It seems like every movie lately features a superhero.
So surely, a skincare blockbuster hero can’t be far off?
The star of the show would, of course, be Vitamin C. That’s right – if we were to nominate one ingredient to superhero status, it would be Vitamin C.
Much researched and respected for its skincare prowess, this glow-worthy vitamin has been steadily climbing the beauty trend ladder over the years, gaining popularity for its turbo-charged benefits that naturally improve skin health.
It’s the Master Saviour of the top contending skin issues. Not only is it one of the most powerful antioxidants on the planet, but dark spots, dullness, uneven skin tone, fine lines, wrinkles, and environmental stressors are all “POW!”, “ZAP!”, and “KAZAMMED!” in a true superhero manner.
Add to this that Mintel claim 85% of consumers are either using or are interested in using personal care products containing Vitamin C. It becomes clear that the demand for this potent antioxidant shows no sign of waning.
Check out the list of superhero qualities below:
- improves fine lines
- brightening and lightening
- improves rough texture
- boosts collagen synthesis
- improves light acne scars
- improves uneven skin tone
- potent anti-inflammatory properties
- accelerates the skin’s cellular turnover
- noticeably fights off the signs of premature ageing
- important for the formation of barrier lipids
- returns the skin to a state of calm after going through oxidative stress
It is no doubt this little ingredient is legendary for a reason: it really works, and given that the interest in this ingredient is seemingly at an all-time high, we have decided to dig deep and find out just what makes Vitamin C tick and the best ways you can reap its many skin-rewarding benefits.
What is it?
It is an essential nutrient required for the growth and repair of tissues in all parts of the body, including the skin.
Vitamin C is an antioxidant; it has been proven in studies to be an anti-inflammatory that can stimulate collagen formation, lighten skin, treat hyperpigmentation, and heal wounds. It’s a water-soluble ingredient that ideally works best in formula with a pH of less than 3, and concentrations up to 10% are well-tolerated by our skin.
It is present in every layer of our epidermis, and it’s essential for stimulating collagen synthesis and the formation of the barrier lipids.
Applying a lotion with a concentration of 5% over 6 months has been shown to improve skin appearance with photo damage – this was an actual study! And it has been shown to reduce sunburn cell formation and skin reddening. It can influence the synthesis of specific ceramides, which can improve the water-retaining properties – well, at least in vitro; it is to be confirmed in human skin yet.
When Vitamin C is partnered with Vitamin E, it becomes an anti-oxidizing powerhouse. The Vitamin C will help the Vitamin E regenerate to keep the anti-oxidizing awesomeness going for quite some time. This combination has been shown to quench the damaging free radicals on our skin.
The pure form is Ascorbic Acid. We use this in our C+ Vitamin Complex; it is the most biologically active and well-studied form of the several different Vitamin C derivatives (such as ascorbyl palmitate, retinyl ascorbate, tetrahexyldecyl ascorbate, sodium ascorbyl phosphate, and magnesium ascorbyl phosphate).
It lives up to the hype
Vitamin C steps in as a true superhero, helping to mediate that process and treat various skin conditions.
The benefits of Vitamin C have been known for some time but are definitely coming more to the industry’s forefront lately. This has a lot to do with how much more aware we are of the effect of environmental pollutants such as radiation, smog, smoke, UV, and damaging free radicals on our skin. These all break down our internal scaffolding – collagen and elastin – stressing and accelerating the ageing process. Vitamin C’s reputation has been enhanced by its proven anti-ageing rigour and increased knowledge of handling this sensitive vitamin.
Vitamin C has been tried and tested with efficacious results to treat discolouration. Uneven skin tone is an important factor in ageing skin. As an ingredient that helps create a more even skin tone with a low-risk profile, Vitamin C has also gained increased popularity as a lightening, brightening, anti-ageing ingredient.
To find out more about how this skin-loving vitamin really does live up to the hype, our complete guide on Vitamin C for skin health is a really good read.
Vitamin C’s supernatural skin qualities
So, let’s dig a little deeper and look at Vitamin C’s impressive array of skin-friendly benefits:
It’s an anti-ageing superstar.
Age and sun damage break down collagen fibres in our dermis, leading to wrinkles and sagging skin. Vitamin C plays an important role in the synthesis of collagen because it is a necessary co-factor for building strong fibres.
It reduces pigmentation.
Vitamin C helps lighten hyperpigmentation for a more even, brighter skin tone. With continued use, Vitamin C interacts with the enzyme Tyrosinase, which deposits melanin, the pigment that gives skin its colour. Vitamin C penetrates the active site of Tyrosinase, where it disrupts copper ions from being in the correct place and renders the enzyme inactive.
It’s a potent antioxidant.
Vitamin C offers protection against environmental stressors. As discussed above, free radicals are unstable molecules that damage cells and disrupt the DNA. In turn, this leads to premature ageing and, in some circumstances, cancer. The antioxidants in Vitamin C mop up these free radicals, keeping cells healthy and visibly improving premature ageing signs.
It blasts free radicals.
To get to grips with how Vitamin C works on the skin, you need to understand how free radicals (Reactive Oxygen Species or ROS) damage the skin. We are exposed to ROS from UV light, the air we breathe, stress, or pollution. ROS alters the skin’s DNA, disrupting cellular function and damaging the protective barrier.
Topically applied, antioxidant-rich Vitamin C prevents this oxidation by neutralising the highly reactive molecules and aiding your skin’s natural regeneration process. Helping your body to repair damaged cells keeps your skin healthy.
It’s an important anti-inflammatory.
When applied topically, Vitamin C reduces the activation of a cellular molecule referred to as “transcription nuclear factor kappa B”. Whilst this may sound like a mouthful, it is actually an essential molecule that reduces the release of pro-inflammatory co-factors in the skin, reducing sensitivity, inflammation, and redness.
It protects against sun damage.
You often hear that Vitamin C is recommended for daily use; this is because it protects the skin from the risks associated with UV exposure.
It helps to reduce lipid peroxidation, limits the release of pro-inflammatory cytokines, protects against apoptosis (cell death), and reduces sensitive cell signalling, reducing many of the harmful side effects of too much exposure to the sun.
Application Advice: It doesn’t mix well with other vitamins
One highly-debated topic is what time of the day is best for application. We recommend our clients a morning application due to its antioxidant activity that protects against UV and environmental pollutants.
Some recommend night-time use when the skin’s Vitamin C is most depleted. Personally, we find this is the best time to use your other vitamins, like A+ Retinol Complex or B+ Niacinamide Complex, which should be used at the opposite time of day to Vitamin C. Because the pH levels of these two ingredients don’t get along with Vitamin C, they basically cancel out, rendering each other ineffective.
When Ascorbic Acid and Niacinamide are mixed in an aqueous solution, they form a yellow product that renders both compounds inactive – this is also true with other acids and Vitamin A. More worryingly, though, is that these ingredients may generate the reactive hydrogen peroxide compound.
The take-home message from this is: don’t ever combine these ingredients or use a product that has a combination of these ingredients.
So as we can see, Vitamin C is worthy of its superhero cult status for a reason: it really works. Premature ageing, fine lines, pigmentation, rough, uneven skin tone, and general dullness – you name many of the common skin concerns, and there’s a good chance that Vitamin C will come to the rescue.
The skin re-texturising, brighter, and smoother results are thanks to the fact that it is a potent antioxidant present in every cell in your skin.