I love dull skin … said no one, ever. However, so many of us are fighting a daily battle against lackluster, flat-looking skin. As we age, our skin gradually loses its ability to renew surface cells, which means that a buildup of dead skin cells can hide our natural glow. Luckily, there’s a skincare ingredient that’s been proven time and again to help reveal radiant skin: vitamin C.
What is vitamin C?
A nutrient that naturally occurs in foods like broccoli, orange juice and sweet potatoes, vitamin C is both a powerful antioxidant and a key player in the body’s enzyme and immune system functions. In skin care, vitamin C has been used since as far back as 618 AD, when women in the Tang Dynasty rubbed the sea buckthorn plant (which contains vitamin C) on their faces to combat signs of aging.
Serums are the most popular vitamin C skincare product and they don’t always come cheap. That’s because vitamin C is quite unstable in its purest form. To help balance it out, high quality serums often combine it with vitamin E or ferulic acid.
How do I make sure I’m choosing vitamin C that’s stable?
Check ingredient labels for ascorbic acid, L-ascorbic acid or tetrahexyldecyl ascorbate, which is the most stable and effective form of vitamin C in skin care. The concentration should fall between 10 and 20%.
Also, watch the color of vitamin C serums. It should be very light - almost clear. If it starts to darken or turn brown, that means it has oxidized and should not be used.
What does vitamin C do?
Let us count the ways that this powerhouse ingredient helps improve skin tone and texture!
- Repair damage - first, it is a potent antioxidant that can help repair damaged skin cells and negate free radicals. By neutralizing the production of highly reactive molecules (free radicals), vitamin C reduces damage and keeps our skin cells healthy. Say goodbye to signs of premature aging!
- Promote collagen - second, vitamin C is highly acidic, which accelerates the production of collagen and elastin to keep skin firm and plump.
- Brighten pigmentation - and last (but certainly not least), vitamin C helps fade hyperpigmentation from acne scars and sun spots. By inhibiting your skin's melanin production, it can even prevent dark spots from happening in the first place (with regular use).
Is vitamin C safe for all skin types?
If you have sensitive skin, it’s best to start with a patch test and a lower concentration (such as 5%) to avoid potential redness or allergic reactions. If you do choose a serum with a higher concentration, try diluting it with a moisturizer.
How should I use (and store) vitamin C?
You’ll want to apply a vitamin C serum to clean skin, after toner but before moisturizer. It can be used both morning and night. Keep in mind that vitamin C can be potent, especially in higher concentrations, so you only need a few drops for each application.
Since vitamin C is a particularly sensitive acid, it’s important to store it properly to keep it as fresh and effective as possible. Close the lid tightly immediately after use and store it in a cool, dark area (the fridge is actually a great place for vitamin C storage). This is one serum that should not be featured in your shelfie!
Here are a few of our favorite vitamin C skincare products:
- SkinCeuticals C E Ferulic: Lauded as the best vitamin C serum by just about every beauty editor and dermatologist on the planet, this formula contains high concentrations of pure vitamin C (15%), vitamin E (1%), and ferulic acid (.5%) to help even out pigmentation. It protects from free radicals, diminishes lines, firms skin and brightens your complexion - even after a single use! $166 at dermstore.com
- TruSkin Vitamin C Serum: If the SkinCeuticals serum isn’t in your budget, try this blend of vitamin C, hyaluronic acid and vitamin E. Amazon reviewers can’t get enough of it and say it really helps to minimize the signs of aging, dullness and discoloration. $36 at Amazon.com
- The Ordinary 100% L-Ascorbic Acid Powder: Want to try vitamin C without adding another step to your skincare routine? This ultra-fine vitamin C powder is formulated to be mixed with other treatments like moisturizers or serums (except those containing niacinamide or EUK 134) to help brighten skin tone and reduce signs of aging. $6 at theordinary.com