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How Does Vitamin C Help Skin?


If you've shopped the skincare aisle lately (or in the last decade), you know that there is no shortage of anti-ageing ingredients on the market. Despite the marketing hype often assigned to a single ingredient, research is clear that using a range of beneficial ingredients is always best for keeping skin at its healthiest. There are some exceptions-standout ingredients that, whether included among a mix of beneficial ingredients or in a concentrated treatment, are among a select few that can treat multiple skincare concerns. Vitamin C is one such example!

Here, we'll share the research-proven results you should expect from vitamin C, we'll discuss whether one form is better than another, and share how you can incorporate this powerhouse antioxidant into your skincare routine.

In This Article:

Vitamin C for Anti-Ageing & Brighter, Healthier Skin

In any form (and we'll get to which types work best) vitamin C provides potent antioxidant protection, shielding skin from damaging free radicals, those pesky rogue molecules that promote premature ageing. The most abundant forms of free-radical damage are environmental factors we can't escape - think sun damage, pollution and oxygen - that assault skin on a daily basis, but that's where topical vitamin C can help. When incorporated into your daily skincare lineup, well-formulated products containing vitamin C can provide a range of benefits that keep your skin younger-looking, longer! See what C can do:

  • Reduce the appearance of brown spots and other types of sun damage
  • Helps boost healthy collagen production (hello, firmer skin!)
  • Reduce inflammation and irritation, both of which cause a cascade of damage
  • Fade post-breakout red marks by improving skin's natural healing response
  • Increase the effectiveness of your sunscreens and boosts your skins defense against UV exposure

Ascorbic Acid: Vitamin C Royalty

Ascorbic acid - also known as L-ascorbic acid - has the most research of any form of vitamin C when it comes to benefits for skin. For that reason, ascorbic acid is the most form of vitamin C used in well formulated skincare products. When properly formulated, it helps create younger, firmer skin while fading signs of sun damage and post-acne marks.

Ascorbic acid is also a powerhouse when mixed with other antioxidants, or when used alone in higher concentrations, such as 15% or 20% or greater, amounts that can be great for treating extra-stubborn concerns.

Want to target a particularly stubborn brown spot, red mark or wrinkle? Dab a small amount of the Paula's Choice Resist Vitamin C Spot Treatment, a 25% ascorbic acid concentrate, to the bothersome area and watch them beat a hasty retreat.

Vitamin C: The Extended Family

Good news: There isn't a single "best" form of vitamin C, but there are only a handful that research has demonstrated are the most stable and effective. Other effective forms include sodium ascorbyl phosphate, ascorbyl palmitate, retinyl ascorbate, tetrahexyldecyl ascorbate and magnesium ascorbyl phosphate, each derivatives of vitamin C, but all with less supporting research than ascorbic acid (but what research does exist is certainly encouraging).

Each of these forms of vitamin C has a range of benefits that include repair and protection from free-radical damage; the takeaway is that these are more beneficial when added to a blend with other proven antioxidants and cell-communicating ingredients. Look for products that include these with ingredients such as green tea, ascorbic acid, retinol, and/or niacinamide.

Note: All antioxidants, including vitamin C, are vulnerable to destabilising when exposed to air and light. That means if you want to reap the reward of your antioxidantenriched treatments, only choose those that are packaged in opaque tubes, air-restrictive bottles, or pumps that help keep their ingredients stable! You'll find multiple forms of vitamin C in many Paula's Choice products.

Bottom Line

With decades of research around its benefits, vitamin C is a long-established skincare superstar that can help you achieve younger, healthier and more radiant skin. However, like any ingredient, skincare will never be as simple as any single ingredient—just as no single food or nutrient can keep your body healthy, you need more than just one ingredient to keep your skin in good shape, too!

It's important to mention that vitamin C forms are effective in lower concentrations, so don't get caught up in the belief that only higher strengths are beneficial for skin. Research has shown that concentrations as low 0.6% provide antioxidant and anti-ageing benefits to skin. Depending on your concerns, you may do just fine using a regular-strength vitamin C product, especially is said product also contains a range of great ingredients to smooth, repair, and replenish skin.

Without question, vitamin C is a powerful tool in your anti-ageing arsenal. For best results, use it strategically and as part of a routine that includes a daily broad-spectrum sunscreen plus irritant-free products that contain a skin-pleasing mix of antioxidants, skin-repairing agents, and cell-communicating ingredients.


Sources: Dermatological Surgery, 2008; Dermatology Research and Practice, 2012; Dermatological Surgery, 2008; Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, 2012; The Journal of Clinical and Aesthetic Dermatology, 2010; Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, 2008; Journal of Drugs in Dermatology, 2012; Skin Research and Technology, 2008.

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