I spend a lot of time talking about beauty and skin care with a wide variety of people and experts in the field. Most often now it’s for my podcast Clean Beauty School, but I also interview people for stories that get published here, engage with folks over social media, speak with the pros while staying-up-to-date with the latest beauty news, and just chat with other beauty folks while discussing the industry trends. Like most beauty editors and writers, this gives me a good bird’s eye view of the space, so I’m better able to distinguish between a passing fad and something tried-and-true.
And while I’m always on the lookout for new and innovative ingredients, technologies, and techniques—there’s something to be said for the stuff that gets pitched time and again. So the one that gets recommended to me more than all else? Drum-roll-please: Vitamin C. Yes, this beloved antioxidant comes in at the top spot for coveted skin care ingredients.
Why vitamin C is one of the most recommended ingredients for skin care.
In the topical skin care arena, along with retinol, vitamin C is one of the most studied skin care ingredients—making it a sure bet for results. “Vitamin C is the best ingredient—even when it’s overrated, it’s underrated,” beauty expert and writer Nikita Upadhyay recently shared with me on the podcast.
I won’t go over all the benefits of vitamin C in detail—because we’ve done that in our guide to vitamin C and skin care—but I will share some highlights. “Vitamin C is a key cofactor in the synthesis of collagen and elastin, [which helps] give your skin that plump and youthful appearance,”* Keira Barr, M.D., dual board-certified dermatologist, says of the antioxidants’ most alluring role in the body. In fact, your body cannot effectively produce collagen without the antioxidant.* Vitamin C is actually able to promote fibroblast production, tend to collagen DNA, and regulate collagen synthesis, or the pathway in which collagen is made.*
And because it’s an antioxidant, it can help fight against free radicals and oxidative stress in the skin.* “People often ask how many antioxidants you should be using regularly; the answer is: the more the better,” says board-certified dermatologist Rachel Nazarian, M.D., of Schweiger Dermatology Group. This can lead to brightening effects, reduction in fine lines, and improved moisture retention (because the barrier strength is improved).*
But vitamin C comes highly recommended for another reason: Its variety. The ingredient can be formulated into serums, supplements, creams, washes, body care, facial oils, and so on. This is because there are many different forms or ways to leverage vitamin C (like L-ascorbic acid, magnesium ascorbyl phosphate, tetrahexyldecyl ascorbate, and ascorbyl palmitate, just to name a few), and each has unique properties that make it more suitable for different delivery methods.
For example, L-ascorbic acid is considered to be the most potent topical form and often is used in serums—however, it’s also considered to be unstable. Whereas, tetrahexyldecyl ascorbate is an oil-soluble version of the antioxidant and most commonly used in facial oils, while mindbodygreen’s scientifically advanced vitamin C-lipid-bioflavonoid complex (as PureWay-C™) is ideal for supplements, like in mbg vitamin C potency+.*
This means that you can fold it into your routine in whatever way (or ways!) that makes sense for you, your skin type, and needs. We recommend using vitamin C in both topical and oral forms, as this can optimize your benefits.* As mbg vice president of scientific affairs Ashley Jordan Ferira, Ph.D., RDN once explained to me on the podcast about the “debate” between oral and topical skin care: “It’s not an either or. The answer to which one I should use is often, ‘both!’”
According to an observational study from the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, higher intake of vitamin C is associated with better skin appearance and fewer wrinkles.* And considering 42% of U.S. adults are insufficient in vitamin C (per blood test results) and half of the nation is failing to consume basic (baseline) daily needs of this essential micronutrient, increasing your consumption of the antioxidant is likely something to something to consider prioritizing on a daily basis.
Vitamin C is one of the best ingredients to use in skin care, as it comes with a host of benefits and can be used in a variety of ways.* For more tried-and-true ingredient recommendations, check out our favorite ingredients for healthy aging skin.
If you are pregnant, breastfeeding, or taking medications, consult with your doctor before starting a supplement routine. It is always optimal to consult with a health care provider when considering what supplements are right for you.