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3 Vitamin C Benefits That’ll Fast Track You to Glowing Skin


If there was a Regina George of the skincare world, it would be vitamin C (hyaluronic acid is much more of a Karen, tbh). Vitamin C first showed up in serums, but soon moisturizers, body care, and even scalp care got in on the trend. Now, she’s everywhere.

But this popular skincare ingredient is the reigning queen for good reason. The list of vitamin C benefits for skin is long—it both protects and repairs skin, among many things. So if your routine is lacking in this powerhouse ingredient, now is as good a time as ever to join the masses. But before you pick out your vitamin C of choice, here’s everything you need to know about all the vitamin C benefits for skin.

About the Experts:

Dendy Engelman, MD, FACMS, FAAD, is a board-certified dermatologist and Mohs surgeon in New York City.
Bryce Anthony is an NYC-based esthetician with Skin Wins, a acne-focused clinic dedicated to normalizing all skin conditions.

So What Is Vitamin C?

Before you start slathering vitamin C all over your face, let’s dive into the science behind the powerhouse. “Vitamin C, or ascorbic acid, is a naturally occurring antioxidant that increases photoprotection in the skin by increasing cell survival following UV exposure,” explains Bryce Anthony, an esthetician and skincare pro in New York City. Think of it like a wingman for your cells, helping them create brighter, healthy skin—while also helping to defend them against free radicals and environmental aggressors like pollution and damaging sun exposure (we’ll explain more on that soon).

Free radicals are unpaired electrons that cause damage to your cells (and skin) by trying to pair with electrons within your body, says Dendy Engelman, MD, an NYC-based dermatologist. The most common free radicals we face come from UV rays (AKA sun damage) and air pollution, which can cause oxidative stress (an imbalance of antioxidants and free radicals in your body).

Here's where vitamin C comes in. When free radicals meet an antioxidant like vitamin C on the surface of your skin, the antioxidant neutralizes the reactive molecules, stopping them in their tracks and keeping your skin healthy. It basically works like an unseen superhero to ensure that those free radicals can’t spread damage throughout your complexion. Not only does this help reduce signs of aging and discoloration, but it also protects your skin against precancerous changes brought on by UV exposure.

You know how you automatically associate vitamin C with oranges? That’s because this skin-essential vitamin is most prevalent in fruits and veggies, but those nutrients don’t always make their way to the skin’s level by simply just enjoying them as a snack. That’s where topical vitamin C skincare products come into play—trust us, there are tons of reasons to incorporate them into your routine. The best part? The experts love the legendary ingredient just as much as you will.

3 Amazing Benefits of Vitamin C for Your Skin

1. Vitamin C Can Help Brighten Dark Spots

Unwanted dark spots and discoloration, whether they’re from aging, sun damage, or old breakouts (we’re looking at you, post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation), are the quickest way to dull your glow. Enter vitamin C. “Vitamin C removes the top layers of skin by weakening the lipids that bond them together,” says Dr. Engelman. It sounds intense, but it basically means vitamin C scrubs away dullness and discolored cells through chemical exfoliation to reveal a brighter, more even skin tone without the harsh physical effects that physical exfoliating scrubs and tools may have.

2. Vitamin C Defends Against Free Radical Damage

Not to put a damper on fresh air and sunshine, but both air pollution and UV rays create what are known as free radicals in your body. “Free radicals are highly destructive molecules that can wreak havoc on your skin,” says Dr. Engelman. “They are unstable and in search of a missing electron. When free radicals steal an electron from other molecules, it leaves them unstable in return.” This means those molecules are more susceptible to premature aging (both deep wrinkles and fine lines), hyperpigmentation, and uneven texture. Pretty much everything you don’t want for your skin. 

Don’t worry, we know staying inside isn’t an option (getting your vitamin D is just as important), so we have a solution: antioxidants, like vitamin C. The powerhouse ingredient is just as good at helping protect your skin cells from that free radical damage as it is everything else. If you’re already happy with your current skincare lineup (which better include a daily sunscreen for protection!), try working vitamin C into your routine through makeup.

3. Vitamin C Boosts Collagen Production

The same exfoliation properties that promote cell turnover to brighten your skin also lead to a boost in collagen production. Need a refresher? Collagen is the most abundant protein in the human body, and it’s what keeps your skin strong and plump. Problem is, as you age your collagen supply takes a hit, which can lead to sagging, less bouncy skin.

Vitamin C has anti-aging properties that can help. “It’s a highly acidic vitamin, so when you put it on, it tricks your skin into thinking it’s damaged,” says Dr. Engelman. “So your skin sends production into overdrive to restore collagen proteins to heal itself.” It’s the same general theory behind popular skincare procedures like microneedling and lasers—only on a much more approachable, at-home level.

How To Use Vitamin C In Your Skincare Routine

Incorporating vitamin C products into your skin routine is fairly easy as it can be applied topically either daily or every other day. Consistency is key with the C! However, there are a few caveats to be aware of. 

While there are many forms of vitamin C on the market, anything you use in your skincare routine will be applied topically, like a vitamin C serum. You can also give your skin a healthy dose of vitamin C by using a cleanser, mask, or toner that’s packed with the skin-saving antioxidant. “Applying vitamin C in the morning can help to fight free radical damage throughout the day and even help to supercharge your SPF,” says Anthony.

If you want to double up on the benefits, reach for a serum that incorporates both vitamin C and vitamin E. These antioxidants play nice with one another, and offer double the protection against free radical damage. 

Of course, as with any new addition to your skincare routine, it’s best to incorporate a new vitamin C product gradually to allow your skin to adjust. It’s also very powerful, so a little goes a long way. “With any active, you want to slowly introduce it into your routine, starting with two to three times a week, then working your way to daily use,” says Anthony, advising that starting off with high percentages might lead to unwanted irritation—especially for sensitive skin types. If you have inflamed acne, Anthony recommends skipping out on vitamin C until you’re in the clear, so as not to exacerbate the condition. Reach out to your dermatologist for more personalized guidelines about incorporating vitamin C in your skincare routine.

Our Favorite Vitamin C Skincare Products

1. Best Vitamin C Serum: INNISFREE Green Tea Vitamin C Serum

INNISFREE Green Tea Vitamin C Serum

When they say “brightening,” they really mean it! Green tea enzymes and vitamin C are the stars of the show in this serum, helping to exfoliate and brighten your skin. This gentle formula also features hyaluronic acid, niacinamide, and tangerine peel extract to help up the radiance even more.

2. Best Vitamin C Moisturizer: FIRST AID BEAUTY Brightening Cream With Vitamin C

FIRST AID BEAUTY Brightening Cream With Vitamin C

This light and refreshing gel-cream moisturizer is just what your skin ordered. Made with vitamin C, papaya, ginger extract, and peach micro-pearls, it delivers instant hydration to parched skin and leaves it with the most gorgeous glow.

3. Best Vitamin C-Infused Sunscreen: MURAD Essential-C Day Moisture Broad Spectrum SPF 30 PA+++

MURAD Essential-C Day Moisture Broad Spectrum SPF 30 PA+++

This SPF lotion makes it easy to protect your skin from damaging UVA and UVB rays. The lightweight texture is hydrating but not heavy, making it the perfect protective daily moisturizer for all skin types.

4. Best Vitamin C Eye Cream: SWEET CHEF Turmeric + Vitamin C Booster Eye Cream

SWEET CHEF Turmeric + Vitamin C Booster Eye Cream

Powered by a brightening and hydrating blend of turmeric, niacinamide, ginger, and vitamin C, this eye cream helps restore dull, tired skin to help make dark circles a thing of the past.

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About the author
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Maddie Aberman
Maddie is the senior manager of editorial at IPSY. She’s been covering beauty and wellness for more than nine years. Her work has appeared in Allure, Cosmopolitan, Popsugar, Women's Health, Good Housekeeping, and Seventeen, among other publications.
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Article Last Updated May 28, 2024 12:00 AM