You have probably seen tons of skin care brands advertising Vitamin C in their products, but what does it do when we apply it on our skin?
Why is everyone talking about Vitamin C in skincare?
When applied on our skin, Vitamin C acts as an anti-oxidant and reduces pigmentation, wrinkles, fine lines, and crow’s feet (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12823436). It also brightens and evens out skin tone while protecting and repairing your skin from UV ray damage. Vitamin C also helps promote and produce collagen and elastin (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16029672).
In short, Vitamin C makes your skin look younger and healthier.
What to look for in Vitamin C products
Not all forms of vitamin C in skincare are the same. There is only one pure form and several derivative forms. How can you tell the difference between these two?
Pure Vitamin C
L-Ascorbic Acid = Pure Vitamin C, with strong evidence
L-Ascorbic Acid is the pure form of Vitamin C and an ingredient with good evidence for anti-aging properties, but so hard to find! Vitamin C in its purest form is very hard to formulate as it oxidises easily, so most skincare companies prefer to use the more stable (but less effective) derivatives instead. Being water soluble, it is difficult to get L Ascorbic Acid to penetrate the skin (after all the skin is like a water-proof layer, designed to keep toxins and harmful chemicals out of the body).
Derivatives of vitamin C
“ascorbate” or “ascorbyl” = Not pure Vitamin C, and have only weak evidence
The forms of vitamin C you will most frequently see on skincare labels are the ingredients with either “ascorbate” or “ascorbyl” in the name. Eg Ascorbyl palmitate. These are Vitamin C derivatives.
What’s wrong with these ingredients?
The problem with these ingredients is that while manufacturers refer to them as Vitamin C, they are not pure Vitamin C. The derivatives antioxidant abilities are much lower than pure L-Ascorbic Acid. (https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/j.1600-0846.2008.00288.x) Plus there just aren’t very many good studies on these derivative forms and there is very little evidence that any of these forms of Vitamin C can both penetrate the skin and act as antioxidants. (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29104718).
The sad news here is, the skincare you’ve been using might not be providing Vitamin C to your skin as expected because non-evidence-based forms are being used instead.
Fortunately, at ESK, Vitamin C was one of the main reasons we started it all. ESK’s Vitamin C serums contain Ascorbic Acid at 10% concentration, the most common concentration in the studies found to improve skin (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29104718).
Interestingly, more doesn’t mean better when it comes to Vitamin C. Evidence has shown that any concentration exceeding 20% cannot be absorbed and can cause skin irritation. (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29104718)
Problems with Vitamin C in Skin Care
While Vitamin C is effective and beneficial to your skin, Vitamin C loses its power when exposed to 1) light; 2) air and 3) heat making it entirely useless at reversing the age of your skin. It is sensitive to these three elements, making it difficult to formulate in a stable and effective form.
Here’s another problem with Vitamin C in skin care: water is needed to dissolve the Vitamin C, but it also oxidises it. And being water soluble it can be hard to get the Vitamin C absorbed into the skin.
Luckily, these problems can be solved.
Checklist: What to look for
1) Oil-based Formulation
A key method of making Vitamin C effective for our skin is to formulate it with as little water as possible which is why our Reverse C Serum is oil based. Our light and quick-absorbing oil-base formulation means we dramatically reduce the Vitamin C oxidising in the bottle and it makes the serum extremely nourishing for our skin.
2) Airless Bottles
It is vital that the skincare products containing Vitamin C is contained in an opaque, airless bottles. If you come across Vitamin C products that exposes the product to air, for example in a dropper, it will oxidise. (http://medbooksfree.com/cosmeceuticals-active-cosmetics-third-edition-pdf/)
Packaging that exposes the product to air will not be effective for your skin. It has to be clear or pale yellow in colour. If it’s orange or brown, it has oxidised and is ineffective.
3) Low PH Level
Skincare products that are formulated with an ascorbic acid at a low pH of 3.5 or lower will be stabilised and allow the formulation to be absorbed. This was the first criteria when we formulated our Reverse ‘C’ Serum.
4) L-Ascorbic Acid in ingredients list
Look for the most important ingredient: ASCORBIC ACID, pure Vitamin C and not a derivative.
How to include Vitamin C in your skin care routine?
- Best used in the morning as your skin will be working hard throughout the day fighting bacteria, pollutants and UV rays. Give your skin the best stuff in the morning by applying your Vitamin C skincare product after you have cleanse your face.
- In our kits, we have marked our Reverse C Serum as step 2, use after cleansing (step 1), so it’s easy to figure out when to need to use it.
- Use with sunscreen, preferably before you apply your sunscreen. While sunscreen helps protect your skin from UV, adding Vitamin C to your skin care routine helps repair and protect your skin from the damage that UV does (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22537614)– ie. Sunscreen and Vitamin C work together synergistically. (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed?uid=8869680&cmd=showdetailview)