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What Is Vitamin C and Why Is It Important in Skincare?

Megan K.
ByMegan K.Apr 26, 2021

Natural cosmetics concept, fresh ingredients for skin treatment vitamin C serum, flat lay

It seems like vitamin C is everywhere in skincare right now. With all of the benefits it boasts, who wouldn’t want to add something so magical to their routine?! If ever you have  been curious as to what it can do for your skin and how it works, keep reading.

This journey involves electrons, free radicals, and antioxidants! Let’s go!

“Seat belts, everyone!”

What is Vitamin C?

The short version is that it is a water-solubale vitamin that your body doesn’t produce. You get it by adding vitamin C-rich foods to your diet, or by applying it topically. When ingested, it helps your body maintain your bones and cartilage, speeds up wound healing, boosts your immune system, and so much more. But in terms of skin benefits? We will get into that a little later.

Vitamin C isn’t always easy to spot in a product ingredient list, but if you see L-ascorbic acid, you are looking at vitamin C. There are also a ton of other vitamin C derivatives that are usually combinations of C and other elements that keep it stable. A few examples include tetrahexyldecyl ascorbate, sodium ascorbyl phosphate, ascorbyl palmitate, and retinyl ascorbate.

What is an Antioxidant Anyways?

Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant, but other than being a big buzzword right now, why should we care? So many products boast that their antioxidants “protect against free radicals!” but what does that actually mean? Well, it gets a little sciencey, but I am going to try to break it down in a digestible and hopefully helpful way.

Basically, free radicals are molecules with unpaired electrons. Because they are unpaired, they are volatile, and often steal electrons from other healthy balanced molecules. This theft causes the formerly complete molecule to break down over time. In skin terms, this causes oxidation, aging, and all the other stuff we don’t want if we are trying to maintain healthy and youthful skin. Some free radicals are actually produced by our bodies and contribute to the normal aging cycle, but many are from environmental and external sources like smoking, sun damage, alcohol, pesticides, radiation, and on and on and on.

We hear about vitamin C so much because it is an antioxidant, right? But what does that actually mean? Antioxidants have the ability to prevent that electron theft and subsequent oxidation. Literally, they are anti-oxidation powerhouses that protect your cells! And, thankfully, there are thousands of them hanging out in healthy fruits and veggies, nuts, eggs, meat, and more.

What are the Benefits of Vitamin C?

Why am I spending so much time chatting you up about vitamin C in particular? Well, mostly because this is one of the antioxidants that is going to benefit your skin the most and I am obsessed with good skin. I assume if you have made it this far into this article, you might be too. Or you might be bored. Either way, add some vitamin C to your routine immediately. Here is why:

1. It boosts collagen and elastin production.

Collagen is a protein found in our skin that depletes as we age. This is why skin becomes less bouncy and firm as you age, and more prone to wrinkles and fine lines. Boosting collagen production helps your skin stay more youthful. Elastin is the wonderful stuff that keeps your skin tight and prevents sagging.

2. It brightens your skin. 

If you have been feeling dull lately, get yourself some vitamin C. It helps your overall skin texture and radiance.

3. It helps face dark spots and hyperpigmentation.

Pesky sunspots? Melasma? Vitamin C can help fade those over time. It can even be helpful with redness leftover from acne!

4. It helps the skin’s healing process.

Speaking of acne, if you are experiencing irritation during or after a breakout, vitamin C is going to give your healing a boost and help sensitive skin recover even faster.

5. It is hydrating. It literally helps your skin retain moisture by reducing transepidermal water loss. Sure, it isn’t likely to be the only thing your skin needs for ideal levels of hydration, but every little bit helps.

6. It is SPF’s BFF. Vitamin C enhances the protection of your SPF, and your SPF protects your vitamin C from oxidation on your skin. That is a match made in good skin heaven.

Who Should Use Vitamin C?

Most everyone. Seriously. One of the great things about this stuff is that it is generally non-irritating when used in lower concentrations. Still though, be sure to test out a patch with any new product to make sure it will work for you!

When to Use Vitamin C

This is a hotly contested subject, but here are my 2 cents: I like to use vitamin C serum in the evening after a good cleanse and before a night cream. My bestie Julie likes to use hers during the day because she uses retinol at night and doesn’t like mixing them. Sure, C doesn’t always interact well with other ingredients, so proper layering can be pretty important. Vitamin C and niacinamide can neutralize one another when used together, and if you use it too soon before or after retinol, it can be irritating (wait 30 minutes between or save one for AM and one for PM!).

Vitamin C takes about 3-4 weeks to really kick in and show off, so making it a regular part of your routine is going to be a huge part of seeing results.

Some of my Favorite Vitamin C Products

I have tried so many C products and most of them have come in my man, many boxes! Here are a few of my favorites:

 

Blüh Alchemy Multi-C Serum, 1 fl oz – Retail Value $140.00

I received this item in my December 2020 Boxwalla Beauty Box.

This is one of my faves ever because I love the gel texture and the scent! I also really appreciate that this serum is very stable thanks to vitamin C derivative tetrahexyldecyl ascorbate. It absorbs beautifully and is one of the best layering C serums I have in my arsenal.

 

Lovinah Skincare Dragon Blood Cleansing Oil, 2 oz – Retail Value $55.00

I received this item in my August 2020 Boxwalla Beauty Box.

Vitamin C can be found in all sorts of formulas like serums, creams, and even cleansers! This gorgeous red cleanser was a real treat. It has a combination of tetrahexyldecyl ascorbate and salicylic acid that was really a lifesaver for my troublesome maske outbreaks in 2020.

 

Saturday Skin Yuzu Vitamin C Sleep Mask, 50 mL – Retail Value $29.00

I received this item in my February 2021 Boxycharm.

While this wasn’t exactly heavy enough for me to utilize as a sleep mask, I loved it as just a gel moisturizer. It has a thinner and blobby texture that was really fun to use and easily absorbed into my dry skin. This is also an example of a formula that might be better for skin that tends to be less sensitive and reactive, as it combines both retinol and Vitamin C.

 

The Nue Co Topical C, 0.46 oz – Full Size! Retail Value $70.00

I received this item in my October 2020 Allure Beauty Box.

Because vitamin C can be such an unstable diva sometimes, dry vitamin C powder is one of the newer delivery systems that can be really fun and effective. Simply add a few sprinkles to some water, your favorite moisturizer, or serum and they activate on contact.

 

Do you have a favorite vitamin C formula in your routine? 


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Megan K.
Megan K.
I love natural/vegan beauty products, Korean skincare, unique jewelry, and weird candies from far away places. When I am not waiting for my next exciting box you can find me painting or taking photographs of interesting people. I never leave home without pug hair somewhere on my shirt and a bold lipstick on my smile.

Megan K.
Megan K.
I love natural/vegan beauty products, Korean skincare, unique jewelry, and weird candies from far away places. When I am not waiting for my next exciting box you can find me painting or taking photographs of interesting people. I never leave home without pug hair somewhere on my shirt and a bold lipstick on my smile.
Our reviewers research, test, and recommend the best subscriptions and products independently; click to learn more about our editorial guidelines. We may receive commissions on purchases made through links on our site.