The Impact of Antioxidants on Our Skin: The Power of Vitamin C in Skincare

The Antioxidant benefits on Our Skin: The Power of Vitamin C in Skincare

Antioxidant benefits of Vitamin C Products for All Skin Including Sensitive

As an esthetician, I feel like a walking skincare Google portal for my clients at times. To be honest, that's the role of an esthetician, we are the matchmakers of the skincare world but sometimes I see patterns in the questions I receive and I've decided to put out answers to my top questions over the years. A lot of these questions have to do with vitamins for the skin, especially Vitamin C and its antioxidant benefits.

Vitamin C is the wild child of the skincare ingredient world. I feel a small kinship with it: we're both a bit a unstable, hate the sun, and we like to cause reactions when everyone least expects them. Best of all, we are both dedicated to making the skin brighter, healthier, and more protected from the elements. So yeah, you could say I am a Vitamin C super fan.

C tends to have buzz moments throughout the year and as we come out of summer and fall and into the cold of winter, many people tend to want to repair their skin from the damage imposed by their warm weather pursuits. Sun, wind, and prolonged pollution exposure from being outside longer throughout the day. Throw in some chlorine, salt, and sunscreens and you have a skin true-crime on your hands.

Thankfully our friend Vitamin C can handle the pressure of being the free radical-fighting hero we all can rely on.

When it comes to topical vitamin C formulas, dermatologists and estheticians agree: they work. "Because of its antioxidant properties, vitamin C aids in your skin's natural regeneration process, which helps your body repair damaged skin cells." Patricia Wexler, Board Certified Dermatologist explains when referring to the antioxidant, free-radical fighting capabilities of the vitamin.

Inside Speak Break! Let's take a moment to discuss these terms so everyone understands their importance. Science can get pretty heavy, so it's important the right information is shared so you understand why skin therapists like me place so much importance on these superhero ingredients and foods.

Antioxidants are agents found in foods and personal care products to help reduce the impact of environmental aggressors on the surface of the skin and inside our cells. They're the bodyguards working to prevent free radicals from forming due to cellular mutation and destruction. Best sources of antioxidants are in the rainbow-colored foods we eat to the quality skincare products we apply daily. Flavonoids, flavones, catechins, polyphenols, and phytoestrogens are all types of antioxidants and phytonutrients, and they are all found in plant-based foods. 

Antioxidants fall into three major categories:

1. Primary: These scavengers are go out looking for free-radicals to terminate. Think of them like tiny Pacmen going to eat the ghosts. Primary antioxidants are made by the body when our genes are activated to protect our cells from attack.

2. Secondary: These antioxidants are preventative in nature and are derived from our diet. For them to be effective, they have to be absorbed into the body. Unfortunately due to their low-bioavailability, only 5-8% of these heroes are absorbed. 

3. Tertiary: Focus primarily on repairing damaged biomolecules. These come in the forms of enzymes and can also be derived from our diets.

We can further break down their classifications (Scientists sure do like classifying things down, don't they?!) into two main functional classes: Enzymatic and Non-Enzymatic. Superoxide dismutase (SOD), glutathione peroxidase, glutathione reductase, are examples of enzymatic antioxidants. Science Tip! Anytime you see a word with -ase in it, you know you're dealing with an enzyme.

Non-enzymatic antioxidants come in the form of:

  • vitamins A,C,E and K
  • enzyme co-factors like Q10
  • minerals like zinc and selenium
  • sulfur compounds like allium (found in garlic/onions)
  • peptides like glutathione 
  • and plant polyphenols

The Impact of Antioxidants on Our Skin: The Power of Vitamin C in Skincare

It's important for you to have an understanding of what antioxidants are and how they work, which is why I've included this information. With so many scientific terms and names being thrown around these days by brands and influencers, the ability for misinformation to spread is massive. The science of nature and the ingredients that supply our diets and skincare formulas is vast and fascinating. I believe it should be respected, which is why I'm hoping my tidbits of education will add up to a better understanding of what you purchase and what hype is worth it or not.

The Science of Citrus

Because of the highly-acidic nature of Vitamin C and its instability as an ingredient, it isn't always easy to find a formula that treats sensitive and reactive skin types gently. Deriving from citrus, these acids help to break up hyperpigmentation, induce the collagen and elastic production response, it also helps smooth the surface of the skin depending on the percentage of vitamin C contained in the formulation.

Vitamin C skincare can be a gauntlet for the sensitized or reactive skin crowd. Typical reactions for sensitive skins tends to lean towards the stinging and burning range of reactions. To prevent these from happening, you need to know which types of vitamin c are best for your skin type as well as what you're trying to achieve overall.

It all comes down to the form of vitamin c you're using. Ascorbic acid (product label title: L-ascorbic acid) is the gold standard in product formulations for how effective it is and how stable it is.

When talking about the stability of an ingredient, we are referring to a number of different factors. Chemists have studied the stability of vitamins for a long time because they're a carbon-based molecule and when combined with other components, can go rancid, turn into dangerous solutions, and sometimes even explode.

When it comes to skincare, we want these formulas to be safe, effective, and usable for a minimum of 6 months or more once opened. Most consumers haven't taken much in the way of organic chemistry, so knowing how important it is for the topical vitamins we use to be kept in cool, dark spaces in light and air-proof bottles will help maintain the products well and prevent oxidization from happening.

The last part I want to mention is solubility. Meaning: how does Vitamin C activate and that's in water. Because we are made of more than 70% water, it's easily accepted and absorbed into the skin and our cells. But it also means that because it's stored in water and not fat, our body does not store excess. So whatever comes in that isn't used, leaves through our waste systems. So the whole less is more mantra really applies here.

Quality VS Quantity

When choosing a vitamin C skincare serum treatment for your skin, you need to look at the correct percentage for your skin type and your desired outcomes. Many people go for the highest percentage they can find only to discover their skin reacts, breaks out, or begins to peel. Vitamin C serums are not all created equally. To make it easier to decide, I've broken it down by skin concern.

  • Hyperpigmentation and Dark Spots - melanocytes are the hardest to repair. UV damage, acne scarring, and chemical damage need high concentrations of Vitamin C blended with vitamin E to break up the pigmentation for even skin tone, triggering collagen production, and provides a luminous velvet primer feel. Circcell Vitamin C Ampoules are a slow-release formula to maximize treatment and provide protection throughout the day.
  • Fine Lines and Wrinkles- CLE Cosmetics Vitamin C Elixir is our top-selling vitamin c formula and the proof is in the results. A bi-phasic formula blending 11% vitamin c with ferulic acid and vitamin B6 to take on hormonal acne, inflammation and redness. Vegan and cruelty-free, this serum has it all.
  • Vitamin C for Sensitive Skin- Native Nectar Botanicals Daily Glow Serum With no added fragrance, essential oils, or fillers of any kind, sensitive skin is nourished, not irritated. This is the perfect everyday multi-tasking vitamin c serum for sensitive skin. Daily Glow Hydrating Serum utilizes pure, plant-based oils to treat your skin to a healthy glow.

A couple of final thoughts on this hardworking vitamin. Pairing your vitamin C with hyaluronic acid will allow the vitamin C to go to work better for you. Remember it's water soluble and hyaluronic acid binds to water, so it's a win-win for the hydration and rejuvenation front. Savor Beauty Quench Hyaluronic Acid Serum combines 2% HA with rice bran extract to provide vitamin E and ferulic acid to hydrate and keep the skin plump.

Last: SUNBLOCK. Why put in all this work only to have it dashed with more UV damage? Every day, regardless of the weather, wear it. Broad spectrum blocks can also protect you against blue light damage so long as they have iron and zinc oxides in them. Allow me to introduce CLE Cosmetics Tinted CCC Cream SPF50. Blended with fruit extracts and skin-tone perfecting ingredients, this combination of BB and CC cream provides the coverage levels you need with the protection you deserve.


Molly Allene is a veteran esthetician and the Founder of Brooklyn + Rye located in Edina, MN or online at She specializes in helping those who suffer with acne find relief as well as natural age-management techniques utilizing practices from both Eastern and Western skincare. Find her on Instagram @brooklynandrye or asking to pet stranger's dogs on the sidewalks + trails of Greater Minneapolis.

Have skincare questions? Submit them to Molly on our contact form here!


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