Vitamin C in skincare: how and why it works

Most of us know that vitamin C is an important part of a healthy diet. It’s good for our immune systems, and also helps us to absorb iron, which is particularly important for women. So it’s a good idea to make sure we get enough. But what about skincare products containing vitamin C? What are they good for? And who should be using them? Here is my summary of everything you need to know.

What is vitamin C?

It’s good to go back to basics here: vitamin C is a naturally occurring substance. Vitamin C is important to human health because it is an antioxidant. An antioxidant can stop chemical reactions that cause damage to our cells.

These damaging chemical reactions are going on all the time, and are pretty much impossible to avoid. They can be caused by sunlight, stress, environmental pollutants, smoking and lack of sleep for example. I think all of us can tick at least one of those boxes – I’ve ticked at least three!

So a constant supply of vitamin C is essential.

But as we humans can’t make vitamin C ourselves, we have to get it from natural sources in our diet: fruit, vegetables and so on.

Vitamin C is also sometimes known as ascorbic acid, or L-ascorbic acid (LAA) – you may recognise this from ingredients lists for foods, drinks and skincare products.

What is topical vitamin C?

Topical vitamin C is simply vitamin C that is applied to the surface of the skin, rather than eaten via foods or supplements. Applying vitamin C topically is a good idea because, however much we consume in our diet, a lot will have been used up in other internal processes before it reaches the skin.

What is topical vitamin C good for?

Skincare products containing vitamin C are used to treat and prevent signs of photo ageing, such as fine lines and wrinkles. It is also used to treat and prevent hyperpigmentation. Hyperpigmentation is an excess of pigment in the skin (e.g. age spots).

Vitamin C also has anti-inflammatory properties, meaning it helps to calm and soothe the skin. It can also help the skin to retain moisture.

But HOW does is actually work? The science bit!

Vitamin C neutralizes free radicals. Okay, bear with me for a minute while I explain this more clearly! I promise not to get too technical…

What is a free radical?

Free radicals are everywhere: in the air, in the materials around us, and in our skin. They’re basically molecules with an odd number of electrons in their outer ring. They are not very happy in this state: they much prefer having an even number of electrons. So free radicals steal electrons from molecules to even up their numbers. But in doing this, they cause a chain reaction that results in damage to these other molecules. Within the skin, this process can cause cells to function improperly, or die.

How do antioxidants and vitamin C help?

Antioxidants stop this damaging chain reaction because they supply the missing electrons to the free radicals.

Studies have shown that vitamin C helps to protect the skin from UV damage caused by sun exposure. It also helps to replenish natural vitamin C levels in the skin, which are depleted by exposure to UV light.

Other studies have suggested that vitamin C plays a part in collagen and elastin production, both of which are essential components in healthy, plumped skin. Further studies have shown it to be effective in decreasing melanin formation in the dermis. Melanin is a dark brown or black pigment that is found in the skin, and the cause of hyperpigmentation.

So in other words: vitamin C has a lot going for it!

Who can benefit from using vitamin C products?

In my opinion, a good vitamin C product should be part of everyone’s skincare routine. It really is an essential component to healthy skin. It tackles problems that affect us all, whatever age we are, so I recommend it to all my clients.

Are all vitamin C products good?

Unfortunately not: the problem is that vitamin C is very unstable. This means it quickly loses its potency when exposed to air, water, light, heat and cold. Basically it uses up all its lovely free electrons to neutralize free radicals before it gets to work on your skin. This is why it’s important to use skincare products that have been carefully formulated to ensure that the vitamin C remains potent until it penetrates the skin and gets to work just where it is needed.

What products do you recommend?

Obagi Professional-CI use the Obagi Professional-C™ range at The Clinic. The Professional-C™ Serum is available in three different concentrations; 10%, 15% and 20%. The lower concentration is more suitable for sensitive skins or while we bring irritations under control. The 15% concentration is suitable for most skin types, and the 20% concentration is best suited to normal to oily skin.

These potent serums are very popular with my clients. Also included in the Professional-C™ range are a broad spectrum sunscreen, a peptide complex and an eye-brightening serum.

I also use the excellent iSClinical Super Serum Advance+™ and C Eye Advance+™ formulations.

If you’d like to find out more about how vitamin C could help in your skincare regime, why not come in for a consultation? A full consultation with myself will cover all aspects of your skin’s health and needs. You can find out more by calling us at The Clinic on 020 8699 9496, or you can email .

One Comment

  1. I have used the Vit C serum and it has been really great so would recommend products mentioned . In addition the staff at the Clinic are really warm and welcoming a really nice vibe to add to its professionalism.