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It’s no secret that Vitamin C is a skin care superstar. This powerhouse ingredient is celebrated for its ability to deliver a brighter complexion, even out skin tone and diminish the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. Here’s everything you need to know about Vitamin C and how to add it to your skin care routine. 

What Is Vitamin C?

First things first: What exactly is Vitamin C? Also known as ascorbic acid, Vitamin C is a potent antioxidant that is necessary for the growth, development and repair of all body tissues - including the skin. As Eminence Organics Lead Skin Care Trainer Natalie Pergar tells us: “Vitamin C is an incredibly effective nutrient for your body and an all-around savior for skin care. It’s been found to help prevent UV damage, reduce pigmentation, reduce inflammation and boost collagen production in skin.” We cannot produce Vitamin C and our bodies don’t store it; therefore, we can only receive its benefits by ingesting it (think chewable vitamins and freshly-squeezed orange juice) or by applying it topically (cue Vitamin C in your favorite skin care serums and moisturizers). Popular sources of Vitamin C include:

  • Citrus fruits such as lemon, orange and grapefruit
  • Leafy greens such as kale, broccoli and spinach
  • Tomatoes
  • Strawberries
  • Rosehip oil
  • Seabuckthorn oil

Fights Free Radicals

Heidi Waldorf, MD describes free radicals as “anti-oxygen bombs that trigger inflammation and cascades of damage”. These highly unstable molecules are missing an electron and, in an attempt to stabilize, steal electrons from otherwise healthy cells. This type of attack changes cell composition and triggers oxidative damage that presents as dryness, irritation and premature aging. 

How can free radicals be stopped? Neutralize the “bomb” so to speak. Antioxidants donate an electron to free radicals before they can cause undue damage to the skin. Vitamin C is one such antioxidant that can neutralize and remove free radicals, thereby minimizing the visible impact of exposure to pollution, particulate matter and other types of environmental stress. 

Supports Skin’s Barrier Function

One of the ways Vitamin C benefits overall skin health is by supporting the skin’s barrier function. The lipid barrier is an essential part of the skin’s outer layer and is often likened to mortar, holding together the bricks that are your skin cells. When healthy, it acts like your skin’s security guard: It keeps in the good by helping skin retain moisture and keeps out the bad by denying potential irritants (like troublesome free radicals). Studies show that Vitamin C enhances the production of barrier lipids and, by extension, the skin’s ability to protect itself from transepidermal water loss, keeping it healthy, happy and hydrated.

Minimizes Fine Lines & Wrinkles

Collagen and elastin are frequent victims of free radical damage. These structural proteins are responsible for the density and bounce associated with a youthful complexion. When weakened, they are unable to provide much-needed structural support and, as a result, the visible signs of aging (including sagging skin and fine lines and wrinkles) begin to develop.

As an antioxidant, Vitamin C helps stave off the visible signs of aging caused by free radical damage. In fact, a 2007 study by the American Journal Of Clinical Nutrition found that women aged 40-74 who consumed high levels of Vitamin C appeared to have fewer fine lines and wrinkles and less overall dryness in their skin. 

Brightens Skin

Vitamin C’s antioxidant quality can also minimize the appearance of hyperpigmentation. When faced with stress, the skin defends itself by triggering cells called melanocytes to produce the pigment melanin. Vitamin C inhibits the function of tyrosinase, the enzyme that activates the skin’s melanocytes, thereby impeding melanin production and minimizing the appearance of dark spots and hyperpigmentation. This contributes to a brighter and more even-toned complexion.

Boosts Skin Cell Regeneration

Skin cell turnover is the process by which dead cells are shed from the skin’s top layer and new, fresh cells rise to the surface. One feature of healthy skin is its ability to efficiently turn over - a process that slows with age. With its acidic nature, Vitamin C is helpful in sloughing away dead and damaged skin cells, thereby speeding up the skin’s natural turnover process. This not only smooths skin texture, but also reduces dullness and minimizes the look of dark spots and hyperpigmentation.

Increases Collagen Production

In addition to extrinsic factors (like environmental stress), intrinsic - or biological - aging contributes to the decline of collagen. As you age, your skin’s stores of collagen naturally deplete and degrade, resulting in the visible signs of aging. Vitamin C not only activates the skin’s fibroblasts to produce new collagen, it also stabilizes the collagen you already have, helping skin stay firm, plump and youthful-looking for longer. 

Vitamin C Benefits For Skin

The benefits of Vitamin C for the skin are seemingly endless. One of its most important features is that it is able to mitigate skin problems before (and even after) they occur. According to Natalie: “One of the great things about Vitamin C is it both helps prevent and repair damage caused by our environment.” During the day, Vitamin C can provide additional protection against the aging effects of environmental stressors such as pollution, blue light and UV rays; at night, its rejuvenating properties can minimize the look of damage caused by free radical exposure.