Vitamin C: The Complete Guide to Skin Care

What comes to your mind when you hear about vitamin C? Bunch of oranges? Sailors suffering from scurvy? Most people know a little about this component, although the beauty market is saturated with it. Any dermatologist can confirm that vitamin C is on the list of the best skincare legends because it works. Read on to learn how to incorporate vitamin C into your skin care routine.

What is Vitamin C?

Vitamin C, also known as ascorbic acid, is a water-soluble nutrient discovered in the 1930s and named this way because ascorbic means “anti-scurvy.” Our bodies can’t synthesize this element, so we have to consume it orally or apply it topically. Eating one medium orange daily can help you prevent developing a severe deficiency. If you are not a fan of this fruit, you can try other foods rich in vitamin C – kiwis, parsley, kale, and yellow bell peppers.

As for the skin, vitamin C gets there through the bloodstream. However, when this component reaches its peak in the plasma, its concentrations in the skin no longer increase. That means there’s no way to guarantee that your skin receives enough vitamin C if you consume it orally. Topical application is the more direct and reliable way to provide the skin with benefits.

What Does Vitamin C Do for Skin?

Protects against sun damage

Topically applied, it can’t replace sunscreen because it doesn’t absorb UV rays. However, this nutrient is a powerful antioxidant that protects against UV-induced damage. By doing so, it defends our skin from precancerous changes.

Prevents premature aging

We all age, but everyone ages differently. The main factor that accelerates this process is excessive sun exposure. The UV radiation destroys collagen and elastin, which keep skin firm, and it also triggers DNA damage leading to cell death. By using topical vitamin C, you may reverse these changes. Ascorbic acid stimulates DNA repair and boosts collagen production making wrinkles less visible.

Accelerates wound healing

Every injury is usually accompanied by an inflammatory response that increases the levels of free radicals. The presence of ascorbic acid may reduce free radical damage by neutralizing them. Besides that, it is a highly acidic substance, and it usually triggers the skin to heal by stimulating collagen production and promoting cell differentiation.

Reduces hyperpigmentation

Ascorbic acid impedes skin’s melanin production, which causes skin discoloration such as sunspots, melasma, and post-acne hyperpigmentation. After a few weeks of using it, your skin tone improves, and dark spots noticeably reduce.

Decreases risk of dry skin

A study from The American journal of clinical nutrition shows that a high dietary intake of vitamin C may reduce trans-epidermal water loss (TEWL). That means the skin may look healthy and hydrated because it doesn’t lose much water. The effects of topical ascorbic acid on the skin are not apparent. While one study assumed that regular use of skin care products with ascorbic acid could reduce skin dryness, another research suggested that this component can increase TEWL when applied topically.

How to Choose Skin Products With Vitamin C?

Vitamin C is a wayward ingredient and can be presented in many forms in skincare products. You should always remember about specific storage conditions, concentrations, and combinations with other ingredients. It sounds like a challenge, but you should learn it once to be a forever pro.

Form: If you have normal, combination, or oily skin, look for L-ascorbic acid in the list of ingredients. Although it is the most effective and highly absorbed form, it is also the least stable. That’s why packaging and other ingredients matter. Magnesium ascorbyl phosphate would be the best option for people with dry and sensitive skin because it is less irritating. Also, this form is stable and can be sold in different packages.

Packaging: Ascorbic acid can easily loose its potency after contact with light, air, or heat. So, choose a dark or tinted glass bottle with a pump.

Combinations: Vitamin E, ferulic acid, and glutathione are great ingredients to combine with ascorbic acid because they stabilize the formula and increase the oxidation resistance.

Concentrations: Start with the concentration of 5% and increase to 15% or 20% as your skin adapts. The interesting fact is that higher concentration like 30% has been shown to lower absorption.

How to Add Vitamin C Serum in Skin Care Routine?

Although skincare products with ascorbic acid tend to be safe and well-tolerated, it’s better to do a patch test before using it on your face. Here’s how: apply a small amount of product on your forearm and leave it for 24 hours, then access the reaction. If there is no irritation or redness, you can use it on your face.

To get a full spectrum of vitamin C benefits, you should apply it every morning followed by sunscreen. Choose what type of delivery agent is best for you  – cleansers, toners, moisturizers, etc. The more effective vehicle for ascorbic acid is serum. If you’re using the one, apply it after cleansing and toning your face. The result will be seen within weeks as the skin cells fully refresh.

What Should You Not Mix with Vitamin C?

As you start your journey, you should know that some ingredients can’t be applied with vitamin C at the same time. That means you need to space them out because they work best in different skin environments. Check these out:

  1. Retinol is an oil-soluble ingredient, and vitamin C is water-soluble. As we know, oil and water don’t mix. If you combine these two components, they won’t dissolve, and that means they won’t be able to penetrate the skin and bring any benefits.
  2. Niacinamide, layered up with vitamin C, deactivates its efficiency. 
  3. Benzoyl peroxide can oxidize vitamin C and reduce its efficacy.
  4. AHAs or BHAs applied together with vitamin C can cause dryness and irritation.

There is no need to throw away all your favorite beauty jars because of vitamin C. You have to modify your skincare routine. For example, use vitamin C in the morning and retinol or niacinamide in the evening, or apply them on different days.

Take-Home Points

  1. Vitamin C is well-studied and generally considered safe for most people.
  2. The best skin care products with this ingredient are not necessarily expensive or sold under famous brands. The form, packaging, concentrations are what you primarily should check.
  3. Organize your skincare routine carefully. Don’t mix vitamin C with retinol, benzoyl peroxide, AHAs or BHAs, and niacinamide. Space them out.
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