We can’t talk about morning routines and not discuss vitamin C.

It’s one of the star performers when it comes to building an impactful strategy against environmental insults. 

Dietary vitamin C is excellent for your general health but you’ll find that it has even greater influence over skin health if you apply it topically too.

So what exactly does vitamin C in skincare do?

Vitamin C for ageing skin

  • It’s a powerful antioxidant for ageing prevention. The big 2 free radical generators for skin are UVA rays from the sun and pollution. Left to their own devices, these would lead to lipids in our cell membranes becoming peroxidized and damage our cell’s mitochondria. Antioxidants donate electrons to stabilise the free radicals, neutralising them, which shields the cell from damage. I recommend that all my patients who exercise outside build vitamin C into their morning routine, especially if they live in a city where pollution compounds the oxidative stress on our skin.
  • It’s protective against sunburn. This means it partners brilliantly with your daily sunscreen for a ‘belt-and-braces’ approach to sun protection, especially if you’re fond of outdoors pursuits or live in a warm climate.
  • It stimulates increased collagen production. Vitamin C plays a key role in collagen assembly and production. UVA damage degrades our precious collagen’ it’s present all year round and travels through glass so daily use of vitamin C helps maintain levels of this essential scaffolding protein.

Vitamin C and Hyperpigmentation

  • It evens out pigmentation reduction. Vitamin C works directly to reduce activity of tyrosinase, the rate limiting enzyme in our skin involved with melanin production. And it also works indirectly, by blocking the pigment-producing drive of free radicals.
  • It’s anti-inflammatory. Vitamin C acts to reduce production of certain pro-inflammatory cytokines. It may thus be helpful in preventing post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation in context of acne, and also in disorders like rosacea, where ongoing ‘inflammaging’ may compound the ageing effect of UV exposure even further.
  • It’s easy to use. It rarely causes issues with layering as most vitamin C products come in a lightweight serum format, so they take seconds to absorb. A definite tick on the efficiency versus efficacy front.

Is Vitamin C irritating?

  • Vitamin C is generally well-tolerated.
  • As a bonus it’s suitable for pregnancy and lactation.

What is the best form of Vitamin C?

Whilst the l-ascorbic acid form of vitamin C is the most studied, there are a few key things to keep in mind with your chosen formula - if not packaged properly, it will oxidise under the influence of UV light and exposure to the air; plus it needs to be formulated at a pH of below 3.5 if it’s to penetrate our skin’s barrier.

We are lucky to have an increasing number of vitamin C esters also become available. This makes the products potentially more affordable and more stable, so worth a mention - magnesium ascorbyl phosphate, ascorbyl glucoside and ascorbyl palmitate. They may also be better for sensitive skin, as they don’t require the same low pH of the formulation to facilitate absorption. They may also play better with other active ingredients within the same formula, increasing the potential for an efficient one-step layer that multi-tasks.