What are the benefits of this form of Vitamin C and who should be using it
Ascorbic acid is a naturally occurring organic form of Vitamin C. It's a powerful antioxidant that plays a crucial role in maintaining healthy skin with many other benefits.
Naturally occurring in many fruits and vegetables, the Vitamin C we absorb from a balanced diet aids us in the normal functioning of the immune system as well as helping skin, bone and teeth health; but to realise the full effects on our skin, it’s better when applied topically.
The number of Vitamin C containing skincare products has rocketed in recent years as we continue to understand its role in skin health – but what exactly is Vitamin C good for, and how do we get the most from it?
Antioxidants work by stabilising free radicals in our body which can have detrimental effects on the skin. Free radicals, aka ‘Oxidants’, are degraded atoms that have lost an electron. When these are in our skin, they zoom around, slicing through anything in their wake, looking for a partner to complete it. This damage can cause all kinds of problems in our skin, from superficial, to very serious. Ascorbic Acid, therefore, is an antioxidant, encapsulating these free radicals/oxidants and helping reduce their ability to cause damage.
This feature of Vitamin C makes it an excellent ingredient, especially if your skin is often exposed to environmental stresses such as air pollution, UV and cigarette smoke.
Similarly, Vitamin C has been noted to contribute to photoprotection (the natural process that helps our skin cope with damage caused by sunlight). This does not mean Vitamin C has any sort of SPF, more that it helps make our skin healthier, stronger and more resilient.
As the pure form of Vitamin C, ascorbic acid also has a role in wound healing, aiding the skin’s regeneration process and promoting cell turnover. This is vital in helping the skin recover from any sort of damage, including pigmentation and breakouts. A faster rate of cell turnover means that new, healthy cells are brought to the skin’s surface quicker, giving you a fresh and radiant appearance.
Ascorbic acid is a water-soluble vitamin and studies have found that it plays a vital role in the synthesis of collagen and stabilisation in the skin. Collagen is a vital skin structure protein that makes our skin plump and youthful. Over time our collagen levels naturally diminish, which contributes to our skin becoming less firm as we age.
By providing the necessary building blocks for collagen synthesis, ascorbic acid can help restore firmness and elasticity, giving the skin a more youthful and supple appearance. Regular use of ascorbic acid-infused skincare products can help support the healthy functioning of the skin, slowing down the visible signs of ageing to promote a more resilient complexion.
Ascorbic acid is notoriously unstable and difficult to formulate. It can also be slightly sensitising to the skin, particularly in higher concentrations. That has led to the development of several alternatives that are more stable and more suitable for sensitive skin types. Below are some of these common derivatives and why they are used in skincare.
This is a chemically modified version of ascorbic acid, which improves the stability and overall compatibility with the skin. It is typically used in similar concentrations as pure ascorbic acid, and delivers much the same benefits, whilst minimising the chance of associated redness and irritation.
This is an oil-soluble form of Vitamin C, which was developed to penetrate better into the skin (due to its oil-soluble nature), as well as be more gentle on the skin. It is used in lower concentrations than ascorbic acid and must be dissolved in an oil base such as jojoba.
This is an older, water-soluble derivative of Vitamin C, developed to be more stable and less sensitising when compared with ascorbic acid. This is typically used in lower concentrations than ascorbic acid and can be combined better with other ingredients due to its ability to work at a higher pH than ascorbic acid. There is research to validate ascorbyl glucoside has similar effects on skin brightening and pigmentation, but this is much less extensive compared with pure ascorbic acid.
You can find a Vitamin C variation in just about every type of skincare product, but which is going to give you the best result from Vitamin C? Using Vitamin C in serum form is recommended as they generally contain Vitamin C and other actives at higher doses than creams. Serums are designed to deliver active ingredients deeper into the skin and absorb quickly. However, it is important to seal your serum with a moisturiser to help optimise the delivery of the active ingredients.
When used in combination with other skincare products, ascorbic acid can be even more effective. Here are some products that can be paired with ascorbic acid:
Hyaluronic acid: Hyaluronic acid is a humectant that can help to hydrate the skin and improve its texture. When used with ascorbic acid, it can help to boost the skin's moisture levels and increase the effectiveness of vitamin C.
Sunscreen: Ascorbic acid can help to protect the skin against UV damage, but it's not a substitute for sunscreen. When used in combination with a broad-spectrum sunscreen, ascorbic acid can provide even more protection against UV rays and other environmental stressors.
Ceramides: Ceramides are lipids that help to strengthen the skin's barrier function and retain moisture. Ascorbic acid can be drying to the skin, using ceramides in combination can reduce any associated dryness.
Peptides: Peptides, which are made up of amino acids, can help to stimulate collagen production and improve the skin's texture and firmness. When used with ascorbic acid, peptides can help to boost anti-ageing effects by targeting different youth-boosting mechanisms in the skin.
By pairing ascorbic acid with these compatible skincare ingredients, you can enhance its effectiveness and achieve even better results for your skin. However, this is also down to the individual formulations, and we would always recommend speaking with a professional if you’re unsure. It's important to remember that everyone's skin is different and what works for one person may not work for another.
While Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant that can provide many benefits for the skin, it can also be a bit finicky when it comes to pairing with other skincare products. Here are some other products that you should avoid pairing with vitamin C:
Retinol: Vitamin C and retinol are both powerful ingredients that can cause irritation when used together. If you’re using them both in your routine, it's best to use them at different times of the day - we love Vitamin C for the day and Retinol at night.
Benzoyl peroxide: Benzoyl peroxide can oxidise Vitamin C, which can make both ingredients less effective. If you're using a product that contains both, make sure to wait at least 30 minutes between applications.
AHAs and BHAs: AHAs and BHAs are exfoliating acids that work at a lower pH than the skin. When used with Vitamin C, they can cause irritation or decrease the effectiveness of Vitamin C. If you're using both, it's best to use them at different times of day or choose a product that contains both in lower concentrations.
Niacinamide: While some people have reported success using Vitamin C and niacinamide together, others have experienced flushing or redness. If you're using both, it's best to use them at different times of the day or choose a product that contains both in lower concentrations.
We believe that brands have their own specialities, one may be the best at some things, whereas another brand may be better at other things - and that for us is a real positive. One brand that is especially good at creating effective, affordable products with Ascorbic Acid is The Ordinary.
The Ordinary is a popular brand that offers a variety of skincare products containing ascorbic acid, known for their effectiveness and affordability.
The Ordinary's ascorbic acid products come in various concentrations and formulations, allowing users to choose the product that best suits their skin type and concerns. One of the brand's most popular ascorbic acid products is the Ascorbic acid 8% + Alpha Arbutin 2%. This product is a water-based serum that contains 8% ascorbic acid, the pure form of Vitamin C that has the most research behind it. This formula is combined with 2% alpha arbutin, so is best for helping to brighten the complexion and reduce the appearance of dark spots and hyperpigmentation.
If you're interested in incorporating Vitamin C into your routine and would like help finding your perfect formula, we're here to help. Join Renude today and connect with a licensed skincare expert to help build you a personalised skincare routine to suit your unique needs and budget. You can speak to a Renude aesthetician after taking our quick skin quiz.
Complete our quick quiz, then upload photos or book a video call (priced at £20 or £35)
Our award-winning AI analyses your skin before your aesthetician creates your personalised routine
Message your aesthetician with any questions and check-in as your skin changes for ongoing advice