Vitamin C has a long-standing reputation as one of the strongest antioxidants in skincare. Antioxidants protect the skin against external aggressors, namely ultraviolet (UV) exposure, but also environmental pollutants and harsh chemicals, or “xenobiotics.” These attacks on the skin are called “oxidative stress” and it’s one of the main drivers behind the appearance of aging (1). Therefore, one of the main Vitamin C benefits for the skin is that its antioxidants protect against oxidative stress and, as a result, help prevent the appearance of aging. That’s something we can get behind!
How, Exactly, Vitamin C Improves Skin Appearance
Oxidative stress compromises DNA, hydration, and lipids; however, this post will only cover the destruction of important proteins in the skin. I will discuss two different types of Vitamin C, l-Ascorbic acid and Tetrahexyldexcyl Ascorbate, and their powerful ability to keep the skin youthful.
The top layer of the skin, the epidermis, is equipped to deal with moderate exposure. It even contains its own Vitamin C! However, the second layer of skin, the dermis, is more vulnerable to such stressors and the visible signs of aging. In the epidermis, it is the protein-rich keratinocytes and corneocytes that are affected. Oxidative stress alters the “cornified envelope” (2) around cells, lessens its antioxidant capacity, and reduces the strength of its barrier function (1). In the dermis, it is the collagen and elastin that are negatively impacted by oxidative stress. These proteins provide strength, support, and flexibility to the skin, so when they’re compromised the skin can develop fine lines and wrinkles.
One of the incredible Vitamin C benefits for the skin is that the topical antioxidants enhance the skin’s natural defenses (3) by providing sustained protection and reducing inflammation.
Our Favorite Skin Care Products with Vitamin C
Because oxidative stress can occur on both the epidermis and the dermis layers of the skin, it’s best to use a two-pronged approach with a water-soluble product first, to penetrate the epidermis, followed by an oil-soluble product to reach more deeply into the dermis layer. This will help you fully take advantage of the Vitamin C benefits for the skin.
For the Epidermis: Citrus & Kale Potent C + E Serum
The Eminence Organics Citrus & Kale Potent C + E Serum contains an impressive 16% stabilized Vitamin C! 10% comes from l-Ascorbic Acid, 3% comes from Sodium Ascorbyl Phosphate, and 3% is from leafy greens and citrus oils. l-Ascorbic acid is notoriously unstable, so Ferulic Acid from bran and Vitamin E from avocado have been added. Sodium Ascorbyl Phosphate is actually a salt that the skin converts to Vitamin C.
Without adding Vitamin C to the skin, it has been shown that protein oxidation and detectable unfolding occurs after only 30 minutes of UV exposure (1)! Fortunately, the Citrus & Kale Serum will stay on the skin for 72 hours, will boost sun protection, and will strengthen the skin barrier. In third party studies, this powerful serum reduced oxidative stress by 47% in 3 hours! Because it’s water-soluble, this solution is best for supporting oxidative stress in the epidermis.
For best age-corrective results, I recommend using this serum during the day on clean, dry skin. Follow with your moisturizer and sunscreen.
For the Dermis: Rosehip Triple C + E Firming Oil
For deeper-reaching antioxidant support, Eminence Organics makes a lovely neroli scented Rosehip Triple C + E Firming Oil. The Vitamin C in this product, called “Tetrahexyldexcyl Ascorbate,” is made from organic corn. Because it is oil-soluble, this luscious face oil can make its way through the intercellular matrix to provide antioxidant support to the protein fibers deep in the dermis.
For best results, apply this firming oil at night on clean, dry skin. Follow with a moisturizer. For optimal barrier function strength, try it under the Rosehip & Lemongrass Repair Balm as recommended in my post, Psychological Stress + Skin Barrier Function.
As with everything else in the body, the epidermis and dermis are intimately connected. Treating the skin’s surface indirectly impacts the health of the deeper layers. And, alternately, nourishing the underlying layers strengthens the top. The Vitamin C benefits for the skin are incredible, and with the right care, you can prevent a significant amount of oxidative stress and, as a result, the appearance of aging.
If you feel like your skin needs a little extra TLC (or you just need some pampering during these hectic times), then reach out to us about scheduling a spa day. A facial treatment is a great time to get specific feedback from Jessica about your skin’s unique characteristics.
Not ready to come back to the spa due to COVID or live out of the area? Reach out to Jessica for a virtual skin consultation.
- Rinnerthaler, M. et al, Oxidative Stress in Aging Human Skin, Biomolecules 2015
- Elenor Candi, The Cornified Envelope: A Model of Cell Death in the Skin, Nature Reviews Molecular Cell Biology, April 2005
- Karen E Burke, Protection From Environmental Skin Damage With Topical Antioxidants, Clin Pharmathe Ther 2019