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Vitamin C Serums: Benefits & Which Are Best

August 30, 2021

Vitamin C serums can do wonders for brightening the skin and protecting it from UV damage caused by the sun. Read on to learn how these vitamin C serums work, when you should use them, and which products we think are best!

By: Kristin Gaskins, NP


Understanding Vitamin C Serums

Vitamin C is one of the most abundant antioxidants in our skin; however, we cannot make our own because we lack a specific enzyme needed for its formation.  Because of this, using topical vitamin C serums is one of the most important steps in a skincare routine.

A common question we hear is, “Does oral vitamin C work?”.  Unfortunately, only a small percentage of oral vitamin C will be available and active in the skin, so that is why topical use is so important. There are a few different forms of vitamin C that can be found in products, but the most common is L-ascorbic acid. This is because it is the most studied form and most active form of vitamin C.

How Vitamin C Serum Works

Vitamin C is a potent antioxidant. Environmental exposures like UV radiation, pollution, blue light, and smoking can speed up damage to the skin. This damage occurs through “oxidative stress”. Vitamin C can help neutralize this oxidative stress (making it an antioxidant) and prevent some of the damage to our skin cells.

UV exposure causes a reaction in our cells to degrade collagen, reduce collagen production, and increase elastin accumulations. This leads to physical signs of aging including unwanted pigmentation, small unwanted vessels on the skin known as telangiectasias, deep wrinkles, and rough texture. Vitamin C serums help protect against free radicals caused by UV exposure that cause these unwanted signs of aging.

Vitamin C also protects against UV radiation that causes gene mutations which affect repair of damaged DNA in skin cells and cause our cells to go through programmed cell death.

In addition to its protective properties, vitamin C also has anti-aging benefits. Vitamin C is essential for collagen formation and helps decrease collagen breakdown.  Vitamin C has also been shown to help even out skin tone. If you suffer from hyperpigmentation, vitamin C can help lighten the dark spots without lightening the overall skin tone.

Which Vitamin C Serum is Best?

When looking for a vitamin C product to purchase, you want to make sure that the product has a concentration of at least 10%. If you are first starting out with vitamin C, you may need to start with a lower percentage and work your skin up to the 20-30% concentration.

L-ascorbic acid, which is the most common form, is more effective when it is in an acidic environment. This helps improve its stability and its permeability into the skin. Because of this, you will often see ferulic acid and vitamin E as additional ingredients in vitamin C products to provide better benefits.

Vitamin C products can come as a cream or a serum. You may need to try different products and see which formulation you like best.

When Vitamin C Serum Should be Used

When applying products, vitamin C should be used immediately after cleansing the skin. It should be used in the morning and applied to your full face, neck, and décolleté. Apply to clean skin and allow it to be absorbed before applying your moisturizer and then your sunscreen.

Consider vitamin C as the backup support to your daily sunscreen. It can help decrease damage caused by the sun’s harmful UV rays because sunscreens are only partially effective at blocking the free radicals that can be produced by UV rays.

Some of my favorite vitamin C products are Revision Skincare’s C+ Correcting Complex 30% and SkinBetter’s Alto Defense. Both products are medical grade with stable ingredients and can be purchased in our MedSpa!

If you aren’t using vitamin C, give it a try! It is going to help with anti-aging and protect your skin from future damage. If you are using vitamin C, take a look at the product you are currently using. Is it giving you the results you want? If the answer is no, hopefully this helps you make a more informed decision on future product choices.