Vitamin C is one of my favorite skincare actives. If you don’t use it yet, this is the sign you were expecting. It is an amazing antioxidant, helping us prevent early signs of aging, brightening our skin tone and reducing blemishes. I’ll show you how to choose the best vitamin C serum for your skin!
Hello! How are you? This is a post that I really wanted to share and about which you asked me a lot. I really wanted to talk in depth about vitamin C, and now that autumn has arrived it is the ideal time to get to know it a little better and see how it can help you improve your skin.
The topics I will talk about in this post are the following:
- What is vitamin C? Types of vitamin C.
- When is it best to use vitamin C?
- What ingredients are incompatible with vitamin C?
- How to choose the best product with vitamin C?
1. WHAT IS VITAMIN C? TYPES OF VITAMIN C.
If you read my guide on acids in skincare you will remember that I already talked a little about vitamin C and its properties, but in this post I want to talk in depth about how it can help you get a radiant look if you incorporate it into your beauty routines.
Vitamin C (with a pKa of 4.7), is an acid with increasing popularity in skincare for its antioxidant properties, which help us rebalance our skin tone, reduce spots, improve luminosity and hydrate and help our skin to stay young. Antioxidants, as I have previously mentioned, occur naturally in our skin and protect it against free radicals that facilitate the appearance of wrinkles and fine lines. As years go by, the concentration of antioxidants in our skin decreases, so it’s always a good idea to give our skin a little help.
Generally speaking, when we talk about vitamin C we mean ascorbic acid or L-ascorbic acid (they are the same). Ascorbic acid is the most studied form of vitamin C in cosmetics, and when formulated correctly (it is a very unstable ingredient), it provides incredible results when it comes to improving tone, reducing the signs of aging (improving the production of collagen, the protein responsible for keeping our skin firm and elastic) and protect against pollution and other external agents that try to damage our skin on a daily basis.
However, there are many other forms of vitamin C available in cosmetics, such as sodium ascorbyl phosphate, magnesium ascorbyl phosphate, ascorbyl palmitate, retinyl ascorbate, tetrahexyldecyl ascorbate, ascorbyl glucoside and 3-O ethyl ascorbic acid. All these ingredients are a great addition to any beauty product (I insist, as long it is well formulated), but if you are looking for the most effective result, ascorbic acid is your best ally.
We can divide the properties of vitamin C in cosmetics into two large groups. On the one hand, vitamin C will always give us a good dose of antioxidants, which are the best complement for your sunscreen (although they can never replace it). In addition, products with a higher concentration of ascorbic acid also act as exfoliants, removing the outer layer of dead cells from the epidermis, providing brightening results and reducing spots.
2. WHEN IS IT BEST TO USE VITAMIN C?
This is, perhaps, one of the questions I receive most about this ingredient. Is it better to use it in the morning or at night? Can I expose myself to the sun after using it? Can I use it throughout the whole year?
First, let’s see if it is better to use vitamin C in your morning or night routines. The answer is not easy, since everything depends on the product you use, the form of vitamin C that it includes and its concentration. Vitamin C is not a photosensitizing product, so its mere use does not cause damage by exposing the skin to solar radiation. However, products with very high concentrations of ascorbic acid and a low pH act as exfoliants, so when using them it is advisable to avoid immediate exposure to the sun. You already know that in all your morning routines you should incorporate a good sunscreen, but its use is even more important when you use acids (and this includes vitamin C).
When starting to use products with vitamin C in our beauty routines it is better to start with lower concentrations (like this The Ordinary Magnesium Ascorbyl Phosphate 10%, which you can find on DECIEM (recommended)) and gradually increase it so that the skin gets used to its use and, therefore, we avoid irritations and other unwanted reactions. I use products with higher concentrations of ascorbic acid always in my PM routines, since that way I avoid exposing myself to the sun immediately and that spots may appear as a result of that exfoliation that I talked about before (by improving cell renewal and staying exposed a newer layer of cells in the epidermis), which can leave our skin more vulnerable to radiation. Products with lower concentrations can be used interchangeably in your morning or night routines, but in any case whenever you use them in the morning you must use sunscreen (and, of course, reapply it).
If you are going to start incorporating vitamin C into your beauty routines it is better to do it little by little (especially when using products with a very high concentration), first two or three times a week and then increasing the frequency if you see that your skin reacts well.
And can you continue using vitamin C in your summer beauty routines? Well, again, it depends on the product you want to use. In summer the levels of ultraviolet radiation increase, so our skin is exposed to greater damage. I prefer to use products with a lower concentration or derivatives other than pure ascorbic acid. Although, as I mentioned before, vitamin C is not photosensitizing, it is better to focus on using other types of antioxidants during the summer to avoid damaging our skin.
I would like to finish this section by briefly mentioning what types of skin are the ones that can benefit most from vitamin C. In general, it works best on oily, combination and dry skin. Also, products that contain a high amount of ascorbic acid are not recommended for those with sensitive skin, as it can cause irritation.
3. WHAT INGREDIENTS ARE INCOMPATIBLE WITH VITAMIN C?
Sometimes, when we detect something that we want to change in our skin we think that the best solution is to attack it from all possible fronts, but when it comes to taking care of the skin the most important thing is persistence. It is not advisable to start incorporating powerful assets indiscriminately into our beauty routines, since it is very easy to destabilize and then get irritations, spots, etc.
As you will remember, you should not use several acids in the same beauty routine to avoid negative reactions of your skin. Therefore, if you want to start using glycolic acid, azelaic acid or salicylic acid (among many others) you will have to see which one is better for the results you are looking for and go slowly. Hyaluronic acid is an exception, since you can use it along with vitamin C without problem, they are perfectly compatible, since it is not an acid itself.
I have received many questions about the use of niacinamide and vitamin C in the same beauty routine. In general, there is a widespread belief that the two ingredients are incompatible, although there is no evidence to support that assumption. The idea behind that belief is that vitamin C creates an acidic environment in which niacinamide can be transformed into nicotinic acid and possibly irritate the skin. However, for this to happen, niacinamide should be exposed to a very high temperature for a very long period of time (something that does not really happen). In summary: yes you can use niacinamide and vitamin C in the same routine.
I want to finish this section by mentioning certain ingredients that are not incompatible with vitamin C, but improve its effectiveness. Among them we find vitamin E (which normally appears among the ingredients as tocopherol), which acts as an antioxidant. When vitamin C and E are used together, they mutually enhance their results, so it is worth adding to your beauty routine a product like this Klairs Freshly Juiced Vitamin E Mask, which you can find on Wishtrend and on Yesstyle. The same goes for resveratrol and ferulic acid, which when combined with vitamin C provide an even better result. If you want, you can try combining your vitamin C serum with The Ordinary Resveratrol 3% + Ferulic Acid 3%, which you can find on DECIEM, on SkinStore and on FeelUnique.
4. HOW TO CHOOSE THE BEST PRODUCT WITH VITAMIN C?
When starting to use vitamin C in our beauty routines there are certain factors that we must take into account. The first is if we have used vitamin C before or if it is our first foray. As I mentioned earlier, if it is the first time you use vitamin C it is better that you start with products with a lower concentration and, once you see that your skin reacts well, continue with other more potent products. Here you can see a comparison of several vitamin C serums so that you find the right one for your skincare needs.
In general, for a product with vitamin C to be effective and maintain its properties it must meet certain requirements:
- First, the package must protect the product from sunlight. Vitamin C is photosensitive, so ultraviolet radiation can end up oxidizing it (this does not mean you should stop using the product unless the color is too dark or it starts to irritate you). In addition, the product must be protected from air. Remember to store the product in a cool, dry place and where it does not receive direct sunlight so that it lasts longer and does not rust sooner than it should.
- The ideal concentration of products with vitamin C is 15-20%, since it is the most suitable proportion for ascorbic acid to be absorbed correctly and bring us all its benefits.
- The best pH for a product with vitamin C ranges between 2.5 and 3.5. In that interval, the product has the appropriate acidity to give us the results we are looking for without being too acidic (if the pH were below 2.5 the product could cause irritation). If you want your vitamin C serum to provide you with all its benefits, it is better that you use it immediately after washing your face and wait about 15 minutes before continuing with the rest of your beauty routine, since this way you can act properly before that you bring the pH of your skin back to its normal levels (between 4.5 and 5.9).
- Water-based products work better than those that are formulated using oil-based.
In general, products with vitamin C have a very short shelf life. Since these are unstable formulations, once you start using them they oxidize and degrade quickly, so avoid buying them if you are not going to use them immediately.
I hope that with this guide you have learned a little about vitamin C and all the benefits it can bring you (if you choose the right product and use it correctly). In any case, if you have any questions, do not hesitate to leave me a comment and I will answer you as soon as possible.
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I’m Nacho and I’m passionate about skincare. I really enjoy learning and sharing my knowledge about skincare and I read scientific papers so you don’t have to. I want to break stereotypes because I believe skincare has no gender: skin is skin.
I was jus going through your blog for the very first time and I must say that you’re doing a fantastic job. I really love your work and the knowledge tat you possess about skincare and you’ve no idea how you’re helping out people by sharing your knowledge on skincare. Lots of love from India♥️
Hi Anu, welcome to my blog! 😊
Thank you so much for your kind words and support, it means so much to me! Remember to share the posts you enjoy the most so that others can also take better care of their skin 😉
Have a lovely day,