Everything You Need to Know About Vitamin C Skin Care Products
It's more than just a great immune booster.
Vitamin C has long been favored for its immune-boosting properties, but it's much more than just a naturally-occurring vitamin in food or a supplement you can buy over the counter: It's also a powerhouse ingredient in skin care products. "Vitamin C, in its most basic sense, is considered an antioxidant," explains Dr. Kavtia Mariwalla, a board-certified dermatologist. When applied topically, in the form of a serum, lotion, or face mask, vitamin C can help diminish signs of aging, protect against free radical damage, and brighten and even your complexion.
What Does Vitamin C Do for Your Skin?
Vitamin C is an important vitamin involved in many of our body's processes, including tissue and wound repair, explains Dr. Caroline Robinson, MD, FAAD, a dermatologist and the founder of Tone Dermatology. "One of the most important things that vitamin C is known for is its role as an antioxidant. It can take a deep dive into the skin and help repair DNA damage that contributes to skin aging and it provides [an] extra layer of protection against UV light when worn under your sunscreen during the day," says Dr. Robinson. "We all can benefit from this." Meanwhile, the vitamin can also help with dark spots. "Oftentimes with hyperpigmentation, there is an overproduction of pigment so vitamin C works by directly blocking the effects of Tyrosinase, the enzyme responsible for pigment production in skin cells, which helps improve darker spots and even tone."
Why Is It Important to Use Skin Care Products with Vitamin C?
"The reason that it is important is because as we go through our day, ultraviolet exposure and exposure to pollution creates free radicals on our skin," says Dr. Mariwalla. "These free radicals can speed up the look of aging [and] worsen hyperpigmentation. Using a topical antioxidant can fight those free radicals and therefore improving skin." But, Dr. Mariwalla notes that not all vitamin C is the same. "The most potent form goes by the name L-ascorbic acid."
How Should You Incorporate Vitamin C Into Your Skin Care Routine?
Vitamin C is a beneficial active ingredient for most skin types, but the key is finding the right formulation that works best for you, explains Dr. Robinson. "For reference, there are well over 10 different forms of vitamin C used topically in skin care on the market right now and they each have different potencies, levels of stability, and tolerability on the skin." Those with sensitive skin may find vitamin C products too irritating.
If you're looking for ways to work this anti-aging ingredient into your daily routine, Dr. Mariwalla suggests taking the serum route. "I recommend adding a vitamin C serum to your morning skin care routine to protect skin from the environmental stressors encountered throughout the day like smoke, pollution, and sun," says Dr. Mariwalla. She recommends seeking out products with L-asorbic acid, which is the most active form of the vitamin. "I love Skinceuticals Serum 10 ($70, dermstore.com), a less expensive version of their famous CE Ferulic ($166, dermstore.com)." Additional favorites from the pro include BeautyStat's Universal C Skin Refiner ($80, dermstore.com) and Sunday Riley C.E.O. 15 Percent Vitamin C Brightening Serum ($85, sephora.com).
What About Other Ways to Get Vitamin C?
Eating foods rich in vitamin C such as citrus fruits or vegetables like broccoli, as well as supplementation when needed, are important for growth and repair processes in our body, explains Dr. Robinson. Still, consuming the vitamin won't do much for your skin. "Oral vitamin C, however, is not able to effectively reach the skin in a way that produces the skin care and skin health benefits that we know that topical vitamin C can do."