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Topical vitamin C does several things: it’s a potent antioxidant to prevent damaging our cells from UV and the environment, it inhibits an enzyme called tyrosinase in the skin to prevent hyperpigmentation, it is an anti inflammatory to help with redness in skin, and it can boost collagen production. It has been shown to improve the texture and appearance of skin overall. One note- even though vitamin C can improve pigmentation in the skin, I find the best results are from pigment as a result of sun damage. It’s mechanism of improving pigment is by blocking a specific enzyme that triggers hyperpigmentation. Although this can be a similar issue with acne scars, not all pigment is the same and I do not always find that acne scars respond consistently as well to vitamin C compared to other options.
When we ingest vitamin C our body absorbs it but the amount absorbed is limited by how much our gut can actively take in. There is an active transport mechanism for absorption that really limits how much we can actually absorb even at super high doses. Think of an active transport mechanism as a rate limiting step- almost like a gatekeeper that can only let in as much as it can keep up with. As a result of this, the impact of ingested vitamin C on the skin is minimal compared to topical formulations.
The question when it comes to vitamin C in a product is how active the compound actually is and the concentration of it to really have an effect on the skin. If you are going to look for a vitamin C containing product, make sure the concentration and type of vitamin C is listed. L ascorbic acid or tetrahexyldecyl ascorbate are the most active types. Also make sure the concentration is listed as between 10-20 %. If this is not the case, vitamin C can be very unstable on exposure to light and essentially be useless. That’s money wasted.
Very little in the way of side effects is seen with vitamin C so it is safe to try. Irritation, redness and yellowish discoloration of clothing has been noted.
How should a beginner start incorporating it into their routine?
The thought as to when to apply Vitamin C used to be as a morning product to help fight oxidative stress from free radicals during the day with UV exposure. Because we know that the damage and free radicals formed through the day from Uv exposure and other pollutants can continue to impact our skin hours after exposure, it is thought to now be important to consider adding Vitamin C to the evening routine as well. Because there are so many ingredients and products people are trying to incorporate in their routines, I tend to prefer to keep this an am product to let retinols do their work through a different mechanism of action over night.
Many worthy topical vitamin C containing serums will often be combined with ferulic acid and vitamin E. This is because the combination can actually increase the effectiveness of vitamin C eight fold. Also, only choose products in a dark bottle - if vitamin C is exposed to light it can be deactivated in the bottle. This makes it useless by the time it gets to your skin.
When it comes to wanting to make sure your anti aging products are really using effective concentrations of active ingredients it’s always good to find products that state the percentage on the label. Otherwise I always wonder if it’s a ‘splash’ of an active ingredient or a substantive amount added to have an effect! This product by Peter Thomas Roth has a good concentration of active vitamin C and the combination with vitamin E and ferulic acid will only make it more potent!
Another vitamin C Serum at a higher price point however that has a nice formulation.
I love this line because they are affordable and feel like a spice rack- it’s ingredients are listed and it’s easy to add in to routines when needed!. This is another version of vitamin C is very stable, absorbs easily into the skin and tends to be hydrating.