Trendy skin-care ingredients come and go; for smooth,
glowing skin, vitamin C is still the gold standard.
A couple years ago, when I was plagued by chronic sinus infections, my doctor Soram Khalsa, M.D., prescribed vitamin C to help me build up my immune system. He’s a homeopath as well as a medical doctor, and the vitamin C he prescribed is different from most of the supplements out there. It’s called Lypo-Spheric Vitamin C—you can buy it online—and it uses a technology that encapsulates the nutrients, which enables them to actually get into the cells of your body rather than simply passing straight through your digestive system.
In addition to giving my immune system a boost, vitamin C also helps regenerate cells, so it’s helpful for anything that needs to rebuild itself—including your skin. AIso, I asked one of my other doctors, dermatologist Sonia Batra, M.D., to give me the skinny on how vitamin C helps to combat wrinkles, protect against free radicals, and brighten your complexion. Here’s what you need to know.
Vitamin C is most commonly known as an antioxidant. “Antioxidant” is a beauty buzzword, but there’s real science behind the hype. Antioxidants are literally
antioxidizing agents: They prevent oxidative damage caused by free radicals, unstable molecules that wreak all sorts of havoc on your skin and cause fine lines, wrinkles, brown spots, and more serious issues when they go unchecked. Antioxidants provide an added layer of defense against UV rays and other environmental pollutants, protecting your skin from the inside out.
According to Dr. Batra, vitamin C is also critical in the production of collagen, the protein responsible for skin’s elasticity. Increased collagen will make your skin appear firmer, with fewer wrinkles.
Interestingly, studies show that vitamin C is up to 20 times more effective for your skin when applied topically than when taken orally. The most active forms of vitamin C are ascorbic acid and L-ascorbic acid. They’re also the least stable and most prone to breaking down, says Dr. Batra, so look for tightly sealed, opaque bottles, which limit exposure to light and air. Finnish skin-care brand Lumene, for instance, uses encapsulated vitamin C to prevent degradation in its Bright Now line.
Other forms of vitamin C include magnesium ascorbyl phosphate, tetrahexyldecyl ascorbate, ascorbyl palmitate, and sodium ascorbyl phosphate. These are less potent but more stable than the acid versions and also better if you tend to have sensitive skin.
Dr. Batra recommends applying vitamin C in serum form in the morning after you wash your face and before you layer on your sunscreen, and studies show that vitamin C works best when paired with other antioxidants, such as those in SkinCeuticals CE Ferulic. But, says Dr. Batra, vitamin C can also be effective in scrubs, face lotions, and night creams. In other words, you don’t need to splurge on the fancy serum to get the benefits of this go-to ingredient.