It’s one of the most celebrated ingredients on the market—and for good reason. Vitamin C for skin is a skin-care powerhouse, with results that have been proven, time and time again, in over three decades of research. Brighter, smoother skin with the appearance of fewer lines and visibly faded spots? They’re all yours thanks to topical Vitamin C for face.
Or, rather, they all can be yours—if you understand the quirks of this fickle little molecule and how to get it to behave.
You see, Vitamin C for skin is one of the biggest divas of the skin-care world. It’s prone to major breakdowns. It can be insanely irritating. It can’t even be relied on to do its job.
Though there are more than 10 forms of Vitamin C for skin, two get all the headlines: Ascorbic Acid and Vitamin C Ester. Let’s take a look at what makes these two molecules tick and how to get the most out of Vitamin C for face each time you apply it.
What’s the difference between Ascorbic Acid and Vitamin C Ester?
Talk about raw talent, Ascorbic Acid is the type of Vitamin C found in foods like oranges. It’s also the form of Vitamin C that’s plentiful in your skin cells when you’re young. Though it’s all over the natural world, the molecule is not exactly practical to extract from fruits and vegetables (if you think making freshly-squeezed orange juice is tedious … well, then you understand why skin-care scientists took a pass on natural Ascorbic Acid). So when you see Ascorbic Acid on the label of a Vitamin C serum or cream, it’s the synthetic form.
Ascorbic Acid has some great qualities. It’s a very inexpensive ingredient—so it’s a cost-effective way of working Vitamin C into skin products. And because it’s the purest form of Vitamin C for your skin, it’s really potent.
But Ascorbic Acid also exhibits all of the diva behaviors we mentioned above:
- It’s highly unstable—breaking down quickly and easily with exposure to air and light. Don’t even think about buying an Ascorbic Acid product if it’s not packaged in a dark glass Vitamin C serum bottle or an airtight pump dispenser. Studies have found that, when placed in water and exposed to air and light, Ascorbic Acid is rendered useless in just eight days.
- It’s irritating to many skin types because of the fact that it’s the most highly acidic form of Vitamin C.
Vitamin C Ester, on the other hand, is a total pro who takes her job really seriously.
Vitamin C Ester is a fat-soluble form of Vitamin C for the skin that only exists in synthetic form. It’s able to effectively and efficiently treat the signs of surface aging because it’s the fusion of synthetic Ascorbic Acid and a fat molecule that acts like a little bodyguard, protecting the Vitamin C from breaking down; Vitamin C Ester, in fact, is highly stable and reliable. It also helps shield your skin from the irritating effects of the Ascorbic Acid, meaning that Vitamin C Ester is usually well-tolerated, even by those with sensitive skin or who are prone to redness.
There are many forms of Vitamin C Ester, but the most-proven and effective ones are known as long-chain esters. Perricone MD only uses the long-chain forms of Vitamin C Ester— Tetrahexyldecyl Ascorbate and Ascorbyl Palmitate—in his products. (Find them in Vitamin C Ester 15, Vitamin C Ester Serum, Vitamin C Ester Eye Serum, Cold Plasma+ Face, and Cold Plasma+ Eye.)
Why do some Vitamin C serums and creams seem to do nothing for your skin?
If you aren’t noticing results from your Vitamin C serum, it could be a problem with the formulation, the packaging, or, well, you. Let us explain:
- One of the biggest reasons a Vitamin C serum or cream doesn’t work is because the product uses Ascorbic Acid that isn’t protected with special packaging and paired with a fat to help deliver it into the skin. These products are essentially worthless.
- Skin-care brands can also be misleading with their claims, so pay attention to the nuances. If a company boasts about the benefits of Vitamin C, but doesn’t make specific mention of exactly what their formula does, that’s not a good sign. It typically means they didn’t test the formula or that it doesn’t contain enough Vitamin C to actually deliver on the general ingredient claims.
- Impatient anyone? If your product passes the above two tests and you still haven’t seen results, take a look at how long you’ve been regularly using it. Most clinical studies , with results becoming more and more visible with time.
What other ingredients should you look for when buying a Vitamin C serum or cream?
Like all skin-care ingredients, Vitamin C has its friends—and enemies. Avoid derailing your Vitamin C serum or cream with harsh cleansers, like bar soaps and Castile washes, and with the dark-spot corrector hydroquinone. Both deactivate Vitamin C, rendering it useless.
On the flipside, ferulic acid gives Vitamin C a major boost if you’re trying to fade dark spots and decrease melanin production. Our Vitamin C Ester Serum contains the power duo.
And to increase your skin’s natural protection against UV rays, look for a Vitamin C serum or cream that also boasts fellow antioxidant Vitamin E (Tocopherol) in the formula, such as our Cold Plasma+ Face and Vitamin C Ester Serum. Though Vitamin C has been proven to do this on its own, a study published in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology found that using a combination of the two provided significantly more protection.
Finally, the effects of Vitamin C are increased when your skin is empowered with all the other things it becomes deficient of as you age. That’s because your skin can only look so good if, say, your moisture barrier is compromised, or you don’t have enough of Vitamins A or B. For your skin to optimally function and look its best and brightest, you need to treat it holistically. Our Cold Plasma+ Face and Eye were created for just this reason, with two forms of Vitamin C Ester plus a host of other youth-inducing ingredients.
Vitamin C is one of the most critical components of visibly improving the Dermatologists recommend making a Vitamin C cream containing a number of other skin-nourishing ingredients the anchor of your routine. Then, to address specific issues like the appearance of uneven skin tone and dark spots, add a Vitamin C serum formulated with ferulic acid.
Perricone MD is committed to helping you achieve all of your skin goals. That’s why, in developing our Vitamin C serums and creams, we chose to use Vitamin C Ester, one of the most effective, stable, and least irritating forms of Vitamin C available today. Take a look at our collection of Vitamin C Ester products to find the regimen best-suited to your needs.