Also known as L-ascorbic acid, vitamin C is one of the most powerful nutrients for maintaining good skin health. Its antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and anti-aging properties have made it somewhat of a legend among dermatologists, as well as the most searched skincare ingredient in 2020 . From improving skin texture and tone to softening fine lines, it’s no wonder vitamin C serums and creams are often considered the holy grail of skincare. But understanding how vitamin C works, its benefits and uses, and the different types of products available can play a significant role in maximising its impact. Continue reading to find out more about the nutrient and how it can help your skin.
What does vitamin C do?
As an ascorbic acid, vitamin C plays an important role in forming and maintaining cartilage, blood vessels and cells, carnitine, and skin. It also boasts antioxidant, healing and immune-boosting properties, making it a critical nutrient for overall health. It’s naturally-occurring in many foods - sources of vitamin C include citrus fruits, potatoes and peppers. Given the wide-ranging benefits of vitamin C for skin health, it has also become a powerful and popular skincare ingredient.
Vitamin C plays a dual role in stimulating collagen production, a protein required for skin elasticity and structure, among other benefits. It regulates the synthesis of collagen, while protecting against free radicals that can erode collagen-producing cells. Research shows that topical application of vitamin C improved collagen quantity and strengthened collagen fibers [2, 3, 4].
While the importance of vitamin C cannot be overstated, being an ascorbic acid makes it a water-soluble vitamin. This means the body cannot store it in significant amounts, so it’s important to ensure stores are replenished consistently. Depleted vitamin c levels can cause connective tissue defects, weakened capillaries and slow wound healing. Lower levels have also been associated with a variety of skin concerns, such as aging, photodamage, dullness and more .
What are the benefits of Vitamin C?
The benefits of vitamin C are comprehensive, including numerous skin-saving properties. However, there is little known about the accumulation of vitamin C in skin content and nutrient intake . Therefore, it may not be enough to rely on diets or supplementation alone to maximise the advantages of vitamin C for skin health . On the other hand, vitamin C serums and creams for topical application have been widely researched and show noticeable benefits and improvements to the skin [7, 8, 9].
Using vitamin C directly on skin can produce a variety of benefits:
- It smooths and plumps the skin while reducing fine lines due to its role in collagen and elastin synthesis. This process reinforces the skin’s structure, elasticity and texture to promote a healthy, youthful appearance.
- It brightens dark spots and improves pigmentation through reducing excess melanin production (a process that can cause darker pigments to appear).
- The antioxidant properties are one of the key functions of vitamin C, helping to fight free radicals. We are exposed to a variety of pollutants and UV radiation daily, which breakdown the DNA of our skin and cause wrinkles, age spots, and so on. Vitamin C is the superhero that saves the day, protecting the skin against harmful free radicals and restoring balance.
- It reduces dark circles often found under the eyes. Dark circles often appear due to loss of collagen and volume in the skin surrounding the delicate eye area, or due to hyperpigmentation creating darker hues. Applying vitamin C serums under the eyes can help tackle these two skin concerns, revealing a brighter, radiant appearance.
- The use of vitamin C in skincare has been well-documented and is often recommended by dermatologists, making it a safe and suitable staple to integrate in any skincare regime Unlike other popular ingredients such as retinol, vitamin C generally doesn’t cause any irritation and can therefore be used on sensitive skin.
How do I know if my skin would benefit from Vitamin C?
Vitamin C is worshipped by dermatologists and skin gurus for a reason. It not only has many benefits, but it’s safe to use on nearly all skin types. Skincare products infused with vitamin C, such as patches, serums and creams, are great for tackling several skin concerns. Whether you’re looking to diminish dark circles and dullness, even-out skin tone, plump and refresh tired-looking skin, or smooth those pesky fine lines, vitamin C is worth integrating into your daily skincare routine.
How can I incorporate Vitamin C into my routine?
Anyone can harness the benefits of vitamin C by integrating the right skincare products into their routine. As vitamin C is a water-soluble vitamin, the body doesn’t store it so it’s important to find products that are targeted, concentrated and effective to replenish levels. It’s also a good idea to pair vitamin C with SPF to maximise protective care and to avoid using retinol at the same time.
Topical creams and serums with high contents of vitamin C can have an impact, but advanced skincare techniques such as microneedling may be more powerful. Microneedle eye patches enriched with vitamin C serum are great for firming and brightening the delicate eye area. They get to work below the skin’s surface for a more effective treatment – often with reduced time to visible results than creams and serums that rest on the top layer.
Microneedle patches are an easy way to integrate vitamin C into your skincare routine, where you’ll only need to use them once or twice a week. Some other topical applications may require daily use to see a noticeable difference. Moreover, the patches also prevent degradation of vitamin C from light and air through using airtight and opaque packaging.
The verdict on vitamin C is that we should all be using it. The benefits are endless, so it’s more than likely integrating it into your skincare routine will do wonders for your complexion. From potent vitamin C serums and microneedle patches to moisturising creams and gel- the deserved popularity of vitamin C means there’s lots of skincare products available. But it’s important to choose one that’s easy to use and offers a targeted approach for a faster, more effective treatment.
1] These are the most searched skin care ingredients of 2020 (so far) Cult Beauty, https://www.cultbeauty.co.uk/blog/2020/07/most-searched-skincare-ingredients-2020
2] Boyera N, Galey I, Bernard BA (1998/)Effect of vitamin C and its derivatives on collagen synthesis and cross-linking by normal human fibroblasts.International Journal of Cosmetic Science./20(3):151-8.
3] Tajima S, Pinnell SR(1996)Ascorbic acid preferentially enhances type I and III collagen gene transcription in human skin fibroblasts./Journal of Dermatology Science./11(3):250-3.
4] Humbert PG, Haftek M, Creidi P, Lapière C, Nusgens B, Richard A, Schmitt D, Rougier A, Zahouani H (2003/)Topical ascorbic acid on photoaged skin. Clinical, topographical and ultrastructural evaluation: double-blind study vs. placebo.Experimental Dermatology./12(3):237-44.
 Pullar, J. M., Carr., A. C., and Vissers, M. C. M. (2017) The roles of vitamin C in skin health, Nutrients, 9(8) 866 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5579659/
 Nusgens B.V., Humbert P., Rougier A., Colige A.C., Haftek M., Lambert C.A., Richard A., Creidi P., Lapiere C.M. (2001) Topically applied vitamin C enhances the mRNA level of collagens I and III, their processing enzymes and tissue inhibitor of matrix metalloproteinase 1 in the human dermis. /Journal of. Investigative Dermatology./116(6), 853–859
7) Al-Niaimi F, Chiang NYZ (2017). Topical vitamin C and the skin: Mechanisms of action and clinical applications. Journal of Clinical and Aesthetic Dermatology 10(7):14-17.
 Lin J.Y., Selim M.A., Shea C.R., Grichnik J.M., Omar M.M., Monteiro-Riviere N.A., Pinnell S.R. (2003) UV photoprotection by combination topical antioxidants vitamin C and vitamin E. Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, 48(6) 866-74. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/12789176/
 Sauermann K., Jaspers S., Koop U., Wenck H. (2004) Topically applied vitamin C increases the density of dermal papillae in aged human skin. BMC Dermatology. 4(1), 13 https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/15456516/