Vitamin C (also known as ascorbic acid) has fast become one of the most sought after skincare ingredients, well known for its antioxidant protection and brightening effects. We’re often told if we can only have 2 products for the rest of our lives we should head straight for the SPF and Vitamin C. We agree with the broad-spectrum SPF part of this narrative. However, as consumers, we are often led to believe that Vitamin C is the golden ticket to cure all our skin woes (aside from coconut oil of course). This isn’t necessarily the case.
Here is our take on what could be occurring and some key things to look out for when selecting products for your skin.
Not all Vitamin C’s are made equal
As with anything, not all Vitamin C’s are created equal. Components like the type and concentration of Vitamin C, other ingredients in the product, and even the kind of bottle or dispenser make or break the benefits.
It is important to make note of whether the bottle your Vitamin C is housed in protects the skincare product from light. Most science backed cosmeceutical ranges, will package their Vitamin C serums in coloured/opaque pump bottles to protect it from light/air exposure. When vitamin C is exposed to light it becomes unstable, the consequences include irritation, inflammation and acne. All of these can cause post inflammatory pigmentation, leaving you worse off than when you started. If you have any of these skin ailments, and are using a vitamin C serum, it might be time to rethink your regime.
As well as the overall % of Vitamin C in products, the ingredients your Vitamin C is combined with also alter its effectiveness. Studies have shown that a combination of ferulic acid and vitamin E with vitamin C can help to stabilise the compound and increase vitamin C efficacy and absorption.
You could be mixing it with the wrong products
Do you use multiple serums in the AM? Are you mixing them into a cocktail before applying to your face?
Mixing vitamin C incorrectly with other serums can actually render the vitamin C, or other ingredient, useless. If you do like to apply multiple products, make sure you research each ingredient and ensure each product is properly absorbed into the skin before applying the next.
It could actually be causing inflammation that leads to even more pigmentation
Vitamin C is also notorious for causing irritation in sensitive skin types, particularly when mixed with other active ingredients such as AHA’s. This can lead to a flare in conditions such as periorificial dermatitis, again, leaving you with post inflammatory pigmentation.
If you are on the sensitive side, it is worth looking for products with other antioxidants that are as equally effective but better tolerated such as Camellia sinensis (green tea), resveratrol, and niacinamide.
As much as we wish there were one ingredient that could address all our brightening, photo-protection and pigmentation needs, unfortunately it doesn’t exist. Actively treating and preventing pigmentation really requires a collaborative approach. We recommend nightly, or second nightly use of Vitamin A (retinaldehyde, retinol) to exfoliate the skin and brighten dark spots. Daily use of potent antioxidants (such as niacinamide, ferulic acid, resveratrol, astaxanthin), broad-spectrum SPF and if possible, iron oxides to prevent environmental damage. If it is in within your budget, it is also worth booking an appointment with a dermal clinician or dermatologist.
If you have any questions regarding your routine, submit them below.