In Ask a Dermatologist, Cosmetic

You may have heard dermatologists and skincare enthusiasts touting the benefits of adding a vitamin C serum to your skincare regime. Many know that vitamin C can help with the common cold. But did you know vitamin C can be extremely beneficial to the skin too? It has been shown to balance skin tone, reduce hyperpigmentation and reduce the signs of aging. But should you invest? And if so, which one should you choose? 

Let’s take a closer look at how topical vitamin C can change your skin for the better and what products our cosmetic dermatologist, Dr. Asha James, recommends.

What is vitamin C serum?

A vitamin C serum is a skincare product packed with vitamin C that is applied topically to the skin. These serums are typically thinner in consistency than creams or lotions and often feel more like a liquid or gel. Vitamin C serums can be purchased over the counter at dermatologist offices and beauty stores. 

Vitamin C is a potent antioxidant, helping to prevent the formation of free radicals, which are created by pollution, dust, smoke and the sun. Free radicals damage elastic fibers in the skin, causing changes in skin color and weakened skin that sags. They can break down the skin’s collagen, causing wrinkles. Free radicals also damage the DNA of the cell, leading to premature aging and even skin cancer. 

As an antioxidant, vitamin C oxidizes, or neutralizes, free radicals in the skin. It boosts collagen production, which reverses cell damage, resulting in firmer and younger looking skin.

What are the benefits of vitamin C?

By helping the skin fight against free radicals, vitamin C serums can create brighter and smoother skin.

One significant benefit of using a vitamin C serum, especially during the day, is the sun protection it provides. While you can’t replace your regular daily sunscreen with a vitamin C serum, it can be a helpful tool to help protect your skin against harmful effects from the sun. Vitamin C serums can help reduce the damage caused by the sun by:

  • Reducing early cell death
  • Reducing the release of inflammatory compounds
  • Reducing damage from exposure to ultraviolet light

A reduction in premature aging is another advantage of adding vitamin C to your skincare routine. Vitamin C helps to reduce premature wrinkles by stimulating the production of collagen, a protein that gives skin its strength and elasticity. Vitamin C serums help to thicken the skin by adding collagen. Collagen-rich skin is less likely to wrinkle than thinner skin. 

Vitamin C serums have also been shown to improve skin tone. It is often used to treat hyperpigmentation, a common skin condition that occurs when the skin produces too much melanin. Melanin is the pigment that gives skin its color and can be responsible for the darker spots of hyperpigmentation. Sun exposure and hormone levels are typically linked to these darker areas. Vitamin C will lighten these dark spots without lightening the skin overall. 

Which vitamin C serum should I choose?

With so many products on the market, choosing a vitamin C serum can be difficult. Because not all serums are created equal, it is helpful to know what ingredients and brands to look for. 

Vitamin C comes in a few different forms, including L-ascorbic acid, magnesium ascorbyl phosphate and ascorbyl-6-palmitate. Most serums on the market are L-ascorbic acid, the most studied and most biologically active. Look for serums with additional antioxidants and boosters such as vitamin E and ferulic acid. Combining vitamin C with these two ingredients can heighten its efficacy, delivering proven benefits.

Dr. Asha James recommends either Isdinceutics Melaclear or Obagi Professional-C Serum in 10% or 20%, depending on their skin type. 

How do I use a vitamin C serum?

To reap all the benefits of your vitamin C serum, it is essential to use it the right way. Apply a few drops of the serum after you wash your face, remembering a little goes a long way. Use it in the morning as your first layer of sun protection and to fight free radicals you encounter throughout the day. After letting it soak in, apply your moisturizer and sunscreen. When layering products, a good rule of thumb is to apply them thinnest to thickest. Because of its watery consistency, generally, a vitamin C serum will be applied first. You can also apply vitamin C at night to help skin repair itself while other restorative functions take place as you sleep.

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