Medically reviewed by Kristin Hall, FNP
Written by Our Editorial Team
Last updated 2/07/2021
As we age, we notice numerous undesirable effects — like that wrinkle from your pillow that takes longer and longer to disappear after sleep in the morning.
Skin aging is dreaded by almost everyone, and it seems the skincare industry knows this, creating an overwhelming number of creams and solutions to “fix” it.
Your skin care routine should be based on your skin type and skincare goals.
If anti-aging is on that list of goals, you’ve likely heard of both vitamin C and hyaluronic acid serums.
So are these products the golden ticket to a youthful complexion? Let’s dig in.
Vitamin C or L ascorbic acid is found throughout the human body, and in large concentrations in the skin, according to researchers.
But in aging or sun-damaged skin, vitamin C levels are lower.
It isn’t clear if the lack of vitamin C contributed to the skin damage, or vice versa, but the connection is clear.
Vitamin C is responsible for collagen production and the destruction of damaging free radicals in the skin, among other things.
Generally, increasing vitamin C consumption through foods increases vitamin C concentration in the skin, but topical application of vitamin C may also help.
In fact, there is research supporting the use of topical vitamin C in humans against UV damage, decreased skin irritation, lessening of wrinkles, and wound and scar healing.
Hyaluronic acid is naturally occuring in the skin and is said to be a “key molecule in skin moisture.”
As skin aging is directly related to a loss of skin moisture, hyaluronic acid has gained wide popularity as an ingredient in anti-aging skincare products.
Most commonly, hyaluronic acid is used in cosmetic skin fillers, or injected into the skin directly.
Though some topical products containing hyaluronic acid market themselves as “fillers,” topical application does not provide the same effects as cosmetic fillers.
That said, hyaluronic acid's role in moisture retention makes it a good moisturizer when applied topically and doesn’t often cause skin irritation.
Very little has been done in the way of scientific research on the use of vitamin C and hyaluronic acid used in conjunction.
However, we did track down one 2018 study that looked at a serum containing both of these ingredients.
The research examined the effects of a serum containing these and other ingredients on skin aging.
It found the formula protected against collagen and elastin reduction, and made skin brighter, more hydrated, and reduced wrinkles.
It’s important to note, this was only one published scientific paper, and the serum contained other ingredients in addition to vitamin C and hyaluronic acid, so coming to cause-effect conclusions is impossible.
You can find both vitamin C and hyaluronic acid in a wide variety of skin care products, including cleansers, creams and gels. So, what’s different about a serum?
Unlike creams, serums are highly concentrated, so you typically need just a few drops. As a matter of fact, they often come in a bottle with a small dropper for precisely this reason.
They are characteristically light and quickly absorbed into the skin. To facilitate this absorption, serums are applied after cleansing and before moisturizing.
They may be water, or oil-based, and come with numerous potential ingredients beyond vitamin C and hyaluronic acid.
One thing to watch out for with serums: skin irritation.
Because the formulas are highly concentrated, your skin may react negatively to the serum.
Harvard Health particularly cautions against using a serum with acids (vitamin C) when using other skin care products with acids (such as those with retinols).
Both vitamin C and hyaluronic acid have redeeming qualities when it comes to topical skin care.
Whether they constitute a magic potion when put together in a serum product remains unproven.
However, both are promising in their own right, and may provide visible (particularly anti-aging) benefits.