You may have been taught from a young age to start the day with a revitalising glass of orange juice, or that downing a Berocca can help to ward off a looming cold – but are you clued up on how antioxidant vitamin C can help your skin?
You see derms agree that vitamin C is one of the most important steps in any skincare routine, following happily behind SPF and thorough cleansing. Not only that but if you want your skin to truly reap the benefits of vitamin C, more can be achieved if you apply it topically rather than ingesting it.
But don’t take our word for it. We called on Cosmetic Doctor Sophie Shotter to reveal why vitamin C is such a BFF to your skin and to dispel some common misconceptions about the potent ingredient.
Plus, we have rounded up a guide to the 14 best vitamin face serums below so you can add one to your routine pronto.
What does Vitamin C serum do for the skin?
'Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant, helping your skin to fight free radical damage from sunlight and pollution. Vitamin C also helps to boost collagen production, keeping skin firmer and healthier,' explains Dr Shotter. '[On top of that, it works] on the melanin production pathway in the skin, meaning vitamin C can help to give you a more even skin tone with less pigmentation.'
Is it good to put Vitamin C on your face?
'Most skin types will benefit from using vitamin C serum, and used early it can help to prevent pigmentation from forming.
'Those with sensitive skin should be careful as the acidity of the vitamin C may be an irritant for them, and they should start with a low percentage. Those with acne-prone skin types should also be cautious as several vitamin C serums are oil-based and can therefore exacerbate breakouts - there are some good water-based antioxidant serums available though,' notes Dr Shotter.
Does Vitamin C really work for skin?
Yes. There are now multiple studies that show vitamin C is a potent powerhouse of skin-protecting antioxidant with the ability to boost collagen production (hello, plump, pillowy skin), whilst simultaneously tackling unwanted pigmentation and dullness.
It’s best applied via a serum. Why? Well, serums are lighter in consistency than moisturiser and so are effectively absorbed into the skin, where the stuff can get to work. Good news is, all of your favourite skincare makers, from glow-getting Danish brand Ole Henriksen, to Boots, who are now doing an own-brand 'ingredients line,' are now making versions to suit each price point.
Who is Vitamin C best for?
'Vitamin C is useful for almost all skin types. If used from your twenties onwards it will help to prevent pigmentation and help collagen levels boosted.
'If you use it once your skin has begun to age it will work well to improve pigmentation and to boost collagen production. It is one of the core pillars of any skincare regime that I put together, but the exact product I use will vary depending on skin type,' explains Dr Shotter.
Can I use Vitamin C serum every day?
'Yes, vitamin C serum can be used every day. I would recommend using it in the morning as it will working synergistically with your sunscreen to improve your skin’s protection from sunlight,' suggests Dr Shotter. 'Sensitive skins may need to build up their tolerance to vitamin C serums by starting with using it on alternate days.'
Should I apply Vitamin C morning and night?
'Vitamin C is best used in the morning, where it will help protect your skin from the day’s environmental [assaults],' says Dr Shotter.
Does Vitamin C brighten skin?
Yes, it can help with dullness as well as pigmentation because it blocks the enzyme tyrosinase, which is responsible for accelerating melanin production, and left unchecked, it leads to dark spots. Vitamin C also breaks down over-pigmented cells on the skin's surface, helping skin to look brighter, which it does without altering normal skin pigmentation.
How do I apply Vitamin C serum to my face?
'Vitamin C should be applied after cleansing and toning, but before applying anything creamy in texture. I recommend applying vitamin C serum with your fingertips rather than the palm of the hand, as your will waste a lot of product on your palms. Dab small amounts over the cheeks, forehead, chin and nose before massaging in with the fingertips,' advises Shotter.
Why does Vitamin C burn my face?
'Vitamin C is acidic in pH, so it can tingle. If it is burning then it is likely the formulation is too strong for your skin type,' warns Shotter. 'Take a break for a few days and consider using a product with a lower percentage of vitamin C in it.'
How long does it take Vitamin C serum to work?
'Vitamin C will start working very quickly on your skin, but you may not see the visible improvement immediately,' says Dr Shotter. 'At 12 weeks most people will be seeing a good result, but many people start to notice improvements from four weeks onwards.'
Are there any ingredients Vitamin C shouldn't be mixed with?
'I would avoid mixing vitamin C with AHAs and BHAs - vitamin C is an acid in its own right, and the two acids could change each other’s properties and performance, as well as causing irritation.
'Benzoyl Peroxide can oxidise vitamin C - even though you may not see a reaction, it would potentially reduce the effectiveness of vitamin C,' explains Dr Shotter.
On the flipside, Dr Shotter notes that 'vitamin C works even better in conjunction with other antioxidants such as vitamin E, as the two ingredients work synergistically.'
What are the different types of Vitamin C I should be aware of?
'L Ascorbic Acid is the most active form of vitamin C and is the one I would look out for in the ingredients list,' says Dr Shotter.
'In terms of percentages: a sensitive skin may only need a 5% formulation, an average type skin 10-15%, an oilier skin 20%. Research suggests there is no additional benefit to using higher percentages than this'.
14 best Vitamin C serums
1. Ole Henriksen Banana Bright™ Vitamin C Serum
Fresh from the glow-getting Danish brand. As well as vitamin C, this potent blend includes exfoliating acids and banana powder-inspired pigments, to help to revive your fresh, morning-ready look.
2. ZENii Antioxidant Power Serum
This is water-based and therefore great for acne-prone skins.
3. Kiehl's Powerful-Strength Line-Reducing Concentrate
If you're after vitamin C for its collagen-boosting abilities, this serum is designed to reduce fine lines and wrinkles thanks to its potent vitamin C and hydrating hyaluronic acid.
4. SkinCeuticals C E Ferulic
A favourite of WH Beauty Editor Perdita Nouril's, this serum boasts 15% L-Ascorbic Acid (the most potent type of vitamin C), alongside vitamin E, which makes vitamin C 4 times more potent, Ferulic acid is another potent antioxidant, so consider this your skin's first line of defense.
5. Drunk Elephant C-Firma Day Serum
Like the Skinceuticals serum, this contains L-Ascorbic Acid, vitamin E and ferulic acid. If dull skin is your concern, pumpkin ferment extract and pomegranate enzymes work to dissolve unwanted dead skin.
6. Boots Ingredients Vitamin C Serum 30ml
The Boots 'ingredients' line follows the model mapped out by The Ordinary: individual ingredients which you can then layer for a customised routine. This super affordable serum has less of the fancy added extras than more expensive brands- and the bottle is on the small side - but as an entry-level serum, it's hard to beat.
7. Sunday Riley C.E.O. Glow
In this serum, vitamin C is combined with turmeric face oil to really brighten the complexion. If pigmentation is a specific concern, this is a good serum to try.
8. FEMMUE Lumiere Vital C Serum
Aside from vitamin C and E, added safflower seed oil, and alpha-bisabolol work together to bring back skin's own natural radiance. Hyaluronic acid and vitamin B5 also impart moisture while centella asiatica comforts and soothes skin. A great one for really dry skin.
9. Sister&Co Vitamin C Brightening Booster
If dullness is robbing your complexion's glow, this hero serum combinined 20% tetrahexyldecyl ascorbate with Australian Kakadu plum, the richest natural source of vitamin C in the world. A daily dose evens out skin tone to noticeably brighten your skin.
10. Vichy Liftactiv Vitamin C Skin Brightening Corrector
Containing more vitamin C than 20 oranges, this will boost your skin's glow in as little as 10 days.
11. The Ordinary Vitamin C Suspension 23% + HA Spheres 2%
Packed with hyaluronic acid to draw moisture from the air, this serum is great is dryness is a problem. Plus, it costs less than a takeaway coffee.
12. Medik8 C-Tetra
Packed with vitamins C and E,Tetra sinks past the defensive lipid barrier and deep into skin, for extra protection against sun and pollution-induced damage. Beauty editors and skincare pros rave about this hero product.
13. Pixi Vitamin C Remedy Mask
If you're in rush to seek radiance, this mask is a good shout. Apply before big events to help dial up your glow.
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