Want a brighter complexion? There’s one star skincare ingredient that dermatologists turn to—vitamin C. No, you shouldn’t go rubbing oranges on your face. But there are tons of beauty products out there that have vitamin C (a.k.a. L-ascorbic acid), including cleansers, serums, exfoliants, and moisturizers.
Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant. “Like all antioxidants, vitamin C can help fight free radicals from all environmental aggressors, like pollution and sun damage,” dermatologist Dennis Gross, M.D. tells SELF. So when you layer a serum or moisturizer with this powerful ingredient under your sunscreen, it’s giving you a double dose of protection. “I think of [free radicals] as anti-oxygen bombs that trigger inflammation and cascades of damage,” Heidi Waldorf, M.D., director of laser and cosmetic dermatology at The Mount Sinai Medical Center, tell SELF. “The antioxidant quenches that. It puts out the fuse.”
Vitamin C can also help with any dark spots you already have. “It reduces the activity of the enzyme that leads to production of pigment, but it also addresses the existing discoloration,” says Gross. Now, it’s not going to work as well as a prescription with hydroquinone or retin-A at erasing scars and spots, but it will help even out your skin tone overall. So, what should you look for when you shop for vitamin C?
There are many ways in which vitamin C can be delivered, some are fat-soluble and some are water-soluble. Skin is made up of both lipid and watery layers, so the perfect product has a balance of both fat-soluble and water-soluble ingredients for the best absorption. “You need to use both types [of vitamin C] to effectively penetrate skin and to address both depleted collagen and fighting free radicals,” says Gross. Look for keywords like L-ascorbic acid and sodium ascorbyl phosphate (which are both water-soluble), as well as ascorbyl palmitate and tetrahexyldecyl ascorbate (which are lipid-soluble) on the ingredients list.
You also want to pay attention to the packaging of your vitamin C product. “Vitamin C is vulnerable to light, sun, and air exposure,” says Gross. “Use only vitamin C packaged in opaque tubes, air-restrictive bottles, or airless pumps that help keep their ingredients stable once the product has been opened and used.” Both dermatologists agree that negative reactions to topical vitamin C are rare. However if you have a skin condition such as eczema, consult a professional before adding a brightening product to your regimen.
Below find a list of 10 vitamin C products to add to your skincare routine for a brightening boost.