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Vitamin C—the powerhouse vitamin

What vitamin C does best and how to incorporate it into your skincare regime

We all know that vitamin C is essential for our health and wellbeing and many of us will quite readily grab a dose of it—whether that’s a glass of orange juice or a supplement—at the first sign of a cold.

However, this everyday vitamin has now reached powerhouse status in terms of skincare, with dermatologists deeming it ‘essential’—it’s hard to find a skincare brand from high street to high end that doesn’t have at least one vitamin C product in its range.

But while you may be getting plenty of vitamin C in your diet, there’s no way to guarantee that it’s going straight to your skin, so using serums and other topical products is the most direct way to reap the benefits.

Why is topical Vitamin C so good for the skin?

Along with retinol, vitamin C is one of the few proven anti-ageing skincare ingredients.

From brightening dull and discoloured skin and fading age spots, to boosting collagen production and helping to strengthen the skin from the damage that UV light inflicts, vitamin C certainly packs a punch.

It’s also a powerful antioxidant that neutralises free radicals—the damaging toxins produced by our bodies when they are exposed to pollution and UV rays. These free radicals not only wreak havoc on our skin cells but can also disrupt the skin’s ability to repair itself.

Vitamin C can also tackle pigmentation by inhibiting the pigment causing enzymes, thereby brightening dark spots and giving the skin instant radiance without lightening the skin tone overall.

What types of Vitamin C are there?

The most effective form is ascorbic acid but vitamin C can also appear in the ingredients list as sodium ascorbic phosphate, ascorbic palmitate and retinal ascorbate among others.

The sweet spot for the concentration level is between 10 per cent and 20 per cent; although you should preferably look for a concentration higher than 8 per cent, anything over 20 per cent could lead to skin irritation. Those with sensitive skin  should also opt for a lower concentration until your skin gets used to it.

The biggest problem with vitamin C is that it is an unstable ingredient meaning it breaks down very easily in UV light, so it’s vital that it is packaged in dark or airtight packaging.

How do I add Vitamin C into my daily skincare routine?

To make the most of vitamin C’s anti-pollution powers it’s best to use it once a day and preferably in the morning.

“Vitamin C protects against DNA damage and preventing future signs of ageing and is one of the fundamentals of skincare along with retinol, ceramides and enzymes,” says Dr Anna Hemming, Aesthetic Doctor,  Founder of Thames Skin Clinic and EV Editorial Panel member.

“However, make sure you do not apply vitamin C in the same application as retinol, they are the kind of friends that should never meet! This is because vitamin C works best in certain skin environments – using the two together can make them less effective.”

You may also find that using both at the same time can cause some irritation. Generally speaking you’ll want to use your vitamin C serum after you cleanse and tone, but before you moisturise.

It’s also important to know that while a good vitamin C serum may be able to reverse some of the damage your sunbathing days have wreaked on your skin and diminish the harm of  UV rays by neutralising the free radicals caused by sunlight, it’s not a sunscreen – you’ll still need to apply a high SPF every day.

Anna Hemming, Aesthetic Doctor

Dr Anna Hemming MBChB BSc DFFP MRCGP is a highly respected and skilled aesthetic doctor working in London. Conference...

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