How to avoid vitamin C stained hands when using a serum?

Vitamin C is renowned for its benefits in promoting skin health, including inflammation reduction, skin brightening, minimizing wrinkles, and fading acne scars. Numerous independent medical studies substantiate these positive properties, making it an excellent addition to skincare routines. However, users of vitamin C serums may encounter a minor drawback – the possibility of developing a faint orange-brown "fake tan" on the skin, especially in the creases of the hands or around the nail bed.

So, why does Vitamin C exhibit this 'fake tan' effect?

The straightforward answer lies in the transformation of Vitamin C into Erythrulose, a chemical commonly used in conjunction with dihydroxyacetone (DHA) for sunless tanning. Erythrulose imparts a slightly redder, slower-developing, and longer-lasting tan, akin to products from brands like St Tropez and Dove. Notably, it is the sole ingredient in products such as Deciem’s Hand Chemistry Glow Oil and Hylamide Glow Radiance Booster.

For those seeking a more in-depth understanding, the process involves sunlight, oxygen, and moisture oxidizing Vitamin C (ascorbic acid) on the skin to Dehydroascorbic acid, which possesses an orange-brown hue. This oxidation is akin to the browning of freshly cut apples left exposed to air, where vitamin C undergoes a chemical reaction leading to a change in color.

Interestingly, this chemical process persists even within a skincare product.

You might wonder why not all vitamin C skincare products appear orange-brown. The reaction is reversible, and formulations with adequate antioxidants, like vitamin E, can inhibit the process throughout the product's shelf life. In the absence of antioxidants, Dehydroascorbic acid decomposes irreversibly into 2,3-diketogulonic acid and then Erythrulose, resulting in the formation of brown compounds (melanoidins) binding to dead skin cells until shed.

To prevent these vitamin-C-induced stains, consider the following tips:

1. Wear gloves or moisturize your hands, and possibly apply a barrier cream to your nails before applying a vitamin C serum.
2. Wash your hands with soap immediately after applying a vitamin C serum.
3. Apply serums at night to avoid exposure to oxidizing sunlight.
4. Avoid 'spot applying' serums; spread them evenly over your face to minimize noticeable color differences.
5. Take your time applying subsequent products after using vitamin C to prevent streaking (around half an hour is often recommended by Reddit users). However, don't delay too long in applying oils and creams to shield vitamin C from exposure to air.

When selecting vitamin C serums, opt for stable forms such as tetrahexyldecyl ascorbate, sodium ascorbyl phosphate, ascorbyl tetraisopalmitate, or magnesium ascorbyl phosphate, as they oxidize less easily. Additionally, choose serums with antioxidant-rich formulations, combining vitamin C with vitamin E or ferulic acid, to slow down oxidation and provide ample time for washing off or covering the serum.

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