Vitamin C: Skin Brightener, Protector, and Fighter of Fine Lines

If I had a time machine, I would go back and tell my 20-year-old self to wear sunscreen. Going to the beach with my friends during the summer has left me with great memories in my mind and brown spots on my face. Lasers have helped, but my daily workhorse treatment has been a Vitamin C serum.

I have been using Vitamin C ever since Dr. Z suggested it a decade ago.  It has many skin benefits including brightening and fighting off lines and wrinkles. As an antioxidant, Vitamin C prevents free radicals from damaging the skin.  It blocks production of abnormal pigmentation, so it can lighten dark spots.  Finally, it helps our skin cells make new, healthy collagen.

In my investigations, I have learned that not all Vitamin C serums are created equally.  In fact, Vitamin C is a temperamental ingredient and is easily inactivated by light or the wrong pH. That is why the products come in dark glass or opaque bottles.  Some contain pure Vitamin C, aka ascorbic acid, and others contain versions of Vitamin C that are made more stabilized, like ascorbyl glucoside.  Some contain Vitamin C alone, and others combine it with other antioxidants like Vitamin E to give a greater effect in the skin.

I apply a Vitamin C serum every morning under my sunscreen to protect my skin from the damage of the day.  Whether it is UV light, pollution, or exposure to cigarette smoke, I feel like free radical danger is lurking behind every corner!

Here are some of the formulations I have recently tried:

1. Skinceutical Phloretin CF Gel, $166.
I love this product for the spring and summer because it is light and does not weigh down the skin.  It comes in a convenient metal pump dispenser so there is no risk of spilling or breaking the bottle.  It is a combination of Vitamin C, along with phloretin (an apple tree extract) and ferulic acid (another antioxidant botanical extract.)

2. Drunk Elephant C-Firma Day serum, $80.
I love that as a brand, Drunk Elephant uses all natural ingredients in all of their products.  Their Vitamin C serum is no different.  It combines Vitamin C with ferulic acid and Vitamin E.  It is actually loaded with sodium hyaluronate (almost the same as hyaluronic acid) to hydrate the skin, and it makes the serum a bit lighter than some other products on the market with similar ingredients.)  Plus I am in love with the packaging.

3. PCA Skin C&E Strength Max, $99
This is the most unique Vitamin C product I have seen on the market.  Unlike the amber colored, drippy solutions, this one is actually like a cream.  Yes, Vitamin C in a cream.  It is what they call an "anhydrous formulation" which means that it is water free, allowing it to be made into a creamy formula and making it more stable.  Plus it has a super fresh cirtrus smell.

4. Isdin Flavo C, $84 From your local Dermatologist
Vitamin C serums normally have a very pale yellow color and turn orange when they go bad. But this serum actually comes orange to begin with, so don't worry when you open the bottle. Different from other Vitamin C serums, this one is made with gingko extract which gives it a stinky smell, but it is worth it for the extra stability it gives the Vitamin C to work harder.


5. Boots No7 Lift & Luminate Triple Action Serum, $33.99
This serum is different from many others in that rather than just being an antioxidant, it contains skin firming peptides.  So at the same time, it can help brighten and tighten.  It is extremely light, drying weightless on the skin, so you don't even know anything is there.  

6. CosRx Triple C Lightning Liquid, $27
This K-beauty serum contains a high concentration (20.5%) of pure vitamin C, higher than most products I have found on the market.  It has a low pH of 3, which keeps the Vitamin C fresh and uses a botcanical extract called black chokeberry to stabilize the Vitamin C. It dried well on the skin and did not irritate my face, despite the highly concentrated formula. Plus, at $27 it is a steal.


7. Biossance Squalene and Vitamin C Rose Oil
Formulated with an potent version of vitamin C called Tetrahexyldecyl Ascorbate, this serum also contains skin hydrating squalene and soothing rose oil.  It is definitely a heavier product than some of the other Vitamin C products I tested, but dried nicely and did not leave my face greasy. Even if you you have dry or sensitive skin, this one may work for you.


Antioxidant Serums are not cheap, but I feel they help maintain my clear skin and make the effects of my laser treatments last longer. So they are #TheDermWifeApproved