Is This The New Way To Get Glowing Skin?

Along with retinol, vitamin C has long been heralded by derms as a gold standard of beauty ingredients. But you probably already knew that. Because oodles of research has consistently re-affirmed what we’ve known for years: that vitamin C can help diminish dark spots, brighten complexions, and help drum up collagen production when it travels to layers of the dermis. For the most part, we also know that “our skin does not produce vitamin C, therefore it is very important to supplement it in topical skin care,” notes Jeannette Graf, MD, a New York-based dermatologist.
Advertisement
But all that knowledge doesn't do us much good if we aren't sure of the best way to harness vitamin C's powers. Historically, the ingredient has been notoriously tricky to stabilise in topical products. Like vampires, vitamin C loses stability and potency when in contact with air, light, and water (the basis of most skin-care products) — which makes it extremely tricky to work into a serum or mask. “Because vitamin C is so unstable in the presence of light, extremes in pH, and temperature, products that contain it are specially formulated,” confirms Joshua Zeichner, MD, New York-based dermatologist. In other words, not all C-based skin care is created equal. Adds Dr. Graf, “The most important part of topical vitamin C is what type of vitamin C it is, since it must be stable in order for it to be of value.”
The good news? Scientists and cosmetic chemists have been working to overcome these obstacles for years. And the latest vitamin C-based skin care is some of the best to market yet. Among such solutions? Water-free formulations, a favorite of Dr. Graf’s. “A water-free system helps ensure the long-term stability of topical vitamin C," she says.
Also in the mix: cold-pressing techniques which eschew typical heat methods used to extract ingredients and result in better stabilisation; powder and pearl encapsulation, also geared to help extend stability; time-released products; and concentrated formulas that shoot up into 30% potency, something that may help nicotine addicts. “My feeling is that 10-20% vitamin C used daily in the morning and in the evening is quite good,” Dr. Graf says, adding, "Cigarette smokers lose more vitamin C than non-smokers. So smoking is terrible for many reasons, but if someone is unable to stop smoking, they should use an even higher concentration of 20 to 25% vitamin C.”
Advertisement
Finally, though there are several types of vitamin C found in product ingredient lists (including magnesium ascorbyl phosphate, tetrahexyldecyl ascorbate, ascorbyl palmitate, ascorbyl glucosamine, and ascorbyl tetraisopalmitate), it’s actually L-ascorbic acid that trumps ‘em all, according to our pros. “L-ascorbic acid is the only form of vitamin C which is recognised by the skin,” Dr. Graf says. “Whichever form of stabilised vitamin C is used, they must bio-convert to L-ascorbic acid before the body can use it.” The good news? More and more formulations are using it as their C-source.
With so much innovation hitting shelves, the future of your skin is looking very bright. Ahead, find 12 good sources for getting your recommended daily vitamin.
1 of 11
There's a reason this little brown bottle is loved by just about every dermatologist we've interviewed: It's lightweight, absorbs quickly, and contains a generous dose of L-ascorbic acid.

Skinceuticals C E Ferulic Serum, £90, available at Skinceuticals.
2 of 11
The entire package of this vitamin C booster is designed to be used in just one week. It’s also as fun to prep as a cocktail: Press the button on one end to release vitamin C powder into a serum, housed in another chamber, then shake for 15 seconds. Once ready, be prepared to apply a few drops of the mixture ASAP — after you release the cap, the emulsion is dispensed instantaneously.

Clinique Fresh Pressed Daily Booster with Pure Vitamin C 10%, £58, available at Clinique.
Advertisement
3 of 11
Frequent flyers (or those who regularly shack up away from home) who are looking for an instant brightening boost will find a new go-to in this three-step system, packaged in one easy-to-pack card. First, apply the single-dose polishing mask for 10 minutes. Next, tap on the 25% vitamin C concentrate, then finish with warming cleanser and watch your skin beam, even after a transatlantic flight (or night three at your Bumble date's place).

Ole Henriksen PowerBright, £34, available at Escentual.
4 of 11
This mask’s texture, like that of homemade jam, can be puzzling at first — until you realise that it’s made of 50% citrus (including oranges, tangerines, and lemons). Add in a supplemental blend of vitamin C, plus vitamins B5 and E and AHAs, and you’ve got yourself a heck of a skin brightener.

Fresh Vitamin Nectar Vibrancy Boosting Mask, £50, available at Cosme-De.com.
5 of 11
Break the amber glass on these single-serving ampules for a stabilised hit of vitamin C, thanks to the inclusion of ginkgo. “Stabilisation of the vitamin C with ginkgo is a new technology that has proven stability and efficacy,” Dr. Zeichner says.

ISDIN Isdinceutics Flavo-C Ultraglican Ampules, £39.73, available at Care To Beauty.
6 of 11
Anyone who loved watching "lava" flow from homemade volcanoes in science class is going to freak for the effects of this gentle, C-powered peel. After rubbing it on your face in circular motions, watch dead skin cells ball up before your very eyes — and then feel the smoothest skin you've had in awhile.

The Body Shop Vitamin C Glow-Revealing Liquid Peel, £18, available at The Body Shop.
7 of 11
We’re suckers for any nighttime activity that can be bent for daytime use. For example, day-drinking... and this mask. Developed to be worn all day, it’s made to protect against the very stuff our skin encounters most before the sun goes down — oxidative damage, pollution, and more. Ascorbic acid and other antioxidants join a bevy of peptides and anti-inflammatory agents to get the job done.

Allies of Skin 1A All-Day Mask, £79, available at Allies of Skin.
Advertisement
8 of 11
The Swiss skin-care line’s newest serum doesn’t look much like a serum at all (and is priced more like an iPhone, too). Instead, the bottle contains wall-to-wall iridescent white pearl beads, which contain an oil soluble form of vitamin C (and very fancy-sounding gold caviar extract). But about that C: Thanks to pearl encapsulation and a proprietary delivery system, it’s made to freshly release with every application and better resolve dark spots on the skin, instead of oxidise in the bottle over time.

La Prairie White Caviar Illuminating Pearl Infusion, £360, available at Harvey Nichols.
9 of 11
One of the first in the industry to use cold pressing in skincare — rather than combining ingredients under high heat, which can degrade efficacy — Kat Burki also uses the method for this lightweight face cream, which contains 15% vitamin C (and has a cult following).

Kat Burki Vitamin C Intensive Face Cream, £80, available at Space NK.
10 of 11
No heat processing or petrochemicals are used when formulating this 99% natural, cruelty- and- gluten-free serum. Neither are phthalates, sulfates, GMOs, parabens, or added fragrances. What is inside, along with 20% vitamin C, is hydrating hyaluronic acid, soothing vitamin E, rose hips (which can help stabilise vitamin C) and the anti-inflammatory green tea.

OZ Naturals Vitamin C Facial Serum, £24.65, available at Amazon.
11 of 11
This serum contains 15% THD ascorbate, a very stable form of vitamin C, and glycolic acid to team up on dark spots, discoloration, and light acne scars. That's our favourite thing about it. Our second is the fact that it smells like a mimosa.

Sunday Riley C.E.O. Rapid Flash Brightening Serum, £70, available at Space NK.

Want more like this...

Get To Know The Star Ingredient In All Your Favourite Products Getting My Makeup Mojo Back Beauty Jargon Explained By Experts
Advertisement

More from Skin Care

Watch

R29 Original Series