Vitamin C Serums: All You Need to Know

You’ll probably get a dozen of promotion about vitamin C if you ask a dozen dermatologists about their favorite skin-care ingredient. Dr. Titilola Sode, a board-certified dermatologist in Dallas, says it’s one of the few ingredients that protects and restores skin while still being well tolerated by the vast majority of patients. However, not all vitamin C serums are created equal, and the incorrect formula, packaging, or application will make it ineffective. So, before you go out and buy some serums, make sure you know these seven vitamin C truths.

1.    The ideal Vitamin C

According to Dr. Sode, most vitamin C derivatives have the same effect (they can reduce redness, hyperpigmentation, and aging signs), but certain types have additional benefits and are better studied. The most common and effective:

  • L-ascorbic acid (pure vitamin C) has the most research and is the strongest (but most sensitizing). SkinCeuticals C E Ferulic Acid
  • Tetrahexyldecyl ascorbate is fat soluble, which means it can penetrate the skin deeply and efficiently. 30 percent Revision Skincare® C+ Correcting Complex TM
  • Magnesium ascorbyl phosphate can help dry skin stay hydrated and avoid water loss. Try this: 100% Pure Vitamin C Serum
  • Sodium ascorbyl phosphate has a neutral pH, which makes it gentle on sensitive skin while also inhibiting acne. IMAGE Skincare is a good option. A C E Serum VITAL C Hydrating Antioxidant

2.    Capable of smoothening the fine lines

Many anti-aging products claim to work, but unless they contain ingredients that stimulate collagen development (a small list that includes retinoids, growth factors, and—ding, ding—vitamin C), they won’t make much of a difference in slowing down your skin’s natural aging process.

3.    Protecting your face

“Vitamin C is a great antioxidant on a cellular level—it hunts down and kills free radicals in your skin, which break down the DNA of all that keeps you young,” Dr. Sode says. Free radicals are unavoidable—they come from the sun, pollutants, chemicals, and even our own bodies—but vitamin C may neutralize them.

4.    Make it the priority

“Vitamin C should be applied to your face first thing in the morning, otherwise it will not absorb and protect your skin,” says Dr. Sode. So, all those toners and essences you applied before your vitamin C? Move them to the P.M.

5.    Prevent from Dark Spots

Unlike other skin brighteners, which work to repair damage after it has occurred, vitamin C works to prevent hyperpigmentation from occurring in the first place. “Vitamin C inhibits tyrosinase, an enzyme that produces pigment in skin cells, while also stopping the pigment you already have from darkening,” explains Dr. Sode. It’s clever like that.

6.    The right packaging to protect

“Vitamin C is rather finicky from a biomedical standpoint,” says Dr. Sode. “When exposed to sunlight, even the best formulations will easily oxidize and lose their value.” Your vitamin C serum should be held in an airless pump bottle (such as Allies of Skin Vitamin C 35 Percent Serum) or a dark or tinted glass bottle (like Obagi Professional-C Serum 20 percent). She says she keeps hers in a dark cabinet and tries to open and shut the bottle quickly to keep clear light out.

7.    Starts the protection right away

Though results vary depending on your skin type, the product you’re using, and how frequently you apply it, studies show that vitamin C serums with a concentration of 10 to 20% can reduce redness in as little as a few weeks and brighten hyperpigmentation in as little as three months. Dr. Sode advises, “Just note that vitamin C isn’t a one-time thing—you need to use it long-term to get the full benefits.”