Vitamin C is widely known for its immunity-boosting properties, but its benefits extend beyond just supporting our health from the inside.
An essential nutrient for a healthy skin, it is abundantly found in citrus fruits (oranges, lemons), strawberries, blackcurrants, and peppers.
When consumed naturally, vitamin C helps our body to fight infections. As an antioxidant, it heals wounds. “However, solely relying on food sources is not enough for skin health,” says Dr Kisalay Saurav, dermatologist and cosmetologist based in Bengaluru.
An essential skin nutrient
When applied on the skin, it can help to boost collagen production, improve skin elasticity, and even out skin tone. It shields the skin from damage caused by exposure to sun, pollution, and other environmental stressors. When used in skincare products, vitamin C can reduce the appearance of wrinkles, age spots and other visible signs of ageing.
A word of caution
Despite its many benefits, it is important to use vitamin C-based products on the skin with caution. It can cause irritation or allergic reactions in some people. To minimise the risk of irritation, a small amount of the product should be tried first.
It is also important to avoid products that contain fragrance or alcohol as these ingredients can make the skin sensitive to vitamin C.
What serums do
Vitamin C has pro-collagen properties, which means that it has proteins that strengthen the supporting tissues, explains Dr Saurav who recommends applying it on the face as a serum. It keeps the skin supple and fights marks and other signs of ageing.
- Photoprotection: Vitamin C as serum prevents and reduces damage caused to the skin by sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays.
- Reduces pigmentation damage: When it comes to treating pigmentation, vitamin C serums are considered among the best cures and are used widely for this purpose. According to a 2020 study published in the Journal of Oral and Maxillofacial Pathology in September 2020, vitamin C arrests degeneration of melanin-producing cells.
- Boosting collagen: Vitamin C also helps in the generation of collagen, the main protein in our tissues. It rebuilds tissues. It is used to correct skin texture visibly reduce wrinkles.
What to look for in serums
“Light and heat damage vitamin C and cause its oxidation [a chemical reaction with oxygen]. So make sure to keep the vitamin C serum somewhere cool and dark,” says Yashoda, a beauty therapist at Health and Glow, Bengaluru.
Buyers should ensure that the vitamin C serum comes in a dark glass bottle. Serums that are sold in transparent bottles should not be bought as the contents may have been exposed to oxidation.
What are vitamin C derivatives?
Vitamin C in its pure form is unstable and not suitable for all skin types because of its low pH value, Dr Saurav says. However, derivatives of vitamin C are more stable, more affordable and less irritating on the skin than the pure form.
- Ascorbic acid: This is the purest form of vitamin C. Its strong antioxidant abilities make it very effective in taking care of blemishes and pigmentation of the skin. However, it oxidises easily and needs to be stored in a refrigerator. People with acne-prone or oily skin are advised to avoid ascorbic acid as it causes breakouts.
- Sodium ascorbyl phosphate: It is a water-soluble form of vitamin C made with ascorbic acid, phosphate and salt. It evens out the skin tone by boosting collagen. This is also anti-microbial and fights acne.
- Magnesium ascorbyl phosphate: It boosts collagen and reduces pigmentation. It can be used by all skin types as it is relatively less absorbable and less irritating.
- Tetrahexyldecyl ascorbate: This is as good as ascorbic acid. It reduces pigmentation and builds collagen. However, it may cause irritation in people with sensitive skin..
Do’s and don’ts
“The first step is to wash your face well,” says Yashoda. “Apply a few drops of the serum and pat it on clean face. Do this once in the morning and once in the evening. Apply it before a sunscreen,” she says.
- Avoid using the serum if it has turned thick, dark or smelly.
- Do not mix vitamin C serums with any product that has retinol or niacinamide in it. These two have high pH values and can react with each other and cancel each other’s actions, Dr Saurav.