Vitamin C, as we all know, is a water soluble vitamin produced by our body naturally. Also called the immunity booster, it has now catapulted to limelight for its youth-preserving and glow enhancing benefits. If you’ve been in the beauty and skincare world for a long time, you’d be well informed about how much celebrities sing praises of this wonder vitamin. It’s reportedly also a favourite of Janhavi Kapoor, and oh how we would love to emulate her flawless and bright complexion!

There’s a lot of information online and someone who might be just initiating themselves into the world of vitamin C might get overwhelmed with the overload. So here’s us, tackling the world of vitamin c for you, bit by bit. Let’s get started!

What is Vitamin C? Why do we need it?

Vitamin C has been long considered a vital nutrient for the growth of skin and bones, and maintaining and boosting our immunity. Our body does produce vitamin C naturally but is unable to store it, which is why a diet high in this vitamin is almost always advised to us. It helps metabolise proteins and is an antioxidant that protects us from free radical damage of the environment around us. It is found most commonly in citrus fruits like lemons, limes, oranges, strawberries, etc.

Vitamin C boosts the production of collagen in our body – again, a type of protein we naturally produce to maintain the flexibility, suppleness, strength and reparative abilities of our muscles and bones. This is where vitamin C steps in as a crucial element in skin care – our skin needs an abundance of collagen as well to grow, repair, rebuild and contain the “youthfulness”. As we grow older, the collagen bonds in our body become weaker, which results in sagging skin, dullness and wrinkles,a does the production of Vitamin C get lower and slower. Therefore, it is always a good idea to supplement the natural levels of vitamin c in our skin, which in turn, helps produce collagen.

What does Vitamin C do for our skin?

Vitamin C is a holy grail for a lot of skincare enthusiasts and dermatologists alike and plays a pivotal role in preserving the “youth” of our 20s. It is a crucial agent for anti-aging, fading acne scars, reducing sun damage, helping with hyperpigmentation and melasma, and maintaining the tautness of the skin surface. Vitamin C is also known to enhance or boost the effects of your sunscreen and prevent harmful effects of UV rays.

It repairs skin by instigating collagen production and thus improving skin cell turn-over, which basically means that new skin cells get produced at a faster rate and replace older or dead skin cells. This is also how it reduces dullness of the complexion and acts almost like a “filler” for saggy skin. Vitamin C helps in the tyrosinase inhibition of melanin pigment – in crude words, vitamin C helps to fade brown spots caused by sun damage or photo-aging without altering the actual colour of your complexion.

Now for the million dollar question – How do you choose and include vitamin C in your skincare regime?

  • pH of Vitamin C – Let’s go back to 7th grade. We know whatever we put on our skin, along with our skin itself, has a pH. The ideal situation in skincare is to go from a gentler to a stronger pH. Basically, lower acidity to a higher acidity. [Quick high school lesson – a low pH number means higher acidity, and a higher number means great alkalinity]
  • If you go from a higher pH to lower (basically a lower number to higher) then you’re possibility neutralising the effects of the skincare step with a lower acidity. [Easy way to remember – higher acidity trumps lower acidity, therefore, lower acidity first, higher later].
  • A good vitamin C serum should be at around 2.5-4 pH, and 3.5 is usually considered best. Anything above 4 will not show results that you want.
  • Percentage of Vitamin C – Ideally vitamin C in skincare starts at about a percentage of 0.6. It ranges from 5-20% on an average. The higher the percentage, the quicker the results – but also, a higher chance of irritation, especially if your skin has not developed an adaptability to vitamin C or acids. Start with something mild like the Body Shop Vitamin C Glow Boosting Cream, or the Klairs Freshly Juiced Vitamin Drop. One thing to remember – too high a percentage and it probably doesn’t make a lot of difference. Anything above 20% will yield similar effects as a 30 or 40% strength.
  • Derivative of vitamin C –Here’s a handy dandy map below to explain it better to you. A rule of thumb is to stick to L-ascorbic acid or LAA (which is the purest form of vitamin c that is also the most popular derivative found in skincare) if you have normal to oily skin. If you have sensitive, dry skin or are a beginner, try to stick to something like sodium or magnesium ascorbyl phosphate.
  • Water soluble vitamin c derivative is generally better than fat/oil soluble one. Smaller molecules usually mean deeper penetration into the layers of skin, and hence, quicker results. Powder form of vitamin C is also better than that liquid form, as these can be mixed into cleansers, serums, moisturisers to get better benefits and are not as predisposed to oxidisation either.
  • Try using it more during daytime as it can boost the effects of your sunscreen and give you better protection from UV rays.
  • Be careful about vitamin C and storage. It is notoriously unstable, meaning, it oxidises very quickly if not stored well. Go for a pump, if you have to, and try to look for a pale yellow to transparent shade of serum. Vitamin C oxidises to a yellow, then orange, then brown and eventually to black. The lighter the colour, the better it is. If you find a serum in transparent bottle, store it in an airtight, low light and cool place. Vitamin C is photoreactive and breaks down easily in the presence of heat or light. It is also odorless, or with a slightly citric scent (if any additional fragrance has not been added to it), and if it smells sour or funky, throw it away. Do not use.
  • There are some things that when used in tandem with a Vitamin C, or formulated together, will amplify the effects of the serum. An antioxidant like ferulic acid, or vitamin E will stabilise vitamin C, and hyaluronic acid in the serum will make it more moisturising. Niacinamide, retinols, and AHA/BHA (lactic acid, salicyclic acid, glycolic or mandelic acid, etc) are strictly not to be mixed with Vitamin C. These compounds have either a higher acidity which can neutralise the effects of your vitamin C step, or can react into compounds that will be harmful to your skin.

Okay – Understood. Now where can I buy these serums?

As always, we at Lilimag have got your back. So here’s a list of all the Vitamin C serums you can find readily available to you. Now that your lesson is over, go drink from the fountain of youth!

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