Everything You Need to Know About Vitamin C, the Holy Grail of Skin-Care Ingredients

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As far as your skin is concerned, vitamin C is "a potent antioxidant that can neutralize free radicals," explains board-certified dermatologist Patricia Wexler. "Because of its antioxidant properties, vitamin C aids in your skin's natural regeneration process, which helps your body repair damaged skin cells.

Moreover, adding vitamin E into the mix is like a one-two punch of skin-saving goodness. "Pure ascorbic acid has consistently been proven to be the most effective at penetrating the skin barrier," Wexler says. "Vitamin C effectiveness [also] increases when combined with other antioxidants, such as vitamin E, [and] together they can double protection against free-radical damage.

With continued topical use, vitamin C can help prevent dark spots from forming in the first place. "It's a superior brightening agent that works to fade brown spots without altering normal skin pigmentation," Sobel adds.

For one, because it's highly acidic, when vitamin C is used topically "the skin is triggered to heal itself by accelerating the production of collagen and elastin," explains New York City-based dermatologist Howard Sobel.

Other forms of vitamin C you may come across in skin-care products include tetrahexyldecyl ascorbate, magnesium ascorbyl phosphate, and methylsilanol ascorbate. "Those with sensitive skin may have allergies or redness from vitamin C," Goldenberg says.

In neutralizing these free radicals, vitamin C may also help protect skin from precancerous changes caused by UV exposure, Joshua Zeichner, the director of cosmetic and clinical research at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City, previously told Allure.

Uneven skin tone, rough texture, fine lines, acne scars, general dullness — you can name just about any common complexion concern and there's a good chance that vitamin C (and the skin-care products it's featured in) is a recommended treatment.

That said, all three dermatologists agree that the best vitamin C skin-care product to use is serum, because "serums are more effective than creams or toners," says Wexler.

So, in helping to promote collagen production, topical vitamin C can help prevent premature aging of the skin.

If you're new to using the ingredient on your skin, Sobel advises starting slowly. "It's potent stuff, so you only need a few drops for each application," he recommends.

How can you add vitamin C into your daily skin-care routine? "The key is not the vehicle that vitamin C comes in, but the form of vitamin C that is being applied," explains Kristina Goldenberg of Goldenberg Dermatology in New York City.

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