We all know the importance of including enough vitamin C in our diets, but are you getting enough vitamin C in your skincare routine? Find out everything you need to know about vitamin C serum, and whether it can work for you.
What is it?
Vitamin C serum is one of the hottest products on the skincare scene right now. A powerful antioxidant, vitamin C has long been known for its ability to fight cell damage and premature ageing, which is just one of the reasons why it's important to include plenty of it in your diet. Vitamin C serums contain a form of vitamin C that can be easily absorbed by your skin, so you can make sure you’re getting enough of that anti-ageing magic exactly where you want it.
For maximum absorption, vitamin C serums should be applied right after you’ve washed your face, but before moisturising, preferably as part of your morning routine. Fans of vitamin C serum say that it leaves their skin brighter, smoother and more radiant, as well as reducing the appearance of fine lines, wrinkles and hyperpigmentation. After a few weeks, it may even start to improve skin elasticity and plumpness. But does it really work? And if so, how? We take a look at some of the science behind one of the beauty industry’s favourite anti-ageing products to find out.
How is it extracted?
Vitamin C is available in various different forms, and many serums don’t actually use its purest form (L-ascorbic acid). To make absorption possible, it needs to be dissolved in a ‘carrier’ liquid that will pass easily into the skin. Carriers can be water-based, which makes for a lighter serum, suitable for oily skins, or oil-based, which will provide extra moisture for dry and mature skins. Which type of carrier you use also determines the type of vitamin C you use, with water-based carriers requiring a form of vitamin C that dissolves in water (‘water soluble’), while oil-based carriers need one that dissolves in oil (‘lipid soluble’).
Making an effective vitamin C serum is actually pretty tricky, which is why home-made versions rarely work. Mixing the contents of a vitamin C capsule with water, as recommended by various online tutorials, is sadly doomed to failure, as the powder will simply re-crystalise on contact with the skin instead of being absorbed. Another problem is that vitamin C is an acid, and acids are highly reactive. Beauty labs can use microencapsulation technology to protect it from the elements, but without this, homemade serums will literally react with the air and spoil.
To learn more about vitamin C, check out our Food Mythbusters article, which has a rather unexpected answer to the question: ‘Are oranges high in vitamin C?’
Is vitamin C serum really good for your skin? The good news is that there is plenty of evidence to suggest it can be. Here are some of the benefits it is thought to provide.
It can help keep your skin hydrated
Magnesium ascorbyl phosphate, a type of vitamin C often used in skincare, has been shown to prevent water loss through the skin. This helps your skin to stay hydrated, making it smoother, softer and plumper.
It can even out skin tone
Vitamin C is an anti-inflammatory and has been shown to reduce skin redness. It can also impede the production of melanin, which helps to fade hyperpigmentation, including sun spots, age spots and melasma.
It can boost collagen production.
Vitamin C can help boost collagen production. Collagen helps your skin maintain its plumpness and elasticity, reducing under-eye circles, smoothing out fine lines, and having an overall tightening effect.
Natural alternatives from food
It might not be as immediate as a serum, but you can get all of these healthy skin benefits from eating a diet that’s rich in vitamin C. Try out some of these vitamin C superfoods and eat your way to radiant skin.
This Australian plum has the highest known vitamin C content of any foodstuff, at 5,300 mg per 100 grams. That’s 100 times as much as the average orange.
Also known as Barbados cherries, or West Indian cherries, these bright red fruits contain an impressive 913% of the recommended DV for vitamin C.
The fruit of the rose plant is another great source of vitamin C, with approximately 6 of these berry-sized fruits providing 132% of the DV.
Indispensable to those of us who love spicy food, the chilli pepper is also a great source of vitamin C. One green chilli pepper provides 121% of the DV, while one red chilli pepper yields 72%.
Now you can enjoy the sweet, tropical taste of guava while also knowing that you’re getting your vitamin C fix. An average-sized guava provides around 140% of the DV.
Sweet Yellow Peppers
Not all peppers are created equal when it comes to vitamin C content, with yellow peppers boasting double the amount found in green peppers, at 152% of the DV.
Just half a cup of these tasty little fruits provides 112% of the DV for vitamin C. They are also high in the antioxidant anthocyanin, which gives them their dark colouring.
Perhaps an unexpected entry on this list, thyme actually contains three times more vitamin C than oranges gram for gram. As little as a tablespoon serving can add 3.5 mg of vitamin C to your diet.
Another vitamin C rich herb, parsley provides 5.5% of the DV in every tablespoon.
Mustard spinach, or mustard greens, provide 117 mg of vitamin C, or 130% of the DV per cup, even after cooking.
Known for its high iron content, one cup of kale also provides 80 mg of vitamin C, or 89% of the DV.
This fruit salad favourite contains 71 mg of vitamin C, or 79% of the DV.
Like it’s cruciferous cousin kale, broccoli is a Vitamin C powerhouse, with just half a cup of cooked broccoli providing 51 mg of vitamin C, or 57% of the DV
Yet another cruciferous vegetable to make the list, cooked Brussels sprouts boast 49 mg, or 54% of the DV for vitamin C per half cup.
Given to 18th century sailors to prevent scurvy, lemons are perhaps a more obvious source of vitamin C, providing 83 mg of vitamin C per fruit, or 92% of the DV.
These little fruits are packed with vitamin C, with almost 7mg in every fruit, and 151% of the DV per one cup serving.
It may be less well known than it’s Japanese cousin, but the American persimmon contains almost nine times as much vitamin C, at 16.5 mg of vitamin C, or 18% of the DV.
Another tropical favourite, papayas contain 87 mg of vitamin C, or 97% of the DV, per one cup serving.
Strawberries are another great way to top up your vitamin C, with a one cup serving providing 89 mg of vitamin C, or 99% of the DV
Despite being widely considered as synonymous with vitamin C, oranges are by no means the best source. A medium-sized fruit provides a still-impressive 70 mg of vitamin C, or 78% of the DV, but there are many more foods that contain more vitamin C than an orange.