Photo credit: Yulia Reznikov
From Women’s Health
Of the truly countless skincare ingredients out there, a small few stand the test of time. Vitamin C is, without a doubt, one of those ingredients. This antioxidant offers multiple benefits to skin including protecting and repairing it from environmental damage, reducing the appearance of brown spots and pigmentation, evening skin tone, and helping to stimulate collagen production. In fact, it’s one of the staples of a well-rounded skincare routine. Here, top dermatologists Shari Marchbein, MD Joshua Zeichner, MD and Michelle Henry, MD as well as cosmetic chemist and founder of BeautyStat, Ron Robinson share all the reasons why this ingredient is such a superstar.
But first, it’s important to simply know the basics of what Vitamin C is. Vitamin C is an essential nutrient for our bodies, but we don’t produce it on our own. Rather, we get vitamin C via diet and, when it comes to skincare, by way of topical application. Vitamin C naturally occurs in citrus fruits (think: oranges), but is best for the skin when it’s actually applied topically (so don’t expect brighter skin from drinking OJ alone). Part of why Vitamin C has the cult status it has is because it helps the skin in a variety of ways—all of which are important! Below, discover some of the key ways this hero ingredient benefits skin.Vitamin C offers antioxidant protection.
When applied topically, Vitamin C acts as an antioxidant for skin. This means it works to “scavenge for collagen-damaging free radicals created by UV light or other environmental stressors,” explains Dr. Henry.Vitamin C evens skin tone and reduces the appearance of brown spots and hyperpigmentation.
Vitamin C also contains properties that help, as Robinson explains, “inhibit the overproduction of melanin,” making it a good ingredient to use if you’re fighting brown spots or have other concerns around skin discoloration. Vitamin C, Dr. Zeichner explains “interferes with production of abnormal pigmentation to brighten the skin and even skin tone.”
Story continuesVitamin C stimulates collagen production.
Collagen keeps our skin looking taut, firm, and bouncy—all good things—and Vitamin C helps stimulate the skin’s collagen production. “Vitamin C is an essential co-factor for the production of healthy collagen and can help strengthen the skin,” Dr. Zeichner explains.Who should (and shouldn’t) use it?
Vitamin C is one of those truly universal ingredients. It can benefit everyone’s skin health. For acne-prone patients, for example, Dr. Marchbein recommends Vitamin C to “help lighten and prevent further darkening of post inflammatory hyperpigmentation, or the dark spots left on the skin after acne clears.” The only precaution to take is if you have sensitive skin, in which case you’ll want to incorporate a Vitamin C slowly and steady and avoid formulas with high concentrations of the ingredient.What’s the best way to incorporate it into your routine?
Though you can find vitamin C products for any step in your skincare routine (cleansers! toners! moisturizers!), dermatologists agree that serums are your best bet for reaping the most benefits as they’re generally the most potent. “Serums containing this ingredient protect the skin from oxidative free radical damage and therefore work best in the morning,” says Dr. Marchbein, who notes that “an effective and high quality antioxidant serum is a key morning step in every daily skincare routine.”What should you look for in a Vitamin C product?
“Vitamin C is a highly unstable molecule, so special precautions must be taken to ensure it does not become inactivated. it must be protected from ultraviolet light and even requires an acidic pH,” Dr. Zeichner explains. As such, its packaging needs to do more than just look pretty. Look for formulas that come packaged in dark, airtight containers (aka jars are not ideal), and if you notice that your product is changing in color or smell, it’s probably best to toss it.
There are multiple forms of vitamin C, used in different products depending on the formula, texture of the product, or format. “L-Ascorbic acid is the pure form of vitamin C. But this ingredient is very unstable, meaning it oxidizes and loses efficacy,” Robinson explains. “So, beauty manufacturers combine L-Ascorbic acid with other antioxidants to help stabilize it or they use Vitamin C derivatives. Vitamin C derivatives are more stable than pure Vitamin C but because they are combined with other ingredients, the net impact of Vitamin C is less.” These are some names of Vitamin C derivatives that could be listed on the label: Magnesium ascorbyl phosphate, sodium ascorbyl phosphate, ascorbyl palmitate, ascorbyl glucoside.
And if you’d rather just have a simple lineup of Vitamin C serum options…right this way.Maelove The Glow Maker
This potent formula is a steal coming in at under $30—especially given that it’s been compared to much pricier formulations. What makes it so good? It uses L-ascorbic acid (at a generous 15 percent) in tandem with ferulic acid for strong antioxidant protection—but it adds in hyaluronic too, making it a perfect all-in-one option for your morning routine.BeautyStat Universal C Skin Refiner Vitamin C Treatment
Robinson’s own creation is just a few years old, but has already become a cult classic. Robinson’s brand BeautyStat has numerous patents on the system they used to encapsulate the 20 percent L-ascorbic acid which allows this product to stay potent for far longer than other options.StriVectin Super-C Retinol Brighten & Correct Vitamin C Serum
Want your skincare routine to seriously multi-task? Look no further than this new launch from StriVectin. The brand combined their signature non-irritating retinol with Vitamin C for a product that yields major results. In clinical studies conducted by the brand, 97 percent showed “improvement in skin brightness,” and 100 percent “measured improvement in skin firmness.”Summer Fridays CC Me Vitamin C Serum
This silky serum smells kind of like cherry candy (read: nothing like the hot dog water smell sometimes associated with Vitamin C serums) and packs a punch with two Vitamin C derivatives: 3-O-Ethyl Ascorbic Acid and Ascorbyl Glucoside. However, it also contains a complex of peptides to help firm skin, and squalane to hydrate.MARA Chlorella + Reishi Sea Vitamin C Serum
When you see Vitamin C in an oil, it’s always going to be THD Ascorbate, a lipid soluble, stable form of the antioxidant. Mara—a line known for its luxe oils containing marine botanicals—added *fourteen* fruits, herbs, and yes, marine botanicals (kakadu plum, strawberry, and thyme to name a few) to the mix, all of which are rich in naturally occurring Vitamin C. Soothing adaptogens, like chlorella and reishi, help counter any sensitivity.Murad Vitamin C Glycolic Brightening Serum
You know when you/your skin just look tired? This ultra-light gel serum is meant to energize the skin and does so by mixing vitamin C with a “proprietary energy complex” which contains ingredients like niacinamide and CoQ10.No, Thank You An Oil For All Day
This cool new brand’s take on a vitamin C oil serum is packed with ingredients we love. It uses THD ascorbate to provide the benefits of vitamin C, but your skin will also benefit from the 300 mg of full spectrum CBD, which help soothe any inflammatory reactions and may even keep breakouts at bay.Neutrogena Rapid Tone Repair 20% Vitamin C Serum
These travel-friendly capsules are made out of biodegradable seaweed, and work to keep the 20% ascorbic acid in the formula potent and fresh until the moment you use them. But the results (brighter, firmer, smoother, and more even skin) are even better than the cool packaging.
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