A Guide to the Different Types of Vitamin C for Skin
Not all types of vitamin C are the same. Understand vitamin C variations & how they can benefit your skin.
A powerful antioxidant, vitamin C provides many benefits to our overall health, including the appearance of youthful, radiant skin. A collagen booster and skin brightener, Vitamin C is commonly found in skincare products boasting anti-aging properties. This widespread popularity has seen the emergence of vitamin C in different forms and derivatives, all of which aim to support the natural regeneration process of the skin, protecting and repairing skin cells exposed to everyday life.
Understanding the benefits vitamin C for the skin, and the different forms in which it comes, will help you select the most suitable products for your skin needs.
What is Vitamin C?
Vitamin C, also known as L-ascorbic acid (in its purest form) is a naturally occurring water-soluble antioxidant that is required to maintain collagen production, amongst other things. As collagen is an essential protein and one of the major building blocks required for healthy youthful looking skin, vitamin C is vital in maintaining a radiant, glowing complexion.
A superior antioxidant, vitamin C also fights free radicals within skin cells. Free radicals are unpaired electrons that cause oxidative stress and harm, which over time can result in visible skin damage including wrinkles, fine lines and discolouration. Antioxidants protect and restore balance within the skin by producing a partner for the unpaired electron, therefore stabilising and removing its ability to harm skin cells. Vitamin C can be obtained in many forms including through diet, nutritional supplements, and the topical application of vitamin C enriched skincare products.
What Are the Types of Vitamin C?
Vitamin C is widely used in skin care products, however, it is available in many different forms, with the efficacy varying between each. Understanding the different forms and formulations of vitamin C found within different skin care products will help ensure you select the right product for you.
The skin is not always effective at converting all derivatives of vitamin C into active vitamin C. This conversion process is impacted by the type of vitamin C used, and how it is formulated, which means that only some forms, within specific formulations, will deliver optimal benefits for the skin. From pure vitamin C, to other forms and derivatives, each has a different set of benefits and uses. Learn about the types of vitamin C to find the ideal match for your individual skincare concerns.
Pure Vitamin C (L-absorbic Acid)
Pure vitamin C, also known as L-ascorbic acid, is a potent and refined version of vitamin C. The antioxidant benefits of L-ascorbic acid work to neutralise free radicals and reduce signs of skin damage. While the benefits of l-ascorbic acid make it an ideal ingredient in skincare products, the best results are only gained when formulated correctly. Pure vitamin C will only be able to penetrate the skin if it has been formulated with a relatively low pH level as this neutralises any charged molecules. Without removing the charged molecules, the L-ascorbic acid is unlikely to deliver effective results to the skin.
For best results, when choosing skincare products with pure vitamin C, ensure they have been dermatologically formulated with low pH levels and at a concentration of between 10% to 20%. If not formulated correctly, pure vitamin C can become unstable and degrade within skin care products.
L-ascorbic acid is at the core of SkinCeuticals product range, with founding scientist Dr. Sheldon Pinnell, M.D., conducting pivotal research on topical antioxidants, including Vitamin C. His work led to a breakthrough discovery demonstrating the ability of pure vitamin C (l-ascorbic acid) to neutralise free radicals.
Ascorbyl palmitate is a form of vitamin C that is fat-soluble, instead of water-soluble like pure vitamin C (L-ascorbic acid). It’s one of the few forms of vitamin C that can be delivered in a cream consistency and offers the skin an effective dose of antioxidative skin protection and repair. With the primary benefit of brightening your skin, choose ascorbyl palmitate for a creamy textured derivative of vitamin C that offers lipids protection from peroxidation and works to eliminate free radicals. (1)
A stable, oil-based form of vitamin C, tetrahexyldecyl has emerged as one of the stronger antioxidant supplement formulations. Tetrahexyldecyl ascorbate is also effective on sensitive and damaged skin without causing further irritation as it is able to deeply penetrate skin, more effectively delivering its benefits. A powerful antioxidant, the concentration of tetrahexyldecyl ascorbate should not exceed 1% when applied to the skin. (3)
Vitamin C with bioflavonoids
Bioflavonoids are a collection of plant-based compounds which can be found in food such as certain fruits and vegetables. A potent antioxidant, bioflavonoids help transport and enhance the benefits of other antioxidants such as vitamin C. When this rich antioxidant is compounded with vitamin C, the bioflavonoids strengthen and enhance its effects for skin, while also slowing the vitamin C decomposition process. (4)
What is the Most Effective Form of Vitamin C for Skin?
When choosing the most effective form of vitamin C to incorporate into your skin care routine, understanding the form used within the formula is key to achieving effective results. It is important to remember that while derivatives of vitamin C can be absorbed into the skin, they will not always convert into active vitamin C, therefore products that include L-ascorbic acid (pure vitamin C for skin) are preferable.
Many other factors that impact how effective vitamin C skin care products are – including the concentration of active ingredients, the pH and stability of the formula and the combination of ingredients. To ensure optimal efficacy, the percentage of pure vitamin C within the formula should be between 10% to 20%.
The pH level will also dictate how effective a vitamin C skincare product is; the product must be formulated to be 3.5 pH or lower in order to keep the vitamin C stable and in its active form, allowing it to penetrate the skin. The defining factors of purity, percentage and pH are crucial to formulating a stable, pure and effective vitamin C product.
Combining vitamin C with other ingredients can also improve the stability and efficacy of the formula. When combined with vitamin E, pure vitamin C is more easily absorbed into the skin and can be more effective against free radicals. Ferulic acid helps lower the pH of vitamin C to the ideal level, for easier absorption into the skin and enhanced results. Formulated with 15% L-ascorbic acid, SkinCeuticals C E Ferulic is a high potency blend of vitamin C, vitamin E, and ferulic acid, which work in synergy. This serum protects against environmental damage, and premature signs of ageing caused by elements such as UV exposure, infrared radiation, and ozone pollution.
Choosing the right vitamin C doesn’t just end after application, proper storage and packaging is essential to maintain the benefits of this ingredient. As exposure to light can degrade the vitamin C and reduce its efficacy, when choosing a vitamin C serum look for products with UV-resistant, dark glass packaging. All SkinCeuticals vitamin C serums come in this type of packaging to minimise degradation and ensure the product is effective for the entire shelf life which is three months after opening.
Vitamin C in Skin Care Products
SkinCeuticals’ studies into the skin benefits of vitamin C have set a benchmark for antioxidant skin care innovation. Our range of skincare, including SkinCeuticals vitamin C serums, are developed by scientific experts with formulas carefully tested to maximise efficacy and deliver results in real-world situations, on real skin. SkinCeuticals vitamin C products are formulated with pure vitamin C – known as L-ascorbic acid – to provide effective protection against free radical damage.
SkinCeuticals Serum 10 AOX+ is a daily treatment that is suitable for normal and sensitive skin types. It’s formulated with the ideal 10% L-ascorbic acid concentration and works to prevent signs of ageing.
To incorporate a vitamin C serum in your skin care routine, use in the morning and apply the serum to cleansed skin, following cleansing and toning. Using four to five drops of the serum, massage and pat gently into the face, neck and chest before following with your daily moisturiser.
Understanding and researching your skincare products will ensure that they are optimally formulated to care for your skin effectively.