When you look at the ingredients in the best skin care products, you are likely to see Vitamin C fairly often. Many best anti aging products for skin rejuvenation will include Vitamin C in large quantities – but do these products work? Is there any proof that Vitamin C and these products can help you fight against aging?

The answer is yes…and no.

You see, Vitamin C does have the ability, from a scientific standpoint, to help fight against wrinkles and actually rejuvenate your skin.

The problem?

It is that many of the products that include Vitamin C do not actually work because they don’t have been well formulated.

It is absolutely critical that you find a Vitamin C serum that is high quality, so you will get the results that you want – and you won’t be wasting your money.

When you look at the ingredients in the best skin care products, you are likely to see Vitamin C fairly often. Many best anti aging products for skin rejuvenation will include Vitamin C in large quantities – but do these products work? Is there any proof that Vitamin C and these products can help you fight against aging?

The answer is yes…and no.

You see, Vitamin C does have the ability, from a scientific standpoint, to help fight against wrinkles and actually rejuvenate your skin.

The problem?

It is that many of the products that include Vitamin C do not actually work because they don’t have been well formulated.

It is absolutely critical that you find a Vitamin C serum that is high quality, so you will get the results that you want – and you won’t be wasting your money.

WHY SHOULD YOU USE A VITAMIN C SERUM?

skin benefits from using vitamin C serums

What are the vitamin C serum benefits ?  Vitamin C is beneficial to your skin in different ways:

  • It improves your skin by making it firmer and younger looking. Vitamin C is a critical element in the formation of collagen, the protein that keeps your skin looking younger and suppler. Younger, firmer, and healthier skin comes when you add Vitamin C to the skin cells (fibroblasts) due to the increase in collagen synthesis. It won’t only help your skin now – it will help your skin stand the test of time.
  • It stops premature aging and wrinkling. Vitamin C gives you antioxydant protection from free radicals, rogue molecules that cause you to look older. Some of these free radicals include things that you can’t really protect your skin from, like pollution, oxygen, and sun damage. Vitamin C neutralizes these free radicals and creates a kind of barrier so that they cannot come into contact and hurt your skin.
  • It fades dark spots and brightens your skin. Topical Vitamin C serums brighten your age spots and help reduce the appearance of hyperpigmentation and discoloration, meaning they naturally lighten your skin, and help with pesky problems like age spots and dark circles. Ascorbic acid is known to inhibit synthesis of melanin (the pigment that gives skin and hair colour, too much of it leads to darker skin). In some cases, vit C can also prevent the redness that comes from sun damage.
  • It makes your sunscreen more effective and boosts your skin’s defence against UV exposure. Dr. Oz believes that Vitamin C serums can offer effective protection against harmful UV rays. However, it shouldn’t be used as a sunscreen and should instead be a supplement to another product. Vitamin C can also help after a sunburn, by repairing the damage and erasing discoloration and fine lines.

Incorporating Vitamin C into your daily skincare routine will keep you looking younger with firmer and fresher skin for longer.

VITAMIN C STABILITY ISSUES AND OXIDATION

Vitamin C serum unstabilityOne of the biggest issues facing manufacturers is that the natural form of Vitamin C, ascorbic acid, is unstable unless it is dry.

One way it becomes unstable is when it comes into contact with air or other oxidizing agents. This instability can cause the product to be ineffective and a waste of time. The Vitamin C may be oxidized, which at best could make the product useless and at worst could actually increase the number and formation of free radicals hurting your skin.

The first step in oxidation is that the ascorbic acid converts to dehydroascorbic acid, better known as DHAA. This might not be a problem because DHAA is the natural form of Vitamin C and can be converted into ascorbic acid in your body.

Unfortunately, that typically isn’t the end of the oxidation process. DHAA is just as unstable as ascorbic acid in water-based formulas, and it can degrade further into by-products that are not Vitamin C. (we won’t bother you with their complex names haha )

Further degradation of DHAA can lead to acids that make your skin serum more acidic, which can irritate your skin and lead to redness. Even more degradation, which leads to browning or yellowing of the product, can stain your clothing, bedding, and towels.

In old products or those that have been poorly stored or prepared, the Vitamin C may already be ineffective and degraded by the time you use it.

In reality, only highly concentrated formulas that contain 10{1e35c1693fa46bfa299623e1cddb4fa765bbcba505a6bf5a8d9ff9d2e14d7ebb} or more can deliver the adequate amount of ascorbic acid to be effective. Degraded products don’t have that amount and may not be as effective. In fact, like stated above, they can cause more headaches than they are worth. If you get a product that has a high amount of Vitamin C, even if some of it is degraded, you will still get a good dose of it. However, be careful because this could be irritating.

Vitamin C has quite a few issues that still need to be corrected by manufacturers. However, some have been able to solve that problem in a way that delivers the active form to our skin.

SOLUTIONS TO VIT C UNSTABILITY: ASCORBIC ACID DERIVATIVES

solution to vitamin C oxydation issuesAscorbic acid, which can also be known as L-ascorbic acid (L simply indicates that the active form is the L isomer, don’t worry, we won’t bother you with it), is one of the most researched form of Vitamin C when it comes to skincare.

Still, since you now know that Vitamin C is unstable due to oxydation, it is worrying that these products may not work.

Fortunately, manufacturers, scientists, and formulators came up with solutions.

They went back to the drawing board and created derivatives that would be more stable and cause less irritation.

The ideal Vitamin C derivative should be able to do the following:

  • Penetrate into your skin and release L-ascorbic acid in a strong enough amount to boost collagen formation.
  • Stay stable and not irritate the skin like Vitamin C.

Two compounds have been found, so far, that have been able to correct the problems and work for the skincare market:

ascorbyl palmitate and sodium ascorbyl phosphate (or you can also find magnesium ascorbyl phosphate)

There are a few others that are in testing, but haven’t really fully worked their way into products yet.

These derivatives really revolutionized the skincare world and help make products have longer shelf lives.

A number of skincare companies now use them, but many of them are quite expensive. However, there are some brands that are more affordable and as effective, as you can see from our Vitamin C serum comparison chart.( above)

ARE THE DERIVATIVES AS EFFECTIVE AS NATURAL VITAMIN C ?

vitamin C vs derivativesThe fast answer to that one is a resounding YES.

For the longer answer, you have to know a little about science.

Derivatives are Vitamin C that has a component (in this case phosphate or palmitate) added to it to help prevent the degradation of the pure Vitamin C.

To make it easier to understand, think of those components as bodyguards that will protect the vitamin C core from degradation.

As a result, they are more stable and less irritating to your skin while boosting collagen synthesis.

Each form has a range of benefits that are similar, ranging from skin repair and sun spot reduction to the elimination of dark marks and free-radical damage.

You should also keep in mind that even stabilized Vitamin C derivatives may sooner or later be degraded, though you will have more time with these reinforced products.

Yeah, even bodyguards are not bullet-proof (think of Kevin Costner in bodyguard movie with late whitney Houston)

So, our advice : don’t buy 5 containers of vitamin C serum because they are on sale and hope that they will still work 5 years from now – that only works for grandmothers!

HOW TO CHOOSE THE BEST VITAMIN C SERUM : 10 FACTORS

 

how to choose the best vitamin C serumThere are simply 10 criteria to take into account, that will help you pick the most suited vitamin C serum for your skin and your wallet

VITAMIN C FORM

Vitamin C formThere really isn’t a “best” form for Vitamin C because there hasn’t been that much research that shows which one is the most stable and still effective.

When you are looking for Vitamin C, you should stick to the derivatives or actives that are tested and proven to work, like:

Ascorbic Acid: Ascorbic acid has the most supporting research but it is also the most unstable and can be quite irritating at higher concentrations. However, if your skin can handle it, it is the go to active. Just make sure that the serum isn’t oxidized.

Still, most companies prefer to use the derivatives because they definitely have longer shelf life, which is critical for a cosmetics company.

Magnesium ascorbyl phosphate or Sodium ascorbyl phosphate: Magnesium ascorbyl and Sodium (pretty much the same) are water-soluble derivatives of Vitamin C that many believe to be the best form of Vitamin C for use in skin care products.

They believe this because it is less irritating and is more stable than Vitamin C. Even better, sodium ascorbyl (or magnesium) phosphate has the same potential as Vitamin C in helping with collagen synthesis while keeping the concentrations lower.

In the end, for those who have sensitive skin or don’t want redness, sodium ascorbyl phosphate is probably a better choice than ascorbic acid.

Still, sodium ascorbyl phosphate can still degrade when it isn’t stored properly or exposed to light and air. Following the “use by” dates on the packaging is a must to ensure your get a product that still “works”.

Ascorbyl palmitate: This form is the most frequently used fat-soluble (soluble in oils) derivative of Vitamin C in skin products.

It isn’t irritating to the skin and is far more stable than Vitamin C. Still, even if it has good antioxidant properties; it doesn’t boost collagen synthesis as much as other derivatives and Vitamin C does.

So, if you are going to choose an oil-based product that contains Vitamin C, you want to make sure that it has ascorbyl palmitate.

However, it won’t be nearly as effective as ascorbic acid, magnesium ascorbyl phosphate, or sodium ascorbyl phosphate.

New derivatives: These derivatives are to be avoided because there hasn’t been enough study into their benefits.

You might also find other derivatives such as tetrahexyldecyl ascorbate, which belong to the new derivatives that are slowly hitting the market.

If you remember what we said about derivatives, (check the paragraphs above), most vitamin C derivatives on the market, including ascorbyl palmitate and sodium ascorbyl phosphate, consist of the ascorbic acid fragment (ascorbyl) and a fragment of another acid (e.g. palmitate or phosphate).

These new derivatives have multiple chemical fragments that are bound to a single ascorbic acid fragment that protect against the core Vitamin C.

So, as you can guess, it is like having more bodyguards protecting the core vitamin C.

They are said to be more stable compared to the other derivatives and Vitamin C itself. Some of these newer derivatives (particularly the tetrasubstituted lipophilic ascorbates) are also said to be more powerful in boosting collagen synthesis. However, you will need to put out a little more cash, which might not be worth it just yet as we still haven’t found enough evidence or studies backing up those new derivatives.

To simplify it, if you have:

  • Normal or Oily Skin: use L-ascorbic acid
  • Dry or Sensitive Skin: Use sodium or magnesium ascorbyl phosphate to help avoid irritation and redness.

We will keep a close eye on the new derivatives and will update our article in 2016, so you can benefit from the most up to date information.

Note: there are of course other derivatives such as a Ascorbyl Glucosamine, Ascorbyl Glucoside etc… but they really lack studies to warrant use so stay away from those forms for the time being

WATER BASED SERUM OR OIL BASED SERUM

water based or oil based serumIf your read carefully our previous paragraph, you should be able to answer this question.

As you obviously want the most potent vitamin C serum, you will choose the most effective vitamin C forms :  the oil soluble vitamin C derivative is not as effective as the water soluble ones, so you should stick with a water based vitamin C serum.

You can also notice that all our top 3 vitC serums are water based because they definitely gave us better results. That is also why most vitaminC serums in the market are water based.

The other advantage?

These serums are much lighter and will be much easier to add in your skincare routine.

As a reminder, apply the serum right after washing your face so to let the serum sink in and give you optimum results.

PERCENTAGE OF VITAMIN C IN THE PRODUCT

Percentage of vitamin CThe percentage of vitamin C is a tricky factor for formulators (as was confirmed by our cosmetologist and formulator friend).

You do need a high amount of Vitamin C to boost collagen production and help with hyperpigmentation but too much can actually cause irritation and redness – and you don’t want to make people have the catch-22 or being wrinkly or red.

The goal is to find that just right spot – which can be harder than you think.

The amount that you should look for depends on whether you have the Vitamin C form or the L-ascorbic acid or the derivatives:

  • Ascorbic Acid: Look for 5-15{1e35c1693fa46bfa299623e1cddb4fa765bbcba505a6bf5a8d9ff9d2e14d7ebb} in the product
  • Magnesium Ascorbyl Phosphate or Sodium Ascorbyl Phosphate: Percentages between 1{1e35c1693fa46bfa299623e1cddb4fa765bbcba505a6bf5a8d9ff9d2e14d7ebb}-20{1e35c1693fa46bfa299623e1cddb4fa765bbcba505a6bf5a8d9ff9d2e14d7ebb} (remember that these derivatives are as effective in lower concentrations as ascorbic acid ).

Try to avoid pure Vitamin C form, like L-ascorbic acid, and work with a derivative around 1.5 or 3{1e35c1693fa46bfa299623e1cddb4fa765bbcba505a6bf5a8d9ff9d2e14d7ebb} for the first month. That was more than enough for their skin, which showed impressive results. Example here of vitamin c serum for sensitive skins.Word to the Wise: When you are using Vitamin C serums, and if your skin is pretty sensitive, you should consider starting at the lower end and work your way up to a higher concentration so that your skin isn’t put into shock. You could irritate your skin and make it red and inflamed. Your skin may dry out and peel, which is pretty much the opposite of what you want – dry skin can make you look wrinklier, as was the case for several of our readers and 2 of our testers with sensitive skins.

So the most important criteria is not the percentage but how much {1e35c1693fa46bfa299623e1cddb4fa765bbcba505a6bf5a8d9ff9d2e14d7ebb} of vitamin C your skin needs to get results and how much you skin can stand.

This is a really personalized product and you need to find the right one for you – there is no “one size fits all” option.

PH LEVELS

pH levelWhen trying to make a decision on what serum to buy, PH levels should be one of the most important things you consider. PH levels tell you how acidic the product is – the lower the pH, the more acidic the product is.

Now, many people will believe that stronger concentrations of L-Ascorbic means that the product is superior to something with a lesser amount, but that isn’t necessarily the case. The serum should have a pH level of 3.5 max (preferably lower), or it won’t be able to penetrate the skin – which is why it needs to be acidic in order to be effective, but also why it can be an irritant for some people.

Skinceuticals is the one that holds the patent for the lowest CE Ferulic serum available on the market, it has a pH between 2.5 and 3.0. Some of the more affordable brands aren’t that far above them though, with pH levels ranging from 3.0 to 3.5.

They can’t make it the same because it will violate the patent – but it is still low enough to be effective.

As for the derivatives, the pH problem doesn’t hurt as much because they can go for a more neutral pH.

For example, magnesium ascorbyl phosphate has an ideal pH around 5 or 6, which is the pH of our skin. This is why some serums that use Vitamin C derivatives will come with a sensitive skin label.

  • Serums that have ascorbic acid: ideal pH of around 2.0 to 3.0, which can be irritating for those with sensitive skin.
  • Serums that have sodium ascorbyl phosphate: ideal pH of around 5.0 to 7.0, which should not affect sensitive skin.

Many brands have a problem with pH, it would seem in our testing. The products weren’t well formulated and the pH was not within the ideal range for the best penetration of ascorbic acid. That’s why some people find vitamin C serums ineffective; they probably came accross a bad formulated serum to start with. Obvioulsy, we did not keep those useless serums in our top 3.


additional ingredientsBETTER INGREDIENTS FOR EFFECTIVE TEAM WORK

Vitamin C by itself can help your skin, but there is a reason that many of the best products have more than one thing in it.

You can’t use one thing and expect miracles, just like you can’t eat a diet of only kale and expect to be healthy…or happy.

You need a little more help, which is why it is good to go for a product that has other benefits or beneficial ingredients.

Look for products that offer tons of antioxidants, especially if you are trying to avoid aging.

In some combinations, antioxidants can strengthen each other and go above and beyond what they can do alone.

SkinCeuticals does this with their products, combining Vitamin C with the antioxidant ferulic acid and Vitamin E. You will find that the best serums do combine ingredients that will work as a team to give you better skin.

One of those additions could be hyaluronic acid, which helps to deliver moisture, which can reduce wrinkles.

You could also look for aloe vera, green tea, rosehip, and/or ferulic acid.

Having more won’t hurt your skin; at worst it just won’t help it, so look for a product that will be able to deliver on more than one front.

Update: You can find serum with 20{1e35c1693fa46bfa299623e1cddb4fa765bbcba505a6bf5a8d9ff9d2e14d7ebb} of L-ascorbic acid,( the most irritant form) but the percentage of vitamin C is not the only criteria to check, I definitely prefer less vitamin C, like 15{1e35c1693fa46bfa299623e1cddb4fa765bbcba505a6bf5a8d9ff9d2e14d7ebb} of vitamin C if it means getting several other potent actives in the same serum that will boost the vitamin C action.

Remember also as we mentionned it previously, the higher percentage of vitamin C ( L- ascorbic form), the more irritant it can be…. So I know we all want the most effective serum but if you burn your skin… it is not really what you want. So be moderate and build up from there.

Keep in mind that usually,

  • The more vitamin C in the serum, the less other actives manufacturers will add. (to keep the production cost moderate)
  • The less vitamin C, the more other actives manufacturers will add. ( as they have more margin to add other pricey actives)

Of course, the choice will depend on whether you use other serums or not in your skincare routine. If you only use one serum, it is usually a good move to use a serum with a blend of super actives (vitamin C, acid ferulic etc..). If you use other serums, you can pick the serum with 20{1e35c1693fa46bfa299623e1cddb4fa765bbcba505a6bf5a8d9ff9d2e14d7ebb} L-ascorbic acid as you will bring other actives in the battle against wrinkles with your other serums 🙂

SKIN TYPES

skin typesEveryone has different skin types, from oily to natural to dry – and many of us have all three types at once.

Some people will have better results with Vitamin C derivatives while others will prefer to use the L ascorbic form – it is really a testing game until you find the one that works best for you.

If you have sensitive skin, a product with a high level of ascorbic acid might harm your skin and you should aim to work with a milder option.

Some people will be able to use only a little at a time and work up to the stronger levels, while others will be able to use the stronger products from the start. If you are having problems, a useful tip would be to start by applying the product every other day and work up from there.

Go by this rule of thumb when you are just starting out:

  • Normal or Oily Skin: use L-ascorbic acid
  • Dry or Sensitive Skin: Use sodium or magnesium ascorbyl phosphate to help avoid irritation and redness.

colored productsAVOID COLORED PRODUCTS

When you search for products that have Vitamin C or any derivatives, try to find a product that is white or colourless.

Any colouring in the product could hide the signs of oxidation that render the product less effective.

You want to be able to see a yellowish or brownish tint.

Of course, a lack of tint does not guarantee that your product is free from oxidation as the early oxidation stages are colorless….

Some unethical manufacturers (they do exist..) will even add colour to their products so that you can’t spot the oxidation status – so they can even sell oxidised products without you knowing it. ( and they can hide the ugly truth )

However, some only do this for marketing reasons – people equate orange or yellow with Vitamin C, so they tint it that so it looks better.

Still, we recommend you avoiding vitamin C products that aren’t colorless or white.

That way, you will be able to check the degradation status and as a result the effectiveness of your antiaging – product

PACKAGING AND STORAGE

packagingProducts that contain Vitamin C and its derivatives have sensitivity to air and/or light that makes their quality degrade at a faster rate if they are stored incorrectly.

Companies do their best in trying to create packaging that helps keep the products fresher for a longer time, they use opaque tubes, pumps, or air restrictive bottles.

You will usually find amber dropper bottle or blue colored dropper bottle, which enables to protect the serum from light. (For your information, amber colored glass is said to protect a little more from light than blue colored glass, but the difference is not that important).

What you must remember is to avoid transparent bottles (they cost way less for the manufacturer but it means for your Vit C serum a shorter shelf life….)

Yet, to get the best results out of your product, make sure that you close them tightly to reduce the amount of air that can get in and place them away from light.

Try to avoid exposing them to humidity – which means you shouldn’t store it in your bathroom. Many people like to store anti-aging products with Vitamin C in the refrigerator! If that doesn’t sound appealing, wrapping them in aluminium foil can help.

Once again, make sure that you note the “use by” date on the packaging – they will be your best indicator of whether or not the product still has a change of being effective.

BRAND REPUTATION

brand reputationYep, would you buy a product from an unethical brand that does not take customer service seriously?

Would you even think of spending your money on a company that don’t respect you as a customer?

You should also definitely check the brand reputation, check whether the brand is known for selling scams or fake serums.

There are unfortunately thousands of crappy brands in the Internet selling you bottles of water with a simple gelling agent to make a serum that they would market as vit C serum.

When customers start to complain, they simply take the money and shut down everything. Then, They can create another brand and rinse and repeat….

I know it sucks but that is the bad aspect of Internet. As we told you, you will find thousands of vit C serums brands on amazon or other big e commerce websites, they all claim to be the best serum on earth 😉

We bought many serums to test, and were really shocked by some brands selling crap so the big lesson to remember is to be critical….

Keep also in mind our reviews don’t necessarily mean, your will get the exact same results as our reviewers. We all have different skin. That’s why we usually like to give you the criteria and elements to know so you can better choose the most suited serum for your specific case.

PRICING

pricingThe pricing of Vitamin C products can vary greatly.

Some of the best products from Skinceuticals are a luxury item while other brands are far more affordable. Of course there are a ton of products that fall right in the middle.

Skinceuticals products are great, but they might not be worth the money (30 ml bottles for $100-120) unless you have tons to spend and use $1 bills in the bathroom. You can definitely find cheaper serums that are as effective. Yeah, you know we like to get our money’s worth.

On the other side, you also have the serums that cost $5 and swear to be the end of all your skin problems. Those brands are created everyday, which proposes serums for $ 5 with 20{1e35c1693fa46bfa299623e1cddb4fa765bbcba505a6bf5a8d9ff9d2e14d7ebb} of vitamin C + 10{1e35c1693fa46bfa299623e1cddb4fa765bbcba505a6bf5a8d9ff9d2e14d7ebb} of hyaluronic acid, + many other actives that are pricey

You look at the ingredients and see all of the buzzwords, so you think it has to be a miracle.

Well, just like fake designer bags on Canal Street, these products tend to fall apart at the seams and not offer the results you’ve been dreaming of. Some of those products might claim that they are 20{1e35c1693fa46bfa299623e1cddb4fa765bbcba505a6bf5a8d9ff9d2e14d7ebb} Vitamin C, when you open them up and get a ton of water, you will realize pretty quickly that it isn’t.

If the brand Skinceuticals sets the stand for the best Vitamin C serums, but you don’t want to spend that much, you really should be looking at other brands that offer comparable luxury and clinically proven ingredients but without the high price tag..

To sum it up, you can definitely find a good serum that will deliver somewhere in the $20-$70 range. Take advantage of sales and seasonal deals, as they pop up quite frequently.

When shopping, make sure you check those 10 simple things and you will be able to find the product that is best for you.CONCLUSION

Remember that even if you are using an optimal formulation, some people might not see the results. Not everyone will respond to these products and only about 80{1e35c1693fa46bfa299623e1cddb4fa765bbcba505a6bf5a8d9ff9d2e14d7ebb} of people show noticeable improvement.

If you use a conventional Vitamin C (l-ascorbic acid) product and don’t see noticeable results, you might want to switch to something with its derivatives like sodium magnesium ascorbyl phosphate, ascorbyl palmitate, and others. You may also need to experiment with application, time of day, and even where you store your product.

So if the serum you picked doesn’t work, try another derivative based serum.

Out of 8 people, 5 got great results with l-ascorbic acid, 3 could not stand the acidity and had to stick to sodium ascorbyl phosphate but still got awesome results as well. Even our reviewer with super sensitive skin got awesome results.

So, it is definitely a trial an error journey 🙂 We promise the result is worth it. Great skin is something you get by taking action 🙂

Let us know what your results are, we would really love to hear about them.

In the meantime, stay awesome 🙂