Skin-Saving Vitamin C

It possesses a variety of skin-perfecting functions—think lightening discoloration, creating new, healthy collagen (for plumper-looking skin) and warding off free-radical damage, which is why vitamin C has made its mark as a mainstay skin care ingredient. Ranging in strength from light to potent, this active ingredient is a key component in the anti-aging puzzle. But not all vitamin C products are created equal. Those that contain too high of a concentration can potentially irritate the skin—on the flip side, if the formula is weak and unstable, no benefits will be rendered.

Vitamin C is an antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and collagen stimulator. “It controls oily skin, hydrates and shields against UV rays that sunscreen can’t,” says Miami aesthetician Isa Salvador. Miami and New York dermatologist Fredric S. Brandt, MD, says, “All types of vitamin C act similarly, the question is which are the most stable and can best penetrate the skin.” For vitamin C to be effective it can’t oxidize. Janel Luu, CEO and founder of Le Mieux Cosmetics, says, “unstable vitamin C may promote free-radical formation, causing damage.”

Not sure what to look for in vitamin C products?

L-Ascorbic Acid: A more natural derivative
L-ascorbic acid is one form of vitamin C in skin care. “This is the version found in our diets,” says Meridian, CT, dermatologist Nicholas Perricone, MD. The downside to it: it’s not very stable. “Companies don’t start with vitamin C derived from fruits but rather from synthesized production in a manufacturing plant.”

Regardless of the source—be it extracted from an orange, plant or other natural element—all extracts of vitamin C need to be “processed” to some degree to make them applicable and usable in skin care. L-ascorbic acid is the closest to a natural form of vitamin C found in skin-care products today. 

Vitamin C Esters: Synthetic derivatives
Some skin-care brands choose to use synthetic vitamin C ingredients because they may be more readily available, less expensive or more sustainable in the formula. Synthetic forms of vitamin C tend to break down at a slower rate.


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  • Judy

    Claudio Pinto has got it right! I've been using a Vitamin C that I got from him and my skin looks 10 years younger in just one month! I'm using it together with B5 and hyaluronic acid with some great moisturizer too. It's wonderful!!!! So worth the $ and the few minutes per day that it takes. Take it from a sun-damaged California girl...this stuff really works!!! Check him out on FB!

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  • Lani

    Hi Summer young, most of my Vit. C serums are also big dropper bottles like SKinceuticals. I now try to by the sample size box that comes with 6 of them and add up to the big bottle size, which is triple the price. Using one small bottle at a time is best for me because air won't get into the rest of the product. SO far though using fresh lemon on my face has done Wonders in lighting my dark spots! I make my own now too from a recipe I found.

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  • SBBC

    The best vitamin c I've used is from Jan Marini products. I use the age intervention program that she's outlined and it's the C Esta serum in a pump. I had little oil bumps on my dry skin and dermatologists kept telling me there is nothing that can be done. I used Marini's C for a few weeks and they flattene to a point where one needs a magnifying glass to see them. I love her products

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  • Summer Young- Master Esti

    Airtight is always the best option for any performance ingredient, but many vitamin C serums are packaged in dropper bottles, leaving them vunerable to oxidation every time you use them. This is why it's important to store vitamin C in a dry, dark place and why a stabilizer in the formulation is necessary. Also, eating fruits and vegetables is always good for the skin, but your skin is the last organ to receive nutrients, so for noticeable changes in the appearance of the skin, a topical treatment, along with supplements and a healthy diet, is the best prescription.

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  • Hollister

    can you just add a little water to powder L-asorbic acid and apply to face? does this work the same?

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  • Danielle

    What type of packaging is best? Does it have to be airtight ? Thanks

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  • Claudio Pinto
    Master Aesthetician - New York, NY

    For Vitamin C to work topically - it has to be stable and penetrate properly. Also Vitamin C needs to be stored in a dry and dark place. Once the Vitamin C Serum is brown or has gotten very dark its just not as active as when brand new. Vitamin C is a wonderful antioxidant and also assists in treating hyperpigmentation, repairs free-radical damage and gives your skin that fabulous glow. Should be applied in the am before your SPF. Remember that not all vitamin C is treated equally and look for the ones with higher concentration!

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  • Carrie

    Does Vitamin C work in a similar manner when you ingest it.. like eating fruits and taking supplements?? -Carri

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