There’s a kernel of truth in the saying ‘an apple a day keeps the doctor away’. We’ve known that a diet filled with fresh fruits and vegetables is good for us long before we could identify the actual nutrients. Vitamin C wasn’t officially discovered until 1912, but we knew citrus fruits could cure scurvy (Vitamin C deficiency) since the golden seafaring age.
The Royal Navy began prescribing lemon juice to sailors around 1795, however there’s much earlier evidence that Chinese ships carried ginger for the same purpose from 406 CE. Vitamin C is a wonder nutrient that can prop up the immune system, protecting us against bad colds and respiratory infections, and used in skincare it can help maintain our outward appearance – but how?
What can Vitamin C do for our skin?
“Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant that helps the body to neutralise damaging free radicals, including environmental stressors such as UV rays and pollution, which helps prevent visible signs of skin damage, dullness and uneven tone, while also helping to improve the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles,” explains Dr Murad, Board Certified Dermatologist and Founder of Murad Skincare.
Often listed as ascorbic acid, we like Vitamin C because it can tackle a long list of skin concerns – and it gives visible results. “It is well known for its brightening and radiance-boosting benefits,” says Dr Murad. “And it’s a useful ingredient to help improve the appearance of hyperpigmentation, age spots and post-acne scarring, which are all signs of melanin coming to the surface of damaged skin. UV rays, ageing, hormones and pollution are all possible factors contributing to the appearance of such skin pigmentation.”
As an early pioneer of antioxidants in skincare and an advocate for increasing antioxidants in our diet, Dr Murad explains why we can’t just eat our way to better skin: “Since there is a limit to how much Vitamin C the body will absorb from food, it is important to bypass the gut and deliver this potent nutrient directly to the skin. It promotes elastin and collagen, which are the main building blocks of the dermis and give the skin strength and resiliency.
“Due to its chemical makeup, Vitamin C is a highly unstable active which presents a number of challenges in skincare such as poor penetration. Not all Vitamin C is created equal, most forms have a short shelf-life, lose potency or are hard for skin to absorb.”
Why do we need Vitamin C during the summer?
We have lots of collagen when we’re younger, but it tails off as we mature, so if you want to resist the inevitable skin shrivelling that comes with the miles on the clock, it’s time to shore up the defences. At any age, we need Vitamin C to prevent damage and we especially need it during the summer.
“Vitamin C is a great antioxidant to have on your skin, day or night, but especially during the warmer months. Vitamin C protects skin from free radical damage, smoke, pollution and sun damage, so using topical skincare products with Vitamin C is essential. The perfect regime is to follow your Vitamin C serum with a sunscreen to help prevent future damage,” says Dr Murad.
The Best Vitamin C Grooming Products
The Booster: Clinique For Men Super Energizer
Make sure your skin is getting everything it needs with this daily booster from Clinique. Think of it as a daily multivitamin, to keep your face looking fine. The Vitamin C is so fresh it’s sealed in a special chamber for maximum potency, which lasts for seven days once opened (so you know just how much to pack for a trip away).
Slather it on morning and evening to brighten dull or uneven skin tone and minimise fine lines.
The Eye Defender: Kiehl’s Powerful Strength Line Reducing Dark Circle Diminishing Vitamin C Eye Serum
When you need to see off a creeping crêpey eye area, bring out the big guns. This power packed eye serum from Kiehl’s contains an alliance of Vitamin C, tri-peptide and hyaluronic acid to gently reduce the appearance of dark circles, crow’s feet and refresh the appearance of tired peepers.
The Home Facial: Murad Vita-C Triple Exfoliating Facial
Want professional-style microdermabrasion at home? This exfoliating facial can deliver a therapist’s glow up. With the unique triple action of micro mineral scrubbers, enzymes and acids, along with special gold stabilised, bioavailable Vitamin C that is 55% more potent than the traditional type, it gently resurfaces the skin whilst allowing better penetration of the targeted ingredients.
For all skin types, it’s gentle enough to be used two-to-three times per week. Whether you’re run down, hungover or have that post-viral look from a recent illness, this is your guaranteed get-out-of-jail-free-card for brighter, clearer and smoother feeling skin.
The Concentrate: Āesop Lucent Facial Concentrate
For those who don’t know, ‘lucent’ means to glow or give off light, like a radiant makeover for dull skin. A lightweight serum, Vitamin C and B3 help balance, replenish and soothe most skin types.
The Face Wash: Perricone MD Vitamin C Ester Citrus Brightening Cleanser
For normal to oily skin, this lightweight gel cleanser uses proprietary Vitamin C Ester, which manages to be stronger and less irritating. It will help balance oilier skins, without drying or stripping, leaving skin soft and prepped for further products.
The Powder Cream: Dr Sebagh Pure Vitamin C Powder Cream
Want the best? Go to go the best. Leading London cosmetic surgeon, Dr Sebagh makes serious skincare. This powder cream is formulated with pure ascorbic acid, at the highest concentration available – simply mix with your regular moisturiser – for increased environmental protection and visible results.
The Face Oil: Grown Alchemist Antioxidant + Facial Oil Borago
Full of natural sources of Vitamin C, this face oil is a great hydrator that improves skin texture while reducing fine lines and protecting against ageing.
Face oils work really well on damp skin, or on top of a toner or face mist, because the oil locks in the extra moisture.
The Bargain: Boots Vitamin C Sheet Mask
Advanced skincare doesn’t need to be expensive. This ridiculously affordable sheet mask contains Vitamin C, Yuzu and assorted plant extracts. It smells great, goes on easily and leaves skin feeling smoother and looking brighter – and it’s plastic free. Make it a frequent treat.
The Sun Protection: Natura Bisse C + C Oil Free MacroAntioxidant Sun Protection
Get your daily sun protection and dose of Vitamin C rolled into one with this combination product. Macromolecules work to mop up sun radiation and free radicals which encourage sun damage.
At 30ml it’s the ideal amount for the face, and for trips away.
The Professional Treatment: Skinwork Men’s Mini Detox
Pampering time has been in short supply this year, along with option to see a therapist face-to-face. Make up for lost time with a trip to Soho’s latest skincare destination, Skinwork.
Relaxing and effective, the Men’s Mini Detox facial works to clear pores and release muscle tension. The Vitamin C rich Antioxidant & Galvanic infusion will stimulate collagen production, lift and firm for a smooth and healthy complexion.
Can’t get there in person? Order the ingredients to go. The Detox Facial Kit comes with a skin coaching call from the team to guide you through the process, and with full-size products you can repeat the treatment weekly. It features professional products from US skincare brand, PCA Skin, including the day serum, C&E Advanced Antioxidant Treatment that’s packed with 20% Vitamin C. It’s designed to diminish pigmentation, skin irritation and reduce signs of ageing.