In this week’s blog we will give you tips on how to choose the best vitamin C serum for glowing skin. As we already know, vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant and works particularly well in concert with vitamin E to protect your skin from the harmful effects of free radicals, frequently a consequence of excessive exposure to harmful UV radiation from the sun. But vitamin C is not only a potent antioxidant, it is also necessary for the production of collagen. And as we know, collagen is a key to youthful skin appearance.
However, not all vitamin C serums are created equal. The active vitamin C ingredients and their concentrations can be different between products, other ingredients may be included and even the type of packaging can have an impact on its effectiveness for your unique skin type. So, how to choose the best vitamin C serum for glowing skin? Let’s discuss the active form of vitamin C first.
The most bioactive form of vitamin C is ascorbic acid (or L-ascorbic acid) which is why we use it in our product. You should also ensure that it is the key active ingredient in your serum. Additionally, verify that its concentration is between 10-20%, as beyond these strengths, it may begin to irritate your skin without offering any further benefits. Since all skin types will react differently, you may want to begin with a 10% solution if this is the first time you have tried a vitamin C serum, just to gauge your skin’s toleration level. If all looks good and there is no irritation, you can graduate to higher concentrations if you are not quite satisfied with the results (but as we have often stressed here before, don’t expect instantaneous results – it may take several weeks of use before you may observe any noticeable effects).
The next thing you want to look out for is the pH level of the serum. Unfortunately, this is not always easy to find (we found a few products that listed their pH in an online shopping search). And this is rather unfortunate, as the absorption of a topical application of vitamin C is largely dependent upon its pH level. Succinctly said, if the pH is above 3.5, ascorbic acid will not enter the skin. If you have normal skin, you should aim to use a product with a pH value of 2.5-3.5, as products with pH levels below these values will be quite acidic and risk irritations. Of course, you will always have the option of providing sufficient vitamin C to your skin from the inside by eating a healthy diet containing citrus fruits or other good sources of vitamin C, or through supplementation if you feel your diet may not be quite up to snuff.
Furthermore, as we mentioned above, the packaging is also important. Vitamin C is light-sensitive and prone to oxidation. For this reason, you will often find vitamin C serums in dark-colored or opaque bottles. It is best to look for this type of packaging but nonetheless, you should store it with the cap firmly in place and as airtight as possible in a dark, cool location to maximize shelf life. If the solution appears dark or cloudy, or has a bit of a rancid smell, the serum has likely gone off and needs to be replaced.
Many of the serums on the market today will contain more than one active ingredient, and these can provide additional benefits. An obvious choice given what we mentioned at the beginning of this blog relates to how effective vitamin E is as an antioxidant when used in conjunction with vitamin C. And so you will see many vitamin C serums that also contain vitamin E. Another active ingredient that is commonly found in vitamin C serums is hyaluronic acid, an ingredient in our product as well which is very effective at helping keep your skin moisturized.
Now, if you are new to vitamin C serums, you may be wondering how they fit in with other topical products that are part of your daily routine, and whether or not the effectiveness of some of those products could be degraded by the use of others. Well, it turns out that there is a “best practice” for applying these various topicals along with your vitamin C serum. After washing, you should apply your skin toner if you use one. As soaps have an alkaline pH (the opposite of acidic), a skin toner will not only help cleanse your skin but will also help restore your skin’s pH to its natural values where your vitamin C serum will be most effective. Next, you should apply your vitamin C serum as at this point its permeability into your skin will be most effective. Now you can apply your moisturizer to “seal in” the vitamin C serum. If you had done this in the reverse order, the vitamin C serum's ability to penetrate through your skin would be far reduced. If you have sensitive skin, you may want to avoid moisturizers that contain retinol (a rather potent form of vitamin A that also has many benefits) and together with vitamin C could cause skin irritations. In this case, you may wish to consider a separate retinol serum and use vitamin C in the morning and retinol at night. But this really depends on your specific skin and using both together may not cause any problems. But you are not done yet! Vitamin C serum can somewhat paradoxically make your skin more sensitive to sunlight, so it is quite important to finally apply a sunscreen if you are planning to be outside for an extended period of time.
Take away message
This week we discussed how to choose the best vitamin C serum for glowing skin. This may not be as easy as it sounds, as we learned that not all vitamin C serums are created equally, and that you should be looking for those that have 10-20% ascorbic acid concentration as their active ingredient and are in solution with a pH of 2.5-3.5 (ie. quite acidic) as this is a requirement for ascorbic acid to penetrate the skin. Even packaging and storage should be strong considerations, as ascorbic acid is sensitive to light and prone to oxidation, so look for those products that are in dark or opaque containers and store them in a cool location out of sunlight. Finally, we also suggested a “best practice” for the application of vitamin C serums along with other topicals that you might use in your daily beauty regimen. And if you are using a vitamin C serum and going outside for the day, don’t forget to put on your sunscreen!