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Vitamin C is, hands-down, one of the most effective ingredients you can add to your skincare routine. That’s why it’s one of our core eight ingredients - or our “Eight Saints.”
That said, it’s also a difficult ingredient to get right. A lot of companies either don’t have high enough concentrations of this active ingredient, don’t have the right form of vitamin C, or haven’t formulated it in a stable way… and that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
Here are 5 important things to keep in mind when choosing your vitamin C products.
There are lots of forms of vitamin C out there, and you need to understand the differences before you can choose the right one for you.
Broadly speaking, there’s water-basedvitamin C and anhydrousvitamin C (which literally translates to “without water"). Water-based forms - the most popular of which is ascorbic acid (or L-ascorbic acid) - are more unstable and light-sensitive, and they’re typically housed in opaque or amber colored bottles as a result.
Now, there are pros and cons to pure ascorbic acid.
On one hand, this very pure, bioactive form is the most studied form of vitamin C in a skincare context, and it’s proven to be extremely effective at penetrating the skin barrier and increasing vitamin C levels deep within the skin. When properly formulated at a pH lower than 4, it’s also shown to create younger-looking, firmer feeling skin while fading uneven skin tone and dark spots.
But, if you notice, there are a lot of ifs here:
Anhydrousvitamin C, on the other hand, which usually has derivatives, are generally more stable - even in the presence of sunlight, and they work well without causing irritation.
You’ll find it in our products - including Cloud Whip everyday brightening moisturizer and Seeking C concentrated treatment - as Sodium Ascorbyl Phosphate (SAP). This is one of the most stable derivatives of vitamin C - it’s light, oxygen, and water-stable - meaning it will not oxidize over time and become ineffective.
SAP can easily penetrate the skin, unlike ascorbic acid which is not easily absorbed. We’ve fine-tuned the balance of vitamin C - enough to boost collagen production but not too much to cause redness and irritation.
In other words, it ultimately provides all the benefits of L-ascorbic acid (albeit at a lower potency) without the stability and irritation risks. This makes it more suitable for dry or sensitive skin types (while L-ascorbic is generally only appropriate for oily skin).
Again, you won’t have to worry about this with a vitamin C derivative like SAP, but if you choose a product with L-ascorbic acid, you’ll have to pay a lot of attention to make sure it hasn’t gone bad.
Again, L-ascorbic serums need to be stored in a dark place and in a dark bottle. The bottles should also be airtight.
The products themselves - particularly if you choose a serum - should be clear or lightly straw-colored. If they’re exposed to light, they will oxidize and begin to turn yellow or even brown. At that point, they’re likely unstable and they may actually darken your skin rather than effectively brightening any pigmentation issues.
The next thing you should pay attention to is the concentrationof the product you use.
Now, you’ll find quite a big range here - everything from 1% up to 20% and beyond. You’ll see faster results with higher concentrations, though there’s not much improvement once you get beyond 20%. That said, you’ll also see significantly more side effects once you use concentrations higher than 10%.
That’s why you should steer clear of higher concentrations if you’re first trying a vitamin C product, particularly if you have dry or sensitive skin since higher concentrations are generally better tolerated by those with oily skin or extensive pigmentation concerns.
If you choose this kind of product, start off with a concentration at around 5% and try to gradually increase the dose as your skin adapts.
That said, these doses are unnecessary for consistent, gradual results. If you want a more stable form, just look for products - like Seeking C concentrated serum - that have vitamin C as the top ingredient on the label. Seeking C also has vitamin dandelion, jojoba, and vitamin E to detox skin, strengthen its natural barrier, and double-time antioxidant effects.
There are two ingredients you should never mix with vitamin C: benzoyl peroxide and retinol.
Benzoyl peroxide, for one, can oxidize the vitamin C on your skin and make it less potent. That said, it doesn’t mean that you can’t use benzoyl peroxide products at all if these are already a part of your routine. Just make sure you don’t use benzoyl peroxide and vitamin C at the same time.
Similarly, retinoids and vitamin C work best in “different skin environments,” meaning that using them at the same time can make both ingredients less effective. Plus, they can have similar benefits to the skin, and the duplication is largely unnecessary - it will just lead to more irritation on the skin.
On the flip side, there are many complementary ingredients that can further help your skin or even make vitamin C more effective.
So what about when you find the right vitamin C product for you? Even then, there are a few tips you can follow to make it most effective for you.
Morning and evening application is best, particularly if you’re using a more gentle SAP product like Cloud Whip, which is appropriate and safe for consistent use.
That said, if you had to choose, you’ll get more benefit from using them in the morning. You’re going to be exposed to more UV radiation throughout your day, and it’ll provide more proactive protection against free radical damage during those hours.
Finally, make sure that you’re applying your products in the correct order if you really want to get the most out of them. If it’s a serum, you want to apply to freshly cleansed skin before you moisturize. Moisturizers should be the final step of your routine.
Ready to get started with some skin-saving vitamin C and complementary ingredients? You can find everything you’re looking for - without committing to a full-sized product - in our Discovery Kit. Here’s to happy, glowing skin!