Not All Vitamin C Serums Are Created Equal

Whether you’ve been looking to simplify your skin care routine or amp it up, a vitamin C serum might be your golden ticket. Topical vitamin C is a multipurpose workhorse that can protect, repair, and enhance your skin.

But, as with any products, not all serums are created equal. Components like the type and concentration of vitamin C, the ingredient list, and even the kind of bottle or dispenser make or break your serum’s benefits — and your skin.

But don’t worry, decoding which serum to buy isn’t that hard. We’ve got the facts on C serum benefits, how to choose one (plus recommendations), and tips on how to make the most use of them.

The serious benefits of a vitamin C serum and when to apply it

Vitamin C is an antioxidant, meaning it halts or holds off environmental and sun damage to cells. And while you can count your morning OJ as a good defense for your bod, the best way to achieve vitamin C’s protection and benefits is to apply it directly onto your skin.

But there’s also a reason why you don’t want to just be placing citrus slices on your cheeks. When you DIY, there’s no control over the quality — and sometimes it’s not even safe. It’s also just not efficient.

That’s because when we eat, drink, or supplement vitamin C, also known as ascorbic acid, our skin only gets a small fraction of the benefits. However, pressing vitamin C in serum form, after it’s been chemically altered, actually lets our skin absorb more of it in an efficient way.

Vitamin C serum benefits

  • reduces wrinkles
  • protects collagen and increases production
  • aids wound healing
  • helps protect against sun damage
  • reduces hyperpigmentation
  • evens skin tone
  • brightens complexion
  • acts like armor against pollution and other free radicals

If you’re wondering when to apply a vitamin C serum, the answer is both morning and night, after cleansing and toning. One study even recommends applying a vitamin C serum every eight hours, or twice daily for the pinnacle of protection.

Vitamin C has photoprotective properties and staves off oxidative stress from the free radicals we meet throughout our day. Think car exhaust, cigarette smoke, certain chemicals, even booze and overprocessed foods.

But don’t worry if you skip an application. Unlike sunscreen, moisturizers, or oils, vitamin C can’t be wiped or washed off that easily.

Vitamin C’s protection and free radical-fighting prowess eventually wears off, but you can build up a reservoir for adequate photoprotection. This can be achieved by applying every eight hours.

Also, UV light lowers the skin’s vitamin C levels. It’s been found that topical vitamin C is best applied after exposure to UV light and not prior.

ALWAYS USE SPF WITH VITAMIN C Although vitamin C serum isn’t a substitute for sunscreen (in fact, sun sensitivity increases with use), the two together can work in tandem to boost the skin’s protection from damage.

Whatever brand or form you buy, the bottom line is that vitamin C is one of the best tried-and-true ingredients for your skin with lots of research to back it up. You don’t need a fancy (read pricey) version to reap vitamin C’s skin-saving rewards.

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