Freshly Squeezed: How To Incorporate Vitamin C Into Your Skincare Regimen
Supercharge your skincare regimen with this powerful antioxidant, which promises to give results you’ll have to C to believe
We’re well versed in popping our daily dose of vitamin C for its myriad health benefits, but its long list of perks to skin from its topical application are equally as impressive.
This highly effective antioxidant has been proven to help brighten up a dull complexion and erase sun spots, all while reversing the visible signs of ageing.
“Vitamin C is one of the best antioxidants to diminish hyperpigmentation, fine lines and visible sun-damage, as well as promote collagen production,” says Biologi founder and cosmetic chemist Ross Macdougald.
“It’s a potent antioxidant that can neutralise free radicals and can aid your skin’s natural regeneration process, helping to repair damaged skin cells. Because of this, it’s a well-known brightening agent that encourages cell renewal and can be instrumental in reducing scars and spots,” he says.
Beyond brightening, vitamin C can be instrumental in firming the appearance of skin, with many brands speaking to its ability to tighten the skin around the neck and décolletage.
Today, vitamin C is the hero ingredient in a variety of “#shelfie worthy” products, included in everything from gritty powders and gel serums, to foaming cleansers and creamy moisturisers.
Read on for our tips on what to look out for when choosing a vitamin C product to add to your skincare regime.
ASCORBIC ACID VS NATURAL VITAMIN C
Not all vitamin C is created equal, and according to Ross, it’s important to distinguish the difference.
“What many people don’t realise is that there are two different types of vitamin C. The first type is synthetic, and the second type is natural. In the past, synthetic vitamin C reigned as the only option, simply because experts didn’t have the technology to extract natural vitamin C and keep it stable. Many brands labelled their ingredient as ‘vitamin C’, however when you delve deeper, it is ascorbic acid,” he explains.
There are two big differences between vitamin C and ascorbic acid. Firstly, vitamin C is natural, while ascorbic acid is synthetic. The second is the dramatic difference in pH levels. Ross says natural vitamin C has a pH of 6 to pH neutral (7), whereas some forms of ascorbic acid have a pH of 1 to 2.5. If used incorrectly, Ross says the topical application of ascorbic acid can cause skin irritation, reddening and chemical burns.
For those with normal skin, look for products with a low pH (3.5) for optimal absorption. If you have sensitive skin, use a formula with a pH of 5 or 6 which is kinder to skin.
Ascorbic acid aside, other names for synthetic vitamin C include L-ascorbic acid (the most potent form), mineral ascorbates, vitamin C ester (ascorbyl palmitate), magnesium ascorbic phosphate (water soluble), or D-isoascorbic acid (erythorbic acid).
CHECK YOUR CONCENTRATION
A product’s pH level isn’t the only thing to be mindful of when shopping for vitamin C.
Choosing the right vitamin C concentration level for your skin type is crucial to its efficacy. If you’re a recent convert, then start with a lower concentration of 10 per cent and gradually increase to 15 or 20 per cent as your skin adjusts and can tolerate a higher concentration.
Anything over 20 per cent may lead to irritation and increased sensitivity.
GET TO KNOW YOUR INGREDIENTS
Vitamin C works well with a host of complementary ingredients, including vitamin E, ferulic acid, vitamin B and hyaluronic acid.
In the same way that vitamin C is an antioxidant, so too is Vitamin E and ferulic acid. These skincare BFFs are also antioxidants help support the stability of vitamin C, and fight against free radical damage and boost the production of collagen.
If you have sensitive skin, however, a vitamin C-infused moisturiser is a worthy option for gentler delivery.
EASE INTO IT
When introducing any new products or ingredients to your skincare regime, it’s best to take a slow, gradual approach.
Start by only using vitamin C three times per week at night, then work up to daily use.
But don’t expect instant gratification, either, you’ll need to be using your vitamin C product continuously for several weeks to witness any real improvement in skin tone. It’s important to note too, that some benefits are imperceptible due its preventative nature (against free radical damage, for example).
A hard and fast approach can, in rare instances, cause stinging, redness, dryness or discolouration of the skin. It’s a good idea to patch test first before applying your chosen vitamin C product all over your skin.
WHEN TO APPLY IT?
Vitamin C is best applied twice daily (depending on the concentration), after your toner but before your moisturiser and SPF.
It’s a common myth that regular application of vitamin C can increase your sensitivity the sun. Rather, vitamin C is vulnerable to light exposure so applying SPF as the next step in your morning routine will allow it work more effectively.
When used together, vitamin C and SPF products help protect the skin from the free radical damage that can occur from UV light exposure.
There’s one final difference to note between vitamin C and its forms - it comes as either a water-based or an anhydrous (waterless) formulation.
Water-based vitamin C is notoriously unstable – it’s light sensitivity mean it’s typically housed in opaque or amber-hued vessels for this reason. Anhydrous vitamin C is more stable, even when bathed in sunlight. Air and heat are also top offenders for the fast degradation of your serum.
But whichever formulation you choose, it’s vital to store your vitamin C product in a dark, cool space with the lid tightly closed (a medicine dropper is an excellent option as it doesn’t require air to function). Tubes also work well.
So, how do you know if your vitamin C is ‘off’? If the colour becomes dark or cloudy, or it emits a pungent odour, it has likely already oxidised.
Check the back of the packaging if you’re unsure of the best way to store your serum.