What is Vitamin C?
Vitamin C, also known as ascorbic acid, is a naturally occurring antioxidant. It is a necessary nutrient that can neutralise free radicals (molecules that are harmful at high levels) and allows our blood vessels, muscles, and collagen to form and function properly. Humans lack the ability to synthesise it on our own, so we get our daily dose of vitamin C from our food! Citrus fruits, leafy greens, and broccoli are all great sources of vitamin C and can help boost our immune systems to prevent illness.
Many of us are aware of the benefits of vitamin C on our general health, but did you know that it can boost our skin health, too? Let’s see how..
Vitamin C is a skincare wonder! Its benefits pack a punch and can help you look and feel like your best self.
Protects skin from free radicals: The environment around us contains many things that could potentially harm our skin. UV rays and pollutants, like smog or second-hand cigarette smoke, present free radicals that can damage our skin. Vitamin C neutralises and removes these oxidants, protecting our skin.
Lightens dark spots: Vitamin C is a depigmenting agent and can inhibit the production of melanin. That means vitamin C helps to treat hyperpigmentation from acne or age spots when used topically as spot treatment.
Promotes collagen production: Vitamin C is a critical nutrient for the production of collagen. Clinical studies show that vitamin C increases collagen production in skin of all ages.
Anti-aging: Several studies show that vitamin C’s ability to protect from the sun and promote collagen production drive its usefulness as an anti-aging ingredient. Improving skin vitamin C levels can:
- Protect against UV rays
- Lessen the impact of photoaging
- Improve dark spots and even out complexion
- Decrease the depth of wrinkles
- Improve wound healing
Multiformat: It can be used in many ways: topically, as a supplement, and even injected. For optimal skin benefits, it should be used topically.
Compatible with you: As our bodies need it to function, vitamin C is compatible with us and rarely causes any allergic or rejection reactions. Supplements are recommended for those who may not absorb vitamin C well. We always recommend patch testing new skincare products to make sure they are not allergenic or irritating.
Skin benefits are observed in leave-on products with concentrations of 10-20%.
Is it for your skin type?
It’s safe to say that vitamin C is safe and recommended for all ages. There are currently no restrictions on its use, but there are recommendations on how to use it for optimal results.
For all ages
There is no age limit for using Vitamin C. Introducing Vitamin C into your skincare routine after the age of 25 can help protect your skin from unwanted sun damage and keep your skin looking fresh and youthful!
For all skin types and conditions
Vitamin C can work for you regardless of your skin type, but here are some guidelines on how to use it with little to no irritation:
- Start with a lower concentration product if you’re new to this ingredient.
- If you have sensitive or dry skin: Try using topical Vitamin C every 2-3 days rather than every day as it can be irritating at first. You can slowly work up to using it once a day when you’re comfortable! Additionally, products with the water-soluble derivative of vitamin C, magnesium ascorbyl phosphate, may be less irritating.
- If you have oily or normal skin: Try a topical vitamin C product that lists L-ascorbic acid as the active ingredient. Some vitamin C serums can be oily, so if you already have oily skin, you may want to try out different products (like a cream or gel) to see what works best for your skin.
How does it work? A little bit of science...
As we mentioned above, vitamin C has countless benefits for your skin. Let’s dive into how it works!
When your skin is exposed to UV rays, reactive oxygen species (ROS) are generated. These ROS, or free radicals, can damage skin cells and result in some of the symptoms we associate with ageing. Vitamin C donates electrons to these ROS, neutralising the free radicals and protecting the skin.
Collagen is the main structural protein in our bodies. Vitamin C serves as a co-factor, or helper molecule, for the enzymes that stabilise and cross-link collagen molecules. Vitamin C also regulates collagen synthesis and gene expression, allowing it to be produced and do its job in the human body.
Lastly, vitamin C can act as a depigmenting agent. It interacts with copper ions at the activation site of an enzyme called tyrosinase. Tyrosinase is necessary for the biosynthesis of melanin. As a result, vitamin C prevents unwanted melanin from forming and helps prevent or resolve hyperpigmentation from acne or sun damage.
How to find it on beauty labels:
In cosmetics, ingredient names are standardised internationally, known as INCI (International Nomenclature of Cosmetic Ingredients), to make them easily recognizable on labels.
If you look on the labels of your beauty products, you will find vitamin C as:
- Ascorbic Acid
- L-ascorbic acid
- Acidum Ascoribicum
The following vitamin C derivatives may also be found in skincare products:
- Magnesium ascorbyl phosphate
- Ascorbyl 6 palmitate
- Disodium isostearyl 2-0 L-ascorbyl phosphate
- Ascorbic acid sulphate
- Tetraisopalmitoyl ascorbic acid
What products Vitamin C can be found in:
Topically, vitamin C is found in many products:
- Face masks
- Eye creams
Here you can find a selection of products with this ingredient from The Birchbox Shop.
How to incorporate it into your routine:
Here are a few tips on how to get the best results when using vitamin C as part of your skincare regimen:
- Day and night: You can use vitamin C either in the morning or at night. Some scientific literature states that vitamin C is most effective when used after UV exposure. Just make sure you’re using proper suncare if you use it in the morning, and make sure your vitamin C product is fully absorbed before layering other products on top of it.
- Best after cleansing: If you’re using a serum or toner (one of the first steps in your facial routine), it's best to use vitamin C after cleansing. You can then use SPF or moisturiser after the serum has fully absorbed.
- Store it properly:You may notice that your vitamin C products come in a dark amber bottle. Vitamin C is sensitive to light and can oxidise quickly. If you notice that your vitamin C product (likely a serum) has turned brown or cloudy, it has oxidised and you probably need to replace it. Keep your vitamin C products stored in an airtight container in a cool, dark place out of direct sunlight.
- Don’t use it with benzoyl peroxide: Benzoyl peroxide can cause the vitamin C to oxidise, rendering it ineffective.
Works well with…
- Vitamin E: Using Vitamin E, another powerful antioxidant, and Vitamin C together has proven to be highly effective in protecting your skin from UV rays and photodamage. You can find this combo in several cosmetic products.
- Ferulic Acid: This ingredient also works well with Vitamin C and Vitamin E. It stabilises solutions of the two aforementioned vitamins to double protection against UV irradiation.
- Hyaluronic Acid: Hyaluronic acid is a superstar ingredient when it comes to keeping skin hydrated. When used in conjunction with Vitamin C, it can have anti-aging effects, keeping skin looking bright, tight, and hydrated.