Vitamin C Serum Review
I have tried out several Vitamin C formulas over the last few months. It seems to be the hot ingredient of the moment, but there are many varieties and formulations on the market and it gets quite confusing.
Vitamin C is a potent antioxidant naturally found in our skin in both the epidermis (outer layer) and the dermis (layer just underneath the epidermis). As we age, however, the levels decline in both layers. Levels may also decrease with stress, excessive exposure to UV light and pollutants such as cigarette smoke and exhaust.
We all know the importance of Vitamin C in our diet, but why do we need vitamin C in our skin care? Can it:
Lighten Scars √
Help with Hyperpigmentation √
Reverse Sun Damage √
Give You Younger Looking Skin √
Fade Dark Spots √
Vitamin C has a host of benefits for our skin. It can improve clarity, stimulate collagen, and minimize melanin production to even out your skin tone and brighten your complexion. The antioxidant property of Vitamin C has also been shown to protect against damage caused by free radicals. It has also been shown to help with wound healing and regulating the synthesis of collagen. All good things, right?
Before I continue, I want to explain something. There is a term thrown around ALL THE TIME, but do you know exactly what it means? Let’s pause for a mini science lesson.
Exactly what is a FREE RADICAL? This is an overly simplified description, but I hope it answers the question adequately. Our bodies are made up of molecules. Most of these molecules contain an even number of electrons. We can talk about atoms and covalent bonds and you can have flash backs from your high school or college chemistry classes, but I will spare you that trauma! The gist is, when some molecules react with oxygen, which happens daily, there can be a break in the electron bond and you have all these unpaired electrons going off on their own. They don’t like to be alone, (does anyone?) so they scavage the body trying to find another electron to become a pair. During this search, they become very reactive and reek havoc on other cellular components like the DNA or cellular membrane. They can pull electrons from other molecules, which further destabilizes that molecule. This becomes a domino effect and can damage cells. This can further lead to mutations, etc which can cause disease and aging. Our bodies defense system against these free radicals is ANTIOXIDANTS. Antioxidants can safely interact with free radicals and terminate the reaction before important molecules or components are damaged. They are able to give electrons to free radicals without becoming destabilized themselves, thus stopping the destructive chain reaction. Of course all of this is oversimplified, but I don’t think you parked on this page for a full on chemistry lesson. If you did, I am really sorry, because I hated chemistry in college!
So, back to the blog post. What are the issues with Vitamin C?
The problem with Vitamin C is that it is quite unstable and degrades quickly once it comes into contact with water, heat and oxygen. This makes formulating it into skin care a bit tricky. It also has to be at the right pH (≤3.5) for it to be absorbed by the skin. The quicker it is absorbed into your skin, the less likely it is to oxidize and therefore lose its potency. This acidic pH can make it irritating to many people, especially those with sensitive skin. When choosing a product, make sure it is in a dark, glass container with a closed delivery system to maximize efficacy.
There is also some scientific evidence that Vitamin C can act as a “pro-oxidant” if it is oxidized or comes into contact with metals, meaning that instead of fighting free radicals, it may generate them. Metals, such as iron, are found in our water and air. Therefore, if your vitamin C mixes with water or air that contains lead, it will act as a pro-oxidant rather than an antioxidant. I feel the benefits of Vitamin C far outway this possible risk.
Another issue with Vitamin C in skin care is determining the correct concentration. There are many opinions on this topic, but the majority seem to agree that 10-20% is the most effective concentration. The key is finding a concentration that your particular skin can tolerate and actually achieve results.
There are different forms of Vitamin C that you will see listed on labels.
- Ascorbic Acid (L-Ascorbic Acid)
- Ascorbyl Palmitate
- Sodium Ascorbate
- Sodium Ascorbyl Phosphate
- Magnesium Ascorbyl Phosphate (MAP)
- Tetrahexyldecyl Ascorbate (THDA) or Ascorbyl Tetraisopalmitate
- Ascorbyl Glucoside
- Ascorbyl Glucosamine
- Ascorbyl Methylsilanol Pectinate
You can use Vitamin C in the morning or at night with your regular skin care routine. It is usually recommended to use it in the morning so it can protect your skin from all of the environmental stressors you may encounter and you get that great sun protective effect.
I have experimented with 3 different formulas over the last 6 months. The first is the True Botanicals Vitamin C Booster. This product is in a powder form so it maintains its potency until the moment you are ready to use it. It contains 3 ingredients:
- Organic Tapioca starch (from the root of the Cassava Plant)
- L-ascorbic acid
- Ferulic acid
The tapioca starch works as an exfoliant, hydrator and skin healer, while the ferulic acid is an antioxidant found in plant cell walls that works really well with Vitamin C. In fact, the Vitamin C has been shown to double the photo protection of the ferulic acid. It is one of the purest and most potent formulas out there. When mixed with a serum, you get about a 10% concentration of L-ascorbic acid. It activates once you mix it with a liquid. You can mix it with your serum, face oil, sunscreen or whatever else you put on your face. It comes in a small amber glass bottle with a shaker top. It is the perfect size for traveling. I mix a shake or two with my True Botanicals serum. It mixes easily and there is no mess. I have also mixed it with other serums, oils, or face balms and it works just as well. My skin tolerates this formula really well. I don’t get any dry patches or redness. What I do get is healthier looking skin. It truly gives me a glow and helps even out my skin tone. It helps fade scars. I have always been a blemish picker and this really helps fade any residual marks that have been self-inflicted. UUgh! You can check out the TB Vitamin C Booster here.
Another formula that I use is the Ursa Major Vitamin C Serum which comes housed in a black Miron glass pump bottle. This is the lightest formula of the ones I tested. It uses a relatively stable, naturally derived water-soluble form of Vitamin C, ascorbic acid polypeptide, at a 1.5% concentration. This serum is a perfect fit for those with sensitive skin due to the inclusion of rose and soothing aloe juice base. It also contains aspen bark for gentle exfoliation, rosehip which helps with skin discolorations, edelweiss for its potent antioxidant power, as well as shea butter and sunflower seed oil for hydration.
This formula is very light weight, non greasy, and works well under makeup. It definitely made my skin brighter and hydrated. The texture and light fruity scent make it an easy choice. I received this serum in a subscribtion box as well. You can check out the Ursa Major Vitamin C Serum here.
The last formula I have used is the Odacite, An Autumn of the World 15% Vitamin C Serum. This is a potent Vitamin C in the form of Tetrahexyldecyl Ascorbate and it is combined with some extra virgin precious oils including Acai, Passion Fruit, Meadowfoam, Carrot, Raspberry, Pomegranate, and Rosehip Oils. It comes in a black glass bottle with a dropper. The potent antioxidant properties and omega 5 fatty acids in these oils help make this a super charged serum for fighting against the elements. This particular form of vitamin C is the latest development in Vitamin C and has been shown to be 5 times more potent than other compounds. It is lipid-soluble, so it has a higher rate of penetration into the deeper layers of our skin where collagen production takes place. This serum is the most expensive of the 3 products I own, but luckily, I subscribed to the Detox Market monthly subscription box and this was the first product they sent out. If you haven’t checked out this box, please take a moment to check it out here. This serum was created for a private client and is part of the Odacité, Private Collection.
I find that this product is the strongest of the 3 and a little goes a long way. You only need to add 2-3 drops and you can apply it straight to your skin or mix it with other products. When I first received this serum I was applying way too much everyday and noticed after a week that my skin was getting red and flaky. I backed off and just applied a few drops in the morning and it made a world of difference. My skin looked hydrated, clear, and brighter. I find myself always reaching for this oil when I get a blemish or a sun spot. It clears up blemishes very quickly without leaving the surrounding area dry and flaky and it noticeably lightens my sun spots. You can check it out here.
I believe in the power and importance of adding a Vitamin C formula to my skin care routine. I found all three of these formulas to be quite different, but they all worked really well and delivered on the benefits they claim. I hope my descriptions will be helpful to you so you can chose a product that will work best for your skin type.
Do you use a Vitamin C product in your skin care routine? Have you tried any of these products or do you have another favorite? I would love to hear about your experience!