Until about two years ago, whenever someone mentioned vitamin C, my mind automatically went to orange juice. Now, though, I am an adult who associates orange juice with hangovers and vitamin C with skincare. If you’re one of those people who just learned to moisturize like, two years ago, then I understand why you’d be skeptical of adding another ingredient to your skincare routine. After all, you’ve got cleansers, toners, serums, night cream—is vitamin C really necessary, or is it one of those things the beauty industry tries to push on us that we don’t really need? Well, like it or not, vitamin C falls into the “actually necessary” camp. But don’t just take my word for it—we spoke to board-certified dermatologist Dr. Shari Marchbein on why incorporating vitamin C into your skincare routine is actually important, and how you should be doing it.
Dr. Marchbein says that “Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant that helps protect from and repair free radical damage, can reduce the appearance of brown spots, and even out skin tone.” **buys 87 vitamin C-based serums** If you share my dream of perfect skin, keep reading for a few more benefits of vitamin C and why you should incorporate it into your skincare routine.
Why Should We Incorporate Vitamin C Into Our Routine?
As I mentioned, vitamin C is as preventative as it is reparative, so working it into your skincare routine immediately is a good call. Like Hannah Ann upon arrival to the Fantasy Suite, I was hesitant to introduce a new ingredient to my sensitive skin, especially one that’s associated with anti-aging, because tbh I’m only 26. Starting anti-aging processes too early can actually be bad for your face because certain ingredients (think retinol, hydroxy acids, and peptides) are too aggressive on your still-young skin, and will actually backfire by speeding up the aging process. Yikes, who knew?
However, vitamin C protects against free radicals, which, without going into too much science, are damaging to your skin and are found in everything you’d assume would be bad for your skin: pollution such as smog, dust, and cigarette smoke, as well as our frenemy, the sun. Vitamin C works both as a shield against free radicals and also to lighten dark spots on the skin. Basically, vitamin C is your new best friend. To drive my point home, Dr. Marchbein adds, “Vitamin C also plays a critical role in the formation of collagen (which is one of the many reasons dermatologists recommend the daily application of vitamin C to the skin each morning).”
Can Anyone Use Vitamin C?
Simple answer? Yes. However, for people who want to see a result rather than just practice preventative caution, vitamin C is especially good for you because it visibly lightens dark spots. If you have acne scars/marks that haven’t completely faded, sun spots, etc., vitamin C will help even out the skin and take the dark out of those areas of your face and neck. Dr. Marchbein says, “For those with acne, use vitamin C to help lighten and prevent further darkening of post-inflammatory hyper-pigmentation.” Hyper-pigmentation is a fancy word for dark spots caused by an excess production of melanin, and can be caused by non-active acne, sun damage, or changing hormones during pregnancy. While hyper-pigmentation is usually harmless, vitamin C will help diffuse the darkness of those affected areas.
Are There Any Downsides To Using Vitamin C?
Like the worrywart that I am, I had to ask. Dr. Marchbein urgently stresses the importance of wearing SPF if you’re using vitamin C during the daytime. Obv, you should wear SPF anyway, but especially so if you’re trying to break down your dark spots. The sun naturally darkens your skin (duh), so asking your vitamin C to lighten a few spots while the sun goes to work is a little counterintuitive, right? She warns that while “Vitamin C serums do not inherently make you more sensitive to the sun,” it’s possible that some products “may be combined with other ingredients that might.” Regardless, she also advises, “since UV damage is the ultimate skin-ager, causes wrinkles, sunspots etc, wearing daily SPF 30+ is the most important step in any morning skincare routine.”
What Type Of Products Should You Be Using?
Personally, I use Image’s Vital C Hydrating Facial Cleanser because it leaves my skin feeling clean, but without the tight, stripped of all life feeling that other cleansers offer. After using it for nearly a year, I have definitely noticed a more radiant look and literally zero dark spots. However, if you want something a little more dramatic, Dr. Marchbein suggests using a serum because the active ingredients (namely, the vitamin C) will be more concentrated. “Remember that not all serums and ingredients are created equally,” she says. “A vitamin C serum from one brand may be vastly different from a vitamin C serum from another brand based on the strength, other ingredients it is formulated with, how it is packaged, and whether it is exposed to light which can oxidize it.” She tells us, “It’s important to pick products with active ingredients that have good science and research behind them.” Preach, doc. Generally, the products that oxidize aren’t worth your money because oxidized vitamin C is pretty ineffective.
She adds , “Skinceuticals Phloretin CF, Skinbetter Alto Defense serum, and Isdinceutics Flavo-C Ultraglican Antioxidant Ampoules are some of my favorite medical-grade antioxidant vitamin C serums.” But if you want something a little less intense, she recommends Ole Henriksen Truth serum, CeraVe Skin Renewing Vitamin C serum, La Roche-Posay Pure Vitamin C, Olay Tone Perfection Serum Vitamin B3 + Vitamin C, and Drunk Elephant C-Firma Day serum.
Well, there you have it. Your soon-to-be-flawless mug can only benefit from using vitamin C products regularly. After chatting with Dr. Marchbein, I picked myself up two serums, the Drunk Elephant one she recommended and a cheaper option from Glossier (Super Glow). It hasn’t been long enough to decide which is better, but my skin hasn’t revolted against me (yet) for introducing two new products into my routine, so I’m counting this experiment as a success in my book. One thing to remember, though: everyone’s skin is different, so if a product has rave reviews, but sets your skin on fire when you use it, that doesn’t mean it’s a sh*t product; it just means that you need something a little less concentrated (like a cleanser!).
Images: Noah Buscher / Unsplash
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