What is vitamin C?
“Vitamin C is a topical antioxidant that has many beneficial properties. It reduces hyperpigmentation, stimulates collagen production, and acts as a cofactor for many cellular processes to maintain natural glowing skin,” says Dr. Lal. “Most of all, it scavenges free radicals that we come in contact with every single day.”
Vitamin C also helps the skin look younger for longer. “[It’s] a key molecule for optimizing skin health. It is a important and necessary cofactor (supporting molecule) that is required for the production of collagen which is our skin’s main building block and currency for youthful skin,” says Dr. Ibrahimi.
Is vitamin C safe?
“[Vitamin C] is a powerhouse ingredient but it is also one that is not universal in its efficacy,” says Dr. Lal. “Vitamin C can be irritating at concentrations at or above 20%, so ideally pick a 10% concentration.” In addition, Dr. Ibrahimi say to make sure you look for L-ascorbic acid which is the true active form of vitamin C. “L asorbic acid is the best option for most though as that is the most bioactive vitamin C compound.”
“Vitamin C is photolabile which means it gets degraded with exposure to sunlight,” adds Dr. Lal. “It also degrades upon exposure to air. For this reason, keep your vitamin C product in a dark place and make sure you tightly close your bottle to prevent breakdown of the product.”
Who should use a vitamin C serum?
“In truth everyone should be using a vitamin C product due to its reparative properties,” says Dr. Lal. “However, those with dry sensitive skin, or acne, should be careful and start out slow to prevent breakouts.” Lal also notes that serums are lightweight and usually combined with agents that allow for better penetration, whereas creams and lotions are meant to stay on top of the skin and work superficially. “Vitamin C serums take at least 12 weeks to take effect because it takes time for new cells to regenerate and for pigment to start clearing,” he adds.
If you have sensitive skin, patch testing is important. “If you have sensitive skin you might want to test the product on the side of your face or neck for a few days before widely applying it,” says Dr. Ibrahimi. “Try to use a derivative that tends to be better tolerated. I would also avoid using Vitamin C during or immediately after any laser or microneedling procedures as the skin barrier becomes more sensitive and there is a higher likelihood of irritation even in folks that do not have sensitive skin.”