Skincare Ingredient: Vitamin C

Vitamin C is one of my favourite ingredients in skincare. It’s an all-rounder that keeps the skin clear, radiant, elastic and youthful. It’s one of the most studied ingredients in skincare and has been proven to be effective in anti-aging and skin brightening.

In recent years, I found Vitamin C products have become more readily available and the formulation have been improved so that it is more stabilised, easier to apply, and even the sensitive skins can use it.

Skincare Benefits of Vitamin C

  1. Vitamin C is an antioxidant, which means it neutralises the free radicals in the atmosphere that would otherwise cause damages to the skin cells and lead to aging. Therefore, it slows down the process of aging in the skin and improve the appearance of wrinkles and fine lines.
  2. Vitamin C reduces damages by UV rays and sunburn thereby prevents photoaging.
  3. Vitamin C inhibits the formation of melanin, thereby brightens the skin, evens out the skin tone, lightens dark spots and hyperpigmentations and reduces dullness and sallowness.
  4. Vitamin C boosts collagen production and helps to increase the skin’s elasticity and firmness.
  5. Vitamin C improves cell turn over and helps to expedite wound healing.
  6. Vitamin C controls sebum production and reduce acne.

Forms of Vitamin C in skincare

There are two forms of Vitamin C used in skincare:

  • L-ascorbic Acid
  • Vitamin C derivatives

L-ascorbic Acid

L-ascorbic Acid is the pure and active form of Vitamin C. It absorbs directly into the skin to take benefits. For L-ascorbic acid to be effective, the concentration should be at least 5%.

Whilst L-ascorbic Acid is the most effective form of Vitamin C, it has the problem of being easily oxidised. Due to its powerful antioxidant property, Vitamin C binds with free radicals in the oxygen and becomes oxidised over time. The colour of the solution changes from clear to pale yellow and finally to dark orange. This has been a problem for skincare products, because from production to being purchased and being used up, the solution is often oxidised to an extent, and not able to perform its full effects. Heavily oxidised Vitamin C products may become an oxidant and do more harm to the skin than its benefits.

Another problem with L-ascorbic Acid is that the solution needs to be at a pH lower than 3.5 for it to enter the skin. This pH is much lower than our skin’s natural pH, therefore it is common for people with sensitive skins to experience a burning sensation when applying these products and some may even experience skin reactions such as redness and rashes.

Vitamin C serums with L-ascorbic acid

Skin Ceuticals is known for their C E Ferulic Vitamin C Serum, which is formulated with 15% L-ascorbic acid, 1% Vitamin E and 0.5% ferulic acid. Ferulic acid helps to stabilise ascorbic acid and improves photoprotection. The difficulty associated with the formulation and storage of L-ascorbic acid is clearly reflected in the product’s high price tag.

A K-beauty alternative is the Tia’m My Signature C Source Serum, which is formulated with 20% L-ascorbic acid and only 1/10 of the price compared with Skin Ceuticals.

Is Tia’m the same thing as Skin Ceuticals?

Is Skin Ceuticals worth the price?

The known fact is that the absorption of Vitamin C is highly dependent on the formulation.

In recent years, companies developed ways to solve the issues with formulation and storage of Vitamin C, with technologies such as encapsulation and powder forms. However, the issue with irritation at high concentrations and low pH seems to be unresolved, as these are the essential requirements for the effectiveness of Vitamin C.

Vitamin C Derivatives

Vitamin C derivatives combine ascorbic acid with other substances to create a more stabilised form that would not oxidise as easily. The derivatives can therefore be formulated easier and have a longer shelf life. When Vitamin C derivatives are absorbed into the skin, they are converted to L-ascorbic Acid by the enzymes in our own skin cells. The good thing is, the derivatives are far less likely to cause irritations even for sensitive skins.

Vitamin C derivatives are not as well studied as the pure form of Vitamin C. The derivatives that are most studied and proven to have similar benefits as pure Vitamin C are 3-O-ethyl-L-ascorbic acid, Sodium Ascorbyl Phosphate, Magnesium Ascorbyl Phosphate and Ascorbyl Glucoside. The list continues to grow as more interests are gained in the derivative world of Vitamin C.

From my own experience, Vitamin C derivatives are not as quick-acting as pure ascorbic acid in terms of delivering effects. However, they come in a much more gentle and easily useable form for sensitive skins. The benefit of incorporating a Vitamin C derivative in the skincare routine is surely visible over time.

Advice on choosing and using Vitamin C products

  1. Incorporate Vitamin C or Vitamin C derivative in your skincare routine the earlier the better.
  2. Choose a product that’s tolerable for your skin type. As a general rule, ascorbic acid is more likely to cause irritation than the derivatives. If irritation occurs, stop using immediately and wait for the skin to recover.
  3. There is no need to chase for higher concentrations, 10%~15% is a good amount for both Vitamin C and its derivatives.
  4. Use with a sunscreen in the morning and a Vitamin E cream at night to maximise the synergy effects in photoprotection and skin lightening.
  5. Avoid using with benzoyl peroxide as it oxidises Vitamin C.
  6. Consistency is key for any measurable benefits in skincare.

My favourite products made with Vitamin C derivatives

  1. Toun28 T2 Vitamin C Serum – this is a recent discovery of mine. Great water-like consistency, zero irritations, and visible effects with reducing hyperpigmentation after one bottle (approximately 3 weeks of use).
  2. By Ecom Spot Eraser Vita Powder – powder form, can be mixed with toner, serum, cream or applied alone. Easy to use and take around.
  3. Ample:N VC Shot Mask – moisturising and brightening, soothes and plumps the skin.
  4. Missha Vita C Plus Ascorbic Acid Series includes Missha Vita C Plus Ascorbic Acid Brightening Toner, Missha Vita C Plus Ascorbic Acid Spot Correcting & Firming Ampoule, Missha Vita C Plus Ascorbic Acid Spot Correcting Concentrate Ampoule and Missha Vita C Plus Ascorbic Acid Spot Correcting Ampoule Sheet Mask – overall great value for a complete skincare routine of Vitamin C products.

A Vitamin C Skincare Routine

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