Vitamin C (also known as ascorbic acid, the pure form of vitamin C) is a natural antioxidant . Most animals make vitamin C but humans have lost this ability 1.
Therefore, humans typically get vitamin C from diet and/or vitamin supplements. In the skin, vitamin C is the predominant antioxidant, where the majority of the vitamin C is concentrated in the epidermis rather than in the dermis. Since the epidermis composes the outermost 10% of the skin and acts as the initial barrier to oxidant assault, it makes sense that it contains the highest levels of antioxidants of the skin (such as Vitamin C and E) 2.
When topically applied, vitamin C has been shown to display antioxidant and photo-protective properties
Vitamin C is famous for its health benefits, but does it come to mind when you think about your skin health? If not, it should. Vitamin C benefits skin by visibly evening out skin tone, supporting elasticity, visibly fading dark spots and minimizing the look of wrinkles, all while helping skin look more radiant overall.
Those beauty benefits don’t simply appear on their own, though. “Humans don’t have the enzyme to create our own Vitamin C,” explains Jessica Snell, associate director of franchise and R&D at Neutrogena®. “We have to get it through ingesting foods.” However, there is one other option — applying Vitamin C topically.
Here’s the science behind how Vitamin C benefits skin and why this vitamin is a powerhouse part of a strong skincare rout
How Vitamin C Works
Free radicals are around you at all times. That’s because they’re generated by exposure to common aspects of your environment such as pollution, smoke, UV rays from sunlight and other external aggressors. “Free radicals create an inflammatory response in the skin,” Snell says. “That will show up as dull, tired skin as well as wrinkles, dark spots, uneven skin texture and uneven skin tone.”
Luckily, your skin is naturally loaded with antioxidants that combat these free radicals and prevent oxidation. “Antioxidants neutralize the electron of a free radical,” says Snell. “An antioxidant calms that free radical and stops it from doing any more damage to the skin.” Vitamin C is the most abundant antioxidant in the skin. It protects against oxidative stress by donating electrons to neutralize the offending free radicals.
This actually helps improve what’s already there, according to Snell. “You’ll see visibly improved skin tone and texture and visibly improved dark spots, because it’s helping reverse damage from the sun. Vitamin C also works on the melanin in the skin, so it improves the look of dark spots by lightening them and visibly evens out skin tone.”
How Vitamin C Benefits Skin Health
While the skin’s antioxidants — the ones you get from eating antioxidant-rich foods — do a great job protecting your complexion from free radicals, a long day spent in the sun tends to deplete them. That’s where topical antioxidants come in.
Because it is likely that dietary nutrients are not easily able to reach the outermost layers of the skin, your skin will always appreciate a top up in the form of a serum. Independent research found that applying Vitamin C topically fights photoaging and supports skin’s natural collagen to help keep skin visibly firm and target pigment that leads to dark spots.
Vitamin C can be used on a daily basis for long durations, and you can also pair it with other anti-aging ingredients. A truly effective anti-aging skincare regimen for the evening may look something like this:
- 1. Use a gentle cleanser.
- 2. Dab on an alcohol-free toner.
- 3. Apply one capsule of Rapid Tone Repair 20% Vitamin C serum.
- 4. If your skin can tolerate retinol, wait a few minutes, and then apply Rapid Wrinkle Repair® Regenerating Cream
Neutrogena® Vitamin C serum won’t clog pores and is paraben-free, alcohol-free, oil-free, dye- and fragrance-free. If you have sensitive skin, it’s best to build up usage over time to avoid irritation — but even starting slowly, be sure to look out for that signature Vitamin C glow.