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Skin care enthusiasts tout vitamin C skin treatments and serums as having a range of benefits, such as balancing skin tone, reducing hyperpigmentation, and reducing the signs of aging.
Many manufacturers package vitamin C products as serums, which are thinner in consistency than lotions or creams.
This article will look at the various cosmetic benefits of vitamin C serums, as well as some potential side effects to consider.
According to the Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University, some of the antioxidant effects Vitamin C has on the skin include:
- reducing premature cell death
- reducing the release of cytokines, which are inflammatory compounds
- reducing damage resulting from exposure to ultraviolet (UV) light
While a person should not replace sunscreen with topical vitamin C for skin protection, applying topical vitamin C as well may help protect against harmful effects from the sun.
Vitamin C cannot reverse the appearance of wrinkles that develop naturally over time. However, vitamin C serums can help reduce premature aging by protecting the skin from the untimely skin wrinkles that sun exposure can cause.
Vitamin C also helps reduce premature wrinkling by stimulating the growth of collagen. Collagen is a protein that provides structure and elasticity to the skin.
A small scale study found that applying a 5% vitamin C solution for 6 months helped increase skin thickness compared with a placebo solution. Thicker, collagen-rich skin is less likely to show wrinkling than thinner skin.
Although the study enrolled only 60 participants, it shows promise in supporting vitamin C as a collagen booster.
Some people apply topical vitamin C to treat hyperpigmentation. These are areas of skin that appear darker than the surrounding area. Sun exposure or hormonal changes linked with aging usually cause these darker areas.
Researchers theorize that vitamin C may help reduce melanin production, according to the Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University.
Melanin is a pigment responsible for the darker appearance of hyperpigmented areas. By reducing its production, a person may help reduce the appearance of darker areas.
Manufacturers face some challenges when creating topical vitamin C applications because vitamin C can break down in the presence of factors such as air, heat, and light.
Some preparations contain ascorbic acid, which is the natural form of vitamin C. The skin absorbs ascorbic acid well, but it does not always work well when mixed with certain solutions. Ascorbyl palmitate has more stability when mixed with other solutions, but the skin absorbs it less effectively.
Skin care manufacturers package vitamin C into serums because it allows them to deliver higher vitamin C concentrations that the skin absorbs quickly.
Manufacturers traditionally formulate serums as water- or oil-based products that the skin can quickly absorb. Some manufacturers will encapsulate vitamin C so that it does not become exposed to the air until a person rubs it on their skin. This minimizes the time the vitamin C has to break down.
Most dermatologists recommend applying serums after cleansing the skin and before applying moisturizers. This allows the skin to most effectively absorb the serum.
Manufacturers may combine vitamin C with other known antioxidants to increase the serum’s effectiveness. Examples include vitamin E and ferulic acid. These ingredient combinations may work better together to help reduce and reverse signs of aging.
Vitamin C can be very acidic, and serums can cause skin irritation in some people, particularly in high concentrations. When using a vitamin C serum for the first time, apply a thin layer every other day and gradually increase to daily applications.
Also, combining vitamin C with retinol has the potential to irritate the skin further. If a person uses retinol in their skin care routine, they may wish to use vitamin C serum in the morning and any products that contain retinol at night. This method maximizes the sun-protective effect of vitamin C while minimizing retinol’s potential to increase sun sensitivity.
As with any skin care product, some people may experience side effects when using vitamin C serum. Some of the most common side effects include:
- skin irritation
- tingling sensation upon application
While some people might experience a slight burning or tingling sensation when using the serum, it should not last long. If a person experiences continued burning or signs of an allergic reaction, such as swelling or hives, they should immediately wash their skin to remove the serum.
Vitamin C serums have the potential to improve skin’s appearance by preventing wrinkling and reducing the appearance of hyperpigmented areas.
Many drugstores stock vitamin C serum. Alternatively, people can choose from a range of products online.
A person must apply vitamin C serums consistently over several months before they see results because it takes time for the skin cells to replenish.