This article 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.
What are the main benefits of Vitamin C?
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, red 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.
It is important to note however, that cooking vegetables significantly reduces their vitamin C content. Additionally, with soils being depleted, it is increasingly difficult to get the necessary daily dose of vitamin C to help maintain overall health. Supplementation becomes necessary. I personally drink either Matcha or Moringa teas on a daily basis to optimize my levels. I prefer those to the synthetic vitamins found in most supplements.
Key Vitamin C benefits:
- May lower the risk of heart disease (1)
- Aid in the absorption of iron and other nutrients (2)
- Speed up wound healing (3)
- Protect memory and cognitive function (4)
- May help high blood pressure (5)
- Reduce the risk of chronic disease (6)
- Increase collagen production
- Increase immunity
- Support growth and repair of body tissue
- Maintenance of teeth, cartilage and bone
- Even out skin tone and balance melanin production
- Help reduce breakouts
What are the side effects of using topical Vitamin C?
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.
What are the most common Vitamin C Ingredients?
L-Ascorbic Acid is 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, namely Magnesium Ascorbyl Phosphate as it's garnered the reputation for being the least sensitizing Vitamin C. Another 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. Despite the abundance of Vitamin C products available on the market, few meet all of my criteria, some of which are; clean, 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 create 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.
I have included the top products that meet The Beauty Doctrine's criteria of clean and safe skincare, further down in this article.
Can you use Vitamin C with skincare actives?
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 great deal 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.
What are good Vitamin C alternatives?
Vitamin C gets all the hype because it's the most recognizable, most studied (mostly by cosmetic companies to show positive results). However, there are other protective and reparative antioxidants with far higher potency and better stability than vitamin C. To name a few: Astaxanthin, Resveratrol, Green Tea, and Niacinamide. I will be covering these, in more detail, in upcoming articles. Till then, let's look at some of the best Vitamin C packed products with superior ingredients.
What are some clean Vitamin C products?
Starting off with the most active product I could find. Arcana Veil of Rest Vitamin C Serum utilizes a powerful dose of 12% Tetrahexyldecyl Ascorbate in a blend of firming and brightening actives. A great option for the looking to boost their collagen production, control acne and fade hyper-pigmentation.
Packed in Antioxidants, namely CoQ10 and vitamin C from sea berry, Earth Harbor Calypso is on of my favorite serums for sensitive skin types. It helps combat free radicals for healthier skin, while increasing radiance, decreasing pigmentation and strengthening the lipid barrier with the Ceramides packed Jojoba.
Graydon Fullmoon Serum's ingredient lit starts with Moringa. This means that it's highly concentrated in powerful doses of not only Vitamin C, but also polyphenols, iron, calcium, protein, and amino acids. Moringa also has 7 times more vitamin C than oranges and 15 times more potassium than bananas.
The ingredient list expands to botanical retinol, hyaluronic acid, peptides and many other powerful anti-aging actives that touch on many skin concerns. This a great water-based serum that can be followed with either Earth Harbor Calypso or Arcana Veil of Rest oil serums.
If you'd rather get your daily dose of topical vitamin c from a cream, a phenomenal clean option is Odacité Crème de la Nuit. It combines, Ashwagandha, green algae, hyaluronic acid, pomegranate, jojoba and various other potent actives and antioxidants. As far as Vitamin C, it uses Tetrahexyldecyl Ascorbate which is highly stable and fat soluble, allowing better absorption and utilization by skin cells without the sensitivity often associated with mainstream Vitamin C.
Vitamin C is necessary to normal skin function. It is often hard to meet the optimal dietary intake through diet and supplements, so topicals play a huge role in maintaining skin health. the majority of Vitamin C products on the market do more harm than good as they offset the skin's PH balance and cause sensitivity. However, there are some new derivatives on the market that show great promise, as well as clean products that help boost collagen production and reduce hyperpigmentation with minimal side effects, if any.
Be well. Be safe. Be beautiful!