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 active 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 may be a great addition to any skincare 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, certain vitamin C formulas may help us prevent the degradation of collagen fibers and inhibit the production of melanin, thus helping us avoid wrinkles and 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 active, so its mere use does not cause damage by exposing the skin to solar radiation. In fact, due to its antioxidant properties, it’s generally recommended to use skincare products with vitamin C in your morning routine, since that way you may complement (never substitute) the action of your sunscreen, minimizing the development of free radicals. Keep in mind that if you don’t use sunscreen daily, using vitamin C (or other actives) doesn’t make sense, as ultraviolet radiation is the main cause of premature skin aging and the development of cutaneous diseases such as skin cancer.
We must remember that certain vitamin C formulas include high concentrations of this active, thus increasing its potential irritation of our skin. In these cases, it may be advisable to use the product on our night routines, since that way we will avoid directly and immediately exposing irritated skin to ultraviolet radiation.
Anyway, remember that it’s important to follow the manufacturer’s instructions, as they will usually specify if the product was formulated to be used in your AM or PM skincare routines (or both).
When starting to use products with vitamin C in our beauty routines it is better to start with lower concentrations (like this The Ordinary Ethylated Ascorbic Acid 15% Solution, 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.
If you are going to start incorporating vitamin C into your skincare routines it is better to do it little by little and, right after doing a patch test, (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 skincare routines? Of course. In summer the levels of ultraviolet radiation increase, and this implies we must take special care to avoid the appearance of spots (which we tend to avoid precisely by using vitamin C). Anyway, remember to avoid unprotected exposure to ultraviolet radiation to keep your skin safe.
Products that contain a high amount of ascorbic acid are not recommended for those with sensitive skin, as it can cause irritation. If that’s your case, you may use products with ascorbic acid derivatives (like the ones I mentioned at the beginning of this post) or, if you don’t tolerate them either, you may look for another antioxidant that provides similar benefits, such as resveratrol or superoxide dismutase.
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.
If, besides vitamin C, you want to use other strong actives, such as exfoliating acids or retinoids (because they’ll provide what your skin needs), on my guide on how to combine skincare actives you may find several tips that will help you make the most out of your skincare routines without damaging your skin barrier. In these cases, there are several options, such as using the products on alternate routines or even finding a formula that includes both actives you want to use. Remember that the key is getting the results you aim for while avoiding irritation.
I have received many questions about the use of niacinamide and vitamin C in the same skincare 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 several antioxidants because something wonderful happens among them: they act synergically, boosting each other and avoiding the appearance of free radicals and their damage over collagen fibers and skin cells’ DNA. On my guide on antioxidants I speak in greater detail about several of these actives and how each of them may help you. For example, 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 you notice changes to its texture, scent…). 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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Do you want to learn to take better care of your skin? You can see an index of all my informative posts here.