Vitamin C and skincare – what you need to know
Vitamin C seems to be everywhere in skincare these days, promising so many benefits that it’s hard to keep track. Skin texture, scarring, aging and dullness are complaints that vitamin C claims to tackle in one shot.
But what can this holy grail product actually do for us, and what should we look out for to make sure we’re getting the best from our creams and serums?
Vitamin C and skincare
How does it work?
Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant. We often think about antioxidants in terms of what we eat, but they can be extremely effective in our skin care too. Antioxidants help to fight the highly reactive free radicals. These damage our cells and cause signs of premature ageing. Applying vitamin C topically helps in a similar way, combatting aggressors like pollution and its visible damage.
It also helps with signs of sun damage. Not only does vitamin C reduce the appearance of sunspots and surface pigmentation, it can also help prevent new ones. When used with suncream, vitamin C can provide the skin with better protection from UV rays.
Vitamin C’s acidic qualities are also handy for rejuvenating dull and tired skin. Its acidity boosts the production of collagen and elastin in the skin, both proteins that can make your face appear firm and plump.
What to look out for
There are some challenges when adding vitamin C into skincare. The main one is that, naturally, vitamin C is very unstable. It reacts readily to sunlight and the air, which both make it less effective. Vitamin C should be colourless or a very pale straw colour. If it looks like it’s browning, this usually means it will have oxidised and lost its potency. Look out for products packaged in opaque and dark glass as these will protect the product against excess oxidisation. You can store it away from direct sunlight to help with this too.
The most common form of vitamin C used in skincare is L-ascorbic acid. This has the most scientific evidence behind its benefits and has been shown to effectively penetrate the skin barrier. You know the product will be offering some of the multitude of vitamin benefits if you see L-ascorbic acid on an ingredients list. The pH is often lowered and ingredients such as phosphates are added to make it more stable and less reactive, and also better absorbed by the skin.
Vitamin C comes in different strengths, which may suit people with different skin needs. It has a very safe ingredient profile but, nonetheless, lower percentages may be better for those with more sensitive skin as they won’t find them so irritating. Higher percentages might deliver more dramatic results more quickly.
In general, the best products usually hover between 8% and 20% strengths, above this there seems to be a plateau of efficacy so you won’t need anything stronger.
Watch out for ingredients such as ascorbyl palmitate or textral as these are derivatives of vitamin C and therefore likely to be less potent.
How to use vitamin C in skincare
Most skin experts agree that the most efficient way to use vitamin C is through a targeted serum. Applying a serum to freshly cleansed skin is the best way to deliver all of its power and help it sink in better. It can then be followed by your moisturiser and SPF to increase its impressive protective qualities. There are other vitamin C products on the market too, like moisturisers and toners that can also help to brighten and protect your skin.
The protection against pollutants and UV that vitamin C provides means it’s most effective when used in the morning, though there’s nothing to prevent you from using it before bed too.
Experts also suggest avoiding certain ingredients when incorporating vitamin C into your routine. Exfoliating acids, for example, may cause irritation if used in tandem with this brightening ingredient, and so could retinol. This doesn’t mean you have to phase them out altogether. You could try using vitamin C in the morning and exfoliants in the evening, or alternate days instead.
Our favourite vitamin C skincare products
Beauty Pie Superdose C
With 15% vitamin C working alongside tranexamic and ferulic acids, this serum is powerfully combats sun damage and age spots without the luxury price tags.
At £12.47 for Beauty Pie members, it’s a total steal too. Use the code LIZLOVES for your first month free at Beauty Pie.
Clinique Fresh Pressed 7-Day System
A couple of drops of this anti-aging booster added to your moisturiser is sure to bring you fresher and brighter skin.
This potent blend is suitable for most skin types and promises to refresh and renew your glow.
Drunk Elephant C-Firma Day Serum
This potent 15% vitamin C serum comes in an airtight bottle to keep all the active ingredients safe and oxidisation free.
Ideal for firming and brightening the appearance of the skin, this product packs a punch.