Vitamin C is an essential part of a well-rounded anti-aging skin care routine. Applying vitamin C as a serum targets its benefits, letting you deliver a concentrated form right to your skin.
With an abundance of skin care products currently available, you want to make sure that what you’re using is as effective as possible. So while you may understand the benefits of a good cleanser, exfoliator, and moisturizer, Vitamin C benefits for skin might not be as obvious. Maybe you’re hesitant to add another step to your skin care routine, and want to make sure that any additional products are completely necessary. Don’t second guess yourself: Vitamin C is an essential part of a well-rounded anti-aging skin care routine, with both internal and external benefits for your skin.
So to start, what is it exactly? Vitamin C is an antioxidant that is necessary for a variety of functions in humans: it’s essential for growth, development, and the repair of damaged tissues, as well as making sure your immune system is healthy. Humans need to get their Vitamin C from food sources such as kale, strawberries, broccoli or citrus fruits, but there is a limit to how much of it can be absorbed into your body. So no matter how many kale and strawberry smoothies or broccoli casseroles you knockback, the most effective way for Vitamin C to have a positive effect on your skin is when it is applied topically.
Christine Lee, the National Spa Educator for /skin regimen/, summarizes why topical vitamin C serum is such an effective anti-aging tool: “It’s a powerful antioxidant that stimulates collagen production and reduces discoloration, which are all important factors in the fight against aging.” At the most basic level of skin care, vitamin C is an antioxidant that helps your skin protect itself against stressors such as UV rays and pollution, while also neutralizing free radicals. Dermatologist Patricia Wexler emphasizes this point, explaining that it “aids in your skin’s natural regeneration process, which helps your body repair damaged skin cells.” Applying Vitamin C as a serum targets its benefits, letting you deliver a concentrated form right to your skin.
Different kinds of Vitamin C
Just like how skin care isn’t a one-size-fits-all routine, Vitamin C is available in several different forms: although they work toward the same end goal, some of the main differences between them include varying degrees of stability, potency, and likelihood for causing skin sensitivity. Understanding the differences between each form and the individual Vitamin C benefits for skin will let you choose the right fit for your specific needs.
L-Ascorbic Acid (LAA): While LAA is the most potent form of Vitamin C available (and thought to be the most effective), it can potentially irritate your skin if too much is used. If you test it out and are happy with the results, it’s the best choice for normal or oily skin.
Magnesium Ascorbyl Phosphate: This water-soluble form of vitamin C is best for those with sensitive or dry skin looking for an option with the smallest chance of irritation.
Sodium Ascorbyl Phosphate: As another gentle alternative, this derivative helps to brighten skin tone and fight potential damage from free radicals.
Ascorbic Glucosamine: For anyone dealing with hyperpigmentation, this form of Vitamin C is helpful to help brighten and correct skin tone.
Ascorbyl Palmitate: Known as a less potent but more “stable” form of Vitamin C (meaning it won’t degrade as quickly as other types), this version helps repair free radical damage on the skin.
- Tetrahexyldecyl Ascorbate: As an overall choice for a Vitamin C treatment, this is a fat-soluble version that can deeply penetrate the skin to get results.
Ingredients Often Paired With Vitamin C
Since different forms of Vitamin C have varying stability, it’s often beneficial to add additional ingredients to help keep it balanced. And just as we know using a serum before your daily moisturizer boosts its effectiveness, these ingredients have the same positive outcome for the benefits of vitamin C serum.
We’ve previously covered why hyaluronic acid is a hydrating (and necessary) part of any anti-aging skin care routine. It plumps, moisturizes and softens skin while fighting against the main signs of aging, like wrinkles, fine lines and dullness. Using a hydrating serum with hyaluronic acid will help your skin maintain optimal moisture levels, keeping it looking youthful and radiant.
Another antioxidant, vitamins E and C work together to help protect your skin against the damaging effects of free radicals, which in turn helps to protect against the aging effects of the sun. As a bonus, vitamin E is also known to have moisturizing and soothing properties; when combined with vitamin C, you’re well on the way to crafting a great skin care routine.
While found naturally in foods like rice and citrus, the antioxidant ferulic acid’s real beneficial potency is when it’s used as a serum. As another great ingredient for fighting free radicals, it also helps to boost the stability of vitamins E and C when used together.
One of the forms of vitamin B3, niacinamide is a smart choice to help fight inflammation, rosacea and different forms of acne. When combined with vitamin C, these two ingredients will help to ensure your skin is bright and blemish-free. The benefits of niacinamide and vitamin C are numerous, since “together, the ingredients recharge and revamp the texture of your skin and shrink the size of your pores, boosting collagen turnover and delivering a youthful glow.”
The benefits of Vitamin C
So now that you’ve had a crash course in the science behind vitamin C serums, here’s why you need to make it an essential part of your skin care routine. These are the main vitamin C benefits for skin:
Fights free radicals and protects against sun damage
Most people know to incorporate a daily sunscreen into their skin care routine, but the fight against sun damage can go a little further. Sun damage is caused by free radicals, which are atoms with a missing electron. In the process of the free radicals “taking” electrons from the atoms in your skin, you end up with sun damage. The antioxidants in ingredients such as vitamin C act as a kind of electron middleman for your skin: by providing the missing electrons the free radicals need, they protect your skin from any further sun damage.
Lightens hyperpigmentation and brown spots on skin
Hyperpigmentation can be caused by acne scarring, sun damage, or most commonly, the overproduction of melanin in the skin. The effect that vitamin C has on these dark areas and brown spots are twofold: not only can it help to lighten and correct these areas of your skin, but it also helps to inhibit future melanin production. We’ve already discussed how vitamin C protects your skin against sun damage, and this is an additional measure to ensure a healthy, bright and even skin tone.
Boosts collagen production
Collagen and elastin are two protein fibers that help keep your skin looking plump, youthful and firm, and their decreased presence can mean visibly aged and tired-looking skin with fine lines. Topical vitamin C helps to trigger collagen production in the skin: because it’s acidic, your skin thinks it’s being damaged and that it needs to start the healing process. This sensory trigger, therefore, accelerates the production of collagen and elastin, meaning younger and healthier-looking skin for you.
A Foolproof Vitamin C Skin Care Routine
Are you feeling like a vitamin C expert yet? Once you’ve found the right derivative for your skin type and understand the skin issues you’d like it to correct, follow this general skin care routine to maximize its effectiveness. A general rule for applying different skin care products is to work from the thinnest to the thickest consistency: this lets the “thinner” products (like most serums) have their chance to absorb into the skin before you apply “thicker” products (like a rich moisturizer) on top of them.
- First, make sure your skin is cleansed, clean, and slightly damp.
- Apply the serum starting with a few drops, use your fingertips to spread the vitamin C serum evenly over your face and neck. Never pull or tug on your skin, as this can exacerbate wrinkles, fine lines and other signs of aging. If you feel your skin wasn’t adequately covered with that first round of serum, add additional drops until it feels evenly distributed.
- Wait for the serum to absorb into your skin - the amount of time this takes is a personal preference, and will increase depending on the thickness of the serum and the amount that you have applied.
- Once the serum has been completely absorbed into your skin, now is the time to add any additional treatments or serums. After these additional products have absorbed, round out your anti-aging skin care routine with an eye cream, sunscreen, and moisturizer.
As is the case with any new skin care products, you should always do a targeted patch test before applying it to your face and neck. If you’re going to experience any sensitivity or negative reaction, it’s better to learn that before you’ve covered your entire face. When choosing your vitamin C serum, try to start with a lower concentration, then move into stronger percentages after seeing how your skin reacts to it. While it could take a while for you to see results, it’s important to apply your vitamin C serum consistently as a part of your daily skin care routine. Other products may give you something that looks more “immediate,” but the long term benefits will be well worth sticking to a consistent routine.
It’s amazing to consider how big of a difference a little vitamin C serum can have on the overall look and health of your skin. On its own, this antioxidant powerhouse corrects hyperpigmentation, protects against sun damage from free radicals, and boosts collagen production. And when paired with additional ingredients like hyaluronic acid or niacinamide, you get an even more impactful asset when you’re working to counteract the signs of aging. So even though anti-aging skin care routines are adaptable to suit different skin types and textures, consider adding a vitamin C serum into your lineup and reap the healthy, glowy benefits.
By Lauren Hannel, staff contributor