STYLE
16/04/2018 16:22 BST | Updated 16/04/2018 16:25 BST

What Is Vitamin C And Why Is It In My Moisturiser?

Oranges, anyone?

Vitamin C is a skincare ingredient that has grown in popularity over recent years. It tends to be easy to spot as beauty companies love to package creams containing it in bright tangerine pots. But what’s behind the orange wrapping and does putting this vitamin on your skin, rather than including it in your diet, actually have any benefits?

PeopleImages via Getty Images
You don't need to love oranges as much as this woman to include Vitamin C in your skincare routine.

The Buzz

This cold-busting vitamin has been much hyped in the beauty world with devotees extolling it’s anti-ageing properties.

A post shared by Sunday Riley (@sundayriley) on

What Has Been Proven:

Consultant dermatologist Dr Nick Lowe explained that sunlight and pollution causes your skin to produce ‘radicals’, which damage your skin and have an “ageing”effect, and Vitamin C can help protect against this.

“Vitamin C is an antioxidant that is important for collagen production, so in theory it should therefore help reduce damage and ageing,” he said, but added that similarly to salicylic acid, “more research needs to be done to show these claims are scientifically proven instead of results from consumers”.

Vitamin C can be a tricky ingredient in skincare as it comes in different forms and Dr Lowe advises being wary of “attractive claims” made by the cosmetic industry “without having to be scientifically verifiable”.

For example, “the term ‘contains antioxidant’ doesn’t have to mean that antioxidant is active or in a large enough quantity to have an effect,” he explained. “It’s a very grey area where marketing hype can be sold on”. 

The key ingredient names to look out for when buying Vitamin C products are “ascorbic acid” and “ascorbyl palmitate”, as Dr Lowe explained: “when Vitamin C is an acid - ascorbic acid to be exact - it is more effective than say, when it’s the Vitamin C sulphate.”  

He added that in order for the product to contain enough of these ingredients for them to be effective, they should be the first things that appear on the ingredients list - otherwise you may be buying a product with just a tiny proportion of Vitamin C.

“The recommended amount of Vitamin C in a product is 15-20% give or take the size of the product,” he said. “These are the numbers behind Vitamin C which has shown visible effect.”

Dr Lowe also advised looking out for ferulic acid on the ingredients list as this increases the stability of the Vitamin C.

How Much Do You Need To Apply?

Layering products with Vitamin C is advised. After applying said lotion or moisturiser, add a layer of SPF for extra protection.

A post shared by Pai Skincare (@paiskincare) on

Anything to watch out for?

Though Vitamin C products are said to be anti-ageing, they are usually marketed for those in their twenties. Dr Lowe explained this is to counteract sun damage, which later causes wrinkles and sun spots. If more studies on Vitamin C’s anti-ageing properties back up the claims, then arguably Vitamin C should be in moisturisers for those even in their teens, as sun exposure effects show up to ten years later. So the recommended time to apply Vitamin C is before you head somewhere warm for your holiday.

In addition to all of this, how the Vitamin C product is packaged is relevant, as it should be in glass bottles protected from sunlight as Vitamin C can go off easily if left in the sun.

Where Is It found?

Vitamin C products can be found in high street shops and luxury skincare. These options list Vitamin C as one of their first ingredients: The Ordinary Vitamin C Suspension 23% + HA Spheres 2%, 30ml for £4.90, or the Super Facialist Glow Boost Skin Serum, 30ml for £17. If you’d like to be hydrated Medik8 C-Tetra, 30ml for £29.99, is another option. Or if you’d rather have a thicker moisturiser go for Sunday Riley’s C.E.O. C + E antioxidant moisturiser, 50ml for £46.34.