Ingredient Spotlight: Vitamin C

Vitamin C has achieved superstar status in the skincare world — and with good reason. This antioxidant wonder has been linked to some serious skin benefits, from brightening to firming to blocking sun damage.

Here’s everything you need to know about adding vitamin C to your skincare routine.

Citrus fruits containing vitamin C, also found in Facial Moisturizer by SLMD Skincare

3 minute read


What is vitamin C?

Also known as ascorbic acid, vitamin C is a water-soluble vitamin that can’t be produced by the human body. This essential vitamin is found naturally in many fruits and vegetables, including:

  • Citrus fruits like oranges
  • Strawberries
  • Kiwi
  • Leafy greens like kale and spinach
  • Brussels sprouts

What does vitamin C do for skin?

One of vitamin C’s biggest benefits is its antioxidant abilities: a highly-reactive free radical scavenger, the nutrient protects cells throughout the body from oxidative stress. It also boosts collagen production. This makes vitamin C ideal for addressing:

What forms does vitamin C come in?

In skincare, the most well-researched, and commonly-found, form of vitamin C is L-ascorbic acid. However, you’ll find a variety of vitamin forms listed on labels — each with its own characteristics and potency, including:

  • L-ascorbic acid
  • Vitamin C ester
  • Ascorbyl palmitate 3-0
  • Ethyl ascorbic acid
  • Magnesium ascorbyl phosphate
  • Tetrahexyldecyl (THD) ascorbate

Is vitamin C good for all skin types?

Vitamin C is beneficial for people of all ages — and all skin types. Because it helps prevent premature aging, it’s best to incorporate it into your skincare routine before you start to see those signs of aging.

Those with highly sensitive skin may experience irritation when using highly reactive forms of vitamin C. Formulas that include skin-soothing ingredients may help reduce those side effects. As always, perform a patch test if you’re concerned about how your skin may react to a vitamin C product.

SLMD Bright Future

What’s the best way to incorporate vitamin C into your skincare routine?

When searching for a vitamin C product, look for packaging that’s opaque and airtight, because light and air will oxidize the formula. Vitamin C works best when it’s left on the skin, so choose serums and moisturizers like SLMD Bright Future, a serum with niacinamide, ferulic acid, and hyaluronic acid. SLMD Facial Moisturizer is a non-occlusive moisturizer with vitamin C to brighten and provitamin B5 to strengthen the skin barrier.

Vitamin C can be used in the morning and/or the evening, but be sure to wear sunscreen daily, since UV light degrades the ingredient’s effectiveness. Vitamin C combines well with other antioxidants like vitamin E, ferulic acid, and niacinamide. You can use it with AHAs like glycolic and lactic acids — just be sure to listen to your skin. When combining with retinol, perform a patch test first.

Dr. Lee’s last word

Vitamin C is one of the most well-researched and beneficial vitamins you can apply topically. Studies have linked vitamin C to potentially addressing multiple signs of aging, brightening an uneven skin tone, as well as providing skin-restoring and soothing benefits. Vitamin C comes in many forms, with ascorbic acid being the most well-researched for its efficacy.

—Dr. Sandra Lee


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