Recently, it’s become clear to me that everyone of all ages should, with some exceptions, be adding vitamin C into our daily skincare routines. This powerful antioxidant protects our skin against free radical damage triggered by environmental aggressors like UV exposure and pollution. “As we age, the levels of vitamin C in our skin decrease,” explains aesthetician Edyta Jarosz of the Shafer Clinic in New York City. “That combined with exposure to environmental factors (UV light, pollution) and free radicals results in premature skin aging.” Adding vitamin C to your skin care routine can help offset this damage. “Vitamin C is a water-soluble vitamin that works to stimulate collagen production by expediting cell turnover.” says Dr. Dendy Engelman, dermatologist and Mohs surgeon at the Shafer Clinic. “It also helps brighten the skin and reduce scarring and hyperpigmentation over time.”
“The great thing about vitamin C as an ingredient category is that it’s as versatile as it is beneficial for skin,” says Drunk Elephant founder Tiffany Masterson. “Ascorbic acid is the best overall form of vitamin C, because its wide-ranging benefits for skin are the most supported in terms of published research. It can also stand on its own in a formula—if you have a good amount in a serum or moisturizer, 10-15 percent, then you really don’t need much else to gain benefits like firmer skin, reduced hyperpigmentation and it pairs well with other actives, too.” Dr. Engelman recommends applying a topical vitamin C serum once per day, in the morning. “Because serums have a relatively small molecule size and potent ingredients, they tend to be highly effective, so using a vitamin C serum will help this antioxidant penetrate deeply into skin and work its magic,” Dr. Engelman explains. And, by wearing a vitamin C serum underneath your SPF, you also help slow down premature aging and create a barrier that prevents your sunscreen from causing breakouts. Jarosz agrees: “when used regularly (compliance is key), one will also notice a reduction in the appearance of fine lines and improved skin firmness.” Vitamin C also helps address uneven skin tone, hyperpigmentation and dark spots.
“The great thing about vitamin C as an ingredient category is that it’s as versatile as it is beneficial for skin.” –Tiffany Masterson.
Can those with sensitive and reactive skin use vitamin C as well? Yes, but with caution. “If applied too liberally, vitamin C can be irritating and cause acne breakouts, redness or irritation,” Dr. Engelman explains. For certain cases of extremely sensitive skin, she recommends using a low-concentration formula in the 8-10 percent range. “If you have sensitive skin, it’s important to test a small amount of your vitamin C serum before you apply on your face,” says Jarosz. “Switching your vitamin C use to every 2-3 days instead of daily can help improve your tolerance.” Masterson suggests avoiding vitamin C formulas that contain silicone, essential oils, fragrances or dyes or drying alcohols, which can inflame the skin.