happens when you do that, right? Instead, go for airtight, opaque tubes and bottles that keep it well protected.

Related: Why Jar Packaging Is A Waste Of Money

Sunday Riley CEO Rapid Flash Brightening Serum 02

3. Opt For Sample Sizes

If you’re not sure you can finish a whole bottle, why not ask for samples? Some brands even make their serums in different sizes so you can choose the one that’s more convenient for you. You can even hunt down for gift sets with mini sizes of your fave vitamin C serums. If you find one you love and know would use daily, you can upgrade to the full size.

The Bottom Line

Vitamin C is a potent antioxidant that works wonders for the skin. But it’s so unstable, it goes bad quickly. Opt for derivatives packaged in tubes and bottles to get the most bang for your buck.

Has your vitamin C serum ever gone bad before you had the chance to use it all? Share your experience in the comments below.

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Gauri June 17, 2015 - 5:05 am

I so need a Vitamin C serum! Which one do you use?

Gio June 17, 2015 - 7:04 am

Gauri, at the moment I’m using Skin Actives Vitamin C Serum with Ascorbic Acid 15%. It’s effective, affordable, and packaged in a small bottle.

cellular scale June 21, 2015 - 2:22 am

Trader Joes sells 1 fl oz bottles of vitamin c serum where the packaging is transparent, but the vitamin c is encased in opaque beads (apparently). Thoughts?

Gio June 21, 2015 - 2:38 pm

Cellular scale, do you mean the Nourish Antioxidant Facial Serum? That formula sounds great on paper but the price is so cheap that I doubt it contains high amounts of antioxidants. Retinoids and encapsulated vitamin c are expensive. Having said that, if the vitamin c is really encapsulated it should last longer, but I still wouldn’t trust it.

Alan December 14, 2017 - 6:25 pm

Hi Gio
I find Paula’s Choice C10 booster serum (in dropper bottle) went dark orange so quickly. within a month it turned colors. there is no way I can finish the whole bottle within a month. So I switched to the drunk elephant vitamin c serum, which it is better because it’s air tight packaging. Then I also bought the Dr Denese Pro C serum, it’s in a gem form, which is great, too and the quality didn’t go bad as fast as Paula’s Choics. What do you think about dropper bottle? I know it’s a lot better than Jar packaging, but everytime you oepn the bottle and try to use the dropper to suck up the serum, it still exposed to the air and sometimes you might accidentally pump air into the serum. is there any other brand’s vitamin C serum you recommend?

Gio December 16, 2017 - 10:35 pm

Alan, I know the frustration! Paula’s Choice C15 uses L-Ascorbic Acid, the pure form of vitamin C, and that goes bad really quickly. Unfortunately, for some formulations, a dropper bottle is the best option as you have to take into consideration viscosity, texture, etc. At least it prevents contamination so definitely better than jars.

Paula’s Choice has another serum that uses the CEF combo: Paula’s Choice Resusr Super Antioxidant Concentrate Serum. This one uses. a derivative of vitamin C and is packaged in a tube so it’ll last you longer.

Luana Dunn July 11, 2018 - 6:10 pm

What about Dr. Dennis Gross Ester C 15 in 4 opaque tubes? I just bought them on sale from $120 down to $60 at Sephora. Have you heard from others or looked at this product yourself? According to Sephora salespeople ester C is stable and works.Thoughts? I also have used Peter Roth’s vitamin C products in the past. I am currently also using Lancome’s Genefique serum with great results. It also has some C in it according to your article. I am 63, blonde and fair skinned.

Gio July 21, 2018 - 9:20 pm

Luana, I’ve just checked and I couldn’t find any Dr Dennis Gross product with that name. Not even on their website. Can you send me a link to it please?

Sachina May 19, 2019 - 2:55 am

I brought skin deva vit c 10 months ago i used a month then i went out of town nd forget to use it.. now it is oxidized nd turn to dark yellow color not totally brown.. so can i again use it??? It was store in refrigerator before but then when i was out of town it was just outside..

Gio June 4, 2019 - 5:04 pm

Sachina, throw it away. I know, not the answer you wanted to hear, but what’s the point of using it if it doesn’t work that well anymore?

LisaPizza June 10, 2019 - 1:37 am

Maelove says yellow is fine. Brown, however, should be tossed.

Tk March 16, 2020 - 7:25 am

My vitamin-c serum has gone orange, should it be tossed away?

Gio April 4, 2020 - 7:40 am

TK, any change in colour is a sign to use it up quickly. When it’s brown, toss it.

LK March 25, 2020 - 8:23 pm

So I did splurge on the DE C-Firma. I know about it already having an orangey tint. Aug 20th it will be six months old. If not all used up by then I guess I just toss the rest? No use using anymore if not working. I’m using it everyday mostly but some weekends if I’m away the bottle is bulky and therefore I don’t travel with it. So I’ll be curious how far one bottle gets me. I do also use on my neck, chest etc.


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