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5 Best Vitamin C Alternatives for Sensitive Skin

Vitamin C has been known to be the industry’s gold standard to fight signs of aging without the need for prescription from a dermatologist and it is for a good reason! This ingredient is a potent antioxidant that not only helps to protect the skin against free radical damage caused by UV radiation and environmental pollutants, but also helps improve the overall texture of the skin and reduce hyperpigmentation. No wonder it is touted as a miracle worker when it comes giving your skin a radiant and healthy glow.

Unfortunately, while Vitamin C is generally a safe ingredient to be used on the skin, it is also an active ingredient that can cause irritation and skin redness to those with sensitive skin. The good news is that there are a few comparable ingredients to Vitamin C that you can incorporate into your skincare routine to achieve similar results and benefits. Let’s discover these ingredients over the next couple of minutes!



First up on our list is Niacinamide, a form of Vitamin B3 that is also called nicotinamide. Niacinamide is a gentle ingredient that has shown great potential in anti-aging, hydration and sebum control. It strengthens the skin barrier by increasing the natural lipids found on the surface of the skin. It also decreases hyperpigmentation by reducing the transfer of melanin to cells on the skin’s surface.

A general guideline is to start at a low concentration and work your way up the concentration chart. If you have sensitive skin, we recommend starting with the Niacinamide + Chaenomeles Sinensis serum that contains a low concentration of 2% Niacinamide to avoid triggering any sensitive reaction. If you are looking to improve the redness on the skin caused by blemishes and to control the sebum production in acne-prone skin, we recommend using products with concentration between 2% to 3%. A high concentration of 3%-10% would work best to reduce hyperpigmentation, brighten skin tone and strengthen the skin barrier.

Not sure if Niacinamide is right for you? We've got you covered on all the questions you may have about Niacinamide.



Idebenone, a synthetic antioxidant with properties similar to naturally occurring Coenzyme Q10 in the human body, is an ingredient that has shown promising results in skin hydration, reduction of fine lines, wrinkles and skin roughness and an overall improvement of photodamaged skin. It also functions to protect the cell against oxidative stress, similar to that of Vitamin C.Although there has been limited studies on Idebenone, studies have shown that a concentration as low as 1% Idebenone can improve photodamaged skin by as much as 33% after 6 weeks of use. Unlike Vitamin C, Idebenone does not cause irritation to the skin when used, making it a great alternative for those who are sensitive to Vitamin C. One of our favourite moisturizers, the Mary & May Idebenone Blackberry Intense Cream is a must-have in your healthy aging skincare routine.


Epidermal Growth Factor

Epidermal Growth Factors (EGF) are growth factors found in the human body that speeds up cell regeneration and rejuvenation. As we age, the level of EGF in our body decreases. EGF found in skincare products is a promising skin ingredient that contains small peptide molecules that penetrate into the cell layers. Some benefits fo Epidermal Growth Factors include minimizing of fine lines and wrinkles by stimulating the cells to produce more collagen and improve skin tone and texture. Since the composition of EGF is similar to that found in the human body, EGF is an excellent alternative for those with sensitive skin who are not able to incorporate active ingredients like Vitamin C and retinol in their skincare routine.



Viniferin, a compound that is extracted from the grapevine sap is a highly potent antioxidant that is known to reduce dark spots and brighten the skin complexion. The viniferin molecule is 62% more effective than Vitamin C when it comes to skin brightening by stimulating a cascade of reaction to inhibit the function of melanin producing hormones. Research has also shown that with the potent concentration of antioxidants, viniferin has the potential to scavenge for free-radicals to protect the cells against DNA damage and reduce the expression of inflammatory markers within the cells.


Alpha Arbutin

Alpha Arbutin is a naturally occurring antioxidant derived from the leaves of blueberry, bearberry and cranberry plants that is known to brighten the skin tone and reduce dark spots and pigmentations. The mechanism of how this works is that the molecular structure of Alpha Arbutin is similar to that of Tyrosine. This allows Alpha Arbutin to compete with the Tyrosine molecule to attach to the enzyme Tyrosinase, thus interfering in the process of melanin production. The biggest benefit of using Alpha Arbutin is that the active components are released slowly, making it less irritating, and is therefore a better candidate for those with sensitive skin. A safe concentration to use for Alpha Arbutin is 2%.

Do you have sensitive skin and have tried other Vitamin C alternatives for your sensitive skin? Let us know in the comments below!



Matts, P., Obong, J., Bissett, DL. A Review of the Range of Effects of Niacinamide in Human Skin. IFSCC Magazine: Vol.5, No.4: 2022. Retrieved from


Draelos, ZD., Matsubara, A., Smiles, K. The Effect of 2% Niacinamide on Facial Sebum Production. Journal of Cosmetic and Laser Therapy. 8(2):96-101. doi:10.1080/14764170600717704.


Miller-Kobisher, B., Suárez-Vega, DV., Velazco de Maldonado, G. Epidermal Growth Factor in Aesthetics and Regenerative Medicine: Systematic Review J Cutan Aesthet Surg. 2021 Apr-Jun; 14(2): 137-146. doi: 10.4103/JCAS.JCAS_25_20.


Yun, CY., Ko, SM., Choi, YP., Kim, BJ., Lee, J., Kim, JM., Kim., JY., Song, JY., Kim, SH., Hwang, BY., Hong, JT., Han, SB., Kim, YS. α-Viniferin Improves Facial Hyperpigmentation via Accelerating Feedback Termination of cAMP/ PKA-Signaled Phosphorylation Circuit in Facultative Melanogenesis. Theranostics. 2018; 8(7): 2031-2043. doi: 10.7150/thno.24385.


Boo., YC. Arbutin as a Skin Depigmenting Agent with Antimelanogenic and Antioxidant Properties. Antioxidants (Basel). 2021 Jul; 10(7): 1129. doi: 10.3390/antiox10071129.


McDaniel, DH., Neudecker, BA., DiNardo, JC., Lewis, JA., Maibach HI. Clinical efficacy assessment in photodamaged skin of 0.5% and 1.0% idebenone. J Cosmet Dermatol. 2005 Sep; 4(3):167-73. doi:10.1111/j.1473-2165.2005.00305.x.

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