It possesses a variety of skin-perfecting functions—think lightening discoloration, creating new, healthy collagen (for plumper-looking skin) and warding off free-radical damage, which is why vitamin C has made its mark as a mainstay skin care ingredient. Ranging in strength from light to potent, this active ingredient is a key component in the anti-aging puzzle. But not all vitamin C products are created equal. Those that contain too high of a concentration can potentially irritate the skin—on the flip side, if the formula is weak and unstable, no benefits will be rendered.
Vitamin C is an antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and collagen stimulator. It controls oily skin, hydrates and shields against UV rays that sunscreen can’t. All types of vitamin C act similarly, the question is which are the most stable and can best penetrate the skin. For vitamin C to be effective it can’t oxidize. Unstable vitamin C may promote free-radical formation, causing damage.
L-Ascorbic Acid: A more natural derivative
L-ascorbic acid is one form of vitamin C in skin care. This is the version found in our diets. The downside to it: it’s not very stable. Companies don’t start with vitamin C derived from fruits but rather from synthesized production in a manufacturing plant. Regardless of the source—be it extracted from an orange, plant or other natural element—all extracts of vitamin C need to be “processed” to some degree to make them applicable and usable in skin care. L-ascorbic acid is the closest to a natural form of vitamin C found in skin-care products today.
Vitamin C Esters: Synthetic derivatives
Some skin-care brands choose to use synthetic vitamin C ingredients because they may be more readily available, less expensive or more sustainable in the formula. Synthetic forms of vitamin C tend to break down at a slower rate.