Vitamin C is probably the most popular ingredient in skincare. It is known for its brightening components and antioxidant properties. We naturally all have vitamin C in our epidermis and dermis (the two outer layers of the skin), but the older we get, the less we produce. This results in dull, uneven, and less firm skin. This is why using vitamin C topically and daily is essential. However, there are lot of misconceptions and misinformation about this ingredient. Here are our top 4.
All vitamin C is the same. False.
- Vitamin C is a heavily unstable ingredient. It could lose it efficacy if exposed to too much light or air, or simply being formulated incorrectly. There are various forms of vitamin C. A label will say vitamin C, but on the ingredient list it will be probably be listed as L-Ascorbic Acid (this is pure vitamin C), ascorbyl tetraisopalmitate, magnesium ascorbyl phosphate, and the list goes on. These are derived from vitamin C but contain additives to increase the stability and absorption of the ingredient.
MAJOR KEY: Look for vitamin C in dark, opaque, and if possible air-restrictive packaging.
- So, if you have a product that claims to have vitamin C and you felt it didn’t do much or irritated your skin, look at what type of vitamin C it contains, the percentage, and the overall formula. This can help you understand what you skin likes and dislikes, if the formula has oxidized, or if it is simply not the right fit for you.
Vitamin C can cause sun sensitivity. Ehh, not really.
- Unlike many other acids and retinol, vitamin C does not make your skin more prone to be sunburned. Although vitamin C in its pure form is acidic, studies have shown it does not increase sensitivity to the sun. It is a powerful antioxidant that helps protect against free radical damage from the sun. This doesn’t mean go directly into the sun with vitamin C slathered on your face. It means pair it with SPF to ehance the protection that vitamin C provides. Dr. Steven Mandrea, a board-certified dermatologist & co-founder of Lakeview Dermatology in Chicago states, “Combining vitamin C serum and broad-spectrum sunscreens that protect well against UVA rays has been shown to be more effective at neutralizing free radical damage from sun exposure than just using sunscreen alone."
The more vitamin C, the better. False. Plus this goes for a lot of other things in life, but we won’t get into that today.
- A common misconception is that the higher the percentage of vitamin C, the better. In fact, a lot of people have that perception about skincare ingredients with the general belief that the product is “stronger and will work faster” (including me *hides face*) if more of it is in the product. Uh uh. Here’s why. A common reason is too much vitamin C can be irritating to the skin, resulting in inflammation and possible breakouts which lead to post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation, having the opposite effect of what you wanted in the first place. Also, formulas may have a high percentage of vitamin C, but isn’t formulated properly to ensure stability and absorption. The vitamin C can be rendered completely inactive and useless if this is the case.
The more you use vitamin C, the more resistant your skin gets to it. Don’t worry, I used to think this too.
- Another belief I once had is that vitamin C products I once used aren’t working because I use vitamin C a lot and my skin has grown tolerant to it. Therefore, I need to get a stronger vitamin C product.
- The way our bodies grow resistant to anything is when the number or receptors either decrease or the sensitivity of those receptors decrease. Studies do not show this occurring or that there are specific receptors involved in how vitamin C is absorbed in our skin. In English, no, our skin does not grow resistant to vitamin C.
- The answer you are probably looking for as to why your vitamin C product is "no longer working" is called: patience. Vitamin C typically takes about 3 weeks to see a noticeable difference and about 2-3 months to significantly fade hyperpigmentation. Or you simply may want to try a vitamin C product that has less of it or completely different formula because your skin is being irritated.
If you are interested in the fundamentals of hyperpigmentation, how it happens, and the best way to tackle it, click here.