What is vitamin C?
Vitamin C is an antioxidant. It’s known to be great in our diets for our bodies and health, but it can also be beneficial when applied topically to the skin.
There are several different forms of vitamin C but l-ascorbic acid is the purest form. It is the only type the body can metabolize, therefore making it the most effective form when in skincare. Due to this, most products contain this form of the active ingredient. It is good, however, to check the ingredients list on products as other forms (e.g. magnesium ascorbyl phosphate) may not be as effective.
The ‘vitamin C’ discussed in this article is referring to l-ascorbic acid.
Who should be using vitamin c?
Vitamin C is suitable for all skin types, especially those with dull skin tones, hyperpigmentation issues and ageing skin.
What does vitamin C do?
As we get older our skin begins to produce less collagen and elastin, resulting in sagging and wrinkly skin. Some of the products which are designed to target this, such as collagen drinks and topical treatments, are often ineffective as the collagen molecules are too large to penetrate the surface of the skin. However, vitamin C can be absorbed and so it works to stimulate the natural production of collagen and elastin, making it a great ingredient for anti-ageing and fighting wrinkles.
Vitamin C is also effective in reducing hyperpigmentation. It can inhibit the production of melanin, drastically reducing areas of hyperpigmentation and improving their appearance, without lightening the skin on unaffected areas. This means it can be put on the whole face and makes it really suitable for those with age spots and post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation.
Vit C is a powerful antioxidant which works to protect the skin from the environment, free radicals and UV damage. This can help to prevent the future occurrence of hyperpigmentation, age spots and wrinkles.
Vitamin C also works as an effective anti-inflammatory. This is great for those with acne, rosacea and sensitive skin types, who often experience irritation such as redness and itchiness.
However, like any acid, a formula too potent has the potential cause further irritation. The maximum concentration you should be using is 20%, but l-ascorbic acid can be effective from as little as 5% upwards. If you have particularly sensitive skin then keep this in mind and make sure you start at the lower end of the spectrum.
How should I use vitamin C?
Vitamin C can be applied morning or night but is considered to be most effective in the morning. This is because it protects your skin from damaging environmental factors throughout the day (e.g. UV rays and free radicals). Remember: Vit C is not a substitute for sun protection and so it is important to still wear sun cream.
As vitamin C is an acid, it is important to not overdo it. Avoid using it at the same time as glycolic, salicylic or lactic acid, as well as retinol products. You could, however, use a Vit C formula in the morning and a glycolic formula in the evening.
Vitamin C must be stored in a dark, airtight container as oxygen will destabilize it and make it less effective. Containers with pumps or tubes help reduce oxygen interacting with the product, while dark glass bottles and opaque containers help prevent the light destabilizing it. Realistically, jars are pointless as the product will have an extremely short shelf-life.
Tip: Buy small containers so it won’t destabilize before you use it up.
Una Brenan Super Facialist Vitamin C+ Glow Boost Serum – £16.99
Clinique Fresh Pressed 7 Day System – £25
Ole Henrikson Truth Serum Collagen Booster – £23.50
REN Radiance Perfection Serum – £35
Kiehls Clearly Corrective Dark Spot Solution – £36
The Ordinary Vitamin C Suspension 23% + HA Spheres 2% – £4.90 (NB: This is a very strong concentration so not suitable for Vit C newbies or those with sensitive skin)