Vitamin C is essential for your skin. But how should you be using it?
Here’s your guide to the power player of antioxidants.
The benefits of vitamin C have been known for some time. Environmental pollutants such as radiation, sunlight, cancer-causing free radicals and smoke, break down collagen, stressing the skin and accelerate the aging process. Vitamin C helps to counter that process and is used to treat a variety of issues. It’s become an essential ingredient in skincare products.
IT’S A GAME CHANGER
Along with being a potent natural antioxidant, vitamin C has anti-inflammatory properties, it boosts collagen to keep skin looking firm and young, it protects against free radicals to prevent premature aging, fades dark spots, brightens the skin and it can even boost your sunscreen's protection.
ALL AGES SHOULD USE IT
Vitamin C can be incorporated into your skincare routine at any age, in fact, the earlier the better. As well as being an anti-aging skincare ingredient which generally helps to gently brighten and smooth your skin, it's one of the most powerful antioxidants out there. Regularly applying vitamin C within your skincare routine helps to protect your skin against free radical damage caused by the environment, which can breakdown your collagen and encourage wrinkles and sagging.
Even though signs of aging and pigmentation might not appear until you're into your thirties, it's good to start using vitamin C when you start seeing the signs any time after 18 years old. These might be brown spots on the skin from sun exposure, skin losing its glow, or red marks which refuse to fade.
LOOK FOR THE POTENCY AND HOW IT'S PACKAGED
When searching for a vitamin C product, finding the right concentration is important. A potency of 10-20 percent means that results for the skin will be seen quicker and with better results. Maximum skin absorption of vitamin C occurs at 20% strength, increasing the concentration beyond this limit does not result in greater skin absorption. Also, the way vitamin C is produced is a key factor in how its effects will be on the skin. Vitamin C will break down in UV light and lessen its potency, so packaging needs to be sealed and kept in a dark environment, when antioxidants are frequently exposed to light and air, they will break down, so it's best to use products in air-tight packaging, pumps, or single-use individually wrapped products.
READ THE LABEL
Where is it listed on the product’s ingredients label? (high= the real deal) This will help you separate the legit vitamin C from the imposters. Any type of vitamin C in your moisturizing serum and lotion will offer some skin benefit. There are several different types of vitamin C used in skincare products, so you want to look for L-Ascorbic acid, Sodium Ascorbyl Phosphate, Ascorbyl Palmitate and Retinyl Ascorbate on the ingredients label. Retinyl Ascorbate has the most amount of scientific research surrounding its benefits and L-Ascorbic acid helps to boost collagen production and also smoothes and firms skin, as well as prevents photo-aging. Other ingredients you should look for in vitamin C products include Magnesium Ascorbyl Phosphate (this is the most stable and preferred vitamin C compounds), Disodium Isostearyl 2-0, L-Ascorbyl Phosphate, Ascorbic Acid Aulphate and Tetraisopalmitoyl Ascorbic acid. The effects of topical vitamin C can also be enhanced by other agents such as Ferulic Acid, vitamin E and Hyaluronic Acid. Please note: Ester-C, is a trademarked form of vitamin C that's been amped up with Calcium Ascorbate, there’s not a lot of data backing up this form of vitamin C. When in doubt, look for vitamin C with L-Ascorbic Acid. That's the one you want.
SOME DELIVERY METHODS ARE BETTER THAN OTHERS
Vitamin C is available on the market in a variety of creams, serums, and trans-dermal patches. Of these formats, it is usually the serum that contains active vitamin C. Serums are a concentrated way to get anti-aging ingredients into the skin which can then be layered with other products with no interference.
Before you spend big on serum, make sure of the high quality formulation and physical packaging. Vitamin C is an unstable molecule which oxidizes quickly on exposure to light. Its stability is usually maintained by keeping a low (acidic) pH of less than 3.5. Not all vitamin C derivatives are physiologically effective so it can be helpful to check product ingredients.
IT’S A MORNING VITAMIN
Because vitamin C serum helps to shield your skin from free radicals and helps to boost the protection offered by your sunscreen, it should be applied in the morning to prevent damage to the skin during the day, followed by a broad spectrum sunscreen; which should be a staple in your skincare regime.
IT HAS SOME ENEMIES
There are a few incompatibilities which could cause adverse reactions such as stinging and redness. Active ingredients in skincare have different purposes and using them at the same time as vitamin C in high concentrations may result in irritation. It's best to avoid Retinol, Glycolic, Salicylic and Lactic Acid when using vitamin C. Also, some people breakout from vitamin C products because of their base. Some vitamin C serums may contain silicones or other inactive ingredients to help keep the vitamin C stable longer, which can be problematic for acne-prone or sensitive skin, so make sure you read the ingredients thoroughly. Vitamin C is formulated at a low pH which can be irritating to the skin and cause flaking. You can avoid these side effects by using it properly. Start off using a lower percentage, then working your way up.
1. Vitamin C defends against free radicals.
2. Boosts collagen production.
3. Reduces redness and brown spots.
4. Has anti-inflammatory properties.
5. Look for L-Ascorbic Acid in the ingredients, it absorbs the quickest and has the highest potency when applied topically.
6. Packaging is important. Buy small bottles so you can use it all before it expires. Look for air-tight packaging and protection from the light.
7. Don’t start off using the strongest serum, work your way up to it.