THE RED CHEAT SHEET:
VITAMIN C Not just found in oranges, here’s everything you need to know about applying it topically
WHAT IS IT?
We’ve heard for years that vitamin C is good for us and there’s increasing evidence to suggest that when applied topically, it can have serious skin benefits. It’s an antioxidant and helps neutralise unstable compounds known as free radicals, which are associated with ageing. But vitamin C is a tricky customer – expose it to light or air and it effectively stops working. However, advances in technology have led to more stable formulations, hence the plethora of products hitting the shelves.
WHY USE IT?
As well as offering protection from environmental damage, vitamin C also helps stimulate collagen production, making skin firmer, plumper and springier, and it’s thought to have antiinflammatory properties. Add in the fact that it interrupts the production and transfer of the pigment melanin, helping to improve uneven skin tone and age spots, and you can see why it’s heralded as a multitasking super-ingredient.
WHO SHOULD USE IT?
There’s no one who wouldn’t benefit from vitamin C’s antioxidant boost but, as with any active ingredient, if you have sensitive skin, introduce it slowly as it can tingle at high concentrations. The most effective form is ascorbic acid, but it can cause irritation. Gentler derivatives (look for magnesium ascorbyl phosphate, sodium ascorbyl phosphate and tetrahexyldecyl ascorbate on the label) won’t pack such a powerful punch, but you’ll still see results.
HOW SHOULD YOU USE IT?
You’ll find it in creams, serums, and even in powder form, designed to be mixed daily with your moisturiser to ensure you’re getting super-fresh (and potent) vitamin C. Research suggests that an ascorbic acid serum at a concentration of 10-20% is your best bet, but even those gentler derivatives at concentrations as low as 5% are effective. It’s also worth looking for serums that combine vitamin C with vitamin E or ferulic acid, both of which can supercharge its power.
WHEN SHOULD YOU USE IT?
Whenever it fits into your routine. Some like to use it in the morning, layered under sun protection to boost the skin’s defences against Uv-induced free radicals, while others argue that if used at night, it really gets to work on collagen boosting and pigmentation busting.
ANYTHING ELSE I NEED TO KNOW?
If you’re using an ascorbic acid-based product, don’t decant it – the packaging is designed to help it last longer. It should be apparent when a serum is past its best as it will change from straw-coloured to brown. Prone to breakouts? Look for a water-based formula (aqua or water will be near the top of the ingredients list) because oils and silicones used to keep active ingredients in peak condition can cause spots for some.