Vitamin C has been praised for its anti-aging and brightening benefits, but studies have shown that it also works as a sun-damage protectant. Kim Chang, a medical aesthetician at Baylor College of Medicine, said using L-ascorbic acid, or vitamin C, on the skin can protect you even further from the sun.
“Studies have shown that using sunscreen with Vitamin C protects the skin from further photo damage caused by ultra-violet rays,” Chang said. “This information is important because most people don’t know that you can protect your skin even further than just sunscreen.”
Chang explains that sunscreens above SPF 50 do not offer greater sun protection and that using an antioxidant such as vitamin C will provide a more protective barrier. “Sunscreen can certainly protect the skin from the sun’s UV rays,” Chang said. “However, adding vitamin C into your skin care regimen can protect you even further.”
Lines and wrinkles can form on the skin due to oxidative stress, a disturbance caused by unstable electrons that attack healthy cells and change their structure, Chang explains. Oxidative stress mainly occurs when the skin is exposed to pollutants and environmental aggressors, such as the sun’s UV rays. When an anti-oxidant such as vitamin C is added to the skin, it combats the oxidative stress, slows the aging process and protects the skin.
“Pollutants can attack and contribute to DNA damage,” Chang said. “Since vitamin C is an antioxidant, it helps fight against that.”
While there are several vitamin C products to choose from, it is important to use one that does not contain many additives and has a pH level at 3.5 and concentration level between 10 and 20 percent. Chang explains that vitamin C is highly unstable, so it must be at an acidic level to effectively absorb into the skin.
“There are many different kinds of vitamin C out there, but I recommend using it in the purest form possible,” Chang said. “The one I love has only three ingredients, and is made without fillers such as water, lanolin, petrolatum etc. If you’re looking at your vitamin C at home and it lists many other ingredients, it won’t be as effective because it will not be stable enough to deliver into your skin.”
Although it’s rare, Chang warns that some people may be sensitive to vitamin C due to the acidic pH level. Chang recommends those with sensitive skin can ease their way into using vitamin C products to see how their skin reacts. “Using vitamin C every two days or every other day before using it every day can help ease tolerability,” she said. “If you are experiencing small pustules or a rash then discontinue immediately. Although it’s not common, there are some who can’t tolerate vitamin C.”
Vitamin C can be purchased in many different forms of skin care, such as in a serum, gel or cream. However, Chang recommends the serum because the vitamin C in other products can be diluted by other ingredients and less concentrated. Other benefits to adding vitamin C into a skincare routine include anti-aging, lightening hyperpigmentation caused by acne or sun damage, and fighting inflammation. Chang noted that it can also help the skin heal post-ablative procedures, such as laser skin-resurfacing.
Vitamin C products should be applied morning and night with sunscreen for the optimal protection. If it is in the form of a serum, Chang said it should be applied immediately after cleansing before any other products.