We all know vitamin C as a go-to for immunity (especially in winter, with all the lurking lurgies). There’s now mounting evidence that it’s also a powerful vitamin for skin health. But before you go washing your face with a bottle of orange juice, it’s worth knowing that the vitamin C used in skincare is a little different. Here’s everything you need to know about this face-saver.
What does it do?
Numerous studies have shown vitamin C to be a bona fide skincare superhero, with the ability to improve skin texture and tone, boost collagen production, brighten the complexion, fade dark spots and help fend off photo-ageing as a result of sun exposure.
How does it work?
Also known as L-ascorbic acid, vitamin C is an antioxidant – and antioxidants are the good guys, preventing inflammation while fighting free radicals (the baddies) that cause damage to skin cells. “Free radicals are produced when ultraviolet light damages the skin, so, generally speaking, vitamin C in skincare may be beneficial for most skin types,” says dermatologist Dr Corinne Maiolo. Furthermore, as we get older, our skin loses vitamin C, which results in age spots, fine lines and wrinkles. Adding it back in is a shortcut to natural radiance.
Who is it good for?
Pretty much anyone can benefit from the antioxidant boost that vitamin C delivers, but, if your skin is sensitive, be cautious, Dr Maiolo warns. “Skin care products often combine different active ingredients,” she says. “Before using a new product, test it by applying a small amount in front of or behind your ear for seven to 10 days. If there’s no reaction, it should be safe to use. Most products should be applied as an even, thin layer – using too much may cause irritation.” (Our beauty editor recommends Redermic C10 Concentrate for targeting sensitive skin).
Are all C products equally effective?
In a word, no. “Its ability to penetrate the skin differs, depending on the form that it’s in,”
Dr Maiolo says. From serums and eye creams, to face creams and gels, vitamin C appears in a wide variety of products. Serums are naturally more potent, as they absorb more deeply (unlike moisturisers, which have larger molecules so can’t penetrate to the same degree). Pay attention to the amount of vitamin C in the product too.
“The concentration of L-ascorbic acid should be 10 per cent or higher to be most effective,” Dr Maiolo advises, although even in lower percentages, studies have found it makes a difference to your skin. (Try Skinceuticals C E Ferulic. It ombines 15% L-absorbic acid with ferulic acid, to supercharge vitamin C's power!)
Anything else to know?
As an ingredient, vitamin C can be notoriously unstable – expose it to light or air and it can oxidise, losing its potency in the process (if you have a vitamin C serum that was once pale yellow and turns brown, you’ll know it’s lost its mojo). The good news is researchers have identified three derivatives of vitamin C – namely magnesium ascorbyl phosphate (MAP), sodium ascorbyl phosphate and ascorbyl glucoside – that have improved stability and convert to L-ascorbic acid in the skin to leave it firmer, healthier and more youthful. So check the ingredients list on the pack for these. Studies have shown that MAP, in particular, enhances the skin’s ability to retain water, making it visibly softer and smoother, while ascorbyl glucoside reduces hyperpigmentation, thanks to its ability to block a key enzyme that forms melanin. So what happens if you drink a glass of orange juice directly after applying vitamin C to your face? Chances are you’ll have all your bases covered, from extra immunity to a glowing complexion.