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How Vitamin C helps oxidative stress on the skin

If you are a client of ours you already know that we PREACH  Sunscreen, sunscreen, SUNSCREEN and we wont treat you without using it. Without a doubt, SPF is the single most important thing you can do for your skin if you want to slow down the aging process, but it’s not the only secret weapon against sun damage. Enter vitamin C here: your other summer skincare BFF. Below, we break down why this antioxidant is the perfect sunny-weather ingredient, and what vitamin C-infused products you need to put in your routine ASAP.

Vitamin C Helps to Prevent Sun Damage

Studies have proven that when applied topically to the skin, vitamin C can help prevent damage from UV rays. Not only that, vitamin C can reverse the damage caused by previous exposure. By visibly reducing the signs of existing photoaging, including fine lines, poor skin texture and hyperpigmentation, vitamin C can produce a more youthful, radiant complexion. At the same time it helps to prevent the appearance of these signs of ageing in the future. This makes vitamin C the go-to skin insurance policy, and of real benefit to all skin types and all ages.

It reduces dark spots

Let’s get techy for a second: vitamin C blocks the effects of something called tyrosinase—an enzyme that’s responsible for melanin ( pigment) production in the skin. It also reduces the oxidation of existing pigment, preventing it from getting darker. In other words, vitamin C prevents dark spots from forming and also fixes them post exposure. It also has potent anti-inflammatory properties (perfect for those struggling with acne or rosacea), making it your ticket to a gorgeous, even-toned complexion.

It boosts sunscreen effectiveness

SPF is essential to protecting skin from damage, but it’s not the be-all, end-all solution. If you’re serious about sun protection and aging gracefully, it’s a good habit to apply vitamin C in tandem with your morning SPF. (You ARE applying SPF every morning, right?!?!) Since vitamin C is an antioxidant, it’s going to add an extra layer of protection by helping to neutralize free radicals. Basically, it supports and strengthens skin cells to fight against environmental aggressors such as UV and pollution—the main culprits of oxidative stress in skin. (Oxidative stress is a fancy way of saying sun damage.) So, while vitamin C is not an alternative to sunscreen, it is a great way to boost your SPF’s effectiveness and minimize the damage you can’t see.

 It stimulates collagen production

Fun fact:  vitamin C is necessary for the production of collagen, the protein that keeps our joints healthy and our skin smooth. Applied topically, vitamin C stimulates collagen production to reduce wrinkles, plump skin, and increase firmness.  

Vitamin C has antioxidant properties that help prevent free-radicals from breaking down collagen and can even reverse DNA damage. Damage to collagen and DNA are two significant factors in photoageing. This means that Vitamin C based skincare is fantastic for warding off the effects of sun damage. Whilst the collagen boosting and anti-inflammatory benefits of vitamin C can be experienced all year round, it makes a lot of sense to include vitamin C in your daily routine during the summer when UV exposure can be at its highest.

Vitamin C Boosts Collagen Synthesis

Vitamin C is essential for efficient synthesis of collagen in the body. As the human body can not make its own vitamin C, it is absolutely necessary that it is obtained through diet. There is also strong evidence to show that applying vitamin C to the skin is beneficial.
Given the key role vitamin C plays in collagen synthesis, it is not surprising that vitamin C skincare has been reported to increase skin firmness and elasticity,  improve scar healing and prevent the formation of fine lines and wrinkles.

For more information on how sun effects our skins collagen production, read through our Facts of Light Series 

The Benefits of Vitamin C in Skincare:

Some of the known benefits of topically applying vitamin C skincare products are:

  • Protect skin cells and skin’s support structure from UV-related damage
  • Improve the appearance of sun-damaged skin
  • Strengthen skin’s barrier response
  • Reduce inflammation.
  • Promote collagen production
  • Increase the effectiveness of peels and HydraFacials
  • Reduce hyperpigmentation and PIH  ( Post Inflammatory Hyper Pigmentation)

How to Choose a Vitamin C Skincare Product

When choosing a vitamin C product it is important to pay attention to both the concentration of vitamin C in the product, and also the type of vitamin C used. The cheapest and most common form of vitamin C is ascorbic acid. Whilst ascorbic acid works well as a nutritional supplement in the body, it is very poorly suited to use in skin care. Firstly it can be irritating. Secondly, and most importantly, it is extremely unstable. Ascorbic acid oxidises very rapidly when in contact with air or water. The oxidising process starts as soon as the product is made, and is strong enough to reduce the benefits of the product within minutes. As it may be days, weeks or even months after manufacture that a product is purchased and used, this means that most ascorbic acid products are essentially worthless.

L-ascorbic acid

L-ascorbic acid is the most chemically active form of vitamin C. But does that make it the best form of topical vitamin C? Not quite. L-ascorbic acid is actually the least stable form of vitamin C and also causes the most skin irritation.

When we say L-ascorbic acid is the least stable form of topical vitamin C, we mean that it is oxidizes the easiest. Sunlight, heat, air, water, and time can all lead to the oxidation of L-ascorbic acid. When vitamin C becomes oxidized it loses its potency and ultimately becomes ineffective. To the visible eye, a topical product will turn yellow or orange.

Furthermore, L-ascorbic acid is an acidic molecule and can only penetrate the skin at a pH of 3.5 or less. This is much lower than the skin’s pH of 5.5. The low pH of topical products with L-ascorbic acid is the reason why they cause the most irritation out of all the forms of topical vitamin C; this low pH is very reactive on the skin.

Considering all of these issues with L-ascorbic acid, we’ve decided that this is not the best form of topical vitamin C.

Magnesium ascorbyl phosphate

Magnesium ascorbyl phosphate is more stable than L-ascorbic acid and can also penetrate the skin better. At a pH of 7, this water-soluble form of vitamin C is easily absorbed into the skin.

This form of vitamin C is also known to have a hydrating effect on the skin and decreases transepidermal water loss (TEWL).  Magnesium ascorbyl phosphate is also a free radical scavenger that is photoprotective and increases collagen production under laboratory test conditions.


Tetrahexyldecyl Ascorbate is a stable, oil-soluble form of Vitamin C known to increase collagen levels, reduce melanin production, brighten the skin, and repair the damaging effects of UV exposure and other environmental damage like smog and pollution. It is also known to be more potent than L-ascorbic acid and other Vitamin C compounds.

The delivery vehicles also ensure the Vitamin C level stays constant throughout the shelf-life of the product, producing maximum vitamin stability and activity of a year or longer. Formulas that contain 10-20% Vitamin C frequently do so to offset the amount of Vitamin C that is oxidized throughout the product’s lifetime. Within six months, retesting of high percentage Vitamin C products shows their content can diminish to 2% or less, with the remainder of the Vitamin C oxidized – which is apparent as the product begins to turn brown. Oxidized Vitamin C can irritate the skin, cause damage to the skin and cause blocked pores.

Sodium ascorbyl phosphate

Sodium ascorbyl phosphate has been proven to be more stable than both L-ascorbic acid and magnesium ascorbyl phosphate. A 2013 study by the Journal of the Chemical Society of Pakistan performed a chemical analysis on these forms of topical vitamin C and found that the formulation with sodium ascorbyl phosphate was more stable than those with magnesium ascorbyl phosphate and L-ascorbic acid.

Additionally, sodium ascorbyl phosphate not only provides antioxidant protection once converted to ascorbic acid within the skin but this form of vitamin C is also effective against Propionibacterium acnes, the bacteria that causes acne.

If you have any other questions regarding which Vitamin C is best for your skin type, don’t hesitate to reach out to us or contact your local skin care therapist. Our Glow Skin Shop has a plethora of Vitamin C options both through oral consumption or topical use. Don’t wait to start adding Vitamin C into your routine, get ahead of the aging process before its too late!


Our top 3 Vitamin C products are

  1. Lighten Up Serum
  2. Youthful Glow Serum
  3. Tizo Sun protection