The skin benefits of vitamin C have garnered significant buzz within the skin care community, and for good reason: this potent molecule works to smooth skin tone and texture, diminish the appearance of fine lines, and even brighten one’s complexion.
However, how exactly does vitamin C help your skin? What is the role of vitamin C in general skin health and care?
Here’s everything you need to know about vitamin C and its many benefits:
Firstly, What is Vitamin C?
To outline what vitamin C is, first we must go over what vitamins are… and why they matter for our skin’s health!
Technically speaking, the concept of vitamins encompasses micronutrients that have been found essential for human life that are more easily obtained from external sources. Vitamin C, namely, is a water-soluble nutrient that plays a vital role in our general health.
As humans, we rely on vitamin C for iron absorption, collagen synthesis, cardiovascular functions, and many other key processes that our bodies utilize daily.
With that being said, however, we are actually incapable of synthesizing vitamin C: this means that we cannot store excess quantities. Instead, our bodies must constantly replenish its vitamin C levels through both dietary and topical sources.
These sources commonly include:
- Citrus fruits (such as oranges, lemons, and grapefruit)
- Leafy greens (such as spinach)
- Cruciferous vegetables (such as broccoli and cabbage)
Vitamin C’s Role in Skin Care
Vitamin C is a powerhouse antioxidant which assists with neutralizing free radicals (which are highly reactive, unstable molecules that occur as part of biological and chemical processes.) When left unchecked, free radicals can lead to cellular damage and premature aging.
Vitamin C’s role in skin care is, primarily, to stabilize these molecules and mitigate their damaging capabilities.
As such, vitamin C helps with:
- Preventing Sun Damage: Vitamin C provides additional protective UV perks by countering the small percentage of UV rays that can penetrate sunblock. While not an adequate source of sun protection on its own, it provides antioxidant support when applied beneath sunscreen
- Supporting the Skin’s Natural Healing Process: When skin is compromised, vitamin C works to decrease inflammation and delay cellular damage to the skin. Additionally, it protects the skin’s natural barrier against harmful bacteria while simultaneously promoting heightened immunity within the skin.
- Brightening Complexions: The application of topical vitamin C can lighten existing hyperpigmentation, minimize dark spots, and reduce the risk of future pigmentation. How? By interfering with the excess melanin production behind skin discolouration
Collagen Production: One of the Most Popular Uses for Topical Vitamin C
One of the most popular uses for vitamin C is collagen production.
Vitamin C is required for the creation of collagen (and other connective tissues) throughout the body. It contributes to the strength, firmness, and structural integrity of the skin; in wound-healing, it is crucial to the stabilization of newly-formed tissue. Without it, wounds would not close.
Topically speaking, vitamin C has a reputation within the skin care community for being a “youth enhancer”: meaning that it encourages healthy collagen production, has been reported to slow trans-epidermal water loss, and diminishes the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles by plumping the skin.
Due to this, skin consultation clients here at Facial Expressions are often recommended a form of topical vitamin C if they have concerns surrounding visible signs of aging.
The Challenges Behind the Skin Benefits of Vitamin C
Although Vitamin C is a powerhouse antioxidant with a wide range of skin benefits, it can be a challenging ingredient with which to formulate products with.
This is particularly true for ascorbic acid. Ascorbic acid is the purest and most commonly recognized form of vitamin C; however, it is notoriously unstable, becoming easily oxidized when exposed to air, heat, and light. Once oxidized, vitamin C may degrade and become ineffective.
In addition to being unstable, ascorbic acid is a water-soluble molecule; this means that it can have a difficult time penetrating our lipid-protective skin barrier. The amount of ascorbic acid that can make it into the lower layers of the skin is minimal. Once there, it must try to penetrate the lipid-based cellular membranes to reach the interior of our skin’s cells. No easy feat. While one way to facilitate the absorption of ascorbic acid is to formulate skin care products at a very low pH, that can be detrimental (not to mention uncomfortable!) for topical use.
Other forms of vitamin C are available that include additional compounds to provide stability and aid deliverability. While less effective than pure ascorbic acid, the esterized versions of vitamin C such as magnesium ascorbyl phosphate or ascorbyl tetraisopalmitate are much more stable, far less irritating, and more readily absorbed into the skin. They are able to deliver the skin benefits of vitamin C without the drawbacks of ascorbic acid.
Pro Tip: Always discard a vitamin C product if you’ve noticed any change in colour, namely from bright yellow or orange to burgundy or brown. Ideally, vitamin C should be a straw-like colour. When in doubt, please contact your esthetician.
What to Know Before Incorporating Vitamin C Into Your Skin Care Routine
While vitamin C is widely hailed as the “holy grail” of skin care, there are key factors that users should know ahead of time to ensure that they are maximizing its benefits.
Know That Vitamin C Comes in More Forms Than Just Serums
While vitamin C serums are some of the most popular forms of topical vitamin C application, vitamin C can also be featured in moisturizers, cleansers, exfoliants, and sunscreens. An esthetician can help you mix-and-match your vitamin C usage to complement your existing skin care routine; after all, there are no cookie-cutter results when it comes to skin care!
Here at Facial Expressions,we pride ourselves on “cocktailing” both our in-house product usage and at-home product recommendations to ensure that clients are receiving a high level of customization that creates ongoing tangible change in their skin’s quality and general health.
How You Store Vitamin C-Based Products Counts
Because of vitamin C’s inherent instability, it is especially sensitive to light and air.
To avoid having your vitamin C oxidizing, it is advised to store them in opaque, air-tight containers away from sunlight.
Be Aware of Which Ingredients Clash With Vitamin C
While vitamin C is regarded as safe and well-tolerated, it can become aggravating when combined with exfoliating scrubs or acids.
One ingredient to avoid using in tandem with vitamin C is benzoyl peroxide, which can oxidize vitamin C and create inefficacy.
Pro Tip: There exists a myth that vitamin C should not be used with retinoids, but it is just that, a myth. The (misguided) concern stems from the acidic environment that vitamin C requires for stability, but retinoids don’t, in fact, break down in slightly acidic formulas. Your skin, after all, is slightly acidic in nature and vitamin A remains highly effective upon application. In actuality, combining vitamin C with vitamin A, and even vitamin E results in a highly stable formula with optimal skin benefits.
Vitamin C Usage For Perinatal Skin Care: Is Vitamin C Safe While Pregnant or Breastfeeding?
Questions surrounding perinatal skin care are abundant here at Facial Expressions… and for good reason! With the many limitations on what is safe for topical use both during and after pregnancy, it can be a confusing topic for new or expecting mothers to navigate.
With that being said, however, vitamin C is labeled as safe for perinatal skin care use. In fact, it is widely recommended as a go-to product for those experiencing dark spots or worsened hyperpigmentation during or after pregnancy.
Ready to Experience the Skin Benefits of Vitamin C First-Hand? Shop Yours Today
If you are interested in integrating the many skin benefits of vitamin C into your skin care, visit the Facial Expressions online store today to explore our many different professional-grade options. With Spring in full swing, there is no better time to lighten existing hyperpigmentation, get a youthful glow for summer, and get that diamond-bright complexion you’ve been dreaming of!