How Topical Vitamin C Works

Vitamin C, which is also known as ascorbic acid and L-ascorbic acid, is a vitamin that your body needs to form blood vessels, cartilage, muscle and collagen in bones. Interestingly, Vitamin C is not actually produced by the body. Like most vitamins, your body either produces so little of the necessary nutrient or none at all that the only way to maintain healthy levels is through supplementing or through your diet. Most absorb their Vitamin C through citrus such as Oranges and Lemons. 

“Vitamin C is an essential nutrient in tissue repair and the enzymatic production of various transmitters,” says Dr. Patricia Wexler, a dermatologist in New York City. "Topically, it’s 20 times more potent than the oral intake, promoting collagen production, which has the potential to thicken the dermis, diminish fine lines, and is essential for firm, youthful skin,". 

Although a healthy diet is absolutely recommended, to reap the most skin benefits, it's best to apply Vitamin C topically. Vitamin C is an antioxidant that protects skin cells from damaging free radicals while simultaneously inhibiting melanin production which lightens hyperpigmentation and sun spots on the skin. Because it promotes cell turnover, Vitamin C assists in counteracting natural and environmental caused collagen loss. Not only is Vitamin C an antioxidant powerhouse, it also minimizes redness due to its anti-inflammatory properties. Vitamin C helps mend damaged capillaries that cause skin redness, creating a smoother and more even skin tone. 


What products to look for

Dermatologist Dr. Anne Chapas, says you can apply vitamin C as a serum each morning. “I think the best vitamin C skin care products are serums because they are more effective at penetrating the skin barrier than, say, a cream or toner,”

Dr. Shuting Hu, Ph.D. in Biological Science specializing in phytochemistry and skin biology, “Vitamin C is a great skin care ingredient because it's safe to use on any skin type and has a ton of incredible anti-aging, hydrating, and brightening benefits,”. Dr. Hu's favorite go-to? Acaderma's Lunar Glow Illuminate Serum featuring ProPhagy™, a patented concentrate derived from the cherry tomato that is 2.5X more potent than vitamin C.

How and when to use it

You can maximize the benefits of vitamin C by combining it with other antioxidants. “This works best with vitamin E and ferulic acid,” according to Dr. Chapas. “Together, they have optimal absorption benefits when it comes to anti-aging, skin brightening, and protection against free radical damage.” You can apply vitamin C as a serum in the mornings — that is, after cleansing and before applying moisturizer and sunscreen says Dr. Chapas.

Dr. Patricia Wexler recommends mixing Vitamin C with vitamin B and hyaluronic acid but advises against mixing with retinol or niacinimide because "the pH levels are incompatible,". If you want to use both, she suggests waiting half an hour between applications.



Be patient. Most skin care products take time to start working, and even with daily use, vitamin C tends to take a little longer. According to Wexler, you won’t notice any significant changes in your skin for six to eight weeks. 

My favorites

Ingredients: Purified water, citrus sinensis (orange) peel, glycerin (vegetable derived), hydroxypropyl starch phosphate (sugar starch), glycolic acid, sodium ascorbyl phosphate (Vitamin C, Stay-C® 50), phytic acid, sodium gluconate, organic aloe barbadensis (aloe vera) extract*, panthenol (provitamin B5), sodium hyaluronate (hyaluronic acid), lactic acid, citrus limon (lemon) fruit extract, rosmarinus officinalis (rosemary) leaf extract, xanthan gum, phenoxyethanol, , ethylhexylglycerin, iron oxides (CI 77492,CI 77491), jojoba esters, orange terpenes.

*Certified Organic Ingredients

Purified Water, Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Juice, Glycerin, Sodium Ascorbyl Phosphate, Camellia Sinensis (Green Tea) Leaf Extract, Sodium Hyaluronate, Tocopheryl Acetate, Polymnia Sonchifolia Root Juice, Rosa Canina Seed Oil, Lactobacillus, Citric Acid, Alpha-Glucan Oligosaccharide, Allantoin, Panthenol, Cellulose Gum, Microcrystalline Cellulose, Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride, Ethylhexyl Palmitate, Xanthan Gum, Maltodextrin, Sodium Citrate, Ethylhexylglycerin, Phenoxyethanol, Natural Fragrance Oil.

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