Vitamin C: The essential skincare guide

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There are only a handful of skincare ingredients dermatologists and skincare experts will recommend time and time again. An elite group of active ingredients that are tried, tested and scientifically proven to actually work. Up there among these super-ingredients? Vitamin C.

Just like it’s good for our health, apply Vitamin C topically to your skin and you can reap a multitude of benefits, from protecting against premature skin damage to defying the signs of ageing. No wonder it’s been dubbed the holy grail of skincare.

Whether you’ve seen it on the shelves of your favourite department store or have heard about it at your local skincare clinic, you can’t have escaped the beauty buzz around this multi-tasking skincare ingredient. Not using Vitamin C yet? The experts tell us why it could be the key to unlocking the radiant complexion you’ve always dreamed of.

What is Vitamin C?

Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant that works in two ways to make skin look more youthful. Firstly, “it’s the gold standard for environmental protection as it neutralises skin-damaging free radicals,” says aesthetics practitioner Natali Kelly. Free radicals are unstable atoms formed when skin is exposed to external aggressors, such as the sun, pollution, and cigarette smoke. Despite having a lifespan of only a fraction of a second, these free radicals can damage cells in that time, breaking down the skin’s collagen, leading to signs of ageing including fine lines and wrinkles, pigmentation, and loss of firmness. 

Secondly, Vitamin C aids in the repair of damage already done to the skin by daily aggressors. It’s one of the best rejuvenating actives in skincare thanks to its brightening, smoothing, and plumping abilities. Or as Dr Barbara Sturm, the aesthetic doctor A-listers have on speed dial, puts it, “regular application of Vitamin C results in firmer, younger and healthier-looking skin.” 

vitamin c skincare

What are the benefits of using Vitamin C skincare?

We’ve mentioned Vitamin C is a first-rate skin-protecting shield, but “not only does Vitamin C protect our skin from free radicals and environmental damage, it also enhances your level of sun protection,” says Dr Murad, dermatologist and founder of Murad skincare. “When you’re exposed to sunlight, you’re also exposed to other wavelengths that sunscreen cannot block [and these can also] cause free radical damage.” Pro tip: pair your SPF with Vitamin C gives a broader range of protection that will keep skin looking younger for longer.

From protection to correction, Vitamin C has many skin rejuvenating benefits. The active is also proven to stimulate collagen production, which (as we know) leads to less visible fine lines and wrinkles, leaving you with firmer, plumper skin. What’s more, Vitamin C is mildly exfoliating and skin-brightening, so you will rapidly see it turn a dull, lacklustre complexion into a luminous one. 

It doesn’t stop there. Vitamin C is also effective at dialling down the appearance of pigmentation and discolouration by interrupting the pigment’s production, leading to a smoothing of uneven skin tones. “It helps improve the appearance of hyperpigmentation, age spots and post-acne scarring, which are all signs of melanin coming to the surface of damaged skin,” explains Dr Murad.

Who should be using Vitamin C skincare?

Everyone! There isn’t anyone that wouldn’t benefit from including the hardworking active in their skincare routine. We all need to protect our complexions from the sun and other environmental aggressors, and who doesn’t want brighter, glowing skin? However, if you have sensitive skin, it is advised to start introducing it slowly into your regime to prevent irritation. Try applying it two or three days a week to begin with and work up until your skin feels comfortable using it every day.

What is the best form of Vitamin C?

The most widely researched type of Vitamin C is L-ascorbic acid (also known as ascorbic acid), and it’s also the most potent. Using a concentration of between 10 and 20 per cent is commonly advised for those with pigmentation issues. However, consultant dermatologist Dr Derrick Phillips warns, “Keep in mind that a higher percentage doesn’t always mean a better product. Sometimes it can be too strong for your skin, causing it to react.” Dry, dehydrated and sensitive skin types may be better at a lower concentration or using one of the many stable Vitamin C derivatives.

How to use Vitamin C skincare

It couldn’t be easier to add Vitamin C to your skincare routine and almost every major skincare brand now offers products containing it. It’s safe to use every day and can be applied both morning and night. Use first thing layered under SPF if you want to boost your skin’s defences and/or before bed to combat ageing and pigmentation concerns.

The best Vitamin C skincare products

Vitamin C Serums

Elemis Dynamic Super-C Serum


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Dr Barbara Sturm The Good Vitamin C Serum


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If your skin is on the sensitive side, or you are new to the active, gentle and hydrating formulations are the best place to start. You’ll see quick results with the Elemis Dynamic Resurfacing Brightening Serum and Dr Barbara Sturm’s The Good C Vitamin C Serum. Infused with aloe vera and hyaluronic acid, it is gentle, hydrating and effective.

Skinceutical C E Ferulic Antioxidant Vitamin C serum


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RéVive Clarté Vitamin C Brightening Serum


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For higher concentrations of Vitamin C, look to Skinceuticals’ cult-classic C E Ferulic Antioxidant Vitamin C Serum. It’s been brightening complexions for years with its dose of 15 per cent pure Vitamin C (L-ascorbic acid), combined with ferulic acid and Vitamin E to boost efficacy. Choose the RéVive Clarté Vitamin C Brightening Serum, meanwhile, and you’ll benefit from an innovative dual-chambered tube that isolates a high dosage Vitamin C for optimum power, pairing it on dispensation with a peptide-rich hyaluronic acid formulation for plumper skin.

Vitamin C day and night creams 

Sunday Riley C.E.O Afterglow Vitamin C Cream


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Murad Essential-C Firming Radiance Day Cream


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Sensitive skin might prefer using a moisturiser infused with Vitamin C, while normal skin types could double dose. The Sunday Riley C.E.O Afterglow Vitamin C Cream’s lightweight formula instantly adds luminosity to the skin, but those that need a good hit of hydration should turn to the new Murad Essential-C Firming Radiance Day Cream. Pair it with the Murad Overnight Barrier Repair Cream to support skin as it goes into repair mode while you sleep: a must for urban dwellers in need of extra protection against pollution. 

Vitamin C masks and treatments

111Skin Vitamin C Brightening Booster


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Noble Panacea Vitamin C Booster


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If you’re reluctant to change up your skincare routine, you can still add Vitamin C with the help of a couple of drops of 111Skin’s Vitamin C Brightening Booster. Simply blend into your favourite moisturiser for a gentle dose of the good stuff. For something a little stronger, Noble Panacea’s Vitamin C Booster is designed to supplement your serum and is the only Vitamin C product on the market that is able to deliver more than 20 per cent L-ascorbic acid through its unique micro-dosed delivery system.

Tatcha Violet-C Radiance Mask


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Alternatively, for some instant gratification, get your Vitamin C with a little me-time masking. The Tatcha Violet-C Radiance Mask will leave a dry, dull complexion plump and brighter after just 20 minutes with more radiant results the longer you use it.

Read more: The complete guide to retinol

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