5 skincare benefits of vitamin C: How it can help reduce signs of aging, heal skin, and more

insider@insider.com (Toketemu Ohwovoriole)
·5 mins read
vitamin c for the skin
Vitamin C helps heal damage from the sun.
  • Vitamin C for the skin can help lighten dark spots, reduce signs of aging, help with sun damage, minimize redness and inflammation, and help skin heal.

  • Vitamin C serums are great for anti-aging, because they can boost the production of collagen, which firms up the skin.

  • It is also an anti-inflammatory, which helps reduce redness in the skin.

  • This article was medically reviewed by Debra Jaliman, MD, a board-certified dermatologist with a private practice in New York City.

  • Visit Insider's Health Reference library for more advice.

Vitamin C is an antioxidant that can benefit all skin types and is one of the best vitamins for your skin. It has numerous benefits, including helping with anti-aging and reversing some of the damage done to your skin by radiation from the sun.

While there are plenty of vitamin C-rich foods, when it comes to your skin, applying topical vitamin C serums directly to your skin is the most efficient way to enjoy the benefits. 

Here's what vitamin C can do to even out your complexion and help you get clear skin

Lightens dark spots

Vitamin C helps lighten dark spots on the skin by restricting the enzyme responsible for the production of melanin.

Dark spots form due to an overproduction of melanin, a dark pigment, in your skin. This extra melanin production can be triggered by several things, including sun damage, pregnancy, taking certain medications, or aging.

Helps reduce signs of aging

Vitamin C also plays an essential role in the formation of collagen, which is a fibrous protein that helps form connective tissue in the skin. 

As the skin ages, collagen production decreases. This is what causes the skin to lose elasticity, and sag. While skin aging is inevitable, daily use of vitamin C can help boost collagen production and slow down the aging process. This boost in collagen helps firm up the skin and reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. 

To reduce signs of aging, it is particularly important to use a topical serum so that the vitamin C can reach the skin cells directly.

Helps with sun damage 

Ultraviolet radiation (UV) from the sun or tanning beds is one of the leading causes of skin cell aging and damage over time. When the sun strikes your skin, it forms what are called free radicals, which lead to skin damage. But vitamin C can help limit this damage due to its antioxidant properties. 

Antioxidants, like vitamin C, prevent cell damage by neutralizing free radicals from harmful effects like smoking and the sun. 

"Vitamin C works to bind these free radicals, and acts like little Pac-Men taking them out of circulation so that they can't do damage to the skin," says Suzanne Friedler, MD, a board-certified dermatologist and Clinical Instructor at Mount. Sinai Medical Center. 

It's important to know that vitamin C serums can't act as a replacement for sunscreen because it does not block and absorb the ultraviolet radiation from the sun. However, using a combination of both will provide your skin with ample protection against sun damage. 

Minimizes redness and inflammation 

Skin can get red and inflamed for many reasons including acne, sun damage, skin conditions like dermatitis, and allergic reactions to certain medications. 

"Vitamin C is an anti-inflammatory, which means it is meant to help reduce skin inflammation and redness," says Howard Sobel, MD a dermatologic surgeon at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York.  

"Anti-inflammatories are necessary for treating skin. And when used topically, like vitamin C, they can improve the skin's appearance by calming the redness down."

If your inflammation is caused by a skin condition like rosacea or dermatitis, it's advisable to start with a low concentration of around 10% to prevent your skin from becoming more irritated. 

Helps skin heal 

Vitamin C helps skin heal in several ways:

  1. When applied topically directly to the wound, it stimulates the production of collagen and elastin, Sobel says. This triggers the skin to heal itself. A 2017 study published in Translational Biomedicine studied the effect of applying vitamin C topically to 2nd-degree burns of 30 participants. Researchers observed that this caused a significant acceleration of the healing process. 

  2. Vitamin C boosts iron absorption, another nutrient necessary in wound healing.

  3. For people who are vitamin C deficient, taking 1000 milligrams of vitamin C supplements a day has been shown to drastically improve the healing of wounds.

How to use Vitamin C 

Topical formulations of vitamin C are available as a variety of creams, serums, and transdermal patches and come in different forms. The best vitamin C skincare products are serums that contain pure ascorbic acid, as it's most effective at penetrating the skin's barrier. 

Most vitamin C serums are available in concentrations of 10-20%. The higher the concentration, the more effective the serum is, but only up to 20%. 

It's advisable to do a patch test on your arm first if you have very sensitive skin. If no side effects occur after 24 hours then you can apply it on your face.

After cleansing, apply a topical vitamin C product, in the mornings. Follow this up with a moisturizer and a broad-spectrum sunscreen. 

It takes several weeks of continuous use to see the benefits of vitamin C on the skin, however, it is completely safe to use daily for long durations. It can also be safely used with other common topical anti-aging agents such as sunscreens, tretinoin, other antioxidants, and alpha-hydroxy acids such as glycolic acid. 

Takeaways 

Vitamin C has many skincare benefits. It has been shown to possess anti-inflammatory properties, prevent and repair sun damage, improve skin appearance, and boost collagen production. 

If you feel that you are not getting results with vitamin C or you are having adverse effects to any vitamin C serums, see your doctor. 

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