Ingredient Spotlight: Vitamin C

If you’re anything of a skincare junkie like me, you’ll have seen the term ‘Vitamin C’ floating around. Initially heralding as one of the most important vitamins in our diet, the skincare industry has really taken advantage of the powerful properties of this vitamin to produce topical treatments for healthy, youthful-looking skin. So, I’ve partnered with Adore Beauty in this post to describe some of the benefits of Vitamin C, and was able to knuckle down into my favourite Vit C recommendations for you to try.

Vitamin C (Vit C), also known as ascorbic acid, is a naturally occurring antioxidant and is found in many popular fruits and vegetables like citrus fruits, strawberries, papaya, leafy greens, red capsicum and broccoli. Humans aren’t able to synthesise Vit C, so we have to acquire our Vitamin C through our diet. However, it’s known that the ‘bioavailability’ of Vit C in the skin is poor when it’s ingested or administered orally. This is where Vit C in skin care has a place as a topical treatment. Interesting fact! Apparently ‘ascorbic’ is derived from the word ‘ascorbus’ which means ‘no Scurvy’ (Scurvy [scorbutus] is a condition characterised by weak connective tissues, caused by a deficiency in Vitamin C). 

Vitamin C as an antioxidant

Antioxidants boast an ability to protect our cells and important molecules from damage by reactive oxygen species (free radicals). Unfortunately, the production of free radicals occurs in our system on a daily basis (eg from UV exposure, pollution) and it’s impossible to prevent them. It’s important to note here, sunscreen will only block around 55% of free radicals that are produced by UV exposure. Thankfully though, antioxidants are there to help eliminate these. Free radicals are characterised by unpaired electrons, making them super reactive and will basically try to steal an electron from anything else in their path to pair it with to become stable. Usually, this means our own tissues. Antioxidants are helpful because they are reducing agents that have the ability to donate an electron to these free radicals. Thus, these radicals are now reduced and neutralised, meaning that they do not have the power to attack our cells and proteins anymore. Interestingly, the power of Vitamin C can be increased up to four-fold when used in combination with Vitamin E. Vit E is again, another important antioxidant in the skin and both can help to reduce cell death by fighting against free radicals together.

Speaking of sun protection, Vit C is a sort of powerhouse when paired with sunscreens. Even though Vit C itself doesn’t absorb UV rays, it does exhibit a UV-protective effect through reducing free radicals in our skin. Because sunscreens cannot neutralise free radicals, and that it only blocks around 55% of free radical formation, it is important to pair your sunscreens with a topical treatment of Vit C. There has been some evidence in laboratory studies that 10% topical Vit C can reduce sunburn cell formation by at least 40%, however how realistic this study in the everyday lives of people is another question (ie, the study used freshly prepared ascorbic acid each treatment which obviously doesn’t happen when we perform our skincare routines).

Vitamin C and the synthesis of Collagen 

Vit C plays an important role in the synthesis of collagen in our skin that helps to maintain firmness and skin youth. Vit C is essential for the cross-linking of the fibres that form the triple helix mega-structure of collagen, resulting in strong connective tissue. Not only that, the antioxidant nature of Vit C has a protective effect on the collagen produced – so it facilitates the production of collagen AND protects it from free radicals. Winning!

Vitamin C could be your hyper-pigmentation saviour

Thankfully, I don’t suffer from hyper-pigmentation (touch wood) but I know many who do. It’s a harmless condition that is caused by deposits of melanin (regulates skin colour) in the skin and these appear as dark patches. Nonetheless, it can be a cosmetically unfavourable condition to have. Vit C has the ability to help treat hyper-pigmentation by disrupting the activity of an enzyme called tyrosinase which is the producer of the melanin pigment that is the culprit for hyper-pigmentation. Additionally, as an electron donor, Vit C may also interact with brown melanin and reduce it to a colourless form. Thus, topical Vit C could be a solution to reduce the hyper-pigmentation some people suffer from, particularly as they age. 

Topical formulation variations

Vitamin C in skincare products can take many forms, and it’s always a good start to learn how to read the ingredients labels so you know exactly which form you are getting and how it can benefit the skin. Different forms of Vit C have different chemical properties, and so will behave differently on the skin. In any case, it’s extremely important to understand the instability of Vit C as an ingredient. It’s an incredibly unstable ingredient that oxidises quickly if not prepared and stored correctly. Vit C is a colourless ingredient, so if you notice that the product you are using begins to change to a yellow colour, your Vit C has oxidised and is basically useless. Vit C is most stable in a powder form, however a lot of companies produce their Vit C products in the form of creams and serums. In order to maintain the stability of Vit C for the longest time possible, it’s important the pH of the product is kept below 3.5 to maintain the protonated form of Vit C. The decay of Vit C can be further accelerated by heat, changes in pH, and exposure to UV light and oxygen in the air.

Some of the most common Vit C forms include: 

  • L-ascorbic acid
  • Magnesium ascorbyl phosphate (MAP)
  • Sodium ascrobyl phosphate (SAP)
  • Ascorbyl palmitate (AA-PAL)

L-ascorbic acid is more stable and effective in higher concentrations at a pH around 3.5, but this may pose issues to those with sensitive skin. There, MAP which can be effective in lower concentrations and stable at pH 7 may be an option. However, MAP and SAP have to be converted into ascorbic acid in the skin to be an effective ingredient. How well this happens in the skin is unclear to me at this stage though. Non-salt derivatives such AA-PAL are lipid soluble instead of water soluble so must be delivered in an emulsion, and it is debatable whether this actually is absorbed into the deeper dermal layers. Additionally, studies on the benefits of these derivatives in the skin are more limited than the abovementioned ingredients. 

In any case, the half-life of Vit C is around 4 weeks, so if you’re worried about the stability of your Vit C I’d recommend wrapping any clear glass bottles in aluminium foil and limiting the exposure of the product to light and air. You could even store it in the fridge as well. 

So which Vitamin C products have I been loving?

I was sent some Vitamin C products to test out for myself in writing this article, which you can purchase from Adore Beauty, and I’ve listed the top 3 products of my choice. 

Intraceuticals Vitamin C +3 Booster ($49.99)

intraceuticalsvitc2

Ascorbyl Tetraisopalmitate, Ascorbyl Glucoside, Ascorbyl Palmitate,15ml

This is a serum-like product that is milky in colour. It’s called a booster because they are meant to be added to your daily serum in your routine, and not as a standalone product. Usually, Vit C has to be ‘activated’ by other ingredients to be delivered to the skin but make sure you are applying it immediately after ‘activating’ it to avoid it oxidising before it even hits your skin.  

This one contains 3 synergistic Vit C forms to optimise performance of Vit C but are non-salt derivatives. This one does have water listed (which could encourage oxidation), but it is housed in airless pump packaging and an opaque tub, which would help out with this. 

Skinstitut Vitamin C 100% ($45)

skinstitutvitc1

100% L-ascorbic acid powder, 10g

This is such an interesting product and one I hear many people being confused about. It is literally 100% L-ascorbic acid powder, so the best form! Being a dehydrated powder, this is really best way you can avoid the oxidation and degradation of Vit C products and it will last you so long! The way you use it is that you need to tap out in your fingers and mix in and activate with a serum before applying to your skin. The thing is, being so concentrated you only really need the tiniest bit of powder to mix in. Also, it needs to be diluted in a serum anyway before applying because your skin can’t absorb all of that Vit C anyway! It comes in a opaque tub with a skaker lid, again though, minimise the exposure to air and light!

Hylamide C25 Stabilised Vitamin C Booster ($59.95)

hylamidevitc4

Ethoxydigylcol, ethyl ascorbic acid, hydroxyphenoxy propionic acid, phenylethyl resorcinol, 30ml

I love simple skincare ingredients with a short list of constituents and Hylamide have a very ‘non-hand wavy’ approach to skincare. Ethoxydiglycol is a solvent, and in my opinion a preferable carrier than water in the instance of a Vit C product so thumbs up Hylamide! Ethyl ascorbic acid is the form of Vit C in this product, but one I haven’t mentioned in this product. Ethyl ascorbic acid is a more recent modification of the ascorbic acid molecule that increases its stability. And that’s exactly what Hylamide claim with this product, that is a much more stable form of Vit C. This way, the frosted glass bottle doesn’t need to scare you as much as it should. Although, I am pedantic about Vit C so I always keep this bottle inside it’s cardboard box to store it to make sure it is not exposed to light. It has an ‘oil dropper’ applicator and the texture of this serum is so intriguing! Not oily, but still has a viscosity and feels so light on  skin. 

In each case, I always mix in my Hyaluronic Acid serum with each of these Vit C products. None of the products gave me any irritation, sensitivity or broke me out. And since using them, I am really pleased with the clarity of my skin. Although I don’t have any hyper-pigmentation I still notice my skin is brighter. I don’t think this will help me with treating any photoaging currently on my skin (it’s currently in a great place) but it’s a great preventative ageing measure and I think I will thank my mature skin for it later. I think Vit C is one of those ingredients that really has so many benefits to our health, both internally and externally, and it really seems that isn’t talked about enough. 

text divider

That completes my post! I hope to do many more of these ‘Ingredient Spotlight’ posts for you! I enjoy researching these articles and communicating them to my audience because we both learn so many things this way! What did you learn about Vit C that you didn’t know before? Want to start incorporating it into your routine? Let me know in the comments! 

Until my next post you can catch up with me on Instagram, on Facebook or on Pinterest! Also, don’t forget to subscribe to my blog so you never miss a post from me! 

blog signature

Five Secrets

Further Reading:

  1. Telang, P.S., 2013. Vitamin C in dermatology. Indian Dermatol Online J. 4, 143-146
  2. Stamford, N.P.J., 2012. Stability, transdermal penetration, and cutaneous effects of ascorbic acid and its derivatives. J Comset Dermatol. 11, 310-317

I added my post to the Fabulous and Fun Life makeup madness party! Go and check it out to discover more beauty bloggers!

*These products were supplied to me for editorial consideration. However, as always, true to my values and beliefs all the material and opinions presented are genuine and my own. I am also not a qualified chemist or dermatologist so please consult your doctor or do your own research if you require further advice

 

 

You may also like

34 Comments

  1. Great and informative post! I’m tempted to try the Hylamide version as I like the simplicity of the Deciem brands as I use The Ordinary serums but haven’t tried their Vitamin C yet. I want to start adding it into my routine regularly. I’ve used the Clinique Fresh Pressed which I loved so I’m definitely on the look out for a good Vitamin C product I can use every day 🙂 x

    1. I’m actually so so excited by Hylamide as a brand. I am obsessed with Deciem’s branding and I love that all their active ingredients are heavily back by scientific studies. They are such a ‘no bullshit’ company too. I’ve always dabbled in a bit of Vit C before but never fully implemented it until recently and I can say that I a deserve a slap because I should have done it sooner! I’ve heard good things about that Clinique Vit C range actually!

  2. I love these posts, I’m such a novice at ingredients and knowing how to use them. I didn’t even think about mixing it in with a serum, I have been using my Vitamin C and following it with a serum, but I might have to mix it into the serum and see how that goes!!

    Laura || http://www.thelifeoflaura.com.au xx

    1. I’ve bought quite a few things off there… haha. Yes vitamin C is great for your diet and inner health but there isn’t much in our skin so topical treatments are a good way to boost skin vitamin C levels!

  3. I’m really wanting to incorporate more vitamin C into my skincare range. I might have to have a look into these.

    1. There are a tonne of products out there with vitamin C but it’s really important to know which form or derivative is in there, and the concentration! There are some products out there labelled as vitamin C which probably shouldn’t be! These would be a good place to start! Let me know if you have any other questions:)

  4. Great post idea! Especially coming into winter! I didn’t know that there could be multiple names for Vitamin C so I’m definitely saving all the alternate names and keeping an eye on my products. I love Hylmaide’s products and the booster sounds great, so I’ll definitely have to look into it!

    Rochelle || http://www.simplesocialsister.com

    1. Thanks Rochelle!! Yeah there are so many variations of Vitamin C because many companies are trying to create modified versions to increase stability of Vit C. However, some have really big modifications so that I don’t even know if I could call the vitamin C to be honest! But yeah this hylamide booster is freaking gorgeous!

  5. Obsessed with this post… vitamin C is one of my favourite skincare ingredients for plumping and increasing collagen in the skin. Love it, thanks so much for sharing! xx
    Lots of love,
    Marina Rosie xx

    1. Aww thanks Marina! Me too! I’m now obsessed with Vit C! I knew of all the benefits of using it before now but I just never really bothered to fully implement it into my routine. Thankfully now it’s here to stay!

  6. Yet another winning article Felicia – I’ve not thought about Vitamin C in skincare products much at all, but I sure will now lol! Only just discovered the Hylamide brand, so this information is right on time – loving their SubQ Eyes xxx

    1. I’m always so warmed by your comments! I think everyone should at least try one Vitamin C product in their lifetime, and even better if it’s a good one! Hylamide is one of the best places to start! They have a simplified yet effective approach to skincare by using active ingredients that are truly backed by scientific research. They are my favourite brand at the moment!

  7. Great post Fel, thank you! I love when I read something that teaches me new things about my beauty and skin care routines. I’d noticed my skin improved significantly when I used Vitamin C but only with certain products which claimed to contain it. Now that I understand how it’s best used and which forms it’s best in, it suddenly makes a lot more sense to me why some were better than others. I’ll definitely have to try some of these!

    1. Thanks Steph! Yes you are right, but it makes it hard when there are so many variations of Vitamin C! New forms pop up all the time and it’s hard knowing just how close they are to the real thing without them all being studied in detail. The powder is fantastic if you are okay with using Vit C this way other wise the Hylamide is a great one to start with!

    1. That is not uncommon and I must admit I don’t do it much with my makeup but I’ve definitely become more aware with my skincare. It’s a fun process of finding out what ingredient does what! Thanks for stopping by!

  8. Unfortunately my sensitive/reactive skin & Vitamin C don’t get along – I’ve found out the hard way by reacting to 2 different serums. One had ascorbic acid as an ingredient, the other one (which I’d been using for a couple of weeks recently) contains MAP (from memory). I’m rather bummed because I’d like something to help out with the small amounts of pigmentation I have from sun damage + overall anti-aging. Thankfully B serums don’t give me the same headache.

    1. Oh no that’s such a shame. I know there are quite a few different variations of Vitamin C you could try, but I guess you have to decide whether it’s worth the risk to find the right one.

    1. Oh lovely! So it’s not the booster? I have to check out more of their range, I am not too familiar with their products.

  9. I really like this type of articles 🙂
    I LOVE Vitamin C but I find it difficult to find a good serum. So thanks for the different options! At the moment, I’m also using a LAA powder from the brand A’pieu. Can’t wait to try more and more Vitamin C!

  10. Definitely do more ingredient focussed posts please! It’s interesting that there are clear benefits to applying VitC topically and the breakdown of the different forms was great.
    I personally love the sound of the SkInstitut powder!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *