Is Ascorbic Acid Vegan? (Vegan Guide to Vitamin C)

As a vegan, it’s easy to become suspicious of pretty much any ingredient you don’t recognize. So when you see “ascorbic acid,” you may not realize that it’s actually just another name for vitamin C. But even after you realize that, you still might want to know more about it.

Is ascorbic acid vegan? Ascorbic acid is vegan, as it is just another name for vitamin C. Ascorbic acid is commercially produced from glucose, which is made from starches like corn. No animal-derived ingredients are used in the process, so it’s vegan-friendly.

Read on for more about which vitamin C products and supplements are vegan! Most of them are—but some contain some sketchy ingredients along with the ascorbic acid.

What Is Ascorbic Acid?

Ascorbic acid structure.

Ascorbic acid is just another name for vitamin C. It’s one of the essential, water-soluble vitamins that we all need to consume. It’s an antioxidant, well-known for aiding our immune system, improving our skin, and more. If you don’t consume enough, you can get scurvy!

Ascorbic acid is found naturally in many fruits and vegetables. I’d list off some of them here, but it seems like it’s in pretty much all of them. Here’s a list of 20 of the highest sources.

How Is Ascorbic Acid Made?

Although oranges contain ascorbic acid, they are not the source for its commercial production.

Ascorbic acid is industrially produced from glucose. There are two different common methods used involving fermentation, but they are both vegan-friendly processes. No animals are involved.

The main ingredients that get used to make ascorbic acid are glucose and sorbitol. Glucose is vegan as it is produced from starches like corn or rice (source). And sorbitol is typically vegan as it, in turn, is made from glucose.

So there are no sketchy animal ingredients involved in vitamin C production. It’s all good from a vegan perspective.

Are Vitamin C Supplements Vegan?

Besides ascorbic acid being fortified in foods, you may see it listed as the main ingredient in vitamin C supplements. So I wanted to address if vitamin C supplements as a whole are vegan.

Many people take vitamin C supplements to boost their immune system, but the evidence is mixed when it comes to their ability to prevent or shorten colds.

Are vitamin C supplements vegan? Most vitamin C supplements are vegan. However, vitamin C gummies usually contain gelatin, which is not vegan or vegetarian, as it is made from boiled animal skin. Vitamin C gelcaps may also contain gelatin. Other forms of vitamin C are typically vegan.

Here’s the vitamin C supplement I recommended: NOW Supplements 1,000mg Vitamin C tablets (Amazon link). It’s vegan, the cost per pill is super affordable, and the only complaint I see in customer reviews is uncertainty about soy allergens.

Are Vitamin C Tablets Vegan?

Vitamin C tablets are usually vegan, as they do not typically contain gelatin. Today, it is common practice for many brands to identify their supplements as vegan, so you can look for those labels for extra confirmation, particularly when shopping online.

Two potentially sketchy ingredients you’ll likely see in vitamin C tablets are stearic acid and magnesium stearate. These can be derived from animal fat. However, it seems that they are typically vegan (source). So personally, I don’t worry about them too much.

As mentioned above, I like NOW Supplements vitamin C (get it on Amazon) for a good tablet that is clearly labeled as vegan.

Are Vitamin C Drops Vegan?

Vitamin C drops are generally considered vegan. If you look at the leading brand, Halls Defense, there are no definite animal ingredients contained, although there are a couple of “gray area” ingredients.

Here are the “gray area” ingredients in Halls Defense, with an explanation for each:

  • Sugar: Refined sugar is sometimes filtered with animal bone char to make it white. Organic sugar doesn’t have this issue, and neither does beet sugar, but certain brands of cane sugar do (source). So some vegans avoid refined sugar. Other vegans (like me) are fine with it, and we don’t worry about it.
  • Natural flavors: This is most likely derived from fruit, since that’s what vitamin C drops taste like. However, it is not specified, and it is possible that “natural flavors” comes from animals. Again, some vegans try to avoid it, but personally, I don’t worry about it.
  • Artificial colors like Red 40: Artificial colors are synthetically made. However, they have all been tested on animals, so there are some vegans out there who try to avoid them. Personally, I don’t worry about it.

Vitamin C Sprays (and Serums)

“Vitamin C spray” can actually mean multiple things. It could refer to a dietary supplement that you spray on your tongue—like Garden of Life’s vitamin C spray (Amazon link). Or it could refer to a facial spray/toner.

When it comes to the dietary spray supplements, Garden of Life’s vitamin C is fortunately clearly labeled as vegan. So let’s move onto the skin serums.

Is Vitamin C Serum Vegan?

When it comes to vitamin C serum (used as a toner for skin health), it’s harder to quickly evaluate whether they’re all vegan—but they seem to be vegan most of the time.

For example, one certified vegan and cruelty-free brand is Tree of Life vitamin C serum (Amazon link).

Some of the common vitamin C serums include a lot of ingredients derived from plants in nature, and I’m not familiar with them all. But I didn’t see any major red flags in any of the common brands of vitamin C serums, from a vegan perspective.

The form of vitamin C in serums is typically sodium ascorbyl phosphate. This is a vegan-friendly ingredient, as it is synthetically made using ascorbic acid, which is produced from glucose, as covered above.

You’ll likely see “glycerine” in some vitamin C serums. This ingredient can be made from animal fat, but today it is usually always synthetic and vegan (source). So don’t worry about that one.

Related Ingredients

Is Sodium Ascorbate Vegan?

Sodium ascorbate, also known as E301, is vegan. It is simply a sodium salt of ascorbic acid (vitamin C), made with the addition of water and sodium bicarbonate. None of these ingredients are derived from animals, so the product is vegan-friendly.

As a food additive, sodium ascorbate is used as an antioxidant and acidity regulator (source).

Is Erythorbic Acid Vegan?

Erythorbic acid (also known as E315) is vegan. It is simply a stereoisomer of ascorbic acid (vitamin C). It is produced synthetically, often from sucrose (table sugar). The Vegetarian Resource Group lists erythorbic acid as a vegan ingredient, without listing any exceptions or caveats.

Erythorbic acid is used as an antioxidant to preserve food. For example, since sulfites were banned for use in foods meant to be eaten raw, erythorbic acid has been used as a food preservative in salads (source).

Is Sodium Erythorbate Vegan?

Sodium erythorbate is used to make hot dogs pinker in color.

Sodium erythorbate (also known as E316) is vegan. It is just the sodium salt of erythorbic acid.

Although sodium erythorbate is vegan, it’s most often used in (non-vegan) meat products. It helps produce the pink color in hot dogs, for example, and prevents the formation of carcinogenic nitrosamines in the meat.

It’s also used in beef sticks and bologna, along with some vegan foods like potato salad. (source)

Apparently, there have been misconceptions among some people that erythorbate is made from earthworms—but it’s not true. At all!

More “Acid” Ingredients

I’ve written separate posts on these “acids” you may see in ingredients lists:

Takeaway

Pretty much every variation on ascorbic acid or vitamin C is vegan, but just be mindful about which other ingredients are included along with it.

As always, it’s nice to see products clearly labeled “vegan,” so I like to choose those when it comes to supplements. But there aren’t too many problem ingredients lurking in vitamin C products besides the gelatin in gummies and gelcaps.

If you want to cover all your vitamin bases as a vegan, I recommend Future Kind multivitamins (link to my full review). It’s the one I take. They’re an all-vegan company making a multivitamin formulated exactly for vegans.

Future Kind multivitamins only supplement you with 3 nutrients—vitamin B12, vitamin D, and omega 3s—and that’s all. Read why I think this is the perfect formula, and why some other multivitamins may actually be dangerous, in this blog post.

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