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woman applying vitamin C moisturisers

Vitamin C benefits for skin

16 Feb 2023 • 1 min read

Hands up for brighter skin? We thought so…

Vitamin C is basking in the limelight of the beauty world right now. And it’s a good thing, as our environment gives us a bit of a battering.

Radiation, sunlight, and pollution all stress our skin, damaging collagen and speeding up the ageing process. But this skincare wonder product helps us fight back.

So, how much do you actually know about vitamin C?

Perhaps you know it can be found in oranges. Or that people dose up on it when they’ve got a cold coming.

There’s a lot more to know about vitamin C. For instance, did you know it’s an “essential vitamin”, which means our bodies can’t produce it?

However, that doesn’t minimise the many health benefits it can bring. More on these below…

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A quick intro to vitamin C...

Vitamin C is an essential vitamin that happens to also go by another name, ascorbic acid.

As well as being a powerful natural antioxidant, it’s one of the best vitamins for skin. It helps to protect against free radicals to keep you looking youthful, brightens skin, fades dark spots, and can even support your sunscreen's protection. ¹

It’s responsible for doing a lot of good in our bodies and helping keep us healthy in so many ways. For instance, vitamin C alone is responsible for: 

  • Protecting cells from oxidative stress 
  • Maintaining healthy skin, blood vessels, bones and cartilage 
  • Contributing to the reduction of tiredness and fatigue ²

What about vitamin C supplements?

Vitamin C is available in supplement form, too. By that, we mean: 

  • Vitamin C tablets, powder, or capsules, or 
  • Vitamin C that’s combined with something else, like rose hips, zinc, or quercetin.

There are many more supplements available; we’ve only touched on a few to give you an idea of what’s out there.

The NHS recommends 40mg of vitamin C per day for adults, and almost everyone will reach this with a balanced diet. ² However, if it’s difficult for you to get your intake, you may choose a supplement to stay healthy.

Vitamin C for glowing skin

As well as helping to keep our bodies healthy, Vitamin C can also do the same for our skin, thanks to its much-talked-about glow-giving properties.

Vitamin C is good for...

  1. Collagen production

Vitamin C can help keep skin looking plump.

This is because it can help to promote collagen production, which in turn improves skin elasticity and can help to reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles.⁵³ ⁴

  1. Hyperpigmentation

But that’s not all. Vitamin C is also making the rounds in the beauty industry because of its ability to help with brown spots and hyperpigmentation on the skin. ⁵

  1. Undereye circles

Another reason people use vitamin C for glowing skin is because it’s widely considered an effective vitamin for dark circles.

This was explored in a small study in 2009. The scientists who conducted it found that a 10% formulation of sodium ascorbate improved the appearance of dark undereye circles after 6 months of use.

This is believed to be caused by the thickening of the skin under the eye, which in turn concealed the dark colour.⁶

  1. Blemishes

Prone to spots and blemishes? There’s evidence to suggest that topical vitamin C could help clear things up.

Vitamin C can aid collagen production, which is essential for rebuilding healthy skin. So, if you’ve got a blemish hat just won’t budge, applying a vitamin C product could help.

  1. Sensitive Skin

You might find that it’s not for you, but it’s certainly not impossible. Here are a few tips if your skin needs something gentler... 

  • Start with a lower concentration to see what best suits your skin type 
  • Aim for products with a pH between 5 and 6, as this is closest to your skin’s natural level 
  • Avoid products containing L-ascorbic acid, as this is only active at pH levels below 3.5⁷
  1. Healthy ageing

Vitamin C is a potent antioxidant, which means it helps to protect your skin against the negative effects of harmful free radicals.

There’s evidence to suggest that it contributes to younger-looking, smoother skin as you age. It’s been found to increase type 1 and 4 collagen production in vitro in skin fibroblasts, the cells that contribute to the formation of connective tissue.⁸

One study reported that daily use of a vitamin C formulation for 3 months improved the appearance of fine and coarse wrinkles on the face and neck, as well as improving the overall appearance and texture of the skin.⁹

You might see a difference in: 

  • Skin texture 
  • Hydration 
  • Appearance of fine lines and wrinkles 
  • Skin thickness, firmness, and plumpness

if you apply vitamin C regularly.

Vitamin C skin glow products

As with the supplements, there are lots of vitamin C skincare products available out there too. There are vitamin C creams that you can apply to your entire face, or just the areas you like.

There’s almost any vitamin C skincare product you like, including:

There’s almost any vitamin C skincare product you like, including:

  • Vitamin C exfoliators
  • Vitamin C eye creams
  • Vitamin C moisturisers
  • Vitamin C serums
  • Vitamin C skin boosters

However, it’s worth noting that not all of them are created equal. Some contain more vitamin C or different forms than others. Look for vitamin C skincare products that: 

  • Are made from L-ascorbic acid, tocopherol (Vitamin E), glutathione, or ferulic acid 
  • Contain a concentration of between 10 to 20% 
  • Come packaged in dark or tinted glass bottles to prevent oxidisation3

Before you begin

Time to concentrate

Concentrate, concentrate – it’s important! The more potent in vitamin C the product is, the quicker and more dramatic the results will be. Essentially, the higher up the ingredients list, the better.

That said, it’s best to start slowly and gently, especially if you’ve got sensitive skin.

It’s all in the delivery

Serums are the most effective way of getting vitamin C, as they are more concentrated and can be used as a base under other products to supercharge your routine.

Face masks, toners, and oils are also fantastic ways of boosting your skin’s vitamin C.

Keep it in the dark

Sunlight is not vitamin C’s best friend – it can break it down and make the skincare products less effective. Pick opaque containers and keep them in a dark environment in sealed packaging.

It’s the same for air: when antioxidants are exposed to air too often they can break down, so look for vitamin C skincare products in air-tight packaging, pumps, pipettes, or individually wrapped products.

The final say

Feeling a little more clued up on all things vitamin C? If you’re interested in increasing your intake or picking up some products with vitamin C for skin, we don’t blame you – the  research speaks for itself!

The advice in this article is for information only and should not replace medical care. Please check with your GP or healthcare professional before trying any supplements, treatments or remedies. Food supplements must not be used as a substitute for a varied and balanced diet and a healthy lifestyle.

Last updated: 16 February 2023


Manisha Taggar


Senior Regulatory Affairs Associate

Joined Holland & Barrett: May 2019

BSc Hons in Pharmaceutical & Cosmetic Science

Manisha started her career at a Cosmetics distributor as a Regulatory Technologist followed by a Regulatory Affairs Officer, ensuring the regulatory compliance of cosmetic products from colour cosmetics to skincare.

After 3 and half years in this role, Manisha joined Holland & Barrett as a Senior Regulatory Affairs Associate in 2019.

Manisha specialises in Cosmetic products, both own-label and branded lines, ensuring that these products and all relating marketing material comply to the EU Cosmetics Regulation.

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