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  • Diana O'Donnell

What You Need to Know About Vitamin C Serum

In the skin care world, Vitamin C has superhero-level status. This much-loved ingredient is one of the few that not only effectively repairs major, common skin problems, it protects the skin as well. Another plus, it’s indicated for virtually all skin types. Vitamin C can help you combat everything from fine lines & wrinkles, to redness and dark spots. It can add hydration to the skin, protect it from environmental damage and even target acne.


Let’s look at some of the different forms of Vitamin C used in skin care:

L-ascorbic Acidalso known as pure Vitamin C, is the most widely researched, is known to be the strongest and is the most effective at penetrating the skin barrier. This means it is also the most sensitizing, so you need to take care when choosing a strength if you’re sensitive. L-ascorbic Acid has enormous anti-aging benefits, especially for those who have normal to oily skin. Known for being an unstable, finicky ingredient – the right packaging is key. Too much exposure to air and sunlight can render your C serum useless fairly quickly.


Tetrahexyldecyl Ascorbate is a stable form of Vitamin C is fat soluble, and known for being able to penetrate the skin faster and more deeply than other forms of C. meaning it can penetrate deeply and effectively into your skin.


Magnesium Ascorbyl Phosphate (MAP) is a stable, water soluble Vitamin C derivative. MAP is effective in brightening hyperpigmentation at lower concentrations than Ascorbic acid. So, for those with sensitive skin it may be the preferred choice.


Sodium Ascorbyl Phosphate tends to have a neutral pH along with acne-inhibiting effects. It is known to be more stable than some of its counterparts, and because it’s less potent than other forms of vitamin C, it’s generally regarded as safe for all skin types. SAP pairs well with other antioxidants, such as Vitamin E.


What Does Vitamin C Do For the Skin?

In short, a high quality Vitamin C serum that’s right for your skin type is one of the most powerful anti-aging tools money can buy. It can smooth fine lines, trigger the production of collagen, brighten hyperpigmentation and destroy the free radicals that our skin is bombarded by every single day.


How Do You Use Vitamin C?

Vitamin C is pretty needy. When you use Vitamin C, you must apply it first thing after cleansing. Use it in the morning only if you use retinol or products that contain acids as they don’t mix with C.


Packaging is Key When it Comes to C

Since Vitamin C can be so unstable, even a quality product can quickly oxidize and go bad if exposed to sunlight and too much air. Look for C serums packaged in containers with an airless pump or in a colored glass bottle.


Which Concentration is Best For Your Skin?

If you’re brand new to using Vitamin C, or if you have sensitive skin, it’s probably best to start out with a lower concentration such as 10%. Especially if the serum contains the very potent L-Ascorbic Acid. 10%-20% can offer visible results within a few weeks to a few months. Redness is soothed more quickly, whereas lightening areas of hyperpigmentation and fading of fine lines can take a bit longer. Remember, Vitamin C is not something you use once in a while. It should be a daily part of your skin care routine for years to come. Used faithfully, it will slow your visible aging process and reward you with more youthful, healthy and glowing skin.


My Holy Grail Vitamin C Serum: OBAGI Professional-C Serum

After many years of trying seemingly every Vitamin C serum on the market, my serum of choice is Obagi Professional-C Serum. Available in 3 strengths, there’s truly one for virtually every skin type. Sensitive skin? Start out with Professional-C 10% ($89). Normal/Combination skin but never used C before? Go for 15% ($107). If you do well with 15%, bump up to Professional-C 20% Serum ($133). Resilient, non-reactive or oily skin types can generally head straight to 20%. For an extra-strength boost and to speed up your results, try Obagi Professional-C™ Microdermabrasion Polish + Mask. At 30% L-Ascorbic Acid, it packs a whole lot of anti-aging results in one treatment and I absolutely love it! It is seriously one of my favorite skin care products of all time.

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