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Vitamin C is one of the most beneficial active ingredients in skincare. This powerful, potent antioxidant is proven to protect, boost and brighten dull skin – and is universally recommended by dermatologists everywhere – largely because (unlike some retinoids) it is incredibly user-friendly, and works well combined with other products.
Vitamin C, sometimes referred to as Ascorbic Acid, can be beneficial to anyone's skin, regardless of skin type, but what actually is Vitamin C, and what are the benefits for skin?
We put your most FAQ to Consultant Dermatologist Dr Andrew C Markey MD FRCP
‘Like Retinol, Vitamin C is another 'magic bullet' for dermatologists. A natural antioxidant, vitamin C is required for the growth and repair of tissues in all parts of our bodies, including our skin. Humans lack the enzyme required for synthesis of vit C, which is why we need to acquire it from natural sources – such as citrus fruits and green leafy vegetables,’ says Dr Markey.
There is a limit to the amount of vitamin C that can be absorbed by the gut – and bioavailability is inadequate for skin when taken orally. Dermatologists favor the use of topical ascorbic acid for good skin health.
While most dermatologists agree that the best vitamin C skincare product to use is serum (designed to deliver targeted, more potent ingredients more deeply into the skin), it’s less about the vehicle that vitamin C comes in, and more about the type of vitamin C that is being applied.
‘L-ascorbic Acid is the most active form of vitamin C,’ says Dr Markey – ‘but it has to be formulated in an acidic base to get it through the skin barrier, and this can irritate some patients' skin. For this reason more ‘friendly’ forms such as ascorbyl glucoside or magnesium ascorbyl phosphate (MAP) are often used.’
The beauty industry has many forms for vitamin C. Check ingredients labels for:
L-ascorbic Acid (LAA): The chemical name for pure vit C – Ascorbic Acid is the most active (and unstable) form of vitamin C. High concentrations used to treat persistent skin problems. It can cause irritation due to the PH of acid it's mixed with.
Ascorbic acid/Vitamin C esters: Non-acidic version of vitamin C most suited to sensitive skin. Most commonly used: Ascorbyl glucoside; sodium ascorbyl phosphate (SAP) magnesium ascorbyl phosphate (MAP)
Suitable for all skin types, vitamin C is great for anti-aging, reducing hyperpigmentation and brightening skin:
This antioxidant protects from irritation, inflammation and environmental stressors (UV damage, air pollution).
Boosts the production of collagen and prevents premature aging of the skin.
Brightens dull skin and balances skin tone by decreasing the production of pigment (reducing sun damage spots, hyperpigmentation and any redness post-breakout on acne-prone skin)
Vitamin C is proven to work and (unlike retinoids) suitable to use during pregnancy
Stinging or dryness can occur with pure ascorbic acid.
Vitamin C esters are more suitable for sensitive skin – speak to your dermatologist if you have very sensitive skin.
Vitamin C can stain clothes if it oxidises.
Read more about how to include vitamin C in your skincare routine.
Reviewed by Consultant Dermatologist Dr Andrew C Markey MD FRCP.