You can’t read a magazine or scroll through social media without a beauty editor or influencer telling you you need Vitamin C. It is one of the ‘hall of fame’ skincare ingredients, even having its own National Day - 4th April National Vitamin C Day.
So, let’s take a ‘Brutal Truth’ dive into Vitamin C, what it is and why does the skincare world bang on and on about it.
What is Vitamin C
Vitamin C, also known as L-ascorbic acid, is a water-soluble nutrient that is naturally present in many foods, particularly fruit and vegetables as well as having the option to purchase it as a dietary supplement.
Vitamin C Sources
Fruit and vegetables are excellent sources of vitamin C. Some of the best foods to have are:
- Citrus fruit
- Brussel sprouts
Vitamin C Skin Benefits
In the body, Vitamin C is required for the biosynthesis of collagen. Collagen is an essential component of connective tissues such as the skin, gut, blood vessels, ligaments and bones.
Vitamin C is also essential for the production of other essential nutrients and it ultimately helps to protect cells and keep them healthy, maintain healthy skin, blood vessels, bones and cartilage and help with wound healing. That is how vitamin C helps your skin and your entire body. Pretty crucial!
Vitamin C in Skincare
Besides consuming vitamin C in our diets, there is also topical Vitamin C, the kind of Vitamin C in skincare. But does it work?
If you were to do a quick Google search on what does Vitamin C do for your skin you would likely find skincare products advertising Vitamin C benefits like brightening the skin and fading dark spots, along with others like:
- Vitamin C is involved in collagen formation and thanks to an antioxidant effect it makes free radicals that can damage the cells of your skin harmless.
- It is often used in the treatment of skin dysfunctions such as acne vulgaris and rosacea.
- It has been shown to promote wound healing and prevent post-inflammatory pigmentation.
You can have vitamin C in various different skincare products: cleansers, serums, masks, moisturisers. If you want to reap the most benefits we would suggest if you wanted it then to aim for the serums and masks, not the wash-off products.
The most important thing though, is there isn’t just one type. Vitamin C comes in quite a few different forms, they differ in stability and can potentially irritate. It is not a one-size fits all solution!
Disadvantages of Vitamin C
The disadvantages of vitamin C vary according to the type. The pure form of Vitamin C, for example, is called L-Ascorbic Acid. The original and best, it is water-soluble however it is also very unstable. It oxidises and becomes less effective when exposed to heat, light and air. You need to use it, you can't save it and should not don’t stock up on it. We know it can be tempting to hoard beauty products, but this is not the one to go for.
It needs to be as fresh as possible, which is hard to know in the world of skincare as you don't have access to when your bottle was actually blended. This pure form can irritate, therefore, should avoid sensitive skin.
“For vitamin C to have an effect it would need to reach the dermis, because this is where the enzymes are located that make procollagen (the precursor to collagen). And as previously stated, with vitamin C on its own or in a serum, this is not possible, or not possible in a way that won’t harm your skin (by breaking it apart to get to those deeper layers, which destroys collagen to do so). This is why dietary vitamin C works and topical vitamin C does not: because the nutrients in your bloodstream can reach the dermis.” Wendy Ouriel - Cellular Biologist