Dermatologists love it. Estheticians do, too…
That’s why virtually every skin care brand has a Vitamin C product these days--the stuff creates glow where skin once was dull.
However, there are some drawbacks to certain Vitamin C products.
For one, some serums cost upwards of $170 per ounce. And many of the expensive brands justify that price by touting “the highest percentage of Vitamin C.”
Surely it’s a case of “you get what you pay for,” right? Like farmers market tomatoes, or Japanese denim.
Unfortunately, there’s a dirty little industry secret: not only are you not getting what you paid for, but for some people, the expensive “high-C” serums can be as bad for your skin as they are for your wallet.
We’ll dig into what the science says about that...
First, let’s talk about why the skin pros are all about topical Vitamin C.
Why Vitamin C Is Top-Shelf Worthy
Topical Vitamin C is well-loved for good reason: it’s a potent and effective antioxidant that can treat and prevent changes associated with photoaging.
Here’s what C can do for you...
As we age, our skin starts to lose some of its youthful elasticity and firmness, which is when wrinkles start to appear.
Part of the reason this happens is because our skin slows down its production of collagen, which acts as a sort of structural support.
Studies have shown that a topical Vitamin C serum can increase collagen production, which is how it boosts both elasticity and firmness.
If you have sensitive skin, the kind that gets a little angry from time to time, you probably know the misery of inflammation.
There are many, many causes of inflammation, but the results are similar: flushed, itchy, red skin. It doesn’t look great, and it feels kinda like your face is on fire.
The good news is that Vitamin C serum can help extinguish that fire. Studies have shown that its anti-inflammatory activity can even help improve more serious cases of inflammation, like acne scars and rosacea.
Here’s the other annoying thing about inflammation: it can leave a lasting mark, in the form of hyper pigmentation.
These brown spots, caused by an overproduction of melanin, often take weeks, months, or even years to fade.
And inflammation isn’t the only culprit. Other causes of hyperpigmentation include age spots from sun exposure, melasma (often due to pregnancy or birth control hormones), and any type of trauma to the skin’s surface.
Adding a Vitamin C serum to your daily skin care routine has been shown to help hyperpigmentation.
Now the only question is, which Vitamin C serum do you buy?
Well, before we get to that, there’s something you should know about how Vitamin C works….
Here’s the thing to know about Vitamin C products.
Most Vitamin C serums are like your crazy aunt after a few margaritas: pretty unstable.
That’s because most of them contain L-Ascorbic Vitamin C.
L-ascorbic Vitamin C is the same form of Vitamin C found in nature. That may seem like a good thing, but there’s a big problem with L-ascorbic Vitamin C: it oxidizes and breaks down.
In fact, you can often see this happening as your serum goes from clear to yellow or brown.
Now manufacturers know that L-ascorbic Vitamin C will break down, so they add more of it to their serum.
Then they boast about how much C is in their product, even though they know that it’s going to quickly break down and lose potency.
Some manufacturers will add color to their serums so you won’t notice any color change!
And here’s what this means for the consumer: You pay $65-$170 for the 25% Vitamin C, thinking you’re doing your face a favor. But the amount of C in the bottle gets lower and lower every day. And there’s no way for you to know what that percentage is as it degrades.
Obviously, that’s a huge downside. You’re not getting what you paid for.
Unfortunately, there’s another reason to be weary, especially if you have sensitive skin.
Before those high concentrations of Vitamin C start breaking down, they’re extra potent. That means they’re also more likely to cause irritation, which can include redness, stinging, dryness, and increased sensitivity.
And that’s pretty frustrating when your goal was to improve your skin and reduce irritation.
So how do you get the benefits of Vitamin C, and avoid unstable and irritating products?
You want Vitamin C in your skin care arsenal, so here’s what to look for...
Forget those super high concentrations of L-ascorbic Vitamin C.
One study even showed the maximum concentration for optimal absorption of L-ascorbic is 20%, so anything above that is definitely overkill.
But 20% is still a whole lotta C, so sensitive skin types might want to rethink these higher concentrations altogether.
If your serum does contain L-ascorbic Vitamin C, the formula's pH level is key.
For maximum stability, serums with L-ascorbic have to have low pH levels (less than 3.5), meaning it’s more acidic. Otherwise ascorbic acid degrades much more quickly, making it inactive and therefore ineffective.
The big downside is that if it’s more acidic, it’s also more likely to irritate your skin.
Vibriance Super C Penetrating Serum contains a stable formulation of Vitamin C called Ethyl-ascorbic acid that won’t break down like L-Ascorbic Acid.
Studies have shown that Ethyl-ascorbic acid found in Vibriance Super C has skin-beautifying advantages over regular L-ascorbic acid, such as:
Proven to not only prevent sun damage but also reverse sun damage (regular Vitamin C can only prevent)
Proven to stimulate collagen synthesis up to 72.9% in vitro (Regular Vitamin C only boosts by 32.6%)
More than 50% more stable than L-ascorbic acid, retains potency, unlike L-Ascorbic acid that degrades the second you open it.
Oil soluble and water soluble (L-ascorbic acid is only water soluble, oil soluble nutrients stay in your body longer and don’t need to be replenished as much)