5 Alternatives to Vitamin C for People with Sensitive Skin

March 12, 2023
5 Alternatives to Vitamin C for People with Sensitive Skin

According to dermatologist Dr. Mona Gohara, Vitamin C has become a popular ingredient in effective skincare routines due to its ability to brighten the skin, promote collagen production, and fight free radicals. However, it may not be suitable for those with sensitive skin, as they may experience irritation when using products containing antioxidant. Although generally safe and well-tolerated, Gohara cautions that vitamin C can cause discomforts such as redness and irritation for those with sensitive skin.

Fortunately, there are skincare products that provide similar benefits to vitamin C while being more gentle on the skin. To learn more, we consulted with skincare experts Dr. Mona Gohara, Dr. Loretta Ciraldo, and Michelle Ranavat.

The Experts

  • Dr. Loretta Ciraldo is a board-certified dermatologist based in Miami and the founder of Dr. Loretta skincare.
  • Founder of Ranavat Botanics, Michelle Ranavat, draws inspiration from ancient ayurvedic traditions to develop her formulas.
  • Dr. Mona Gohara is a board-certified dermatologist and holds the position of associate clinical professor of dermatology at Yale University.

Take a look below at the top vitamin C substitutes for those with sensitive skin.

Alternatives to Vitamin C for People with Sensitive Skin


Dermatologist Dr. Mona Gohara recommends niacinamide as a milder alternative to vitamin C. “Both vitamin C and niacinamide provide similar benefits, including reducing environmental damage, improving fine lines and wrinkles, reducing hyperpigmentation, and boosting collagen production,” explains Gohara. However, niacinamide is less likely to cause irritation, particularly for those with sensitive skin, making it the gentler of the two options.

Peter Thomas Roth’s Pro Strength Niacinamide Discoloration Treatment utilizes niacinamide to improve the appearance of skin discoloration and uneven skin tone. Dr. Mona Gohara suggests using SkinMedica Lytera 2.0 Pigment Correcting Serum ($160) as a vitamin C alternative. “This serum helps to prevent skin discoloration and visibly balance skin tone,” recommends Gohara.

Body Care Art Tip

Even though niacinamide is typically well-tolerated with other skincare products, it’s necessary to start introducing it slowly into your routine, beginning with the most inferior concentration (usually 10%) to let your skin build tolerance.

Related: Salicylic Acid’s Advantages in Achieving Clear Skin

Indian Ginseng

While vitamin C provides some sun protection benefits when included in a skincare routine, it is not enough in today’s world, according to dermatologist Dr. Loretta Ciraldo. “In this screen-oriented 21st century, dermatologists are now focused on protecting skin from artificial visible light (AVL) emitted by digital screens,” explains Ciraldo. To combat this, Indian ginseng extract, also known as ashwagandha, winter cherry, or Withania somnifera, can be used to protect the skin from digital pollution, boost cellular energy and vibrancy, and restore skin vitality, adds Ciraldo.


According to skincare expert Michelle Ranavat, saffron and turmeric are rich in carotenoids, a botanical compound that brightens the skin reduces inflammation, and provides photo protection. Ranavat prefers carotenoids to vitamin C due to their added benefits and fewer potential side effects. 

Another advantage of carotenoids is their stability, as they remain active and effective for longer periods than vitamin C, which can quickly oxidize. This means that carotenoid-infused products, such as Ranavat’s Radiant Rani, have a longer shelf life.


Caudalie, a skincare brand, exclusively extracts Viniferine from grapevine sap to lighten dark spots, acne scars, and hyperpigmentation. According to the brand, Viniferine is much more effective at achieving these goals than vitamin C. While Caudalie’s Vinoperfect Radiance Serum is a popular choice, the Instant Brightening Moisturizer also includes niacinamide, providing double the benefits.

Alpha Arbutin

Alpha arbutin is a potent ingredient for fading dark spots and correcting skin tone. It is an effective brightening agent, similar to vitamin C, but is gentler on the skin due to its sustained release properties, reducing the risk of irritation. The Ordinary’s alpha arbutin product includes hyaluronic acid to enhance delivery and efficacy.

The Best Vitamin C Alternatives for Sensitive Skin on Amazon

  • La Roche-Posay Rosaliac AR Intense Serum: This serum contains ambophenol and neurosensine to help soothe and reduce redness in sensitive skin. It also contains Vitamin B3 to help even out skin tone and texture.
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  • Paula’s Choice Omega+ Complex SerumThis serum contains omega fatty acids and ceramides to help strengthen and nourish the skin’s barrier. It also contains Vitamin C derivative to help brighten and even out skin tone.
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Photo: Pexels/ Yan Krukau

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Margaud Raynaud is a beauty expert with over 10 years of experience in the industry. She has a passion for sharing her knowledge and tips with others and has a particular interest in skincare and makeup. When she's not writing about health and beauty, Margaud enjoys trying out new products and experimenting with different looks. Follow her blog for expert advice and inspiration for living your best life.

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