Skin Sleuth: What Is Vitamin C and How Does It Work?
Vitamin C, scientifically known as ascorbic acid, should be a staple in your skin-care routine. It has anti-aging benefits, protects your skin from free radicals and helps brighten your overall complexion. And with Vitamin C Day around the corner (it’s on April 4th), the Skincare.com team took the opportunity to get a crash course on the powerful antioxidant. We turned to Rocio Rivera, Ph.D., and Vice President of L’Oréal Paris Scientific Communications to find out just what vitamin C does, how it works and what to look for when adding it to our skin-care routines. Find out all you need to know about the must-have skin-care ingredient, ahead.
What Is Vitamin C?
Vitamin C is an antioxidant naturally found in citrus fruits and dark, leafy greens. In general, antioxidants help combat damaging free radicals that can lead to signs of premature aging in the skin like fine lines, wrinkles and discoloration. According to the American Academy of Dermatology, vitamin C specifically plays an essential role in maintaining skin’s healthy appearance and neutralizing free radicals. What’s more, it’s suitable for all skin types. “It’s fragrance-free, paraben-free, mineral-oil free, allergy tested and great for sensitive skin,” says Rivera.
Although vitamin C is in the larger family of antioxidants, Rivera notes that it’s actually unique because it’s highly active, but equally deactive. “Because vitamin C is very effective, it can be deactivated easily by light, water and oxygen,” she says. “Those three key things are important to take a look at when you are considering what vitamin C formula you want to use on your face.” This means that a highly potent vitamin C formula has the right concentration on the inside and the right packaging, like a dark bottle, to protect it on the outside.
What to Look for When Buying Vitamin C Skin Care
“The first thing to take into consideration when you’re looking for a vitamin C formula is the percentage,” says Rivera. She explains that a good formula will have pure 10-20% vitamin C. You should also make sure your formula doesn’t contain water. “You really want an an-hydrous formula that, however you use it, won’t come into contact with air or with light,” she says. “Packaging is usually the least sexy element you look for in a formula, but it’s extremely important.” Look for a product housed in an opaque, metal tube that won’t allow oxygen to go into it and corrupt the solution. Not sure which product to add to your routine? We like the L’Oréal Paris Derm Intensives 10% Pure Vitamin C Serum.
How to Incorporate Vitamin C Into Your Routine
Incorporating vitamin C into your skin-care routine is easy. It should be the first step you do in the morning. In fact, your vitamin C serum actually serves as a great base for sunscreen. “If you put on your vitamin C before your sunscreen or SPF, it helps boost sun protection and is a proven anti-ager,” says Rivera. In that same vein, vitamin C should always go underneath other skin-care additives, like glycolic acid, hyaluronic acid or retinol. What’s more, Rivera explains that a slightly damp face isn’t enough water to deactivate your vitamin C serum. “Vitamin C only becomes deactivated when it’s in contact with water for a long time at a high level.”
How Do I Know If My Vitamin C Serum Is Working?
Unlike some skin-care products that may take a long time to show results, the benefits of vitamin C generally appear quickly. “You should see luminosity about a week after you start using it,” says Rivera. “Let’s be clear, though, that vitamin C is a process and you need to apply it consistently.”