VITAMIN C AND YOUR SKIN: WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW
IT’S DEEMED ‘ESSENTIAL’ BY DERMATOLOGISTS, BUT WHY, WHEN, AND HOW SHOULD YOU BE USING VITAMIN C? HERE’S YOUR GUIDE TO ONE OF THE MOST POWERFUL ANTIOXIDANTS ON THE PLANET…
Vitamin C- as health and wellbeing go, it’s a big hitter. You could call it an award-winning antioxidant, given that Dr. Albert Goyrgi won the Nobel prize in 1937 for identifying a lack of it as the principal cause of scurvy, and as such, it’s also far from a new skincare fad in the vein of snail slime and unicorn juice. Much researched and respected for its skincare prowess, vitamin C seems to be having a moment in the sun currently in the beauty industry, with buzzy launches aplenty and proliferation of bright orange packaging popping up on shelves. Add to this the fact that, according to Mintel, 85% of consumers are either likely to be using, or interested in using, beauty and skincare products containing vitamin C, and it becomes clear that our thirst for the potent antioxidant shows no sign of waning.
Just why, however, is it so feted in skincare circles, scurvy aside? Does it merit the demand, and how do you know if it’s working? Is vitamin C for all? Read on for the Vit C commandments…
IT LIVES UP TO THE HYPE
Just to clarify from the outset, vitamin C is universally agreed to a very good thing for all skins. Its profile has been on the up since the 1930s it seems, and its acclaim of late owes as much to our modern lifestyle as it does scientific advances, consultant dermatologist at the Cadogan Clinic, explains:
“The benefits of vitamin C have been known for some time, but are definitely coming more to the forefront lately. This may be because we’re much more aware of our environment and the way it’s affecting our skin – we’re a lot more aware of environmental pollutants such as radiation, sunlight, cancer-causing free radicals, and smoke, which break down collagen, stressing the skin and accelerating the aging process. As vitamin C helps to counter that process and can be used to treat such a variety of issues, it’s become a bit of a hero ingredient.”
“I think that now that vitamin C has been tried and tested with efficacious results to treat discoloration while promoting collagen synthesis with a low-risk profile, we are seeing a surge in products that contain vitamin C in skin care lines. We also understand that uneven skin tone is an important factor in aging skin, and as an ingredient that helps create a more even skin tone with a low-risk profile, vitamin C has gained increased popularity. And finally, we are now able to maintain active vitamin C in skincare to allow it to work more efficiently.”
IT’S AN ALL-ROUNDER
If vitamin C were at school, it would for sure be a prefect, captain of the netball team, and in possession of a clutch of A*s and an Oxbridge acceptance letter.
“Vitamin C is absolutely essential for your skincare regime because as well as being a potent natural antioxidant, it has anti-inflammatory properties, can act as a depigmenting agent, and is vital for collagen biosynthesis. It is often used in dermatology to treat and prevent the signs of aging caused by ultraviolet radiation.”
“Vitamin C boosts collagen to keep skin looking firm and young, it protects against free radicals to prevent premature aging, it fades dark spots and brightens the skin and it can even boost your sunscreen's protection”
If you were previously in any doubt about recruiting vitamin C into your skincare dream team, this should seal the deal. If you’re wondering when to crack on, the next point should clear that up…
ALL AGES SHOULD USE IT
Vitamin C doesn’t discriminate- it both helps to prevent skin deterioration in the first place, and aids in the repair of damaged once it’s done. In short, it’s sickeningly helpful.
“Vitamin C can be incorporated into your skincare routine at any age, in fact, the earlier the better. As well as being an anti-aging skin care ingredient that generally helps to gently brighten and smooth your skin, it's one of the most powerful antioxidants out there. Regularly applying vitamin C within your skincare routine helps to protect your skin against free radical damage caused by the environment, which can break down your collagen and encourage wrinkles and sagging.”
“Even though signs of aging and pigmentation might not appear until you're into your thirties, it's good to start using vitamin C when you start seeing the signs any time after 18 years old. These might be brown spots on the skin from sun exposure, skin losing its glow, and red marks following a breakout which refuse to fade.”
You’ve committed to adding it to your bathroom cabinet, but in the plethora of citrus-themed products out there, what exactly should you be looking for?
WATCH OUT FOR POTENCY AND PACKAGING
“When looking for a suitable Vitamin C product, finding the right concentration is important. A potency of 10-20 percent means that results for the skin will be seen quicker and with better results. The way the vitamin C is produced is a key factor in how efficacious its effects will be on the skin.”
“A concentration of between 3 and 10 percent will still be effective, in an L-ascorbic acid or ascorbic acid form. Vitamin C can break down in UV light and lessen its potency, so I recommend that packaging is sealed and kept in a dark environment.”
“Maximum skin absorption of vitamin C occurs at 20% strength Increasing the concentration beyond this limit does not result in greater skin absorption. Using agents with relatively high concentrations such as 10-15% or more are likely to have the most benefit but also run the risk of causing skin irritation.”
READ THE LABEL
This is fast becoming a mantra for modern life, but identifying vitamin C in its many guises, and where it sits in a product’s ingredients list (high= the real deal) will help you to separate the vitamin C superstars from the imposters.
“Any type of vitamin C in your moisturizing serum and lotion will likely offer some skin benefit. There are several different types of vitamin C used in skincare products, so you want to look out for things like L-ascorbic acid, sodium ascorbyl phosphate, ascorbyl palmitate, and retinyl ascorbate on the ingredients label. Retinyl ascorbate has the most amount of scientific research surrounding its benefits and L-ascorbic acid helps to boost collagen production and smooths and firms skin, as well as preventing photo-aging.”
“Other ingredients you should look for in vitamin C products include magnesium ascorbyl phosphate (this is the most stable and preferred vitamin C compounds), disodium isostearyl 2-0, L-ascorbyl phosphate, ascorbic acid sulphate, and tetraisopalmitoyl ascorbic acid. The effects of topical vitamin C can also be enhanced by other agents such as ferulic acid and vitamin E.”
Investing in a skincare product that combines vitamin C with its helpful henchmen can result in even better skincare results.
“Vitamin C can be combined with anti-aging, UV damage fighting antioxidant vitamin E, or hyaluronic acid, which penetrates into the dermis boosting the elasticity and hydration of the skin. The protective barrier on the skin locks in moisture, which gives the skin a youthful appearance. It is also often combined with ferulic acid, a powerful antioxidant that combats the free radicals in your skin.”
You’ve got your product mixology down, but of the myriad of formulations out there, should you opt for a cream, mask, wash, or another specific treatment?
SOME DELIVERY METHODS ARE BETTER THAN OTHERS
In other words, there’s only so much C you can get if you’re washing a vitamin-rich product down the sink. The experts agree that one delivery method, in particular, excels above the rest.
“Vitamin C is available on the market in a variety of creams, serums, and transdermal patches. Of these formats, it is usually the serum that contains active vitamin C.”
Truth serum is where it’s at.
“Serums are a concentrated way to get anti-aging ingredients into the skin which can then be layered with other products with no interference.”
Before you spend big on said serum, make sure it’s gone belt and braces in terms of high-quality formula and physical delivery. Packaging serves a more important purpose than it’s given credit for in the skincare sphere:
“Vitamin C is an unstable molecule which oxidizes quickly on exposure to light. Its stability is usually maintained by keeping a low (acidic) pH of less than 3.5. Not all vitamin C derivatives are physiologically effective so it can be helpful to check product ingredients. It's also worth noting that when antioxidants are exposed to light and air too frequently they can break down, so it's best to opt for formulas in air-tight packaging, pumps, or single-use, individually wrapped products.”
IT’S A MORNING VITAMIN
In general, you’ll get the most out of vitamin C in the morning.
“Because vitamin C serum helps to shield your skin from free radicals and can help to boost the protection offered by your sunscreen, it is recommended that you apply it in the morning to prevent damage to the skin during the day- once a day is fine but I recommend it twice daily. It should go without saying that the application of sunscreen on top is essential.”
There’s growing evidence that applying at night time too won’t hurt.
“Some research suggests that free radical damage continues to affect your skin overnight, so you could add in vitamin C to your end-of-day routine as well.”
Just bear the following in mind before you apply willy nilly...
IT’S GOT A FEW ENEMIES
Just to bring back the school playground analogy, vitamin C isn’t the best pals with all of the ingredients in your skincare repertoire.
“Active ingredients in skincare have different purposes and using them at the same time as vitamin C in high concentrations may result in irritation. It's best to avoid retinol, glycolic, salicylic, and lactic acid when using vitamin C or to gradually implement these actives to produce less visible skin irritation.”
“Besides vitamin C induced irritation, some people break out from vitamin C products because of their base. For example, some vitamin C serums may contain silicones or other inactive ingredients (to help keep the vitamin C stable longer) that can be problematic for acne-prone or sensitive skin, so make sure you read the ingredients thoroughly.”
Still, struggling to show face after a vitamin C session?
“Vitamin C is formulated at a low pH which can be irritating to the skin and cause flaking. You can avoid these side effects by using it properly; don’t start off using the strongest serum, you can work up to it.”