This post might go against everything you've been taught with regards to Vitamin-C, an ingredient that has been touted for decades, as being an age-reversing miracle worker; essential to increasing skin radiance, reducing pigmentation, fighting off free radicals, and building Collagen. Things aren't that simple. If it all were true, considering the billions of dollars sold yearly in Vitamin-C products, none of us would have any remaining skin concerns.
While I won't question the power of Vitamin-C in supporting our immune system, enhancing nutrient absorption, and helping keep our bodies healthy, and skin youthful; I am an advocate of making sure it is part of your daily food and supplement intake. Dark leafy vegetables, peppers and of course citrus fruits are all rich in Vitamin-C. An adequate diet is not only beneficial to the health of your body, but also to that of your skin.
When looking at Vitamin-C in skincare, It is an entirely different ball game. Our skin PH sits at about 4.5 to 5. We generally want to stay as close to that range as possible. However, in order for a water-soluble Vitamin-C molecule to penetrate the skin, it needs to be at a low PH of 2 to 3, which can be disruptive and damaging to the skin's lipid barrier in the long term.
There are multiple variations of Vitamin-C ingredients that are used in skincare. Let's identify some of their names as they appear on your cosmetic label:
- L-Ascorbic Acid: The most commonly used in skincare, the most studied and the biggest sensitivity culprit. There are hundreds of claims out there about the magical benefits of this ingredients, including increased Collagen production, photo protection, brightening and reducing pigmentation. This might all be attainable if it wasn't the most unstable molecule in chemistry. It is known to oxidize fast, rendered not only ineffective, but harmful to the skin and pro-inflammatory. If you've ever owned a Vitamin-C product that turned orange, that is what oxidation looks like. If you are a fan, regardless of the sensitivity warnings, I would at least seek out a product that has Ferulic Acid and Vitamin-E, which help maintain the stability of the L-Ascorbic Acid, buy it in an opaque and airtight pump bottle to reduce it's contact with air and light. And cross your fingers it may stay stable long enough for you to use it without causing an inflammatory response in your skin due to the low PH and high potential of oxidation.
- Other derivatives may show up under Ascorbyl Palmitate, Magnesium Ascorbyl Phosphate, Sodium Ascorbyl Phosphate, Ascorbyl Palmitate, and Ascorbyl Glucoside. All are attempts by skincare manufacturers at producing less sensitizing and more stable versions. If you aren't too sensitive, and would like your version of the highly accoladed Vitamin-C, I'd recommend using a product with one of the above-mentioned derivatives. One that has popped up recently, and caught my attention, is Tetrahexyldecyl Ascorbate which is more soluble in lipids, hence better able to penetrate the skin at a normal PH. This may potentially cause far less sensitivity or acid mantel disruption.
I have spent a great deal of time researching formulas, and haven't had much luck identifying a Vitamin-C product that meets all of my criteria, a few of which are; clean, vegan, cruelty-free, non-toxic, synthetic fragrance-free, Paraben-free, PEG's-free, and most of all non-sensitizing. The last attribute is very crucial for me as I believe that even brands with strong ethics still fail to produce products that are suitable to sensitive skin, mostly due to using essential oils in lieu of fragrance, as well as having to use skin-irritating preservatives to maintain ingredient longevity. The only recommendation I have in this category is Biossance Squalane+ Vitamin C Rose Oil. This comes with a refreshingly short list of ingredients, and best of all, my very sensitive skin has tolerated it well so far. Check it out here; https://amzn.to/2CH1xrF.
One last point that I'd like to touch on is that Vitamin-C does not play well with others. So if you are a fan of actives like Retinol, Glycolic Acid and the like, you want to be very careful not to use them in conjunction with your Vitamin-C product. READ your labels. Many cleansers and toners tend to have a multitude of exfoliating acids, so make sure if you are incorporating Vitamin-C into your routine, that you are using more gentle cleansers and toners. I'd recommend your vitamin-C product, hopefully not L-Ascorbic Acid based, to be used during the day as it may help reduce environmental effects and photo damage, when you are in the sun. Whatever you do, do not layer any type of Vitamin-C with your Retinol. Leave the latter for your evening routine. And remember, there are many potent Antioxidants out there that surpass the benefits and power of Vitamin-C, which you can use without worrying about sensitivity or skin barrier damage. To name a few; Astaxanthin, Resveratrol, Green Tea, and Hydroxytyrosol. I will be coving these in detail in upcoming articles. Till then, stay safe and keep your skin healthy and glowing, for the long term that is!
Be well. Be safe. Be beautiful!