Melina Rieger, Cosmetic Coordinator
Vitamin C is an essential nutrient for our bodies. Our bodies need it to form blood vessels, cartilage, muscle, and collagen in bones. It is involved in the repair of tissue and the enzymatic production of neurotransmitters and is vital in the function of our immune system. It is a water-soluble, naturally occurring, and powerful antioxidant that the human body does not produce or store. Hence, we must obtain it from our diet from vitamin C-containing foods such as citrus and other fruits and vegetables. Scientists have found that vitamin C, also known as ascorbic acid, is highly effective as a topical to benefit our skin in all kinds of ways. It has become the gold standard of anti-aging.
Benefits of Vitamin C on our Skin
Vitamin C has become such a successful ingredient in skin care products because researchers found that using vitamin C topically is more beneficial for the skin than consuming it. Topical use allows the vitamin C to be absorbed effectively by the upper layers of the skin, allowing it to start working its magic.
As a powerful antioxidant, vitamin C protects against toxins or “free radicals,” which build up over time and damage the skin. Free radicals are known to play a significant role in the aging process. This ingredient is excellent for maintaining healthy skin. Other benefits of vitamin C include:
- Reduces hyperpigmentation and dark spots
- Improves skin texture
- Promotes collagen production
- Diminishes the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles
- Reduces redness
- Brightens skin
- Maintains and repairs damaged skin. It is often used in post-laser regimens to help speed up healing.
Can anyone use vitamin C?
Knowing all the skin benefits of using vitamin C, it is a product we should all consider adding to our skin care arsenal. It is beneficial to all skin types, and although safe and tolerated by most, many topical Vitamin C products are combined with other acids to maximize the benefits. We recommend performing a patch test first to check for sensitivity by applying a small amount to the inner surface of the forearm or side of the neck. You may apply it to the entire face if your skin tolerates it. Your Board-Certified Dermatologist or skin care Provider can help you determine the best vitamin C to incorporate into your skin care routine, depending on your skin type and any skin concerns you might have.
What to look for in a vitamin C
The best type of topical vitamin C depends on your skin type. L-ascorbic acid is known as the most potent form and the most thoroughly tested. The L- ascorbic acid content may vary from product to product. Higher concentrations may not be tolerated well by skin that is more on the oily side or those with sensitive skin. For those who struggle with it, we suggest using a product with a lower concentration of L-ascorbic acid (10%-15%) or a product that contains a combination of salicylic and L- ascorbic acids.
It has been proven that vitamin C in serum form is more effective than in moisturizers or toners, as it gets absorbed into the skin more easily. Other derivatives that are effective include ascorbyl palmitate and magnesium ascorbyl phosphate.
Once you decide on a vitamin C product, you want to be aware of the type of bottle the serum comes in and how it gets stored. Since light and oxygen break down vitamin C, proper storage will delay oxidation. Look for a product that comes in a dark bottle. Vitamin C serums should be stored in a cold, dark place where the temperature will not fluctuate, such as your refrigerator. If your refrigerator is not an option, you can choose a cupboard in a room that stays cool. Make sure to close the lid tightly after each use.
Incorporating Vitamin C Into Your Skin Care Routine
Typically, vitamin C is used as the first product after cleansing in the morning, so you get its protection benefit throughout the day. You don’t need a lot of product for it to be effective. Apply a few drops onto your fingers after you cleanse, or apply it directly on your face, pressing firmly but gently into the skin. Layer the rest of your skin care over your Vitamin C, and always finish with your favorite sunscreen (with an SPF of 30 or more.)
You might want to start slowly when you first use vitamin C on your skin. Some sensitive skins may experience itchiness, redness, or dryness. If you encounter these symptoms, start using it only a few times a week and work your way up to daily use. Using a moisturizer on top of the vitamin C serum does help, and you never want to forget to moisturize! As we mentioned previously, there are also lower concentrations you can start with.
Getting the right product for your skin type, skin concerns, and lifestyle is essential. Your Advanced Dermatology & Skin Surgery Cosmetic Specialist can determine your best fit through a skin assessment.
What Vitamin C Products do You Recommend?
Our recommendations will vary depending on the patient’s skin type or skin care needs at the time.
SkinCeuticals C E Ferulic® is the most widely used vitamin C serum we carry. It is best suited for patients with normal-to-dry skin and those who don’t have sensitivities due to high concentrations of L-ascorbic acid.
For patients with oily/acne-prone skin, we like SkinCeuticals Phloretin CF®, which has a lower concentration of L-ascorbic acid, and SkinCeuticals Silymarin CF™, which contains 0.5% salicylic acid to help reduce oil production.
Our top contender for sensitive and acne-prone skin is SkinBetter Science® Alto Defense Serum™ which contains tetrahexyldecyl ascorbate, a less irritating but effective type of vitamin C known for its ability to stimulate collagen and minimize redness from inflammation. Alto Defense Serum™ is unique because it contains 19 different antioxidants offering complete antioxidant protection and is formulated without harsh ingredients that may irritate the skin.
At Advanced Dermatology & Skin Surgery, our highly experienced Board-Certified Dermatologists, Certified Physician Assistants, Advanced Registered Nurse Practitioners, and Licensed Aestheticians are available for consultation if you are interested in learning more about how vitamin C can benefit your skin’s health or if you have any other skin concern or skin care goal you would like to discuss. Schedule an appointment at any of our four locations in the Greater Spokane and Inland Northwest locations.