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A guide to Vitamin C: The best powerhouse products for brighter skin

Anti-ageing, damage-repairing, pollution-protecting – why Vitamin C is the ultimate skincare saviour

Vitamin C is an undisputed skincare hero. The powerful antioxidant has myriad benefits, including brightening and evening skin tone, boosting collagen, correcting hyperpigmentation and combating free radicals. Here’s everything you need to know about the wonder-nutrient and why you should incorporate it into your beauty routine for glowy skin this summer.

What does Vitamin C do?

Vitamin C is a natural component of healthy skin, stimulating collagen production, neutralising free radicals and supporting cellular activity to regenerate and repair. But while younger skin may have the antioxidant in abundance, as we age – accelerated by UV exposure and pollution – our skin has a tendency to become dull, uneven and less firm. Which explains why Vitamin C is so vital an active ingredient in our beauty regimen.

“My skincare philosophy is all about helping skin of all ages and types to look and feel its radiant best and to repair and protect it against the prematurely ageing effects of pollution and environmental stress,” explains world-renowned skincare expert and cosmetic doctor Dr Sebagh. “As a powerful antioxidant and free radical fighter, Vitamin C is very important in this regard.”

The benefits of Vitamin C
Incorporating Vitamin C topically into your skincare routine can even out skin tone and fade dark spots, diminish scarring, and protect from harmful pollutants. If you’re looking a little tired or lacklustre it will restore radiance and glow, and is instrumental in skin firming. Think of it as a superfood for the skin.

“What I love about Vitamin C is its versatility,” says Dr Sebagh. “You can make it work with your existing skincare routine and start getting the benefits straight away. These include brightening the skin, reducing pigmentation and helping to maintain its natural elasticity, thanks to its positive effects on collagen synthesis.”

Dr Anjali Mahto, Dermatologist at the Cadogan Clinic, Chelsea, agrees: “Vitamin C is an excellent multi-purpose skincare ingredient. Firstly, it acts as an antioxidant neutralising harmful molecules known as free radicals generated by sunlight and pollution. Secondly, it is an effective skin brightening agent which can reduce pigmentation and smooth out skin tone. Lastly, it is a vital co-factor in the synthesis of collagen, the main protein which gives out skin strength and support.”

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How to work Vitamin C into your routine

There are around seven or eight different derivatives of Vitamin C used in skincare but look for ascorbic acid (aka L-ascorbic acid) on the ingredients label; this is Vitamin C at its purest, both stable and effective at penetrating the skin barrier.

While serums are the most common form of delivery of ascorbic acid, Vitamin C can also be incorporated into your routine via creams, tonics, masks and powders. Look for formulations that contain Ferulic Acid and Vitamin E, as these will stabilise the product and make it more effective.

How often you use your Vitamin C-charged product – and when – is up to you. Though it’s often best applied in the morning, thanks to its anti-pollution powers, it can be utilised day and night once you’ve built up tolerance. But remember, it should always be used in conjunction with an SPF for maximum efficacy.

Choose the right concentration

While Vitamin C is undoubtedly a hero ingredient, it is also a tricky one. It can be very acidic and has potential to irritate the skin if used incorrectly. Introduce it slowly; think little and often. Experts recommend you begin with a low concentration of around 5% for daily use (some people get irritation at 2%).

From 10%, Vitamin C becomes more active, so apply it less regularly – two or three times a week is sufficient – increasing to between 15% to 20% as tolerated (the higher the percentage, the greater the effect). The key here is consistency – use regularly over a sustained period of at least eight weeks for optimum results, rather than expecting instant gratification.

How best to store Vitamin C

Vitamin C is water-soluble and highly sensitive to light and air – when exposed it oxidises and degrades rapidly, eventually becoming ineffective. Beauty brands have developed evermore innovative packaging to ensure Vitamin C products deliver benefits over a prolonged period of use, whether in the form of individual capsules, single-use ‘shots’, airless pumps or tinted bottles.

Even so, storage is key. “Don’t leave it out in daylight on your dressing table or bathroom shelf. Instead, keep it in a cool, dry place and away from direct light,” Dr Sebagh explains.

The Vitamin C Power Products That Really Work
Rodial Vit C Brightening Cleanser

Rodial Vit C Brightening Cleanser, £39

An intensive, yet light and cooling, daily gel cleanser. While the Vitamin C brightens and evens skin tone, the fruity AHAs get to work exfoliating and increasing moisture absorption while the addition of Blood Orange Water acts as an antioxidant to deeply cleanse and purify the pores. The perfect citrusy wake-up for skin.

LixirSkin Vitamin C Paste

LixirSkin Vitamin C Paste, £32

Want glowy, bright skin in an instant? Use a pea-sized amount and massage into your face, lips, neck and décolleté whilst skin is still damp after cleansing, and leave for a few minutes whilst the L-Absorbic Acid 10% is activated. As the Jasmine and Mandarin-scented mask melts into the skin, sebum is neutralised and collagen production boosted; rinse off after a few minutes with a warm cloth to reveal skin that’s instantly brighter, more even-toned and lifted.

Pixi Vitamin C Tonic

Pixi Vitamin C Tonic, £10

Introduce this into your skincare routine after cleansing for a refreshing, glow-getting hit of goodness. The orange, lemon and grapefruit extracts combine with Ferulic Acid to even out skin tone and promote healthy collagen production – thus diminishing fine lines, sun damage and boosting luminosity – whilst also fortifying the skin’s barrier. The addition of willow bark acts as a gentle exfoliator, while aloe vera ensures hydration.

Skinceuticals Vitamin CE Ferulic Serum

Skinceuticals Vitamin CE Ferulic Serum, £140

Only a handful of ingredients make up this topical antioxidant serum, including Vitamin C, Vitamin E and Ferulic Acid, which has become a cult favourite, garnering rave reviews and beloved by beauty editors. Not only does it neutralise and protect the skin from free radicals, it also improves the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, leaving skin glowy and smooth. Fast-absorbing, it’s an excellent complement to sunscreen for enhanced protection against UV.

Dr Sebagh Pure Vitamin C Powder Cream

Dr Sebagh Pure Vitamin C Powder Cream, £85

Did you know that Vitamin C can lose 85% of its potency within one hour of opening the jar? This award-winning powder cream offers a unique and original solution – on application, the fine powder transforms into a lightweight, versatile cream, releasing Vitamin C onto the skin for a radiant complexion.

Oskia Super C Smart Nutrient Beauty Capsules

Oskia Super-C Smart Nutrient Beauty Capsules, £62

Each of these 60 single-use capsules contain a supercharged blend of Vitamin C, Vitamin E, Jojoba Seed, Sweet Almond Oils and Squalane. Simply twist the neck to release the Super-C serum and apply it daily to clean skin. Oils aren’t always for everyone, but this sinks into skin quickly leaving behind no residue or stickiness, just a soft, nourished complexion.

Sunday Riley C.E.O Vitamin C Rich Hydration Cream

Sunday Riley C.E.O Vitamin C Rich Hydration Cream, £60

If you love a rich, nourishing moisturiser, this one’s for you. Infused with 5% Vitamin C, it gives skin a burst of deep hydration, whilst evening out skin tone, brightening dullness and repairing those tell-tale sun damage signs. It also provides a protective shield, making it a great barrier against the environment and harmful pollutants. Our top tip? Warm the product up between your fingertips before applying, it glides on easier and is quickly absorbed into skin.

Drunk Elephant C Tango Multivitamin Eye Cream

Drunk Elephant C-Tango Multivitamin Eye Cream, £54

An eye cream that actually gives visible results, thanks to the brightening combination of eight peptides, five forms of Vitamin C, ceramides, plant oils and cucumber extract. When applied, the serum leaves the entire eye area firmer, smoother, and stronger-looking, eliminating those fine line and dark circle woes. Best kept in the fridge for a more cooling experience.

Dr Dennis Gross C Collagen Perfect Skin Set Refresh Mist

Dr Dennis Gross C+ Collagen Perfect Skin Set & Refresh Mist, £33

Whether you’re looking to set your make-up or simply provide a shot of hydration to parched skin, this refreshing mist is a brilliant all-rounder for summer. The non-greasy formula treats skin to a moisture boost, while the inclusion of 3-O Ethyl Ascorbic Acid – a form of Vitamin C – and antioxidants protect cellular functions and form a barrier against environmental pollutants.

Natura Bisse CC Vitamin Line

Natura Bissé C+C Vitamin Line, from £53

Natura Bissé has created a whole C+C Vitamin collection, featuring 12 hero products. In addition to different forms of Vitamin C, the line features MacroAntioxidants, which are packed with fruit-based nutrients, as well as Vitamins F and E and ProVitamin D. It’s the ultimate cocktail your skin needs, leaving it super supple, hydrated and luminous – plus it smells deliciously and reassuringly citrusy.

Main image: Kith x Est​​ée Lauder Collection. Photographer: Philippe Salomon
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