Everything You Need to Know About Vitamin C

While some skincare ingredients are shrouded in obscurity, others are much more familiar—one of the latter being Vitamin C. Vitamin C is perhaps the most potent topical antioxidant we have. It neutralises free radical damage and protects the skin against UV light and other environmental aggressors, as well as blocking abnormal production of pigmentation to even skin tone and fade dark spots. While it’s best known for brightening, it can also be instrumental in skin firming. Getting familiar with the powerhouse antioxidant is essential for any robust skincare strategy.

If you have yet to incorporate a vitamin C product into your skin routine, allow us to convince you of the many reasons why you should. Here's how best to utilise the hero ingredient for a brighter, smoother, and plumper complexion year-round.

FAST FACTS

TYPE OF INGREDIENT: Antioxidant

MAIN BENEFITS: Protects against free radical damage, evens skin tone, and promotes collagen production.

WHO SHOULD USE IT: Vitamin C is not recommended for those with extremely sensitive skin and can be problematic for those with oily skin.

HOW OFTEN CAN YOU USE IT: You can use Vitamin C serum daily or every other day.

WORKS WELL WITH: Vitamin C works well under your everyday moisturizer as well as SPF to protect a bit extra from the UV rays. It also works perfectly with complementing antioxidants like, vitamin E.

DON'T USE WITH: Avoid using it with benzoyl peroxide, which can oxidise the vitamin C and make it useless very quickly. Also avoid using it with other acids, which may cause excessive skin irritation, especially if used daily. Lastly, don't use it with retinol, which can make the vitamin C more unstable and less likely to penetrate the skin.

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What is Vitamin C?

Vitamin C is an essential nutrient required for the growth and repair of tissues in all parts of the body, including the skin, but we cannot produce it on our own. The powerful antioxidant is found naturally in fruits and vegetables and commonly produced synthetically in skincare products, such as moisturizers, toners, and, most often serums.

The first form of vitamin C worth mentioning is the pure form, L-ascorbic acid, but there are also several vitamin C derivatives, such as ascorbyl palmitate, retinyl ascorbate, tetrahexyldecyl ascorbate, and magnesium ascorbyl phosphate. These derivatives are not pure vitamin C, rather they are combined with other ingredients, which might help to keep the vitamin C stable. 

How to Use It 

One highly debated topic when it comes to vitamin C is what time of the day is best for application. While some argue that morning is best for protecting the skin, others are in favor of nighttime when the skin's vitamin C is most depleted. Consistency is most important, whether you decide to apply it in the morning or before bed but avoid using it at the same time as benzoyl peroxide, retinol, and other acids. Use Vitamin C in the form of a serum; designed to deliver a high concentration of actives, serums are the most common form of delivery for vitamin C. Use it daily or every other day, and when you're using a serum (the most common vehicle for vitamin C), apply it after cleansing and before applying your daily moisturizer.

Layer It Under SPF

When Vitamin C serum is layered underneath sunscreen with a minimum of SPF 30, it protects the skin even further. Think of it as a safety net to help neutralize free radical damage that can occur from UV light penetration despite our best protection efforts with sunscreen.

Benefits of Vitamin C for Skin 

Vitamin C is an impressive skincare ingredient that is shown to be effective in the following areas:

  • Protects against environmental stressors: As an antioxidant, one of vitamin C’s main functions is protecting the skin. Normal cellular processes, as well as ultraviolet light and pollution, create free radicals in the skin. Free radicals  causes damage to cells, promoting skin dullness and causing wrinkles. By scavenging these free radicals, vitamin C protects the skin, keeping it healthy and improving visible signs of aging.
  • Promotes collagen production: Vitamin C also plays an important role in collagen synthesis. Collagen gives our skin support and structure, and as it degrades with age, we begin to notice wrinkles and lines. Vitamin C is a necessary cofactor for building collagen bundles, without which this process halts.
  • Lightens brown spots: Vitamin C is also helpful in lightening unwanted brown spots or decreasing brown discoloration by blocking the pathway of pigment synthesis. 

Side Effects of Vitamin C 

Generally, vitamin C is safe for daily use. However, in high concentrations, it can be irritating, especially if mixed with other acids. Those with extremely sensitive skin may not be able to tolerate it, and in which case, should avoid it. Many vitamin C products are also oily, which can be problematic for those with oily skin.

Store It Safely

Vitamin C serums come in two broad categories: Water-based and anhydrous (which literally means "without water"). The former is more unstable and light sensitive, and is typically held in opaque or amber colored bottles for that reason, while the latter tends to be more stable, even in the presence of sunlight. No matter what kind you opt for, ensuring your vitamin C is stabilized and kept airtight in a dark, cool space is essential. After contact with light, heat and air, vitamin C eventually oxidizes and loses some of its potency. You'll know it when your serum changes colour, turning brown. (With L-ascorbic acid, this usually takes about three months after opening the bottle).

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