It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that the Vitamin C serum hype train is charging ahead. Literally every major cosmetics brand has a Vitamin C serum on their roster. And if we were to go by popularity alone, this one product could be called a skincare must have.
But, must your skincare regimen have a Vitamin C serum? The answer, interestingly, is more nuanced than you’d expect. Is Vitamin C good for your skin? The consensus is definitely in its favour. In fact, I’ll admit right off the bat, that I do use a Vitamin C serum. In fact, I even have a list of favourites. And, a particular entry on that list is a bit of a staple for me. But, when you go down the rabbit hole of Vitamin C in skincare, you’ll see that all is not as it seems.
Or at least, there is a lot more to the story.
The Potential Benefits Of Using A Vitamin C Serum
So let’s start with the good. Vitamin C in its pure form, as L-ascorbic acid has shown to be very beneficial for the skin. It is touted to be a pretty versatile active ingredient, that can help with a number of skin concerns.
Vitamin C has been shown to reduce dullness, and even out the complexion. Thus, the regular use of Vitamin C serum could potentially encourage a natural glow in the skin.
Vitamin C has been known to boost collagen production and thus reduce signs of ageing. As such, Vitamin C serums are marketed as treatments for various signs of aging like fine-lines wrinkles etcetera. Vitamin C can also help with under-eye discolouration.
Vitamin C use has been shown to slow-down melanin production, which can reduce the appearance of hyper-pigmentation. Thus, the ingredient is often used as an anti-pigmentation treatment for acne scars, and the like.
As an antioxidant, Vitamin C can help reverse damage caused by free radicals. Thus, it can reverse signs of oxidative stress, and can help with sun damage. As a mild exfoliant, it also helps increase cell turnover, and can help with sunburns.
So slight segway, because this perk is actually down to a Vitamin C derivative. One of the main Vitamin C derivatives is magnesium ascorbyl phosphate. This has been shown to help the skin retain moisture, and encourage hydration.
You can read more about Vitamin C’s benefits for skin here.
Cards On The Table: My Top Vitamin C Serum Picks
So, as I mentioned; I do use Vitamin C serums. When I do, I find that my skin is much more hydrated and visibly brighter. The one benefit that comes from the hype, is that there are a ton of serums on the market. Which means that they cater to various skin types, conditions and price points. These are my favourites.
SDARA Vitamin C + Hyaluronic Acid Serum
This one is sold in conjunction with a derma-roller. Now, to each their own, but I would never be comfortable using a derma-roller on myself. So, I tried the serum in isolation, and it was a treat! I could not get over how radiant, and glowing my skin was every time I used it. Because it includes Hyaluronic acid, it really hydrates the skin. And while I’m still on the fence about Vitamin C (you’ll see) I do love this product. Find it here.
It’s SKIN Power 10 Formula VC Effector
The cheapest entry on this list, this serum is courtesy one of my favourite Korean brands. If you don’t know this, I am kind of obsessed with K-beauty. And It’s SKIN is in particular a favourite, because it has a plethora of serums, for literally every concern. This serum also includes green tea extract, which ups the antioxidant quotient. My skin was brighter, and also clearer. I wouldn’t recommend this as an acne treatment per se. But, if you struggle as I do, including it in your skincare regimen isn’t a bad idea. Find it here.
YEOUTH Vitamin C Serum With Hyaluronic Acid And Tripeptide 31
Another formulation that includes Hyaluronic acid, and thus is really, really hydrating. I just want to clarify that I was sent this serum by YEOUTH cosmetics. But, rest assured, that my review isn’t biased; I really did see an improvement in my skin. Again the results were a combination of increased brightness and hydration. I did have a bout of acne around the same time as I started using this product. And I did feel that it helped with the inflammation. Although, to be clear I was using other acne specific active ingredients as well. But, at any rate, this is a good, hydrating and brightening serum. Find it here.
So, All’s Well?
Well, not exactly. There are a ton of benefits when it comes to Vitamin C. But, if we examine all the research, it’s a bit inconclusive. Here is a great video by a biochemist that goes into this.
In a nutshell, the clinical human trials have been limited to L-ascorbic acid. Which is a highly unstable ingredient for cosmetic formulations. Thus, chemists have developed Vitamin C derivatives to make formulations easier. But, there aren’t clinical human trials to support the extent to which derivatives have these same benefits.
Basically, Vitamin C’s reputation as a brightening agent, or hyper-pigmentation treatment is down to L-ascorbic acid. There are products that use this, but for the most part, I have used products with derivatives. This is purely down to chance. But as someone with sensitive skin, I do worry that L-ascorbic acid may be too strong for me.
Now, when it comes to derivatives, there is research. But it is limited, as yet, to controlled lab trials. There haven’t been tests conducted on human beings. So, the question is; how effective are such serums?
Personally, I have used them. And really liked them. The YEOUTH serum was pretty good. The SDARA serum was, frankly, incredible. And I’d continue using them, as hydrating, brightening serums. Particularly because they combine a Vitamin C derivative, with other ingredients. In fact, all three serums mentioned, use Vitamin C derivatives. And as I mentioned, in all three cases, my skin was hydrated and luminous.
But, I wouldn’t rely only on Vitamin C. The pure active ingredient is really unstable. Whereas the derivatives lack enough evidence to suggest that they do everything that that’s on the tin.
Final Thoughts; Use In Conjunction
As with all active ingredients, it comes down to why you want to use it. For example, an issue that I constantly struggle with, is hyper-pigmentation. Many Vitamin C serums make claims about helping with this. But, there are other active ingredients that are more effective. As was mentioned by Kenna Witnell in the video, alpha arbutin is a particularly effective ingredient for this. So, if you want to use Vitamin C for hyper-pigmentation, I’d get a product that pairs it with another ingredient.
Tiny suggestion, the Hadda Labo Lotion includes arbutin and a Vitamin C derivative. I have personally used it, it hydrates, brightens and helps with hyper-pigmentation. You can find it here.