I used to associate vitamin C with the glasses of OJ I was forced to drink when I was sick child (I was ungrateful for it at the time, but that stuff was fresh-squeezed and organic). Most people associate oranges with antioxidants, but did you know that grapefruit is actually the vitamin C powerhouse? A few years later, I tied it to Vitamin C’s song “Graduation (Friends Forever),” which I slow-danced to for the very first time in middle school. Cringe. Years later, I was reintroduced to C yet again — but in skincare form, specifically to fade my acne scars.
As a part of our Ingredient Lowdown Series, we’re giving you the 4-1-1 on vitamin C. It’s deemed as the Holy Grail for fighting signs of aging and brightening skin, not only because of the visible results but because it’s also one of the most studied skincare ingredients ever. It is an antioxidant regarded for its incredibly powerful skin rejuvenating effects. Here’s what it’s known to do:
- repairs damage caused by UV rays
- helps stimulate collagen production
- fights off damage that expedites wrinkles, sagging and dullness
- handles hyperpigmentation and discoloration like no one’s business
- brightens skin tone
Skincare mavens can’t stop buzzing about it, and in some cases even ask for the ingredient in prescription strength. So I figured it was time to explore some more benefits so I could start to–unlike my middle school first slow dance–embrace Vitamin C and really mean it.
Fun Fact: It’s Been Used For Centuries
Just like Cleopatra was the OG of the smokey eye, vitamin C is an ancient beauty staple that’s been used throughout history. The women of the Tang Dynasty in Tibet would rub sea buckthorn and rose hips (both loaded with vitamin C) all over their face and hands in order to preserve their youthful appearance. Berries rich in antioxidants were crushed into paste for making creams, infused waters and ointments for their transformational qualities. In other words, royalty of centuries ago went all-natural and organic well before bohemians introduced these terms into the mainstream.
Ascorbic Acid Is Queen (But Not Always for Everyone)
There are a few kinds of Vitamin C out there, but ascorbic acid is where it’s at (the rest have a lot of claims, but very little data to support). Ascorbic acid is the one that slows down signs of aging and hiding wrinkles It’s also the one fighting dark spots, redness and dryness. Hey, queens get wrinkly too you know.
That being said, ascorbic acid can also be irritating for some people. If you’re experiencing redness, look for these stable alternatives:
- tetrahexyldecyl ascorbate
- ascorbyl methylsilanol pectinate
- ascorbyl palmitate
- sodium ascorbyl phosphate
One more thing: ascorbic acid–like retinol–oxidizes and becomes less effective when exposed to air and light. Opaque tubes with air pumps are your friends that help preserve that goodness.
Make It a Double
Even if you drink strawberry smoothies every morning for that vitamin C kick, don’t put away that vitamin C serum just yet. Taking vitamin C supplements orally versus applying it topically will bring you different results — both good, just different. So in any case, do both! To buff up your immune system, you can you can eat kale, tomatoes and cauliflower in addition to citrus fruits. For beauty products that really bring on the glow, most vitamin C treatments will usually come in a serum or elixir form for deeper skin penetration. Also, did you know applying vitamin C to your skin is 20 times more effective for cosmetic benefits than ingesting it? Well now you do.
Kinda Like Biotin
Rianna Loving, founder of organic skincare brand ORGO Beauty, calls Vitamin C “the glue that holds the body together.” Since vitamin C is an elasticity booster, the collagen will look out for your hair and nails too. With stronger connective tissues comes stronger nail beds, which means buh-byeee hang nails. Collagen is also extremely effective for hair growth, and strengthening follicles.
Vitamin C also “plays a necessary role in absorbing iron, which keeps our locks strong and healthy,” per Loving. So the next time you’re doing DIY spa day in your kitchen, you can totally add some of that crushed berry mixture to your scalp and rinse off after 20 mins.
Now that you know everything there is to know about the big C, you can confidently head to both Sephora and Whole Foods to stock up for your healthy dose. Radiant AF skin, we’re coming for ya.
What are your favorite vitamin C beauty or DIY products? Tell us in the comments!