The health benefits of vitamin C have been well documented over the years. Sailors used to take lemons on their journeys to help prevent scurvy (bleeding gums) and these days most of us up our dose of the vitamin if we feel a cold coming along.
Vitamin C is also a celebrated skincare ingredient – and has been since the 1930s. It’s list of benefits is almost endless and therefore there are hundreds of vitamin C creams and serums on the market. And there is an appetite for them; Pinterest saw a whopping 3379 percent rise in vitamin C ‘pins’ last year.
Here is everything you need to know about the popular skincare ingredient.
What is it?
Vitamin C is also known as ascorbic acid and l-ascorbic acid and is found in plenty of food, including citrus fruits and dark leafy greens. As we mentioned above, it is renowned for its multiple health benefits and is available in supplement form for this very reason. Over the years the benefits of applying it topically have been well researched and it is now one of the most Googled skincare ingredients.
What are the skincare benefits?
Its antioxidant powers makes vitamin C a good defender against environmental aggressors. Studies have also revealed the close link between the vitamin and a lift in collagen and elastin production, as well as a reduction in pigmentation.
What is the best form of vitamin C?
Vitamin C comes in many different forms. L-ascorbic acid is the most potent form, however is it incredibly tricky to stabilise in formulas. As a result, ascorbyl-6-palmitate and magnesium ascorbyl phosphate are the most commonly used forms of vitamin C in skincare as they’re more stable, but are diluted as they require more conversions in your skin.
It’s not just the form on vitamin C, but also the amount that counts. Studies have shown that 20 percent is the maximum amount that our skin can absorb and a higher percentage could cause irritation. Therefore, experts recommend opting for formulas that contain ten to 20 percent. That said, a lot of formulas compensate for loss and offer a slightly higher percentage to ensure that the amount your skin receives is around the 20 percent mark.
How should you use vitamin C?
The photosensitive natural means that vitamin C is best used overnight or with a good quality SPF during the day. Some skin types can find it a little irritating, so start by using it two-to-three times a week, rather than every night. It’s not unusual to feel a slight tingling when you first apply it or your skin to feel a little itchy, but if you have a stronger reaction we recommend rinsing it off.
Which vitamin C serum is best?
The issue with vitamin C is that is it tricky to formulate as it is incredibly unstable. Exuviance’s AF Vitamin C20 Serum Capsules, £59, which are on pre-order only at the moment, contain 20 percent l-ascorbic acid. The capsule is biodegradable and the formula is both oil and fragrance free. Those with sensitive skin may still feel a slight tingle for the first couple of times, but the formula is largely non-irritating. Obviously, these are at the higher end in terms of cost averaging at £1 per use.
For those on a smaller budget, it is worth looking at Garden of Wisdom’s Vitamin C 23% + Ferulic Acid Serum, £10. The formula includes an extra boost of antioxidants courtesy of ferulic acid and a hit of hydration with hyaluronic acid. Otherwise, Lixirskin Vitamin C Paste, £32, contains 10 percent l-ascorbic acid formulated with glycerin to treat skin without causing it to dry out. Derma E Vitamin C Concentrated Serum, £22, uses sodium ascorbyl phosphate.
If your skin is very sensitive, start by using Derma E’s Even Tone Brightening Cleanser, £15, which contains a low dose of sodium ascorbyl phosphate to help improve your skin tone.
As with most ingredients, it will take a couple of weeks to notice any real difference to your skin, but vitamin C is one of the most researched and worth exploring.